At the outset, I should make it perfectly clear that I’m a “wool” man, and it would take an act of congress or a seriously enlightening experience to get me to swap my beloved merino wool base layers for synthetics. This said, there are synthetics that work well. One, that has been around for years, is Thermax® which is made from polyester fibers. Thermax® has a decent temperature comfort range, it insulates when wet, it’s soft against the skin, non-allergenic and it doesn’t smell like a dirty old sweat sock as the days go by. In the days before merino wool, my wife Susie swore by it. She said it was the only long underwear that didn’t smell over the long haul.
But there’s a relatively new synthetic which is very impressive. It’s called Body-Sensors®* by Terramar©. There are three thicknesses—warm, warmer and warmest. The lightweight stuff feels and drapes like silk. The heavyweight has a cozy, fleece-like feel. The fabric is super soft and comfortable. Here’s the corporate shtick as written on the package:
“TXO (Advanced Odor-control Technology) performance baselayers incorporate advanced X-Odor® moisture and odor technology featuring activated carbon and embedded nano-silver for long lasting odor control and fast drying.“ The silver, of course, kill microbes; the carbon absorbs odors."
Knit with hollow core polyester yarn for added insulation for warmth without excess bulk.
Flat seam construction for comfort and durability.
Soft 2-sided fleece for the ultimate comfort.
Eco-friendly no chemical finishes.
To this, I would add, “luxuriously soft, silk-like draping quality, wide temperature comfort range and very light weight”. In mid-May, I drove my little red roadster (1996 BMW Z-3) to Los Angeles to visit my daughters, then I took the northern route home over the Donner Pass. Except for two hours of rain on the drive out, the top was down all the time. Temperatures averaged in the eighties, with a long spike of 104 in Arizona. A lightweight Body-Sensor shirt was my primary upper garment for most of the route. Only when the temperature reached 100 was I too hot, and this was probably more due to the heat-absorbing black color of the fabric than to the insulation. The UV protection worked as advertised—there wasn’t a hint of sun-burn on my upper body. I wore the Body-Sensor lightweight upper every day for six days, and I never washed it. When I reached LA, it was still odor-free. That’s impressive.
While driving home over Donner Pass, I encountered heavy fog. My car thermometer read 38 degrees and the sky looked pretty nasty. I was wearing two Body-Sensor layers—light and medium weight—under a porous wind shell. The convertible top was down, as usual, and cars were backed up because of the poor visibility. Then came rain with a mix of snow. Generally, as long as I’m going over 50 mph, with the side windows and wind-screen up, the rain largely goes over the car. Below 50, and the car becomes a swimming pool. Putting the top up on the old Z3 is a 30 second hassle, which, in a hard rain is time enough to flood the car. So I usually just keep driving, hoping for a covered spot where I can pull off and work out of the rain. No luck. I drove on at around 40 mph for about 15 minutes. When I finally found a covered gas station, the car and I were soaking wet, but surprisingly, I was not chilled. As I put up the top and turned the heater to full blast I remember thinking, “No kiddin’; this stuff really works!”
With the top up and the heater running, the lightweight Body-Sensor dried on me in about 5 minutes. The heavier shirt, which was draped over the passenger seat needed 30 minutes more.
My three Body-Sensor shirts are going on two years old. I've worn one or more nearly every day throughout our Viking winter. The shirts have been washed scores of times (line dried only) and there are no tears or pilling. This stuff is outstanding!
*NOTE: Terramar recently advised that they "no longer call them Body-Sensors, but they do have a 'similar' product. Possibly disappointing sales prompted the name-change.