UKH

Sprayway Dornie baselayer Review

© Dan Bailey

Out this month in advance of the autumn/winter 21 season, the Dornie (men's), Effra (women's) and Caldrew (kid's) are thick base layers ideal for active use in colder conditions, each coming in at a pretty affordable price relative to similar things from other brands. Since winter 2020 we've had samples of the Dornie and Caldrew ranges on review, which has allowed us to give them a reasonably long-term test.  

Dornie top and bottoms - not elegant, but useful night wear on a spring summit camp  © Dan Bailey
Dornie top and bottoms - not elegant, but useful night wear on a spring summit camp
© Dan Bailey

Dornie Half Zip - £30

The Dornie's weight and thickness are well judged for active use in winter conditions, and at the colder ends of spring and autumn. With its mid-height collar and zip opening, it has proven to be a warm and versatile layer, and one that I've worn equally comfortably for winter mountaineering, hillwalking, cold weather cragging and high-level camping and bivvying. 

If you don't need the zip, a crew neck is available at £25. Women get both half zip and crew options, the Effra, at the same spec and price as the men's. In this range ,women's sizing goes up to 18, which is worth applauding in an outdoor market that often seems to draw a ceiling at 16.

Chilly but no wind on the walk-in to Liathach - I was comfy on the move in just the Dornie Half Zip  © Dan Bailey
Chilly but no wind on the walk-in to Liathach - I was comfy on the move in just the Dornie Half Zip
© Dan Bailey

Weight

At 282g in my size Large sample (Sprayway's stated weight is 250g, and that'd usually apply to a size M), the Dornie Half Zip is very much a winter weight top. As a comparison, a similar grid-backed half-zip baselayer from among the well-used tops in my cupboard, an old Mountain Equipment Eclipse Zip Tee, weighs 290g. While a zipped pocket helps account for the latter's weight, the Dornie has the edge in terms of thickness. Perhaps it's not a fair fight, since these fabrics must get thinner and less fluffy over time, but the Dornie does feel more snug. 

Medium-high neck  © Dan Bailey
Medium-high neck
© Dan Bailey

Reasonably deep zip for venting  © Dan Bailey
Reasonably deep zip for venting
© Dan Bailey

Fit

I am 183cm/6 foot, and reasonably broad in the body, and on me the Dornie in size Large is a fairly close fit throughout, without being skin tight. There's plenty of length in the arms, thumb loops to help keep your wrists warm, and the fabric's stretch allows good freedom of movement. While the length in the hem is fine if you're walking, I do find there's some hem lift when raising my arms overhead, and for a climbing day I'd ideally prefer a cut that comes further below the waist - comparison with the fit of the more climbing-oriented ME Eclipse is telling in this regard. Perhaps we can say the Dornie's cut is better suited to hillwalking and a general outdoors remit, but I've used it for climbing too, and if you're mountaineering on a budget it'll certainly do.

While I might favour a higher neck in really brutal weather, the mid-height collar on the Dornie half-zip seems a good length for all-round use, since it won't be quite as hot if conditions are less extreme. The zip opens low enough to get some air in if you're working up a sweat.

The fabric is thick, but very open to air flow  © Dan Bailey
The fabric is thick, but very open to air flow
© Dan Bailey

Fabric

Made of 95% polyester and 5% elastane, the Stretch CoreC Grid fabric used here has a smooth outer side that slides easily under other layers, combined with a heat-trapping inside. With its brushed grid inner face and overall thickness, this is a warm baselayer, and without stretching the imagination it could almost double as a lightweight, close-fitting fleece.

The inside does seem to insulate very effectively for its weight, but because the fabric between the fluffy bits is much thinner and more open the baselayer breathes well, seems to readily move moisture away from the skin, and dries quickly. Of course it's also completely open to the wind, but that kind of air permeability is what you want in a baselayer. While I have sometimes got hot when on the move, I've rarely noticed feeling clammy or unduly sweaty, so the fabric appears to be doing a good job. Still, I'd class this as a winter weight fabric; it's definitely not one for full summer, and borderline in warmer spring or autumn weather.

Wearing Dornie top and bottoms under softshell trousers, a light gilet and a Gore Pro shell  © Dan Bailey
Wearing Dornie top and bottoms under softshell trousers, a light gilet and a Gore Pro shell
© Dan Bailey

For an early March mountaineering day on Liathach I wore the Dornie top and bottoms under various upper layers, and a pair of winter weight softshell trousers. Starting out, the car thermometer read -4 and I added a VR Summit Jacket, Rab's heaviest Vapour-Rise softshell. On hitting the sun, and with little wind (for a change), I was comfy on the move with just the Dornie Half Zip. High up on the shady north side of the mountain everything was hard frozen, and I put on a lightweight gilet and Gore Pro shell to keep off the rising breeze. I got a bit hot steaming up an easy snow gully, but not excessively so for the work I was putting in. Up on the ridge crest it proved a comfortable combination of layers, with the Dornie top and bottoms doing a good job of keeping me both warm and dry inside. I only started to feel over dressed in the lee of the descent corrie, and had to remove the leggings to avoid melting on the long sunny afternoon road walk back to the car (no hitching - Covid).

Subsequent days out in both snowier and less-wintry conditions have confirmed that this is a decent, breathable and quick-drying all-round baselayer. 

  • Weight: 282g size L
  • Sizes: S-XXL (men)
  • Warm close fitting half-zip
  • Stretch CoreC™ Grid fabric combines a smooth pill resistant outer face with warm and high wicking gridded back 
  • 95% polyester / 5% elastane
  • Fitted collar
  • Half-zip to aid venting
  • Elastane bound cuff with concealed thumb loops Self-fabric hem

Dornie Leggings - £25

There's nothing fancy here, just a simple stretchy pair of winter-weight thermal bottoms that layer neatly under softshell trousers. They're good value at the price, and while I've used cheaper synthetic leggings for years, these ones are warmer than my budget legwear, and give the impression that they'll last well.

Dornie leggings are pretty thick and snug  © Dan Bailey
Dornie leggings are pretty thick and snug
© Dan Bailey

Weight and fabric

My size Large pair weigh 204g, which as with the top seems pretty light for the thickness and warmth on offer. The Dornie leggings come in the same fabric as the top, and work well as a winter-worthy base layer. There's plenty of stretch and good breathability, so the key boxes are ticked. 

Fit

As with the top, the women's version, Effra Leggings, come in a good range of sizes from 8 - 18.

I have pretty chunky legs, and again on me the cut in size L is close without being restrictively skin-tight. There's enough width and stretch at the ankle to pop them over - or under - thick winter socks, while crucially the high waistline eliminates draughts around your middle, and works well under a harness or indeed a pair of softshell trousers.

There's no fly on the men's version - something I'd generally find too much of a fiddle to bother with when clad in loads of winter clobber anyway. The simple elastic waistband is comfy and low-profile under your other layers.

  • Sizes: S-XXL (mens)
  • Weight: 204g size L
  • Close fitting legging that offers a boost of warmth to your winter legwear options
  • Stretch CoreC™ Grid fabric combines a smooth pill resistant outer face with warm and high wicking gridded back
  • 95% polyester / 5% elastane
  • Branded wide elastane waistband
  • Self-fabric hem

For kids: Caldrew Crew top and Caldrew Leggings - £15 each

We completed the ensemble with this baselayer top and bottoms for kids. The Caldrew top only comes in a crew neck, not also the half zip option that adults get, but that's probably OK given that you'll be less likely to subject the children to weather quite as harsh as you'd put yourself through. When it's been cold and windy Daisy has usually worn a buff anyway.

Caldrew top and leggings give you a good base for layering   © Dan Bailey
Caldrew top and leggings give you a good base for layering
© Dan Bailey

Both top and bottoms are a bit of a hit with our junior tester, and she's been wearing the leggings as actual leggings as well as using them as thermal bottoms under overtrousers. 

Weight

With size 8-9 versions of the top weighing 138g, and leggings at 120g, this seems a pretty lightweight baselayer combo for the warmth on offer. 

Fit

While our samples are officially sized 8-9 we find both the top and bottoms a bit long and roomy for Edith (an average-ish 8 year old) but a perfect fit on Daisy (a small 10-ager), and that's worth bearing in mind of you're buying them online, since you do want a baselayer to be quite close fitting. 

The Caldrew has fast become her long sleeved top of choice - but it's already getting quite scuffed up  © Dan Bailey
The Caldrew has fast become her long sleeved top of choice - but it's already getting quite scuffed up
© Dan Bailey

Fabric

As per the adult baselayers, kids get the same CoreC Grid fabric. If it's good enough for grownups then children deserve a decent baselayer too, and Daisy has got on very well with the fabric in the sense that she's not complained any more than usual about being too warm when racing me uphill, or too cold on a windy summit.

Though Sprayway mention that the outside of the fabric resists pilling, our experience suggests this has limits. When worn as outside leggings under shorts, we found the soft outer fabric of the bottoms looked a bit scuffed and furred up after Daisy had spent a couple of hours walking through deep scratchy heather; the same is now true of the cuffs of the top, which get roughed-up on rocks and tree bark. Kids can be hard on their clothing, if our two are anything to go by.

But for the price the Caldrew top and bottoms seem like good value, and they're certainly a cut above our family's budget brand baselayers in terms of warmth and quality.

Caldrew Crew

Caldrew Leggings

  • Weight: 138g size 8-9
  • Sizes: 4 -15yrs
  • Stretch close fitting crew that slots perfectly into any winter layering system
  • Stretch CoreC™ Grid fabric combines a smooth pill resistant outer face with warm and high wicking gridded back
  • 95% polyester / 5% elastane
  • Crew neck
  • Elastane bound cuff with concealed thumb loops Self-fabric hem
  • Weight: 120g size 8-9
  • Sizes: 4 - 15yrs
  • Close fitting legging that offers a boost of warmth to your winter legwear options
  • Stretch CoreC™ Grid fabric combines a smooth pill resistant outer face with warm and high wicking gridded back 
  • 95% polyester / 5% elastane
  • Wide elastane waist band
  • Self-fabric hem


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