Can a glorified fabric conditioner really boost the wicking performance of your baselayers? Nikwax claims that new Basefresh does just that.
Posted: 24 August 2012
Nikwax Basefresh isn't due out until November 2012, but we mugged Nikwax founder Nick Brown at the OutDoor show in Germany last month and pinched a few demo sachets of the stuff for some early first impressions.
It's a new baselayer conditioner that you simply add to your fabric conditioner drawer like, well, a fabric conditioner, so easy peasy in use.
The claims are impressive - not only is it supposed to reduce odours and make fabrics feel softer, it's also claimed to significantly improve the wicking performance of baselayer fabrics and help them spread moisture across their structure faster as well as speed up drying times. All you have to do is add it to your fabric conditioner drawer like, well, a fabric conditioner.
Lab Versus Life
Cue the Nikwax video above, which shows Basefresh doing just that in a lab. But how does it work in real life? We bunged a sachet of the stuff in the wash along with sundry baselayer-type garments and let it do its stuff. First impressions were that we didn't like the smell much, but that dropped off significantly once the stuff had dried and was barely noticable in use. It's not nasty, just a bit, well, floral-ish.
As a sort of initial experiment, we did the old drop of water onto the fabric and were impressed by the rapid spread of the damp patch across the surface - like some sort of slo-mo seismic movement - it worked well with a Berghaus summer-weight base layer top and with our fave Rab MecCo zip-neck.
But both those actually wick pretty well as standard and wear testing sort of confirmed that. Both tops wicked well, but then they wick well anyway. If you held a bottle of TX-11 to our throat, we'd say wicking performance was subjectively slightly better, but any improvement was nominal rather than significant.
More interesting were a couple of cycling tops we also threw in. They're just basic polyester without the high wicking performance of technical outdoor baselayers, so kind of had more to gain. In standard form they're okay, better than cotton, but not as good as the best fabrics from the likes of Arc'teryx and Berghaus.
After treatment with Basefresh, we found there was a detectable difference in wicking performance. Subjectively it felt as if the garment was generally just drier and more comfortable in heavy, sweaty use, we think because the Basefresh was helping move moisture first away from the skin, then spreading it more evenly across the surface of the garment for faster evaporation. Quite impressive. As a bonus it also speeds up drying times, but then synthetics tend to dry fast anyway.
Bottom line, so far, is that we reckon Basefresh makes most sense with synthetics that don't wick brilliantly to start off with, though it also does improve better wicking stuff slightly as well. We also tried it with merino wool and found it had no real impact there. Oh, and Nick Brown tells us that he inadvertently added some to a waterproof Paramo jacket, which totally destroyed the performance, however it washes out with normal detergent or is at least masked by it.
Would it be worth the expense and - admittedly minimal - hassle? Possibly. We're not sure how durable the effect is, possibly washing with pure soap may mean you only need occasional treatments to keep it working - so that's something else to experiment with.
Cost? When it's available in November, 300ml will sell for £3.49, 1 litre for £8.99, and 5 litre for £29.99. Don't drink it all at once.
Bottom Line If you already have top-end, high-wicking baselayer garments, Basefresh improves performance, but not that significantly, however with less effective synthetics, our first take is that it does make a real difference and ups performance appreciably. That's a good thing, particularly if it means you keep using an existing garment instead of upgrading - good for your wallet and good for the planet.