This base layer blends the best properties of wool and synthetic fabric for a light and versatile top that can be worn in mild and cold weather and for both mellow and high intensity activities
Great sweat-wicking properties
Decent odor control
Synthetic blend more durable than straight wool
Warm but not too warm
No annoying zips
Could be softer
Could be stretchier
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Columbia Tunnel Springs Wool Crew Baselayer: first impressions
When you’re looking for a base layer, you want something that will keep you warm without overheating, wick sweat when your activity gains intensity and dry reasonably quickly so you’re not shivering out in the cold wearing a wet top at the summit. Some base layers have extra bells and whistles like zips and hoods, but with the Tunnel Springs Wool Crew, Columbia has relied on a straightforward approach and it’s paid off.
This base layer is made using a blend of wool and synthetic Lyocell, so it boasts temperature-regulating and odor-control properties of the former but is more durable and quick drying thanks to the latter. It’s light enough to wear in a range of temperatures and across different activities, providing warmth on chilly days when paired with a fleece and shell, but can also make a running top in cold weather or be worn on its own for mild hiking days.
• List price: $90 / £75 (£80 men’s)
• Gender specification: Men’s and women’s sizing available
• Sizes: Men’s S - XXL Women’s XS - XL
• Weight: 170g / 5.9 oz (women’s small)
• Materials: 60% Wool, 40% Lyocell
• Colors: Black, Night wave
• Best use: Hiking, trail running, winter sports
Handy thumb loops make it easy to layer or wear with gloves. The fabric doesn’t really feel like wool, it's a bit like a textured cotton in feel. For the most sensitive skin, it could be a little itchy, but in general we think most people would be surprised to discover it’s wool. It doesn’t have any added stretch, but there’s plenty of pliability for all sorts of movement and the lack of elastane adds to the durability of this garment. Overall, this is a timeless-looking first layer that you can comfortably use across all sorts of activities.
Columbia Tunnel Springs Wool Crew Baselayer: in the field
As an avid hiker, trail runner, skier, climber and everything outdoorer, I can’t really ever have enough base layers – unless they’re itchy or too hot that is. In a base layer, I look for something with some wool content that is breathable and quick drying and helps me stay warm when it’s cold.
I got to test this base layer out on a hut hiking trip to the French Alps this fall with Columbia, wearing it during the colder night hikes. Since I’ve returned to Scotland, I’ve been wearing it a lot, on hikes up Munros and for about five days straight on family walking holiday.
Here’s how it performed:
Size and fit
I am a size small and tested a small and it fits true to size. It sits close to the skin but without any elastane, it’s not figure hugging. In general, you need base layers to lie against the skin to wick moisture, but while this isn't skin tight it seems to be close enough to do the job.
Temperature regulation and breathability
I’ve tested base layers that are really warm, but this one is light enough that it makes a good first layer while being versatile across different activities. So far I’ve mostly worn it for hiking though I’ve also worn it for some cold trail runs and been quite happy. The wool/synthetic blend means it’s both breathable when I do get sweaty, and thankfully it’s really quick drying too which makes it a good choice for high intensity adventures.
This is neither the softest nor the itchiest base layer in my closet. When I first received it, I actually didn’t realize it was wool, which is unusual. For a moment, I thought they had sent me a cotton base layer, which would be mad, but it feels almost like coarse cotton rather than wool. I imagine those with sensitive skin would be able to tell, but for me it only has the slightest itch factor. That said, it could be softer against the skin, but I can happily wear it all day.
You might think the lack of elastane would make this less comfortable, but the fabric naturally has enough give and the fit is right so I’ve been able to do yoga wearing it no problem.
Odor control and durability
Synthetic materials tend to get stinky while wool doesn’t, and this top manages to harness more of the properties of wool in that department. As I mentioned, I wore it for five days straight without needing to wash it – just airing it out was enough between uses.
Wool isn’t always the most durable, especially when you don’t take good care of it, but blending it with synthetic fabric and skipping the elastane bodes well for longevity, plus there’s no zip to fail. The odor-control also cuts down on how often it needs washed, which helps no end.
Columbia Tunnel Springs Wool Crew Baselayer: the bottom line
If you’re seeking a versatile first layer that boasts some of the best properties of wool but is reinforced with synthetic fabric, check out this classic-looking, lightweight and effective base layer.
Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.