Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Base Layer for Women

Wednesday November 3, 2021

Boy howdy, have we been adventuring lately. This review keeps our seasons chocked-full of many pursuits with hundreds of hours spent adventuring and working in each long underwear shirt. We have spent our winter days running through snow-laden trails and skiing up and down snowy slopes. Multi-pitch climbing to heights over 1,000 feet and hiking through the desert. Trail running around high summits of the Cordillera Blanca in Peru. These base layer tops seen all sorts of conditions, and we rated each based on warmth, breathability, comfort & fit, layering ability, and durability.

Taking a little afternoon jog with the Patagonia Capilene Midweight...
Taking a little afternoon jog with the Patagonia Capilene Midweight Crew.
Photo: Amber King

Testing Warmth


Each product was worn as apart of a layered system in frigid temperatures, including some that reached the double negatives in Northern Canada. Each was worn on its own to determine wicking ability and overall stand-alone warm while running and hiking in the San Juan mountains.

Cold weather in Northern Canada and Washington State had us testing...
Cold weather in Northern Canada and Washington State had us testing in temperatures that dipped into the double negatives. Here we test on a lift at Mt. Baker when temperatures hovered just around zero degrees Fahrenheit.
Photo: Jordan Erlenbach

Testing Breathability


We skinned uphill for hours, ran hundreds of miles on trails, and stood around in windy places. We wore each on its own and in a layered system to determine the best in breathability.

Skinning, trail running, and hiking were all the different modes of...
Skinning, trail running, and hiking were all the different modes of testing for breathability in both a layered and unlayered system. Here the Icebreaker (that can't be seen) does well on this snowy day in the wet climates of Washington state.
Photo: Amber King

Testing Comfort & Fit


Using a wide diversity of testers, we looked at the fit of each top simply by trying it on and comparing the stretchiness of the fabric and the length of both arms and torso. We also looked at style features including zip neck vs. crew-collar designs and any other fancy features like thumb loops or stow-away pockets. For comfort, we simply wore each against the skin. We sweat and hiked in each to determine if the fabric stayed comfortable or if it got a little itchy. We also noted which tops our tester preferred day-to-day.

Testing Layering Ability


This test was fairly simple. We simply stacked layers over top and underneath each shirt, noting which bunched in the arms, rode up, or simply stayed in place. We also noted which tops provided more room to put a layer underneath for warmer days of play.

Layering the Hannah is a little harder than other synthetic...
Layering the Hannah is a little harder than other synthetic competitors because of its stickier face fabrics. That said, we enjoy the long arms that allow us to pull them through the mid layer.
Photo: Jordan Erlenbach

Testing Durability


For this test, we beat the crap out of each piece. We wore each while bushwhacking in the woods, shimmying through tight slot canyons, and while climbing in the desert. We also washed each piece numerous times. After exposure, we noted fabric snags, wear, and tear, pilling, shrinkage, and odor of each garment.

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