View Full Version : Polypro vs. Polyester!?!? Base layer choice

04-23-2003, 13:31
This question has been driving me crazy for the past couple of weeks. What is the difference between Polypro and Polyester?

I read quite often that Polypro base layers stink. I have a "polyester" base layer that (I think) stinks in what seems like 2 minutes after I put it on. So what gives?

While we are on the subject, what is your favorite base layer? Cool weather? Warm weather?

On a thru-hike, should I take 1, or 2 shirts? I have a separate "top" I use for sleeping.

04-23-2003, 13:50
I have no idea what the difference is between polypro and polyester, but I would guess that polypro is a type of polyester.

In cold weather (below freezing), my base layer is midweight thermals, which allow me to hike without overheating. Above freezing, no base layer. If I owned a pair of lightweight underwear, I might take that up to the mid 40s. When it is hot out, no base layer. Pants or shorts and a t-shirt. I like hiking in pants as it protects me rather well against ticks and poison ivy. Nylon pants are not really any hotter than shorts.

Last summer I brought t-shirts. This summer on the PCT, I will have a t-shirt and a long sleeve shirt (sun protection in the desert). In my bounce box, I'll have a spare t-shirt, mostly for in town use while laundry is being done. Pants and a pair of shorts as well.

Blue Jay
04-23-2003, 14:12
Chemically there is a difference, but functionally there is not. They both smell after a short period of time. There is one that is impregnated with some kind of zinc compound. I had one of the shirts once that stayed as smell free as cotton, but when it wore out I never found another. I use two poly shirts, one long sleeve in cold weather. One to hike in and one to sleep in and wear in town. If it is real hot I carry another one to keep from asphyxiating the townspeople.

04-23-2003, 14:12
I would call a t-shirt a base layer, you don't? When I hike in 40F+ weather, I wear a single layer. Which, I assume is called a base layer.

Semantics aside, your "t-shirts", or "long sleeved shirt" are made of what material?

04-23-2003, 14:25
I'm ashamed to admit that as of late I've just been using cotton T-Shirts. I know, I know, cotton kills. Theres just something about the soft feel, and comfortability.

I'd also like to add that I believe the anti-bacterial shirts (the ones that smell fresh longer) have silver strands woven into the thread. Apparently bacteria has a tough time with it or something. My TEVA Guide Wraptors supposedly have silver particles in the footbed to accomplish the same feat (no pun intended hehe).

04-23-2003, 15:00
The t-shirts for this summer are really synthetic: Shiny, light, barely there at all. Made of "mini mesh" polyester. I like them alot. The long sleeve shirt looks a lot like cotton and doesn't seem to pick up as much of a stink as other synthetics. It is a blend of nylon and polyester and is treated with something to make it equivalent to wearing SPF30. I wore this shirt alot in Central America this winter. It looks nice enough that I didn't feel out of place in churches (unlike the Australians in tank tops and short shorts) and museums, but it is tough enough and light enough for walking in the countryside.

Both the t-shirts and the long sleeve shirt are from Mountain Equipment Co-op, www.mec.ca. The t-shirts replaced a pair of REI t-shirts than weighed twice as much (13 oz!) and stunk like a monkey after being worn for 3 minutes.

04-23-2003, 15:27
Originally posted by RagingHampster
I'm ashamed to admit that as of late I've just been using cotton T-Shirts. I know, I know, cotton kills. Cotton kills only in situations where you get cold and can't dry out.

If I were sweating like a pig in a $50 "technical" shirt, I could still go hypo and die. Sure the shirt my dry faster, but is that not going to save my ass in all situations.

04-23-2003, 15:48
Polypro first came out in the early 80s (or late 70s?). We called it plastic underwear because it's made from petroleum products. At the time it was a great breakthrough to wear this stuff under your wool in the winter, mostly because it was thin, kept the wool from scratching your skin, and when you got too hot and took your wool off, you had something on which wasn't too hot but provided some modesty and kept snow off your skin. About 10 years later polypro began to be replaced by polyester. Both fabrics provide the same function, but perhaps polyester feels better against the skin and has more of a wicking action. Polypro simply doesn't hold water. Lifa is one of the few companies still selling polypro, and they have improved the fabric relative to that of the early 80s. Actually, polypro is almost impossible to wear out (I still have my original shirts, but the elastic wore out in the pants). Maybe that's one reason manufacturers now sell polyester - so it will wear out and people will keep buying it. :-?

04-23-2003, 16:00
In the winter, my base layer was Capilene (brand named Poly from Patagonia). In the summer, it was just a generic polypro shirt I bought at the Outfiter in Daelville. Both worked wonderfully. As for which smells, it's really a non-issue, anything you wear every single day for six months will smell horrible, no matter how often you wash it ;)

04-23-2003, 16:14

Did you have a separate "in town", or sleeping top? Or just a single top garment?

04-23-2003, 17:07
In the "winter"(March and early April), I had a short-sleeve capline and a long sleeve capilene, and an expedition weight zip-up fleece pullover. I slept in whatever was neccessary to keep warm. In town, while doing laundry, I would just wear rain gear. In the spring/summer, I had my one poly-pro shortsleeve shirt, and in town I would waer rain gear until the clothes were clean. I slept in the buff in the spring/summer, so that was a non-issue. In town, I would always find a place to stay first, then a shower, then do laundry, so it was never a big deal not to have clothes to change into, rain gear always was fine for the short time I was waiting for my itty-bitty laundry load to dry. You always ssee hikers troling around in their rain clothes, waiting fro laundry.

If the smell is really a factor for you, we discovered that washing the load with a cup of vinegar in the first water cycle (make sure it's at the beginning of the cycle or your clothes will rekk like vinegar) really did amazing things to squash odor, the clothes always came out smelling fresh and were much cleaner than with detergent alone.

Good luck!