Steve’s Packing List: Beginning of April 2018

Trip Details: Eight night trip by air; business meetings and vacation (both tent camping and city). Three nights business, two camping, and three city/outdoors non-camping vacation.

Packing List

GORUCK GR1 26L:

I wore:

Notes and Considerations

Since I was tent camping, I checked a large duffle with my camping gear. I decided to throw my dress shoes in there to wear more comfortable shoes on the flight. I also packed my hiking boots, base layer, sunscreen, and hat in there. Other than that, the GR1 easily held the rest of what I needed. If this was a business-only trip (or non-tent camping vacation), I could have packed everything in my GR1 (and would have just worn my hiking boots).

Overall I packed almost the perfect amount of clothes. I didn’t end up needing the second pair of Futureworks. The only washing I did during the whole trip was my polo, a pair of socks, and my underwear. The polo and socks took a while to try, but the ExOfficio underwear dried overnight after rolling in a towel. The magic of merino allowed me to get plenty of wear out of both my undershirt and button-up.

Steve’s Packing List: Beginning of April 2018

Beyond Clothing A1 Power Wool Base Layer

This is a look at Polartec’s Power Wool material and less a look at this particular garment from Beyond, however, I will touch a bit on both. I’ve been testing this fabric now for 4 months, using it as a base layer on dozens of cold weather workouts and during other outings.

Material

Polartec’s Power Wool is a merino wool and synthetic fiber blend — like all blends the goal is to gain the odor resistance and moisture wicking from the merino while adding durability and other attributes from the synthetic fibers it is woven with. (CODURA sells a similar variant called ‘Combat Wool’, both find their heritage with the military. This is an 80% nylon, 20% merino blend.) The Power Wool in this garment is 72% Polyester and 28% wool. I’ve had a hard time finding details on what the makeup of Power Wool is, but these LL Bean pants are: 45% nylon, 40% merino, 15% spandex. Stio has a similar base layer and notes it is 70% polyester, 30% merino.

Overall, this is a low merino percentage, as it doesn’t feel like most merino and instead feels quite durable. It seems there’s a lot of variability in the Power Wool line of fabrics.

Fit

The garment itself is made to be a base layer and fits close to the skin, so unless you are rather fit or confident, you’ll likely not want to wear it as your only layer out and about. Typically, I layered this under a windbreaker for workouts. There are a few nice design things about this shirt worth noting:

  1. The seams are all flat, so even with my GORUCK on, I never felt the seams bothering me.
  2. The collar comes up rather high and does an excellent job keeping your neck warm. The zipper also has a nice chin guard to keep you comfortable.
  3. The shirt is cut longer in the back which was nice when wearing a backpack. It’s cut short in the front so it doesn’t come down much over your pants.

Overall a very comfortable fit, especially for something that is very fitted.

Warmth

The primary purpose of this garment is to keep you warm (it’s a thing Beyond is known for), and I bought this for specifically wearing during my workouts in the cold Pacific Northwest winters. I wore only this shirt under a windbreaker in 36° F and rainy weather many times and never felt cold. At the same time, the shirt and fabric do a fantastic job wicking away moisture to regulate my temperature.

When comparing it to something like Outdoor Research’s Sequence shirt that Steve and I like, it’s much warmer. Part of this is the weight of the fabric, which is heavier, and the other part is that it sits against your skin. Both lead to a garment that is very warm. The waffle pattern also helps to trap air and warm your body while pulling away moisture when you start to sweat.

It’s a perfect cold weather warm layer for me.

Odor Resistance

The big thing on this site, and with Power Wool, was to find out if adding merino really gives any benefit to the garment at all. Materials like polyester or nylon (which ever is used here) are like sponges for odor — and often they end up getting stinky much faster than cotton alone. The goal is that by adding merino, you add in enough odor resistance to make a big difference.

I’m not sure Polartec has succeeded with that here. Comparing this shirt to other merino blends I have, I can expect to get 2-3 wears out of those items before odor is an issue. Even when not wearing this shirt for workouts I can only get 1-2 wears on average before the smell is noticeable enough that I won’t wear it again.

The merino content is too low to do anything but help with temperature regulation. I often found that even after hanging the shirt for two days the odor was still too strong to wear again — which is disappointing. However, when wearing the shirt, it stinks up far slower than a normal all synthetic shirt.

Overall

I’m not an overall fan of Power Wool as something I would be looking for in a travel or daily wear garment. It’s a specialized blend that seems geared towards making synthetic garments less stinky and better at wicking. To that end, when compared directly to other synthetic base layers I have, this is far and away better. However, when compared with other merino base layers, it lags far behind.

As a durable base layer, for hiking or hunting, I’d choose this any time — it’s warm and performs well in scenarios where odor is less of a concern. For everyday wear, I would search for something with a higher merino content.

Beyond Clothing A1 Power Wool Base Layer

Standard Luggage Co. Daily Backpack

Note: This backpack was provided to us for review by Standard Luggage Co.

Standard Luggage Co. is one of many new Luggage companies that have roots in Kickstarter. Standard is based in Canada and launched in 2015. The Daily Backpack is an 18L convertible bag that is advertised for work and travel. It can be used as a briefcase (side handle), backpack, or messenger bag (with the included strap).

Layout

The bag is divided into two compartments. The main compartment opens from a zipper on the back, and there is a much smaller compartment on the front. Additionally, there is a collapsible water bottle pocket, a small zippered slash pocket on the front, and a zippered RFID-blocking pocket on the top. The RFID-blocking pocket is neat, but my passport wallet wouldn’t fit. Keep that in mind if you typically carry more than a passport on its own or a small wallet. The bottom of the back also has a small zippered compartment.

The main compartment has two sleeves on the inside of the back lid (the outside contains a pocket for the backpack straps). These comfortably fit a 15” laptop and an iPad or Kindle. The inside of the main compartment has two pockets at the bottom, about 1/3 the height of the bag, and a mesh zipper pocket. The small pockets are padded and designed for camera lenses; I did not find them useful.

The front compartment has one full width pocket with two half width pockets and two pen loops on the front. The lid has two zippered mesh pockets. You will also find a USB cable in here to connect a battery to the external USB port on the side of the bag. While this is a neat idea and works, I wonder how practical and durable it is. I can see myself snapping a cable off in the external USB port.

Build

The fabric used on the outside of this bag looks nice and seems durable. However, the zippers could use some work. I found them to be stiff and they didn’t seem beefy enough for the bag (especially on the main compartment).

The backpack straps were comfortable enough for the amount you can load into this bag. I did find the combination of the padding on the straps and the padding on the back of the bag to make for a bit of a lumpy back.

Overall, the bag is very padded, giving the bag a rigid structure. Even if it’s not full, it will still have the same exterior dimensions. I imagine this helps with the transition from backpack to messenger bag to a briefcase, but it is not something I typically like in a bag. If you end up loading this with electronics, especially camera gear, this would be a positive feature.

Use Cases

I did not find this bag useful as a general purpose travel briefcase, but I could imagine a few scenarios where this might be an attractive bag.

For a photographer, this bag might do a nice job to carry gear for a small shoot. The overall padded nature of the bag would probably protect camera equipment reasonably well. You would need an insert for the main compartment to hold your camera body, but the two lens pockets and the other pockets of the bag would do a good job holding a large portion of your gear and accessories. The included rain fly is also a nice bonus if the weather is going to be poor.

This bag could also serve you well as a briefcase or work bag if you typically carry a full bag. The structure of the bag makes it more suited to carrying full. When packed only partially full, the bag can feel unbalanced. The structure keeps heavier items from compressing the bag which can throw off the balance.

Overall Impression

While this bag looks nice, it is not my favorite bag to carry. The structure makes it hold less than it appears, and I found the back access panel for the main compartment to be awkward to open and use. The backpack straps are nice enough, but I mainly carried it as a messenger bag/briefcase. Due to the shape and structure, I think it is best suited as a briefcase. For the price, I think it could make a pretty good camera/tech bag, but I think there are better options out there for a simple briefcase or everyday work backpack.

Standard Luggage Co. Daily Backpack

Ben’s Packing List: End of February 2018

Trip details: This was a two day, one night trip for business, with very little time for anything other than meetings and sleep.

Packing List

What I Wore

Notes and Considerations

I still feel I can slim down some of the gear I take, especially with toiletries. As for the clothing, it was a near perfect load out — had I not been meeting with the same person the day I landed and the next day I would have only packed one shirt. The GORUCK Simple Windbreaker made for a great travel layer when I got back and it was frigid and snowy. I’d prefer to have traveled with different pants, but I didn’t want to go to a business meeting in Khaki pants so my Slim Dungarees were the best option I had (according to my wife). Looks like another pair of pants are in my future.

Ben’s Packing List: End of February 2018

Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket

I had been considering a rain jacket in the Outdoor Research Helium family for a while and finally picked up the Helium II during the last Outdoor Research sale. We’ve had some rainy weather recently so I’ve had many occasions to give it a try.

Fabric

This jacket is made with a 2.5 layer Pertex Shield+. The 2.5 layer means the polyurethane membrane is bonded to the face fabric (30D ripstop nylon) and has a texture printed on the inside to help keep your body oils from clogging the membrane.

The face fabric also has a DWR treatment to help keep it from wetting out (when wetted out, breathability is greatly reduced). The seams are all fully taped and the zippers coated (this does make the zippers a little hard to pull), so the jacket is 100% waterproof.

Performance

I’ve had no issues with leakage and have found the jacket to be windproof as well. The lightweight nature and breathability make the jacket very comfortable to wear in any conditions. Since it cuts the wind, it can make a lighter mid- or base-layer feel much warmer than it would without a jacket that breaks the wind.

A Few Missing Features

Since this is an ultralight jacket there are some common features that are missing. The jacket does have a chest pocket to keep your phone or some documents dry, but it does not have any hand pockets. The cuffs are only secured with elastic around half the length of the cuff rather than the usual velcro adjustment.

I don’t find either to be a deal breaker since they help keep the jacket packable, but if you do, the Helium HD adds both in addition to pit zips.

Hood

The hood is my favorite part of this jacket. I’ve never liked when hoods block your peripheral vision but never found a jacket that solves that problem while still having the hood work effectively. This jacket finally solves that problem for me. The hood shape allows for an unobstructed field of view. The wide brim contains a semi-rigid plastic piece to keep the rain off your face. While these can get deformed in a packable jacket, I’ve found it easy to stuff the jacket so the brim can curve around the jacket to prevent creases.

Also, a nice touch is the single adjustment toggle on the back of the hood.

I found it to give a great level of fit adjustment without being complicated.

Packability

This jacket easily packs into the compact internal pocket. This comes in handy when packing as it allows you to throw it into your bag without much thought. That’s something you’ll never do with an umbrella, so this jacket makes it easy to always have some rain protection handy.

Overall

I really like this rain jacket. The hood is the killer feature for me and the jacket performs very well in both wind and rain. Especially when purchased on sale, this jacket performs well above its price point.

Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket

Steve’s Packing List: March 2018

Trip Details: Six night international business trip.

Packing List

Osprey Farpoint 40:

Standard Luggage Co. Daily Backpack (provided for review, look for review soon):

I wore:

Notes and Considerations

I overpacked somewhat for this trip as I realized that I would have late nights and might not feel like washing clothes when I got back to my hotel at night. I also didn’t need the UnderFit undershirt (the Icebreaker merino undershirt lasted the whole trip). I mainly rotated my two Wool & Prince shirts, but I was able to get two wears of my polo.

I’m still using a quart zipper bag for my toiletries because it just works (and makes it compliant when you have to separate liquids from your bag when you can’t use PreCheck).

I probably could have squeezed everything into my Osprey bag, however, then I might not have been able to fit it under the seat on my domestic flights. I also figured it would be nice to have a small bag to have at my seat with my entertainment and to use as a briefcase during my trip.

Just a few first impressions of the Standard Luggage Co. bag: 1) it’s very padded and structured so there is some wasted space, 2) the laptop slot is on the back panel as expected, but the main compartment zipper opens at the back panel, making access to its contents awkward, 3) the small front compartment has some nice organization, 4) the padded handles and above average shoulder strap make the bag pleasant to carry.

Steve’s Packing List: March 2018

GORUCK Simple Windbreaker

I picked up the GORUCK Simple Windbreaker hoping to have a lightweight and packable layer to use when traveling. Something I could keep in my bag to deal with minor inclement weather but which never takes up too much room. GORUCK makes two variants of this jacket, one with a hood and one without — I chose the one without as the jacket is not designed to be a rain layer.

Warmth and Wind Protection

I first put this jacket through its paces on a trip to Houston and back to Seattle. In Houston I wore it as a light layer in the humid mornings and found that it breathed much better than I expected. When arriving back in Seattle, it was frigid and snowing, and I used the jacket to stay warm while waiting for my ride — it was better than nothing but far from an insulation layer.

Next I took it to the Washington coast where the ambient temperature was around 40 °F and the wind was blowing at a constant 30 mph with stronger gusts. What shocked me on this test was how much wind this jacket blocked. With just a fleece jacket and t-shirt under the windbreaker I was able to stay plenty warm walking around the beach in the high winds. This is where I started to fall in love with this jacket — it’s much lighter weight and compact to pack than any rain shell I have yet it performs incredibly well in wind.

I’ve also worked out with this jacket many times and found that it breathed OK, not as well as say the Ferrosi material from Outdoor Research, but well enough that I didn’t feel like steam was building up under the jacket. Overall, this is exactly what it says: a wind breaker. If you expect a jacket which can keep the wind from cutting the heat out of your core you’ll be very happy.

Fabric

This jacket is made from GORUCK’s ToughDry fabric which is 94% nylon and 6% spandex at a weight of 125 gsm. The jacket sheds water pretty well, and though not explicitly stated, I have to assume it has some sort of DWR coating on the fabric — fabrics don’t bead water like this when they don’t have a coating. GORUCK made this jacket with the goal of being light, water repellent, active, and durable — I think it checks all those boxes easily. One last note on the spandex: it appears to be two-way stretch instead of four-way. Plenty comfortable for most activities, but when raising your arms above your head I do notice the jacket doesn’t move as much as one would hope.

Water Repellency

When a couple friends found out I was testing this jacket they asked me directly about its water repellency — they wanted to know if it can withstand any rain or if water just soaks in. This is a really tough one to answer and I have two things I will say:

  1. It’s not a rain layer. It’s not made to withstand rain at all, and likely at some point it will soak through and become a sopping wet layer.
  2. It repels water really well. When comparing it to two different pants with DWR coating it out performed both of them with flying colors. In a steady light rain, during my workout, my pants soaked through while the jacket was still shedding water. I have yet, and I’ve worn this many times in rain, to see this jacket soak up the water. However, I assume it’s only a matter of time.

Everything you read about this jacket says not to trust it for water repellency, but every experience I’ve had with it tells me it’s great in light rain. Again, I suspect there’s DWR, which means it would wear off over time. That said, it could be something else — perhaps just the tight weave nature of the nylon or something else entirely. What makes me question my DWR assumption is that DWR can be reactivated by putting a garment in the dryer for 15 minutes, and yet GORUCK specifically states that you should not put this jacket in the dryer if you want to maintain water repellency. I’d love to know what is going on with this, because there’s something really neat about this fabric’s water repellency.

Packing It

The reason I bought this jacket is because GORUCK shows the jacket with the hood rolled up to a size just bigger than a can of soda. In practice, this jacket without the hood can be rolled up to that size as well — which is very handy when packing it. It is very light, and rolls up small, so it’s as close to a freebie as you get when you are packing it in a bag for a trip or as an emergency layer on a day out.

Because of this packability, I’ve worn this jacket more than any other jacket I own these past couple of months.

The One Downside

This jacket is very basic. The pockets don’t have closures and thus really can’t be relied upon to store things — which is an acceptable trade off for how light and packable the jacket is. But there’s one major downside: the ToughDry fabric is very prone to friction when you are sliding the jacket on and off.

I mentioned above how I wore a fleece jacket under this jacket, but what I didn’t mention is that it was not easy to wear the two jackets like this (it would have been easier if the GORUCK jacket was one size larger, but then it would be too large for me generally). Most jackets take care to make sure you can easily slide your arms into the sleeves without the sleeves binding whatever else you a wearing — that’s just not the case with this fabric. It’s hard to describe as it doesn’t harm the other fabrics you are wearing, but it does tend to grip on to them making things a little more cumbersome when you take the jacket on and off.

This is really the only downside with the jacket, so it’s best to wear the jacket with layers that aren’t very bulky. Don’t rely on this as something you can slide on over a fleece easily — I learned the hard way.

Overall

I really like this jacket, I can see it being a year round staple item for me. It doesn’t look like anything special, but it performs extremely well and is easy to take with you. It feels high quality, should last a long time, and punches well above its stated attributes.

GORUCK Simple Windbreaker

Myles Apparel Momentum Short 2.0

Myles Apparel is one of the many companies making performance men’s activewear. They stand out from the pack with some great synthetic pieces including the Momentum Short 2.0, also available with liner (we also previously reviewed their Everyday Short).

Fabric

The fabric is 85% nylon, 15% spandex (the heather colors are 53% nylon, 35% polyester, 12% spandex) with (slight) four-way stretch and a DWR treatment. The material is a perfect weight, not so light that it doesn’t look right and not so heavy to be stiff.

The pockets are made of a mesh material (in the signature Myles green) that is lightly perforated with small holes. This probably wouldn’t drain water too quickly, but keeps the pocket material from hindering the breathability of the shorts.

Fit and Finish

These shorts come in two lengths, Short (6”) and Standard (8”). I have the Standard length and find them to be perfect for working out. The size guide is spot on for picking the correct size (it contains actual garment measurements).

I find the elastic to be very comfortable, the waist band is a good width so it never feels like it is cutting into your skin. The overlapped side split helps make up for the lack of stretch, as it lets the leg openings of the shorts get out of they way when you need them to. The gusseted crotch also helps keep things comfortable.

The front pockets are nice and deep (they hold my iPhone X with no risk of it falling out, and would probably do OK with a Plus as well). There is also a small, zippered pocket to the back of the side seam. Myles calls this a “Hidden Media Pocket”. I’m not sure why it’s named that, because it’s far too small for a phone, but it works perfectly for a key (or a few).

Performance

These shorts perform perfectly for me. I’ve worn them for everything from kettlebells to rowing to yoga and find them extremely comfortable and without any spots that bind. The overlapped side split makes up for the less than expected stretch and the pockets are plenty deep. Most importantly, these shorts never feel wet when working out. Incredibly, they also give me multiple wears (these are my only workout shorts that allow this). Hanging to air out between workouts has allowed me to wear them 3-5 times before they need a wash.

Overall

The Myles Apparel Momentum 2.0 shorts are now what I grab first for a workout. The comfort, combined with excellent wicking and odor resistance, make these shorts hard to beat.

Myles Apparel Momentum Short 2.0

Y Athletics SilverAir Crew Neck

Note: this item was sent to us for the purpose of review.

The Y Athletics SilverAir Short Sleeve Crew is a part of a new breed of synthetic work out shirts which attempt to be highly breathable while also being highly-odor resistant. The goal is to give you something which performs at the levels of merino wool, but has the durability of synthetics. I’ve now been testing this shirt for a little over two weeks, wearing it while I work out.

To start, this is a “Made in the USA” t-shirt with a unique material: 69% Nylon, 26% Polyester, 5% Metallic. The fabric is spun in Italy, and the ‘metallic’ is claimed to be silver. By adding silver, the shirt is said to be more odor resistant.

Smell, or lack thereof

I wore this shirt as my base layer for four workouts in a row before it started to smell — about the same amount of wears I get out of merino wool in the same scenario (also the same as the Pistol Lake Eudae fabric). I washed and hung the shirt to dry (it dries very fast) and wore it again for another five workouts and I still have not washed it again as I really cannot detect much smell.

I’m impressed. This shirt does live up to its claims of being odor resistant, and not just in the sense that you can wear it twice — it rivals the performance of merino, which is something I had yet to see out of a synthetic shirt.

Comfort

Since this is a workout shirt, and is synthetic, it is made to fit close to the skin. It doesn’t fit me tightly overall, but it is also unlikely to get in your way when working. I also found it less staticky than most synthetic shirts this time of year.

Make no mistake, it’s still a synthetic feeling shirt so it doesn’t have the softness of merino (or Eudae), but rather the entire shirt is very smooth to the touch. That said, given that my workouts are rucking, and rucking is known to be hard on shirts, I am a big fan of having a synthetic shirt I enjoy wearing.

The shirt also has a venting system built in, in addition to the moisture wicking properties, where the shirt is basically mesh in spots. However, unlike with most mesh materials, this doesn’t cause the shirt to be see through in any way, but you can tell form a glance that there is this venting. It’s a bit like a bus with ads over the windows, you know it’s got a ton of holes in it, but you also aren’t really able to see through it.

Overall

At first glance I wasn’t won over by this shirt, then I wore it to work out and I quickly changed my mind. The thing about this shirt is that it very much looks like what it is: a work out shirt. Whereas most merino t-shirts and even the Pistol Lake shirt we reviewed can be passed off as a standard t-shirt in many situations, you won’t get that with this shirt. What you will get is quite possibly the best workout shirt I’ve had the chance to wear thus far — it looks like a workout shirt, because it’s a really good workout shirt.


Steve’s Thoughts

I agree with Ben’s assessments of this shirt. I was very surprised with it’s odor resistance being on par with merino. I also found the moisture wicking ability to be the best of any shirt I own. If this shirt didn’t look like a workout shirt, it would become my favorite all around tee (and it has become my favorite workout tee).

Y Athletics SilverAir Crew Neck

UnderFit V-Neck Undershirt

These shirts were provided for review by UnderFit.

Finding a comfortable undershirt with a deep enough neck that stays tucked in all day can be a challenge. UnderFit has been making undershirts since 2012 and has spent a lot of time refining the fabric, fit, and finish of their shirts.

Fabric

The shirts are made with a custom fabric that is 95% Modal, 5% Lycra. The Modal gives the shirt its softness, temperature regulation, and moisture absorption (odor resistance) properties. The Lycra gives the shirt its slight stretch so it can comfortably fit close to your body. The fabric feels very soft and is actually quite thick. Surprisingly, I was able to get two wears out of a shirt — something that I would have never expected from a non-merino undershirt. This remained true even when I wore the shirt for a long day and got quite sweaty. One perk of the UnderFit fabric over merino is that you can wash and dry the shirts however you want.

Fit and Finish

The “fit calculator” on the UnderFit website makes it easy to pick a size. You put in your height and weight and are given your size. I was sent a few sizes to give a try, and I found the size provided by the calculator gave the best fit.

The shirts fit close to the body with an extra long length so they stay tucked in all day. I’ve sometimes found close fitting undershirts to be too constricting, but the stretch made this shirt extremely comfortable. The v-neck was also cut perfectly, I never felt that it was going to show above my shirt. The seams on the shirt are sewn so they remain flat and don’t feel abrasive, something that can’t be said for all undershirts, especially the points of some v-necks.

In addition to the white v-neck, I was also able to give the skin tone v-neck a try. When wearing a white shirt over a white undershirt, the undershirt often shows through. The skin tone fabric is meant to blend in with your skin and make the undershirt less noticeable. I found that the UnderFit skin tone did a good job solving this problem (I also find a light grey color to work similarly).

Performance

Like I mentioned above, I was able to get two wears out of a single shirt. While quite good for a non-merino shirt, this doesn’t beat my merino undershirt (Icebreaker Anatomica).

Being thick, the fabric is great for cool weather, but I’m not sure how comfortable it would be in the middle of summer. While the fabric does a good job wicking moisture, it might trap too much heat.

Overall

I was quite impressed with the UnderFit V-Neck Undershirts. They are very soft, fit close to the body, stay tucked in, and the stretch makes them very comfortable. The ability to get two wears is impressive, but the thickness could be an issue in the heat of the summer. While they will not displace my merino undershirt, I will certainly keep them in my drawer. If you are looking for a non-merino undershirt, UnderFit should be your top choice.

UnderFit V-Neck Undershirt