Ad the going gets hot, should you opt for a base layer or a conventional shirt to keep your cool?
As the going gets hot, the hot go shopping, for, erm, summer-friendly tops. But are you better off with a summer-weight base layer or a more conventional outdoors shirt complete with buttons, collar and cuffs?
Well, purely by coincidence, we have two options from Berghaus in for review and while we're reviewing both individually, we thought it might be interesting to compare the general pros and cons of the two types of top to help you make a call on which would work better for you.
Here we reckon a good specialist base layer fabric is a clear winner. Our experience is that the thinner the fabric, the faster it's likely to wick and dry as the moisture being moved away from your skin simply has to cover less distance. Polyester or polypropylene and, to an extent, lightweight merino, will all tend to outperform the fabrics typically used in outdoor shirts.
The Lawrence Shirt we have in for test uses a mix of nylon and polyester and while it's far better than cotton, along with similar fabrics, it tends not to wick as hard as base layer materials.
Round one to the base layer - ideal if you move fast and sweat hard.
Generally baselayer offer relatively little wind resistance thanks to thin fabric and not particularly dense weaves. That's a double-edged sword. On the one hand you'll cool faster in a breeze, on the other, you'll get cold more easily when the wind comes up.
Shirts generally, tend to use closely-woven fabrics which give more wind protection, handy if you're high up on an otherwise pleasant day and the wind gets up. They do tend to be warmer as a result, but sometimes artfully inserted vents can help with that.
Round two to the shirt - ideal if you want a little more wind protection.
The Lawrence shirt has an SPF of 50+ and you'd expect the partly mesh panelled Argentium Cool base layer pictured to struggle to match that, but in fact the UPF is an identical 50+ rating, even for the mesh panels at the sides and back of the top.
Round three and honourable draw, which surprised us. Obviously different fabrics vary, so check, but clearly it's quite possible to have the same UV protection from a base layer as you'd get from a shirt.
It's kind of hard to generalise, but here are a few thoughts. On the conventional shirt, generally a collar adds sun protection to the back of the neck and can be folded up to give even more. Tee-short designs leave the neck and forearms exposed to the sun - bad news if you start to burn.
Of course some base-layer designs also feature collars, but they tend to be shorter and floppier. The same is true of sleeves, we generally prefer long sleeves on either type of top because they give you the option of either protecting your forearms from the sun or keeping them warm, or rolling them up and venting a little.
Speaking of venting, zipped tops allow a little extra cooling when the going gets hot, as do buttoned shirts. If it matters to you, zips are faster to open and close.
Round five, we'd say either option works best with long sleeves, a zipped or buttoned front and a collar. If, on the other hand, you compare a base layer tee with a long-sleeved conventional shirt, the shirt design is inherently more versatile we think.
It's up to you. Shirts look like, well, shirts and often come in a slightly uninspiring choice of various checked patterns or shades of beige, stone, sand, khaki, olive green and, erm, beige. Base layers on the other hand, are increasingly available in some seriously bright hues, particularly at the 'fast-moving' end of things.
One thing you should bear in mind is that in general, lighter colours work best in sunshine by reflecting more of the heat. That goes for basel layers too and while white base layer stuff may look naff, if you've ever been out on a glacier in the mid-day sun in a black top, you'll understand exactly why light colours make sense when the deadly rays are bouncing around.
Round six? Down to you darlinks - it's all about taste no?
Ultimately there's no wrong or right answer, it depends very much on you, how hot you run, what your personal preferences are and so on. What we would say is that if you're a hot-running, fast-moving type, you'll probably get better wicking and cooling performance from a good quality, summer-weight base layer than from a more conventional shirt.
Equally, if you're a steadier type, more conservative type, a proper outdoors shirt in technical fabric will still wick reasonably well, give a little more wind protection and durability plus has a more traditional look that some prefer.
Ultimately, it's your call.