July 15, 2024

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Winter Photography Clothing: Vallerret Base Layer Review

Winter Photography Clothing: Vallerret Base Layer Review

As a professional travel photographer, I find myself out taking photos in all sorts of weather conditions and climates. Whether that’s chasing the Northern Lights in Finland, shooting waterfalls in Iceland, or capturing Scotland in winter, I’m not one to let the weather get in the way of my goals.

That said, I also grew up in the tropical Seychelles islands, and I’m not exactly a fan of being cold. So, when Vallerret contacted me to ask if I’d like to try out and review their new line of photography specific clothing designed to keep photographers warm in cold weather, I was more than happy to take them up on the offer!

Regular readers of this blog might recall that not too long ago I did a review of Vallerret’s winter photography gloves, which remain my favourite gloves for photography in cold conditions. I have been using them for years.

So I was definitely interested to see what their approach to photography focused cold weather clothing would be, and whether or not they would find a spot in my winter photography clothing getup.

In this post, I’ll be reviewing two items of photography clothing from Vallerret, their Merino Wool Long Sleeve Tee and their Merino Wool Zip Jersey.

Who is Vallerret?

First, let’s do a quick introduction to Vallerret, in case you aren’t familiar with the brand.

Vallerret is a Norwegian brand, launched in 2015, with an initial focus on developing high performance gloves designed to serve the needs of photographers.

Whilst there are many gloves on the market, Vallerret felt that none of them adequately met the needs of photographers shooting in cold weather conditions. And being based in Norway, they know a thing or to about photography in cold weather!

So they launched their own winter photography gloves, and today they have an extensive range of photography gloves to choose from. You can read my review of some of their winter photography gloves here.

Of course, photographers need to keep more than their hands warm! Recognising this need, in 2022 Vallerret expanded their range to include apparel. This apparel range starts with high performance photography focused base layers. Which is what this review will be covering.

As part of this introduction, I feel it is worth mentioning that Vallerret are also a part of 1% for the planet. That means they have been certified to donate 1% of annual sales to environmental causes, so your support also does good for the planet.

You can see their entire range on their website here. Many of their products are also available on Amazon here.

Vallerret Merino Wool Zip Jersey Winter Photography Base Layer
Vallerret Merino Wool Zip Jersey Winter Photography Base Layer

 

Why Base Layers?

When planning for spending prolonged periods of time outdoors in cold weather, it is commonly recommended that you dress in a series of layers.

The layer system originates in the 19th century, and was popularised by the US Army in the second world war. The idea is that instead of wearing one or two items of heavy clothing, you wear a number of items of lighter clothing in layers.

This has the advantage in that it traps warm air between the layers to maintain body heat, whilst also allowing the wearer to remove or add layers as dictated by conditions and exertion levels.

The layers closest to the body are called base layers.

 

What to Look for in a Base Layer

There are a number of things to look for in a base layer, regardless of whether you are using it for photography or not. It should:

  • be lightweight
  • dry quickly
  • be comfortable against your skin

Generally, base layers are designed to maintain your body temperature and wick moisture away from the skin. It is also important that it does not retain moisture and get damp as this can make you cold over time.

For example, cotton is generally not recommended as a base layer material as it retains moisture, which can make you colder.

Popular base layer materials are natural products like wool or cashmere, or synthetic products like polyester. They should be lightweight, warm, and dry quickly.

My personal preference is merino wool, a natural fibre which has odor resistant, wicking, and fast-drying properties. However, not everyone likes to wear wool against their skin, so your preference may be for a different material.

When comparing similar products for warmth, it’s a good idea to check the “gsm” rating. This refers to grams per square meter, and essentially indicates how heavy a square meter of the material would be. A higher number means the material is going to be thicker and therefore usually warmer.

Under 200 gsm is going to be a lighter-weight material, whilst over 200gsm is going to be a thicker material offering more warmth.

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What to Look for in a Base Layer for Photography

Before Vallerret created their base layer range, I hadn’t really thought about what features a photographer might need in a base layer beyond the standard features.

Whilst gloves have some obvious feature requirements to allow you to operate your gear while still keeping your hands warm, base layers don’t seem to have such obvious features.

However, if you read my tips for winter photography, you’ll notice that I do recommend keeping batteries close to your body for warmth, which will preserve battery life. So if a base layer has a battery pocket for example that would be very handy.

Otherwise, you want something that is lightweight, warm, fast-drying and comfortable to wear.

Let’s see if Vallerret have achieved these aims with their products!

 

Vallerret Merino Wool Long Sleeve Tee Features and Review

The Vallerret Merino Wool Long Sleeve Tee is, as the name suggests, a long sleeve t-shirt primarily made from Merino Wool with a 150gsm rating. Specifically, the label on my t-shirt states it is:

  • 84% Merino Wool
  • 12% Nylon
  • 4% Elastane

This blend of materials gives you the warmth and softness of merino wool, with the stretch and strength of the nylon and elastane.

The tee is currently available in two colours, black, and a grey/black mix. I opted for the black. There are four size choices available, I went for medium, but sizes are available from small through to extra-large. Sizing information is available on the Vallerret website for each product they have.

Vallerret Merino Wool Long Sleeve Tee Photography Base layer

Vallerret Merino Wool Long Sleeve Tee Photography Base layer

In terms of features, this long-sleeved t-shirt has a few you would expect from a merino base layer, and a few you might not. Let’s go through them.

  • It is super soft. I have a number of merino wool base layers which I use for photography, and the Vallerret base layers are by far the softest I have ever tried. Vallerret say this is because they use a super fine merino wool and I have to believe them because it really is amazingly soft.
  • It is fast-drying, breathable, and thermo-regulating. These are all qualities of merino wool, which make it great as a base layer.
  • It’s anti-bacterial / odor resistant. Again, this is down to the merino wool. Studies have shown that wool in general has anti-bacterial properties, so odor-causing bacteria don’t grow as fast. This makes it great for travel as you won’t have to wash it as much
  • Speaking of washing, the t-shirt is machine washable on a wool/delicate setting and can be tumble dried on low. You can of course also hand wash it.
  • It has four-way stretch. As photography often requires us to move our bodies into odd positions, you definitely want clothing that will adapt to that!
  • It has a built-in button-up battery pocket and lens cloth.

So those are all the main features. What do I think about this shirt?

Well, there are a few things I really like. First, and I already mentioned this but it bears repeating, it is incredibly soft and comfortable. I’ve never worn such a comfortable merino wool base layer. I’ve personally never had a problem with itchiness from any merino wool base layer, but I’ve also never worn one that feels this nice against the skin.

Second, I like that the shirt is longer than a normal t-shirt might be. With a base layer, you want to be sure it goes down over your trousers so there is no chance of a gap developing between your shirt and your trousers that can let cold air in. That is definitely not a problem with this shirt which has a few inches to spare in my case.

Of course, I also appreciate the photography-oriented details. Having a built-in battery pocket to keep a battery warm on those cold shoots is very nice.

Vallerret Merino Wool Long Sleeve Tee Photography Base layer bat

Having said that, if you were wearing this under a few layers it might be awkward to reach the battery pocket. I think the breast location is a good option as you could reach down through your neck area, but it is just something to keep in mind when using a pocket that is designed to go under multiple layers.

The built-in lens cleaning cloth is also nice, as you can never really have enough lens cloths! It’s right at the bottom of the tee-shirt meaning it’s easy to access, and it’s generously sized as well.

Vallerret Merino Wool Long Sleeve Tee Photography Base layer len

Over time, I do feel that there is a risk it might pick up skin oils and so become less effective, but that is something I will have to revisit once some time has passed. Because the shirt is nice and long, this part of the shirt normally sits over my trousers, so this helps mitigate that risk.

In terms of durability, I haven’t had this shirt for long enough to know if it will stand up to the rigours of travel, outdoor photography and life in general. It certainly looks and feels very well made, and all my other Vallerret products have stood the test of time. So I am confident this will too. I will definitely update this post if I encounter any issues.

The main downside of the product is that the cost is quite high, although the product quality is excellent, and to be fair, high quality merino wool is always going to add cost to a product.

Vallerret do offer free shipping over a certain basket value. In addition, they have a solid and documented sustainability focus, which I appreciate. The shirt label states that it is designed in Norway and made in Poland. The only thing I didn’t like is that it is shipped in a plastic bag which seems like it could be an easy thing to fix.

Overall, I think this is an excellent base layer, and one I am happy to recommend. However, you might also want to consider the other product I’m reviewing, which is similar but does differ in a few key ways.

Vallerret Merino Wool Long Sleeve Tee Photography Base layer

 

Vallerret Merino Wool Zip Jersey Features and Review

The Merino Wool Zip Jersey is also a long sleeve base layer, however, it is a bit different to the tee. One of the main differences is that it is constructed 100% from merino wool, and the merino wool is a heavier 240gsm. So this is designed for locations where you might need more warmth compared to the tee.

The heavier wool is stronger, so there’s no need for elastane or nylon. The heavier wool is also warmer, and comparing them side by side it definitely feels thicker.

That said, it is just as soft and comfortable, and feels great against the skin.

In addition, whilst this is primarily designed to be worn against the skin, I feel that with the zipper and thicker wool, it could be worn as a mid or even outer garment on days where it is not so cold and there’s no precipitation. It is certainly smart enough to work as an outer layer, and I’ve worn it comfortably over my Vallerret long sleeve tee.

Vallerret Merino Wool Zip Jersey Winter Photography Base Layer

Vallerret Merino Wool Zip Jersey Winter Photography Base Layer

The jersey is currently available in one colour, black. There are four size choices available. I went for medium, but sizes are available from small through to extra-large. Sizing information is available on the Vallerret website for each product they have.

Here’s a quick overview of the key features and specifications.

  • Like the tee, the jersey is also super soft thanks to being made from 100% super-fine merino wool. It is definitely comfortable to wear against my skin.
  • It is fast-drying, breathable, and thermo-regulating. These are all qualities of merino wool, which make it great as a base layer.
  • It’s anti-bacterial / odor resistant. Again, this is down to the merino wool. Studies have shown that wool in general has anti-bacterial properties, so odor-causing bacteria don’t grow as fast. This makes it great for travel as you won’t have to wash it as much
  • It is machine washable on a wool/delicate setting and can be tumble dried on low
  • It has four-way stretch. As photography often requires us to move our bodies into odd positions, you definitely want clothing that will adapt to that!
  • It has two built-in zippered battery pockets at the front, one on the lower left and one on the lower right. It also has a built-in lens cloth.
  • It has a quarter zipper made from recycled plastic, which you can use to help regulate your temperature

I feel that much of what I said about the long sleeve tee applies here. For this shirt, I like that you get two battery pockets which are zippered. Personally, I prefer the location lower down the shirt for access, but that’s a personal thing.

Vallerret Merino Wool Zip Jersey Winter Photography Base Layer B

Vallerret Merino Wool Zip Jersey Winter Photography Base Layer B

Again, I like that it’s nice and long so comfortably goes down over my waist belt area for extra warmth. The lens cloth is also appreciated.

I like both outfits, but of the two, personally I prefer the jersey. It is a little more expensive, but I feel that the extra weight will come in handy on those colder shoots.

I also feel that the thicker material will be more durable, I prefer the battery pocket location (and that there are two) and there is a quarter zipper for temperature control.

I’ve also worn both together, with tee underneath and the jersey on top, and they fit nicely and certainly kept me very warm!

Vallerret Merino Wool Zip Jersey Winter Photography Base Layer L

Overall though, I think they are both fantastic products, and a very impressive launch from Vallerret in terms of base layer clothing for photographers.

I look forward to seeing what other apparel options they come up with in the coming years!

You can see their entire range on their website here. Many of their products are also available on Amazon here.

 

Further Reading

This isn’t the only post I’ve written on photography! Here are some more resources to help you out with improving your photography:

  • I have a guide to winter photography, as well as snow photography specifically
  • If you’re travelling in the northern hemisphere in winter, you might see the northern lights. See our guide to photographing the northern lights for more information on getting great photos
  • If you’re looking for more advice on specific tips for different scenarios, we also have you covered. See our guide to Northern Lights photography, long exposure photography, fireworks photography, and tips for taking photos of stars.
  • My always expanding series of Photography Location Guides, to help you get the best shot in locations around the world.
  • An overview of my Travel Photography Gear, in case you wondered what a professional photographer has in his bag
  • We have a guide to what to buy a photographer, which has gift ideas at all price points and experience levels
  • Our always updated guides to the best travel camera, the best travel camera lens, and the best compact camera for travel
  • Beginners’ Guide to Improving your Travel Photos
  • My series of Photography Tips, which I am always expanding and updating with posts like this one
  • And, if you’re serious about improving your photography, I run an incredibly comprehensive online travel photography course, which will teach you everything you need to know about photography. Check that out here.

And that’s if for today’s post on winter photography base layers! Have anything you’d like to add or feedback to share? Let me know in the comments below!

A detailed review of the Vallerret Winter Photography Clothing Base layers including their merino wool tee and jersey