Gear Review: Women’s Summer Baselayers

Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt

RRP: £40
Weight: 60g

4 colour options in sizes XS-XL, long sleeve version also available
Men’s version available in 6 colours sizes XS – XL, long sleeve version

Beautifully soft and very light-feeling, this short sleeve T is 100% recycled polyester and certified Fair Trade sewn, which means the people who make it get a fair wage. For the last 3 years I’ve worn a similar long sleeved shirt from Patagonia which has worn incredibly well despite the thinness of the fabric, so I was keen to see what improvements had been made on this version.

The fabric feels really soft against the skin even under a tight-fitting backpack, showing no sign of wear from rucksack straps or hip belt. It has a good range of movement in the arms and the fabric itself is fairly stretchy. The fabric is Bluesign approved, meaning it’s certified environmentally safe. The fit is good with flat seams, cut slightly longer at the back so that it doesn’t ride up under a pack. Side hem vents add more movement. I’d prefer a smaller scoop on the neck to keep the sun off, but it’s not a deal breaker. Amazingly quick drying, the shirt is treated with Polygiene which does seem to genuinely stop smells developing, so it can be worn with confidence at the end of a day and doesn’t need washing so often. Long sleeve version available at £5 more, both seem good value options if they last as long as my previous similar Patagonia shirt. Overall a great option for very hot weather days and running.

Berghaus Voyager Long Sleeve Tech T-shirt

RRP: £30
Weight: 120g

4 colours, sizes 8 – 20, short sleeve version also available
Men’s version in 3 colours, sizes XS – XXL, £35, short sleeve version available

This slim-fitting top feels lovely against the skin, is lightweight, wicks well, is very stretchy with flat seams. It doesn’t have the ultra-soft feel of fabrics with a wool content but I liked it and found it very practical. The Bluesign-approved fabric hasn’t rubbed on the shoulders or hipbelt area but it is slightly prone to catching on sharp items, causing pulled threads. I like the fit with a relatively high neckline to keep the sun off and the fabric itself protects to SPF30. Plenty long enough to wear with a pack, it dries well and seems robust after a number of washes. I’ve worn a similar Berghaus top made from the same Argentium fabric and it’s proved long lasting (a little faded on the shoulders) and it doesn’t smell too bad at the end of a long hot day. There are no thumb loops, and the tee is made in Vietnam. A short sleeve version is available and is £5 cheaper. A good value all-round summer top which performs well in hot weather.

Mammut Alnasca T-Shirt

RRP: £50 currently on offer for less
Weight: 110g

2 colours, sizes XS-XL
Men’s version in 3 colours, sizes S – XXL

This very soft and stretchy T-shirt is made from a mix of 48% merino wool, 48% polyester and 4% polyurethane. The slim fit offers great movement and remains very comfortable on long days as it breathes and wicks well. The seams aren’t flat but are small and have caused no rubbing on the shoulders. The high merino content keeps odours at bay and the balance with polyester should mean the fabric is long lasting. Certainly I’ve seen no evidence of wear at the shoulders or hipbelt areas from wearing a pack. The fabric provides SPF 30 protection; it’s made in Vietnam. Overall a good option for warm days from this reliable Swiss brand which is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation which works to improve the working conditions and wages.

Vaude Green Core T-Shirt

RRP: £70
Weight: 115g

1 colour, sizes XS – XL
Men’s version in 1 colour, sizes S – XXL, similar design but with seam and small pocket at the chest, same price.

The price already has my eyes watering but previous items by Vaude have been high quality and I’ve heard good things about the company’s genuine commitment to environmental issues. The fabric is 50% merino wool and 50% Tencel which is made from FSC-certified wood fibre, the production of which is very eco-friendly. This mix results in a super-soft fabric which is very comfortable to wear, with a good amount of stretch and has proved resistant to rubbing and thread catching so far. The seams aren’t flat but they are very unobtrusive and there’s plenty of movement when wearing.

The fit is quite generous (XS easily fits a UK size 10) check the size guides or try before buying. Less athletic than many T-shirts at the moment as well as side panels it also has a small pocket with a flap on one side near the bottom hem. Too small for a phone, it would fit keys or a small snack which might be useful for runners and mountain bikers but not so good for walkers where it would normally be hidden under the hipbelt. The tee is made in the EU.

With their Green Shape range Vaude say they are using for the very highest environmental standards for materials, production methods as well as guaranteeing fair working conditions for the producers; they have considered the whole life-cycle of the garment, earning the company high environmental and ethical plaudits. Overall a well functioning summer top with a cleaner conscience in this age of fast fashion.

Columbia Point to Peak Novelty Short-Sleeve Shirt

RRP: £30 currently available for much less in some outlets
Weight: 110g

8 colours in sizes XS-XL

The super-stretchy fabric on this top is 90% polyester and 10% elastane. The fit is slim and the sizes slightly on the small side. Cap sleeves and not flat, but small seams. The back has a cut out triangle shape at the back of the neck and patterned mesh fabric for the whole of the back. Whilst some will appreciate the look of this design, I didn’t feel it aided ventilation, and unless you want a sunburnt triangle on your back, that’s an awkward to reach area that will need sunscreen. In very sunny conditions you could get sunburn through the mesh on the back of the shoulders. The tee is made in Bangladesh, and is also available as a tank top. Generally it performed well and was good at wicking, but I would prefer a plain back design and longer sleeves for sun protection.

Smartwool Merino Sport 150 Mountain Magpie Tee

RRP: £55 on offer for less in some outlets
Weight: 102g

2 colours in XS-XL

The 56% merino wool content (the rest is polyester) gives this lightweight top the soft feel characteristic of Smartwool base layers. The two-piece design is simple and means there are no sleeve seams and the flatlock shoulder seams are barely noticeable. The neckline is relatively high for a crew neck which is good for sun protection and the fabric has a good amount of stretch and moves well with your body. I’ve had a slight issue with similar Smartwool tops losing their shape over time and not being the longest-lasting due to the high merino content. However this shirt has proved robust so far and Smartwool says the fabric has been updated to make it more durable.

Sizing is generous (S equals a UK 10-12, check the Smartwool size guide or try on before buying). Dries quickly and wicks well, keeping cool in hot weather and odour control is good. There’s no direct men’s version, and the top is made in Vietnam. The cute design and super comfy-feel means it could quickly become a summer hill favourite which could justify the high price tag.

Rab Pulse LS Zip Serenity Tee

RRP: £40
Weight: 92g

2 colours, sizes 10 – 16
Men’s version in 3 colours, sizes S-XL, same price

Incredibly lightweight fabric with a great design for sun protection this has already become a firm favourite for hotter days. The 100% polyester, silky fabric has a grid design to aid wicking and is very stretchy. The seams are sewn-over and minuscule, you really won’t notice them. I liked the stand up collar for sun protection and the neck zip for extra ventilation. The sleeves have thumb loops and side panels as does the main body which means it moves very well. The cut is fairly generous, slightly longer than some so no issues with riding up when wearing a pack. The fabric shows no sign of wear at the shoulders although it can be prone to thread’s catching on sharp objects. Incorporating Polygiene for odour control and being amazingly fast drying, it’s ideal for multi-day trips. Made in China. The Pulse range includes a hooded, crew-neck t-shirt and sleeveless tank. Good value price.

Sprayway Cora Stripe Tee

RRP: £25
Weight: 135g

6 colours in sizes 8 – 20 (XS-XXL)

This traditionally-styled T-shirt has a crew neck and inset sleeves in cool and pleasant-feeling 100% polyester fabric. Bluesign sustainable standard approved, the fabric is also treated with Polygiene so is good for at least a couple of hot days without needing to be washed. The sizing is fairly relaxed and the length long enough so riding up while wearing a pack isn’t a problem. The construction is robust and the fabric provides sun protection of SPF35. The seams are not flat but don’t rub and the design means there are no seams on the top of the shoulders. There is good movement in the design combined with the stretch in the fabric. There is a slit at the back bottom hem to increase movement which means there is a seam running down the back – whilst it hasn’t caused any issues under a pack, I’m not sure how necessary a feature it is. Sprayway tops I have previously worn have proved very robust and this one has shown no sign of wear although the fabric can get pulled threads on sharp objects. A good range of sizes including XXL. Not the fastest drying or lightest on test, it still dries quickly, breathes and wicks reasonably and is a great price. No direct men’s version. Overall a reliable top for all round summer use.

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