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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Gear Review: Baselayers--Rivers West Apex Base System

This merino wool layer keeps all your bases covered, without smelling like a sock drawer.

by: Joe Flowers

The Apex Base System (Courtesy Rivers West)
The Apex Base System (Courtesy Rivers West)

Pros: Stretchy, loose fit, naturally stink free
Con: Weight
Weight: Top: 9 oz Bottom: 8 oz
MSRP: $60.00 each
Sizes: M-XL
Most synthetic baselayers smell like armpit city after just a day of use but fine-cut merino wool is a great alternative, and the Apex Base System by Rivers West is a comfort and performance jewel. The natural antibiotic qualities of Apex’s merino kept my human stink at bay, even on a three-day trip around Grayson Highlands, VA and impressed in a range and of temps and conditions.

Both the top and bottom have four-way stretch and are generously cut, so there was no binding in the armpit area or inseam, and no rolling where it lies on the torso or up on the legs. This is one baselayer that doesn’t feel like you are wrapped up in a rubber band but if you like tight fitting clothing, you may find it too baggy.  Personally, I liked it on and off trail: it didn’t limit mobility during any portion of the trip and the merino wool is fine gauge, with no itchiness even with a tight mid layer on over it; and the flat seams are practically unnoticeable.  Bonus: The two-button closures instead of zippers are a classic touch.

I tested the system in temps ranging from 20 to 55 degrees and despite the warm weather, the Apex didn’t overheat; during a wet portion of the trip, the top dried out faster than any other wool base layers I’ve used. 

Some hikers reserve their base layers for the trail or other cold weather outdoor activities, but the comfort and fit of the Apex Base top makes it a go-to layer for me for virtually any cold-weather scenario.

Bottom line:  Good quality merino wool that dries fast, is stretchy, and keeps you warm.

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