Highlander Bamboo Base Layer Long Sleeve Top review: a buttery soft, stay-cool first layer

Bamboo fabric and flat-lock seams provide an ultra soft, body-hugging base layer that’s great for mild-to-warm conditions

Stretching after a run wearing the Highlander Bamboo Base Layer Long Sleeve Top
(Image: © Julia Clarke)

Advnture Verdict

Deliciously soft on your skin, this thin, figure hugging first layer is a comfortable performer for sweaty adventures, as long as it’s not too cold out

Pros

  • +

    Super soft and comfortable

  • +

    Tight fit makes it easy to layer on top

  • +

    Breathable and good odor-control

  • +

    Flat lock seams

  • +

    Very affordable

Cons

  • -

    Slow to dry

  • -

    Not as thermal for cold temperatures

  • -

    Not as durable as synthetic

  • -

    No thumb holes

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Highlander Bamboo Base Layer Long Sleeve Top: first impressions

Scottish outdoor company Highlander has been making affordable outdoor gear since the mid 1980s to help more folks weather the elements without breaking the bank. In this base layer, they’ve combined flat lock seams with the soft, breathable properties of bamboo for next-level comfort and created a first layer that will help keep you cool in mild to warm conditions. 

Specifications

• List price: £29.99
• Unisex: Men’s and women’s fits available
• Weight: 5oz / 141g
• Sizes available: Men’s: S - XXL; Women’s: XS - XL   
• Materials: Bamboo 95%, Elastane 5%
• Colors: Black
• Best use: Hiking, trail running, camping 

The body-hugging fit of this base layer looks great and makes it really easy to layer a fleece jacket on top. Though like most bamboo products, it’s slow to dry once it gets soaked, the antibacterial properties of bamboo mean it doesn’t get too stinky and doesn’t need to be washed after every use. It doesn't feature thumb holes, but since the thin construction slow-dry properties make it better suited for warmer weather, that really doesn’t matter, and the sleeves are nice and long. At such a low price, it’s worth picking up one or two of these for milder adventures, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Highlander Bamboo Base Layer Long Sleeve Top: in the field

Julia Clarke wearing the Highlander Bamboo Base Layer Long Sleeve Top

The body-hugging fit of this base layer looks great and makes it really easy to layer a fleece jacket on top (Image credit: Julia Clarke)

My first impression upon pulling this base layer out of the packaging was how velvety soft it is. Like, even for bamboo it’s crazy soft! But, sure, it feels amazing against my skin, but is it really up to the challenge of sweaty adventures where I need to regulate my temperature?

Here’s how it performed:

Comfort and fit 

I’m typically slightly larger than an XS and smaller than a S in most brands, and for this one I decided to size down. I think it fits perfectly, it is really snug, but that makes it easy to layer on top, and it’s so stretchy that the snug fit doesn't hold me back. Either order your normal size, or size down if you like your base layers to be body hugging.

As for comfort, well, wearing this thing is like wearing butter. It feels incredible on my skin. All bamboo clothing is soft, but this one really takes the cake. Flat lock seams add to the comfort level, which means no chafing or rubbing anywhere.

Close up of the Highlander Bamboo Base Layer Long Sleeve Top

They’ve combined flat lock seams with the soft, breathable properties of bamboo for next-level comfort (Image credit: Julia Clarke)

Temperature regulation and breathability 

Here’s where I get a bit stuck with bamboo. Everyone who makes clothing out of bamboo rayon or viscose says it’s quick drying, but I don’t find that to be true, at all. In fact, I find that this top, like other bamboo clothing I’ve worn, gets quite damp when I work up a sweat in it, and it stays wet. In fact, I’ve been caught out when I’ve tossed it in the laundry basket, then decided I want to wear it again the next day only to discover that it’s still wet. So, it’s definitely not quick drying, unless you’re comparing it to a rubbish bag, but it is breathable, which means that sweat is able to passively leave my skin while I’m on the go, so I don’t feel like I’m running in a rubbish bag.

All this means that it does help keep me cool when it’s mild or warm, but, combined with fairly thin fabric, I wouldn’t say it’s the best for keeping warm. However, if you’re not working up a sweat, it will provide some warmth as a first layer.

Weight and packability 

This base layer is thin and lightweight, ideal for fast adventures, and it folds up nice and small. It also doesn’t get crumpled easily (unless it’s wet) so it’s great for travel.

Odor control and durability

Bamboo might not be as quick drying as people make out, but one thing I do like is its odor control. Due to natural antibacterial properties, I’ve left this base layer sweaty and scrunched up in my backpack, then hung it up to dry and found it easily passes the whiff test. It might not have quite the odor-control of merino wool, but it’s miles better than synthetic. I haven’t had this long enough to see how it stands up to multiple uses and washes, but I will say that my experience with bamboo is that it’s not as durable as other fabrics. Time will tell.

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.