Base Layers and Their Differences – Part 2, by A.S.

If you recall from the first installment of this article which was posted early this month, I discussed the start of base layering principle which I am sure most people are very familiar with–especially those who read this blog. I also brought up the types of material used such as Polypropylene, Merino wool and the new fibre Tencel. In this installment I want to break down some information on the other layers involved and give my thoughts from long time use of garment materials that work in longevity.

Goretex jackets are great for hikers and for those who take trips you maybe10 or 15 times a year in the great outdoors, but they are not suited for day-in, day-out wear/ This because once the waterproofing membrane has worn down by either rubbing on pack straps or other wear points such as where a [holster or] knife sheath is attached, you will see major wear problems. Then your expensive jacket will be pretty much useless.

However, before I delve further into my solution, I want to go back to Merino wool and then the layers from the initial skin thermic layer and explain the differences between wool weights that are on mentioned on web sites or on signs/labels at the stores in your shopping mall. Be aware though that a brick and mortar store assistants very rarely knows the ins and outs of wool weights.

So lets begin:

1. Merino Wool

Wool cloths (as opposed to knitted wool ) are weighed by the yard on large scales, many flannel shirts that contain a wool mix are weighed in the 10-12ounce range, base layer and mid layer garments are often in the 6-8 ounce range, which are often wool garments. The garment itself is then weighed and from there the manufacturers mark the weight on the tag you get in the shop or see online, remember that coarser threads will tend to have more weight to them but will usually be stronger than Merino tops, hence Merino tops are weighed by the following: 150gr, 250gr,300gm and 350gr and sometimes 400gr.

The coarse or heavier wool pullovers that one see’s on those who climb mountains weigh in at 3 or 4 pounds! So to break it down further for the layman, 150g to 250gr are the mid-layer weights after the skin layer of choice(hopefully you are already using Merino at this point ) 300g -400gr is the last layer before the choice of wind/waterproof shell you use. This allows for keeping the body warm but not sweating while you are out hiking the hills etc,also remember that using several layers with Merino makes for a very light load in your ruck, 3 layers of Merino makes up for far more than one bulky 5 pound synthetic jacket that will not keep you warm at night or in the cooler day temperatures. And let’s not forget the lack of fire retarding ability next to that fire you will be keenly sitting next to at night.

2. Duck Canvas and Moleskin for Pants

At this point I would like to explain briefly the use of Moleskin and Duck Canvas for pants for hard outdoor use, to me Goretex and other synthetic pants suffer from the same problem the jackets do, they are not suitable for day-in,day-out wear. Again once that outer waterproof layer has been worn through by developing a rub spot, you can just about toss them away, In contrast, cotton duck is a very durable fabric it has a plain or square weave and is very tightly woven. While you can buy wool pants in boiled wool or Merino they are very expensive to come by unless you find a set at your local surplus store.Duck canvas in pants is waterproof and is highly resistant to snags and wind damage when used for tarps for a bushcraft etc. Moleskin is essentially twill which while it is still cotton is a vastly different fabric. Moleskin (no, it is not made from Moles!) twill is a very heavy weight cotton that becomes softer with wear and fades faster with washing. But for Preppers and those of us who wander the forests twill is much warmer than canvas and is just as durable as canvas. Moleskin pants while not being as waterproof as Duck canvas, shed water rapidly, dry quickly when wet and are highly wind resistant and soft to the skin.

When you are looking for the weight of Moleskin or canvas pants the same rule applies, they are weighed as follows, 350gr, 450gr etc total weight of the garment. Denim is useless for outdoors for keeping you warm because Denim itself is an open weave cotton. If you look under a microscope at the difference between Denim and Moleskin/ Duck canvas, you can see the open pores of Denim which allows the fabric to retain water when wet and yet it does not dry quickly because of this, so the old sayings “cotton is rotten” and”cotton kills” for wilderness use are only partly true. So the lesson here is,stay away from Denim jeans or cotton T-shirts.

My Recommendations

By now you have hopefully a much better idea of what to look for, how to shop for Merino wool tops and how to know the difference between Duck canvas and Moleskin versus Denim pants. And you know about Denim and other fibres tonot use while doing your hunting / hiking in the forest. For my long term shell layer I use a oilskin Duster made of lightweight 10-12 ounce canvas, with 450gr Moleskin pants. This allows breathability, shedding of water, has no issues with briars and thorns which I often encounter on my wilderness journeys off the beaten track. When you combine that with the aforesaid Merino layers and you are good to go. Canvas and Merino by the way have very similar abilities, namely, able to be repaired by needle and thread, with some occasional maintenance your garments will lastyou for many long years.

Conclusion and Summing-Up

Know your limits when going alone out far from the big cities and highways.Carry the right gear and be dressed for survival. Having the best ruck and best knife is great, but your first layer of defence is the clothes you wear on your back and when the day comes–that is SHTF day or just lost in the woods day–you can be totally confident you have picked the right clothes to see you through.

The following are some links to companies that sell great clothes that are strong, hard wearing and warm.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with these products or companies in any way. However I have used their garments with excellent results.

Base Layer:

Wool and Moleskin Pants and Bush Shirts:

Note: Part 1 of this article can be found here:

I hope to see you on the trail sometime. Blessings, – A.S.