Triple Aught Design Catalyst Field Shirt

I’ve been wanting a better casual insulation layer, but also one that is built to the standards I’ve come to love through the testing we do for this site. Coupled with that, I have been wanting a shirt-jacket, ‘shacket’, as this type of layer. Top on my list was this Catalyst Field Shirt from Triple Aught Design.

I’ve now been testing it for a few weeks and have really put it through its paces. Overall, this has been a great warming layer, but has some strong caveats.

Materials

This jacket is packed with performance materials. The shell of the jacket is 100% nylon at 100 gsm with UPF 50. Triple Aught Design notes this is the same fabric used on their Latitude Field Shirt. Next, the shirt has “Amphibious Cloth” on top of the nylon in high abrasion areas, which here means the tops of the shoulders, and the elbows and forearms. This is the black cloth you see, and is meant to stand up to more abuse.

The insulation itself is Polartec Alpha, which I am going to dive into more in a bit, but for this jacket is fairly light at 50 gsm in weight. Lastly, the jacket is lined with 100% nylon at 95 gsm. Having said all that the jacket feels kind of heavy with a very synthetic drape to it, the insulation is much thinner than you will expect. The outer shell material is soft to the hand and the inner is smooth like silk.

All in all, some of the best performing and durable materials go into making this jacket.

Polartec Alpha versus Polartec Alpha Direct

I’ve previously written about Polartec Alpha Direct here with the Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoodie, and this is a slightly older variant, kind of. The difference is that Alpha is made to work between two layers of another material, whereas Alpha Direct is made to work with a shell layer, and go against your skin on the inside.

Alpha itself has a ton of hype around it. You’ll see lots of “designed for special forces”, which seems to be true and it’s true that the military does use this material a lot. It’s an active insulation layer, which means it still warms while wet, and is highly breathable. Alpha also gets mixed reactions from people who put it through its paces. For me, and for casual wear purposes, I’d put it as more breathable than a standard fleece jacket, but not as warm, and not nearly as bulky.

Don’t get an Alpha insulator thinking it will be magic, because it will not live up to that standard. It is, almost always, a better layer to have than a fleece jacket for casual wear.

Fit and Style

As with all Triple Aught Design goods, they take a very distinct style towards tactical, or tacti-cool if you prefer. It certainly has color and design inspiration which has a nod towards military, a nod towards outdoor, with casual looks thrown on top. I like the style of this shirt, and think it wears well, but it will not be for everyone.

The first shirt I was sent was a size medium by mistake, which actually fit, and I replaced with a size L. The M fit really well, with the exception of the sleeves being a touch too short, and there being restriction in arm movements at more extreme angles. The L doesn’t look as good, but is far more comfortable to wear. This shirt is designed to be a relaxed fit, as you expect from a jacket, not like a shirt. Overall I need a size in between the two, but it’s not terrible. So be aware of potentially wanting to go down a size for a more tailored look, especially if your arms are not as freakishly long as mine.

Performance and Use

This is both an outer layer for cool days, and a mid-layer for cold days. It’s not at all water resistant, and in my wear in rain, it tends to soak up the water, but dry quickly. Ideally this is something that breathes well enough and insulates strongly enough, that you can move between indoors and outdoors without having to shed the layer. Something which most people struggle with during the cooler weather months.

Armpit vent.
Armpit vent.

The armpits have two vents under each which are round and mesh in nature to help with breathing in warm areas. I’ve tested this at the beach, in my house, and around town. Wearing it instead of any other layers, as well as something to warm up with in the house. At times I’ve found it to be on the verge of too warm indoors, or in the car. If the sun is hitting you, you warm up fast. At the beach I’ve found that if I stopped moving I could get slightly chilled in it, start moving and everything is good. The wind resistance is decent but nothing to write home about.

What really sets this jacket apart is how comfortable it is to wear, as long as you don’t worry about keeping it buttoned. The front buttons closed with snap buttons, and I’ve found that the minute I start feeling warm, I can slide my hand down the shirt and open the front. This keeps my temp perfect in most situations and buttoning it back up tends to warm me up quickly enough.

The jacket performs very well in every situation I used it in. Something like this will always need layers, but you can push it for short periods of time. This is a far better implementation of Polartec Alpha than the Ascendant jacket for everyday wear.

Nitpicks

Collar is a bit floppy.
Collar is a bit floppy.

There’s a few small issues with this shirt:

  1. The shell material does look to be starting to have very small pilling happening around the cuffs and the neck line. Granted I’ve worn this a lot, but I do worry how it might look after a year.
  2. The jacket has no odor resistance, and thus the arm pits can and do smell after long stretches of wear. It will dissipate overnight but often not enough. I haven’t washed this jacket yet, but instead I spray the arm pits with Lysol and that rids the smell completely and instantly. No ill effects yet to the jacket.
  3. The collar is quite large and floppy. It also cannot be flipped up and buttoned up in place so that it can act as a neck warmer. I would have preferred a smaller and stuffer collar, or this collar with a button enclosure to add warmth in cool climates by making it a neck warmer.
Light pilling around the collar.
Light pilling around the collar.
Heavier pilling on the under side of the forearm near the cuff.
Heavier pilling on the under side of the forearm near the cuff.

These are small nitpicks but I can see them driving some people crazy. I give the shirt a pass on the forearm pilling because I’ve been working on a new stand at my desk which is unfinished wood and is quite rough, that’s exaggerating the pilling in this area of the shirt.

Overall

At $225 this is an expensive shirt, but not overly so for what it is. Most Polartec Alpha costs good money right now, as do most good shirt jackets. I think the biggest caveat is the styling of the jacket, followed by the lack of odor control in the arm pits. That said, I have no regrets getting this, and is likely to be my most worn layer this winter. I’ve been wearing it over just the Huntsman Henley I reviewed and find that to be a great combination.

You can get one here (the color shown here is Tarmac).

Some Other Options

Here are a few of the competing products I considered if you want a shirt jacket like this, but in a different style:

Triple Aught Design Catalyst Field Shirt

Myles Elements Jacket

The item in this review was provided by Myles Apparel at a discount for review.

When I saw the Myles Elements Jacket was made from Polartec NeoShell, I knew I had to give it a try. While I wasn’t looking for a new jacket, I couldn’t pass this one up and ended up very impressed.

Material

The Polartec NeoShell membrane makes this jacket one of the most breathable (and the stretchiest) waterproof jackets I have ever worn. The magic of NeoShell is that it allows air exchange while still blocking 99.9% of the wind. This helps moisture and heat move from your body to the surrounding environment without having to built up as much of a gradient (difference in temperature and humidity between the two sides of the membrane).

The face fabric of the jacket has a subtle texture, giving it a less-technical matte appearance. While not noted as having a DWR coating, the fabric beads water well and resists wetting out. The texture carries through to the lining fabric, helping the jacket to never feel cold or clammy inside.

The jacket has 100% taped seams, ensuring no water sneaks its way in.

Performance

The NeoShell breathability and stretch makes this jacket extremely comfortable for many activities. While wearing the jacket, I never once felt sweaty, even when walking fast with a loaded backpack while traveling. The stretch adds to the comfort, enough so that you sometimes forget you are wearing a hard shell.

The zippers are YYK but are not waterproof, but for a jacket without a hood, this is probably not necessary. I found them to be easy to operate, except for getting used to the dual zipper sliders on the main zipper — it takes a little thought to get them lined up and the zipper all the way down through so it can be zipped.

The chest pocket and back slash pocket were well sized for me and hold a phone or wallet comfortably. Each has a port on the inside to allow for headphones to pass through. While it is advertised that the jacket can be packed into the chest pocket, I wasn’t able to easily fit it in. It does, however, roll nicely to about the size of a burrito. As far as the back pocket goes, it’s a nice touch if you are a cyclist. In any other case, I wouldn’t keep anything valuable back there (other than maybe an emergency $20).

Style and Fit

Not only does the Elements Jacket perform extremely well, but it can be at home both during a workout or at work. The texture of the face fabric, configuration of the pockets, lack of a hood, and unique cuffs help upgrade the looks.

As far as the lack of a hood, I wasn’t immediately sold as I am used to my rainwear always having a hood. After some rainy fall weather, I found that wearing a baseball cap kept the rain out of my eyes, and I didn’t have any other issues (like water running down my neck). Now if I were to be out in the rain all day, or out in heavy rain, I’d still want my jacket with a hood, but this is a tradeoff I’m willing to make for a jacket that is so breathable and looks sharp.

The unique cuffs are about 1/3 elastic that sits at the back of your wrist while the rest has a nice curve — a nice style choice and something different than a straight cuff with elastic or velcro.

The fit is a nice athletic cut, while allowing room for an insulation layer underneath. I also found the length to be great — it is a bit longer than my Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket, allowing me to wear my tall down jacket underneath without the bottom hem hanging out.

Overall

The Myles Elements Jacket has replaced my soft shell spring/fall jacket, and in many cases is the first jacket I go for. The excellent breathability, waterproofness, stretch, and style are what keep me coming back. I think Myles has a winner here, and I’m surprised Polartec NeoShell isn’t used in more jackets (the Filson Reliance is the only other one I’ve found and it’s $395 — double the Elements Jacket). If you are looking for a light layer/rain shell/wind breaker, this jacket deserves your consideration.

Myles Elements Jacket

Triple Aught Design Hunstman Henley

I recently picked up the Huntsman Henley as a warmer alternative to the t-shirts I normally wear as a base layer. I’ve been wanting to get a merino Henley for some time now, and I’ve been wearing this one for a few weeks.

Material

This shirt is 93% merino wool, and 7% elastane. It comes in at 200 gsm, so heavier than most t-shirts you would wear. The wool itself is among the rougher of the wools I have felt, something along the lines of what Smartwool has. If I had to guess I would put the micron count somewhere around 19 microns.

This means that it will feel a bit scratchy, and those sensitive to that will likely hate this shirt. In my wear I always notice the roughness of the fabric when I first put on the shirt, but never after that. It’s not been an issue for me at all, but this is not luxuriously soft like other merino shirts we talk about here. As for the elastane, I didn’t realize it had any until writing this section, however it should have been rather obvious because in feeling the shirt now, there is a ton of stretch to it.

Style and Fit

Triple Aught Design labels this as a “next-to-skin” layer, a casual base layer. I snagged one in size L, which is what I typically wear in their clothing and found the fit to be perfect. It fits looser than expected, but still rather athletic in cut.

There’s two interesting style choices which set this Henley aside from others. The first is the mock neck collar. Instead of the collar sitting flat against your collar bone, as a t-shirt does, the collar on the Huntsman stands up a touch to give a much different look. How much it stands up is going to depend on how large your neck is, but for me I found that it does stand up.

The second design choice is using Triple Aught Design’s signature slotted buttons which are attached with a nylon strap. I quite like the look and function of these buttons, but combined with the collar changes, this shouldn’t be seen as a straight Henley, as you would likely be disappointed by the over all looks if you want something classic. This is a more modern/tacticool look which was based on a classic Henley. It’s subtle, but it is there.

Wear

I’ve been very impressed with this shirt while wearing it. It is comfortable, moves well, and the buttons never unintentionally come undone. I can get my normal 4-5 days of wear out of the shirt before the odors start to pile up. When washing it dries quickly and comes out looking like new every time.

I’ve also noticed that the rougher merino seems to resist pilling and signs of wear which I would come to expect after several washes and wearing the shirt with GORUCK backpacks. So far, it’s been holding up really well, but I’ve only had a few weeks time with it.

I also don’t find it to be too warm. Most times it’s only slightly warmer than a t-shirt when on its own, while adding a nice bit of extra warmth when used as a base layer under other garments.

Overall

I really like this Henley, and it’s become my most worn garment over these past few weeks, so much so I’ve not really worn many of my t-shirts. Yes, the fabric could be a bit softer, but I have been surprised that the fabric doesn’t actually bother me. I like the style decisions on the collar and the buttons, and I think it helps to make the shirt look slightly less casual than most slouchy Henleys look.

It’s a great shirt and I recommend it. Your only consideration should be whether you like the looks of the buttons, because if you do, you’ll like this Henley too.

Triple Aught Design Hunstman Henley

GORUCK and Bluffworks Black Friday Sales

GORUCK’s Black Friday Week Deals are live (until Sunday). You can get our favorite travel backpack, the GR1, for $285 (28% off, any color except black) and apparel for up to 45% off. Many other backpacks (rucks) are also on sale (22-34% off). Also notable, the Wire Dopp is available for $35 (22% off).

Bluffworks also is having a sale. Our favorites include the Meridian Dress Shirt 2.0 which is on sale for $85 (13% off, our review), and the entire Gramercy Collection is 25-30% off (our review of the suit).

GORUCK and Bluffworks Black Friday Sales

Olivers Passage Pant

The item in this review was provided for review purposes by OLIVERS.

The Passage Pant is a highly technical pant which is marketed as: “your favorite jeans, updated for everyday performance.” They are cut from a very light fabric which moves well and breathes even better. I’ve only been testing these pants for a week now, but I’m confident I have a very good sense of what these pants are.

Material

The material is a little hard to sort out, as OLIVERS lists it as “Passage Stretch Weave”, and CORDURA with 4-way stretch. The tag in the pants tells me it is 91% nylon, and 9% spandex. That’s a lot of stretch.

The material is very technical looks and rather smooth to the touch on the outside, but to my legs to feels a touch rougher like terry cloth. Not bad, just worth noting the difference between what your hand feels and your legs. The drape on these is a standard technical drape, but this pant pulls it off (more on this later). There is no DWR coating on the pant, that I can tell or find mention of. Oh, and there’s only a slight amount of sound as you walk, nothing noticeable (I only noticed this as I was writing his section up).

Fit and Style

The fit runs large. I typically wear a 35, and ordered a 36 in the pants only for them to be far too large to wear. Exchanging them for a 34 worked well, but the waist is loose enough that I feel far more comfortable with a belt on, than not. Some of this is the cut, Some is the stretch which is noticeable in the waist as well. In other words, they tend to stretch out in the waist with wear, and snap back to form after a wash.

The styling is a classic 5-Pocket look, with the coin pocket being oversized enough to hold my iPhone XS just snuggly. I don’t recommend placing your iPhone there, as the look isn’t great and it tends to work up and out of the pocket when you sit down.

The big note about the style and fit is that these pants are very tapered. This gets rid of the technical drape look that plagues many pants of this material type, and provides a rather flattering and on trend look to the pant. I have plenty of room in the thighs, certainly more than other slim pants. The calves are where things really taper, as the pants can be a touch snug around my calves if the pant leg rides up at all. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a thing about these pants. I do wish more of my pants had a stronger taper like this, as I find the style quite nice.

Wearing Them

The review sample I was provided is the Olive color, which is almost a military looking green, and I love it. It’s a great color, and something my wife immediately gave a thumbs up to (note: she hated the last dark olive colored pants I owned). The big thing about these pants is that the gusseted crotch, as well as the 9% stretch mean that these feel like pure comfort in pant form.

They easily move with your body and are never tight and uncomfortable. I failed to change to joggers many nights, because I found these pants to be just as comfortable. However, even more so than the comfort is the weight of the pants. They are thick enough not to feel like paper, and yet, they really breathe exceptionally well.

iPhone XS in the 5th pocket.
iPhone XS in the 5th pocket.

It’s around 40 degrees these days in the Pacific Northwest, so it’s hard to say for sure, but I’d guess these are the best warm weather paths I own, and I’ve tried. For the colder weather my knees can feel cool at time, and wind seems to cut through the pants with ease. Stay about 50 degrees and I’ve found the pants very comfortable to wear. I’m excited to see how they perform in warmer climates, as I suspect they are going to be fantastic.

Overall

It’s hard to review these pants stand alone, without comparing them to other pants I own, or have owned. The best I can do is to say they are like Slim Dungarees if those wear made out of OG cloth. Though, they are probably better, because the only cost $158. The Outlier OG Climbers I had (they got too big) were the most comfortable pants I owned, which I also never wanted to be seen in outside the house. The Passage Pants are more comfortable than that, and I’ve happily worn them out to date nights with my wife. They also cost less than many other technical pants.

These are a winner, all around, and likely a staple in my closet moving forward.

One last note: OLIVERS recently expanded the size offering in these pants, they run from 30 to 38 now and as many others reviews point out, run about a size larger than stated.

Olivers Passage Pant

Steve’s Packing List: November 2018

Trip Details: Two night, three day trip by air for business meetings.

Packing List

GORUCK GR1 26L w/ Simple Side Pocket

I wore:

Notes and Considerations

For business travel, I feel like I have my packing list down. With this kit, I could travel indefinitely. For a long trip, I would consider another Wool & Prince shirt over the Mizzen+Main so I wouldn’t have to do as much laundry.

I was able to fit both my blazer and down jacket into my backpack for flights with no wrinkling issues on the blazer.

The Simple Side Pocket worked well as an extra interior pocket in my GR1. I don’t like the look on the outside but it is a good size for a little extra organization inside. The pocket is unstructured enough that it folds flat and out of the way when it’s not in use.

You might also notice that I switched up my underwear this trip, look for a review coming, but the packability and lightweight fabric of the UNIQLO Airism Boxer Briefs has won me over for travel.

Steve’s Packing List: November 2018

Outdoor Voices Merino T-shirt (Older model)

A few months ago Outdoor Voices was clearing out their older stock of merino t-shirts, so I grabbed one in navy. Then, a couple weeks ago, they released a new version of the shirt, which we are told is the same fit. This review focuses on the previous version, as we are not entirely sure what has changed with the shirt for the new variant.

Material and Performance

This is a blended merino t-shirt with 89% merino wool and 11% nylon. It’s very light weight, coming in a touch lighter than my Wool & Prince blended shirts and significantly lighter than my Outlier shirts. It is, thankfully, thicker than Icebreaker’s Anatomica line of shirts.

Since this is a high merino content it performs almost identically to a 100% merino shirt. I am able to get a solid 3-4 days of wear, whereas a 100% merino shirt would get me 4-5 days. The nylon content adds more structure and durability, which is why it’s become popular to blend merino shirts like this (it also reduces the price). Though I have not had issues with durability in any other merino shirts, it’s a nice addition with a very low hit to performance. Nylon also makes the shirt a better outdoor shirt as it will better handle bags and snags.

The shirt fabric is very smooth and comfortable, certainly on par with the Wool & Prince shirts. However, the micron size of the Wool is not noted by Outdoor Voices.

All in all, no complaints on the performance, and a pleasant surprise with the feel of the shirt.

Fit and Comfort

I love the fit of this shirt, and have found it to be an ideal everyday weight. It fits better than any other merino t-shirt I have, so I am very happy that the fit was not adjusted on the new model.

The comfort comes from the weight of this shirt as it is light, but heavy enough that you can wear it alone without a second thought. Additionally, you can throw a shirt over it for some added warmth using it as a base layer. Two thumbs up on fit and comfort, it’s easily the best cut t-shirt I’ve bought so far.

Overall

I thought I got a steal on this shirt when I bought it on sale, and I did, but at $55 for the current variant, this shirt punches far above its weight. That’s among the lowest price I have seen for a very high quality merino t-shirt. It’s not the softest you will find, but most under the $90 price will be far less refined than this. I cannot recommend it enough.

If you’ve yet to buy your first merino t-shirt, then this is the shirt I would recommend starting with.

You can find the latest version here.


Steve’s Thoughts

I agree with everything Ben said about this shirt. Is is also my best fitting merino t-shirt, and I agree the nylon content adds to the look and durability without sacrificing performance. This is now the merino shirt I would recommend first as well.

Outdoor Voices Merino T-shirt (Older model)

Bluffworks Meridian 2.0 Dress Shirt

Today Bluffworks launched a 2.0 variant of the shirt, the same shirt but with a revised fit. They sent me a review sample to check out, and since the shirt is mostly the same, I won’t do a new review of it, but will add some thoughts about the new fit. I’ve previously reviewed the Meridian Dress Shirt here, and I continue to love it. I take it everywhere.

The goal with the revision is to make it so that if you generally buy a size L shirt, you can buy a size L with the Meridian. But they’ve also done something else, something way better: you can buy this shirt in Slim+Tall variants. As someone with long arms, but a slim body, it is always a torture for me to get a shirt that doesn’t look too big with sleeves that are also long enough.

I received a size Large in Slim fit with Tall length and it is perfect. It’s very hard to find this type of a combination, especially in performance based shirting so I am very happy to say Bluffworks offers this.

One last note, they sent the Tattersall color, and it’s great. This shirt is one of my favorites, and with the new sizing it’s only gotten better.

Link