Base and mid-layers on top

Several thin and breathable base layers are far better than a single thick layer.  It allows you to adjust your upper layers to keep yourself at the right temperature, and means you only need to change the layer closest to your skin regularly in order to stay clean and fresh.

Merino wool and synthetic fibres are excellent, and Cotton should be avoided at all cost: if it gets wet, and the temperature is cold it will ensure you never warm through and dry out.

Features to look for:

  • Thin, close-fitting layers closest to the skin
  • Thicker looser layers further away from the skin
  • High quality synthetic fibres for base layers
  • A good thick wool for outer layers is ideal in colder weathers

Features to avoid:

  • Cotton
  • Anything which is too baggy
  • Shirts with ‘short tails’ that come untucked easily

Polyester base layer

  • Low cost
  • Excellent at ‘wicking’ sweat away from the skin
  • Light and packs small
  • Easy to wash in the Wild
  • Check that they are fire retardant if wearing around a campfire without a covering layer
Stockists and Price
Decathlon do a superb range of base layers for under £7, several under £5.  Get a multi-pack and wear one a day, or layer them up if it gets cold.  Very nice to sleep in as well.

Wool base layer

  • Great heat retention
  • Naturally breathable fabric
  • Hard wearing
  • Can be pricey
  • More bulky than polyester
  • Can be a pain to wash and look after
Stockists and Price

Basic wool versions retail for about £10 from most stores, with Merino wool being about twice the price.  Cheaper wool tends to be more itchy

Bushcraft shirt

  • Hard wearing
  • Useful pockets
  • Breathable fabric
  • Easy to wash and dry in the Wild
  • Watch for sparks from the fire as this can easily melt holes in the fabric
  • Make sure they are flame retardant, cheaper versions often aren’t
Stockists and Price

Invariably a fashion item, so if you’re not precious about wearing the latest style, then wait for the frequent high street sales and pick up some bargains.

New can cost well over £60, especially if they have antibacterial treatments.  Watch out for those branded by TV ‘celebrities’ as this can add a lot of cost with no practical benefit.  Craghoppers are an excellent brand but pricey,  Fjallraven are amongst the best but extremely pricey.  Peter Storm is at the cheaper end, and again do look in Decathlon which is excellent for good value bushcraft clothing.

Terry’s favourite

“Merino wool for a base layer, though I have been experimenting with some military style polyester base layers.  Will have to see how they work out.  I hate itchy wool so will always spend a bit more of a wool base layer. “

Adrian’s favourite

“I get all my base layers from Decathlon, the cycling stuff and walking stuff is excellent and surprisingly durable for its price.  I always go to Blacks or Mountain Warehouse when they have a sale on to get the bargain shirts which are a fraction of the normal price.  Not fond of wool next to my skin so tend to go for polyester.”