Western Rise The Evolution Pant

Note: While I purchased the first pair of pants for this review, Western Rise sent me the next size down after seeing the photos and letting me know that I likely chose the wrong size. The review has been edited now that I have tested the correct size.

Western Rise has been in the technical clothing game for a while. They recently launched The Evolution Pant through Kickstarter and just this week launched them on their website. Built from a custom stretch nylon fabric, they claim the ability to dress up while still being rugged enough for outdoor activities. Given these claims and the opportunity to check out a new fabric, I picked up a pair through Kickstarter and have been wearing them for over a month now.

Fabric

The fabric is a custom high-denier, air-texturized Supplex nylon twill with 4% elastane for stretch and a DWR treatment. Interestingly, the stretch feels similar in the hand to the Outlier Futureworks (our review), but doesn’t feel as free while wearing.

At 173 gsm the fabric is very lightweight (the lightest I have other than my Ferrosi Pants). While I can wear Futureworks even in the cold weather, I found these to be too light without a baselayer.

The way the fabric is woven gives the pants a nice texture and a cottony look. I previously noted that the fabric was a little noisy, but with the appropriate size, the noise seems to be gone. As far as the pilling I noted in my original pair, this pair looks fine and has showed no signs of pilling (Western Rise thought it was a defect in the fabric).

The color isn’t this light in person.

These pants are described as having a “flattering and slimming yet comfortable fit”, which I think is a good description. My first pair ended up being too big in the seat and stretched enough in the waist that I needed a belt. Once I received the correct size, they fit me like I expected. So a note here – if you are on the borderline of the size chart provided or are trying to decide between two sizes, size down.

The correctly fitting pair.

As far as the color, I originally picked the khaki for something different. The color looked darker on the Kickstarter page than it ended up coming out in production, and I don’t love how light it came out. With my second pair, they were out of the kakhi, so I was able to give the navy a try. I much prefer the navy.

Finally, the claims of these pants being able to be dressed up for a meeting are spot on. I think they did a great job designing the fabric to keep it durable while looking sharp (the navy plays very well into making the pants more dressy). In the realm of pants I own, I’d place them right between my Futureworks (most dressy) and Outlier Slim Dungarees (our review) as far as “dress-up-ability”.

Performance

I think these pants will be excellent for hot weather. At an even lighter weight than my Futureworks and with much better looks than my Ferrosis, I can see these as a contender for someone in a hot climate. In a humid environment, I could see the cottony feel of the fabric keeping it from getting clammy against your skin. The breathability also seems excellent, as they were cut right through by cold wind.

As I mentioned above, the stretch, while there, doesn’t feel as free as I’d like. There is a gusset, but it doesn’t come down to the knee like the Futureworks, so that could be an additional explanation of the experiences I’ve had while wearing.

As far as travel features, these look like your standard five-pocket pant, but add a few niceties. The “coin” pocket on the right front is sized to fit your phone, for easy stowage and separation from what you might have in the main pocket. I find it to hold my iPhone XS securely and comfortably. There is also a hidden zippered passport compartment in the right rear pocket. This is the best one I’ve seen, as the zipper manages to be unnoticeable when otherwise using the pocket and when sitting.

Overall

The Western Rise The Evolution Pant is a new entry in a quite crowded market of five-pocket pants. I think they did a nice job of making the pants look normal while retaining good performance.

After getting the right size, I think these pants will become a go-to in warm weather over my Slim Dungarees. I haven’t come across pants that are this light while still looking good.

Western Rise The Evolution Pant

Outlier Grid Linen Towel

Note: this item was provided by Outlier for this review.

I’ve actually been using Grid Linen Towels for almost a full two years, both for travel as well as everyday. Outlier’s pitch for this towel is that it dries faster, weighs less, and packs down more. Ostensibly they have designed it to be the best beach towel you can buy, however, I’ve found mine are at home in my travel bag and hanging in my bathroom.

Material

This is a 200 gsm towel made of 100% woven linen. This towel isn’t a standard linen towel though, as the ‘grid’ part of the name is important. Here’s how Outlier explains it: “We chose a box weave linen, its three dimensional structure maximizes the surface area of the linen fibers.”

The fabric itself is very rumpled and light. When you hold the towel dry, it’s decently hard to believe it’s capable of drying your entire body. It’s also rough feeling, especially when new, but over time (my almost two year old one is decently soft) the fabric breaks down and gets softer.

Why

The story is that Outlier set out to make a better beach towel — one that dries you off well, without collecting half the beach on it. This towel does do that — though I have only used it at the beach one time. A bigger story with this towel is that it is very lightweight and packs down pretty small, especially when you consider the utility of it. All of this leads to a towel that is very versatile.

A lot of travelers like to take towels with them, this is better than any travel towel I have tried. Many beach goers need extra bags just to carry a beach towel, you won’t with these. And honestly, it’s a better bath towel as well.

So the reason you want this is because you want to use a better towel, and you don’t accept that plush and fluffy is necessarily better.

Use

I’ll break this into two sections: at home, and travel. Let’s start with travel first.

I initially traveled with the size large towel (56” x 36”, or about bath towel size) and found that while compact, there’s not a lot of utility for the type of travel I do with this large of a towel. I quickly switched to a size small for travel (15” x 15”, like a handkerchief) and then bought an extra one after just the first trip.

The small towel shines in travel because you always have a wash cloth with you, but one that dries fast enough that you don’t need to worry about carrying a sopping wet rag in your bag. One of the biggest uses I get with mine is a quick wash of my face with water after a long flight. I’ve also cleaned up many near disaster spills on planes from turbulence and carelessness. The towel absorbs water quickly and dries very fast. I mean it when I say: I do not travel without one of these towels, and I use it about every time.

At home, I use one of the size large towels after every shower and I have done so for almost two years now. I actually have 3, including the one Outlier sent me for testing. After just the first use, I knew it was going to stick around as the towel for me. It takes a little getting used to though.

For one, the linen is thin, and though it can absorb mountains of water, you need to move the towel around — not use just one area — when you dry your body off. Otherwise it stops absorbing water in those spots. This isn’t a big deal, but it will amaze you how long it takes to adjust to this.

It’s also scratchy feeling, especially when it is new. That’s quite nice when you are drying your back — who doesn’t like a back scratch — but can be completely off putting for some people (like my wife, who thinks I am nuts). Overtime it softens, however, it never feels plush and fuzzy like those luxury hotel bath towels. Though, if those hotels knew anything, they’d be using these towels.

Lastly, this towel dries really fast and that has a lot of benefits. The first is that it dries fast enough that gross smells do not tend to build up very fast on it. I did a test a while ago, and found that a standard cotton bath towel could last me about 3 showers at most before it started to build up a smell. This towel can last past 7, and honestly, I stopped testing because I started to feel a little weird about it.

Another benefit is that if you take multiple showers in one day, you might have noticed that your standard bath towel may not have had time to dry. This towel tends to be dry after using it in a few hours time — which is awesome.

Caveat

There are just two caveats with this towel:

  1. It’s scratchy feeling. I don’t mind it at all, but there are going to be many who can’t fathom why you would want anything that is slightly scratchy. You likely know who you are already.
  2. Outlier notes that you should avoid washing this in top-loading washing machines. I honestly didn’t know that until Steve pointed it out when we got these towels from Outlier. I’ve been washing several of these in top loading washers for 22 months — not a single issue at all, other than the tag starting to come off one. Your mileage may vary, but I’ve seen no ill effects.

Lastly, drying these is interesting. I’ve tried drying them by hanging them (Outlier provides a nice loop for doing so) and putting them in the dryer. If you use the dryer, the towels come out really soft and nice. If you hang them they have a scratchier texture to them until you use them a bit.

Drying with the loop stretches the material a bit.
Drying with the loop stretches the material a bit.

Hanging from the loop works great, but will tend to slightly stretch the towel in weird ways — though not in any way that seems to be a deal breaker. However, hanging from that loop dries the towel very quickly, especially if there’s any type of air movement around the towel.

Overall

I love this towel, and I have for a long time now. The small ones are fantastic for travel, and the bigger ones are the only towels I like to use for the bathroom. I’ve taken mine to pools as well, so that I know I can get myself and the kids dried off — because honestly there’s not a lot of bulk added with taking these. They work great at theme parks with kids too.

I’ve tried clear blue, medium gray, natural, and gray rock. I like the look of the clear blue the best, the medium gray did get some discoloration as did the gray rock. The natural is also great and would be my second choice of colors.

Bottom line: if you aren’t turned off by the thought of a towel that isn’t pure plush fuzziness, then you can’t get a better towel for yourself.

Outlier Grid Linen Towel

Ben’s Packing List: 2/11/19

This list was for a week long business trip, 4 nights and 5 days.

For this trip I wore:

Notes: this all barely fit in the bag, and I could have left the laptop behind. Of the clothing I brought, I didn’t need to bring the Shemag — I wore and used everything else.

Ben’s Packing List: 2/11/19

Underwear Roundup

Underwear is an important part of an everyday wardrobe and can make or break the comfort of any activity. I’ve tried out quite a few new pairs of underwear over the past year or so, and I’ve made a change to what my go-to pairs are. While this is nowhere near an exhaustive list, this roundup includes all the technical boxer briefs I’ve tried.

A few commonalities

Across all the boxer briefs I tried, there are a few commonalities across the two main pain points — rolling of the waistband and riding up of the leg.

It seems to me that rolling of the waistband is a thing of the past (at least across all the brands I discuss here). This is something that can be very annoying, and something I haven’t had to deal with since I switched away from my cheap Hanes underwear.

On the other hand, having the leg ride up is not something that has been solved (except for maybe the new Wool & Prince Boxer Briefs 2.0, I haven’t given them a try though). I find that all of my pairs of underwear can ride up under the right conditions. Two features that help mitigate riding up include a proper fit (tightness and length) of the leg.

Lastly, I’ve yet to find any underwear that I can wear more than once (even with an antimicrobial treatment or merino content). That’s fine with me as I don’t find it appealing to wear underwear more than once. This makes drying time important for travel.

The Competition

ExOfficio

The Give-N-Go Boxer Brief was my first foray into the performance underwear market. A few years back, they were the ones everyone talked about, but since seem to have declined in quality.

The fabric is 94% nylon and 6% Lycra with an antimicrobial treatment and a diamond knit. This makes the fabric have a rough handfeel and more likely to get caught on your pants.

These do not have a structured front panel and have a somewhat baggy fit.

The fit and fabric kill the appeal here.

Duluth Trading

The Buck Naked Performance Boxer Briefs were next. They are still popular and are the most heavy/durable of those I’ve tried.

The fabric is 93% nylon and 7% spandex with an odor resistant treatment and a diamond knit. The knit here, while not smooth, doesn’t seem to get caught on my pants.

These also do not have a structured front panel and a similar fit to the ExOfficio pair.

Again, the fit and fabric make these uninteresting, unless you’re going for durability.

UNIQLO

Once I got tired of the heavier fabric of the previous two brands, the AIRism Boxer Briefs seemed the natural way to go. Also very popular in the travel/performance community, these are hands down the lightest pair I own (in both fabric weight and packability).

The fabric is 89% polyester, 11% Spandex with an extremely smooth finish that feels like silk. No matter what fabric you wear on top, these never get caught.

The structured front panel adds to the comfort, and the tighter fit (and shorter leg) makes you forget you are wearing them. These are a good example of how the right fit helps keep the leg from riding up.

These are my favorite overall.

Y Athletics

Along the way here on Everyday Wear, I got the opportunity from Y Athletics to try both their SilverAir Merino (full review) and SilverAir Ultralight Boxer Briefs.

The Merino pair is 90% 17.5 micron merino wool, 5% metallic, and 5% spandex. The fabric is luxuriously soft and is quite thick. There is a custom leg grip system on each leg band that definitely helps keep these from riding up even when the legs aren’t quite as snug.

The Ultralight pair is 50% nylon, 35% Modal, 10% Spandex, and 5% metallic with an open-knit. Just like the name says, the fabric is very lightweight and has an excellent silky feel. While there are no leg grippers here, the legs fit a bit tighter so I didn’t feel like I was missing out.

I find the structured front panel in both of these pairs to be the most comfortable of all on this list.

Overall, can’t beat the luxury of the Merinos and the Ultralights are right up there with the UNIQLOs. The fit is spot on here.

Pistol Lake

Finally, I also recently had the chance from Pistol Lake to check out their Minimalist Boxer Briefs (full review).

The fabric is Pistol Lake’s custom Lightweight Eudae fabric, which is 76% polyester, 19% Tencel, and 5% Lycra. The fabric looks and feels similar to a cotton t-shirt.

While a snug fit, these do not have a structured front panel.

Overall, these are great if you’re looking for cotton-like comfort and are willing to sacrifice performance.

Comparison

Performance

All of the boxer briefs perform well in all conditions with two exceptions.

The SilverAir Merino feels a little heavy with a lot of sweat, just like any merino piece, but dries quickly as the moisture evaporates from the core of the fibers.

The Minimalist Boxer Briefs feel heavy and moist with a lot of sweat. This was a surprise after trying their shirt made from the same fabric, but these are the only pair that I don’t really enjoy wearing for exercise.

Travel

Hands-down I prefer the AIRism Boxer Briefs for travel. Their extremely light and silky fabric and shorter length makes them pack down to nothing and dry quickly after a sink wash. Also, if they do ride up, they are the least noticeable.

Comfort

The most comfortable of the lot are of course the SilverAir Merino, nothing beats the luxurious soft feel of high quality merino. When combined with a great structured front panel, these will be hard to beat in the comfort department.

The Minimalist Boxer Briefs also up there in comfort because they have a cottony feel and the long length helps keep the legs in place.

Conclusion

After wearing most of these boxer briefs for at least six months, if not longer, the UNIQLO AIRisms have become my top pick. Not only are they lightweight and comfortable, they are a great value at just $10 (and often can be had on sale for $5). At that price, there is no reason not to stock up. If the cost wasn’t involved, I would say the Y Athletics SilverAir Ultralights would be my top pick, as they are a bit more comfortable than the AIRisms. Finally, for comfort above all else (while still maintaining excellent performance), I haven’t found anything more comfortable than the Y Athletics SilverAir Merinos.

Underwear Roundup

Steve’s Packing List: February 2019

Trip Details: Two night, three day trip by air for a convention.

Packing List

GORUCK GR1 26L w/ Simple Side Pocket:

I wore:

Notes and Considerations

This was my first business trip in a while, so I overpacked a little (I didn’t end up needing my extra undershirt). I could have done with just the Wool & Prince shirt, but I wanted to have some variety. I also brought my gym shoes and clothes as I knew I would have some downtime to hit the gym.

Steve’s Packing List: February 2019

Is Merino Necessary for Everything?

Among performance (or travel) clothing favorites, you will often see the seemingly magical properties of merino touted. Properties like odor resistance and thermal regulation are king as these allow the garments to wear more comfortably and to go longer before they develop odors. Merino can be made into fabrics anywhere from luxuriously soft (Outlier’s Ultrafine Merino T-shirt being a great example), to durable but still soft (in the case of nylon core spun fibers, like the Wool & Prince T-shirt) and then to heavy and rougher (like Filson’s Crew Neck Guide Sweater). Merino garments, though, also tend to be some of the most expensive you can add to your closet.

It’s natural then to look at the abundance of merino based clothing and wonder when it’s too much. When do you hit a law of diminishing returns with merino wool? And, if you’re looking to cut some cost in your clothing lineup, where can you move away from merino to less costly materials?

We’ve been debating just this for a while now, especially for layering pieces that don’t directly contact your skin. But also for pants where the durability of merino, as well as the performance make us question the utility of such garments. In these instances, you can often even get multiple wears out of a traditional cotton garment (most people don’t wash their blue jeans very often, or in some cases, ever).

While a merino garment certainly will go longer than anything else without starting to smell, we’ve come to find that this isn’t always necessary. Take a pullover for example — you probably wear it over another shirt and when it’s cool out, so it doesn’t see your skin and you are probably sweating less. This type of wear isn’t a recipe for odors, and thus probably not a scenario where the performance of merino wool is going to add a ton to your life. There is a logical argument to be made that with a pullover (or something similar), merino is overkill. It’s not going to make the garment worse — you will still get the benefits — but at the same time you are paying a premium for something where the net realized benefits will be marginal at best. Or, put another way: whether lambswool, cashmere, or merino (or even a good synthetic blend), the sweater would perform within a close enough range on all fronts that you should buy the one which price works best for you.

On the thermoregulation aspect, you certainly won’t find any (comfortable or normal looking) fabric that will keep you warmer than merino. The natural ability of the fibers to trap air helps keep you warm. Therefore, in cases where you value packability or weight, it can be worth it to go with merino. But not always, as some merino wool will not pack as compactly as down, or even some newer synthetic garments. That said, merino adds another benefit in being easier to wash when traveling.

Another area we’ve started seeing merino show up is in jacket insulation. Icebreaker has their MerinoLOFT technology, which is an insulation made from merino wool. They tout it as an evolution of down and an alternative to synthetic down. While we haven’t tried anything like this, it seems like another area where merino probably doesn’t offer much over its synthetic counterparts. And you pay a high price for something you are likely not to notice, and perhaps which has other drawbacks from more traditional insulation pieces.

With pants, Ben has thoroughly destroyed a pair of Icebreaker wool pants over the course of just a year — while noticing little benefit from the merino wool itself. Often the wool needed washing more than basic blue jeans did — and didn’t perform as well as synthetic pants options like Outlier’s offerings. So even in the case where these pants are coming into direct contact with your skin, there’s little reason to select these over more durable options. Since Ben’s experience, many others have released merino blend pants (like CIVIC’s Frank Chino). I tried purchasing a pair to try, but the fit seemed really off so I didn’t keep them to give them a thorough test.

With the hoodie Ben recently reviewed, he found that while comfortable and performant, a hoodie may not be a good garment to use 100% merino wool as the material. Outlier has long made a HARD/CO Merino ZIP Hoodie which has cotton facing on the outside for better durability and merino on the inside for the performance — yet you pay a significant price ($395) for that benefit. Whereas most people rarely have performance and durability issues with a standard cotton hoodie.

Ultimately, the choice between merino or other performance fabrics comes from your use case for the garment. We’ve found pieces that don’t spend much time directly on skin as good places to look elsewhere where the expense isn’t justified. That said, you can often find very inexpensive merino sweaters from big box stores like J. Crew and Banana Republic (among others). While you don’t necessarily need merino in these garments, it is an added bonus if the price is right.

For most layering, outerwear, and pants, we have found that merino wool is often overkill and comes at an added financial cost as well as, possibly, durability issues.

Is Merino Necessary for Everything?

Massdrop Peak Merino Hoodie

A while back Massdrop held a pre-order for a new merino wool hoodie they were producing. That hoodie, the Massdrop Peak Merino Hoodie, arrived a little over a month ago and I have been testing it. Not just this hoodie itself, but the idea of whether you even need a hoodie made out of merino wool. Let’s dive in.

Fabric

This is a 100% merino wool (19.5 micron) hoodie, but it’s different than any other I have tried. That’s because the inside is brushed fleece wool and the entire garment is 340gsm in weight. The entire garment is way softer than I expected, both inside and out. The outer face is very nice and soft, softer than cotton hoodies.

The inside is pure luxury though. The brushed fleece nature of the merino is unreal and feels amazing in the inside. That said, it certainly is prone to leaving you with black lint all over what you are wearing (especially before you wash it).

The oddest part of the hoodie is the weight. At 340gsm you would rightly think it is thick, because it is, but is it warm? Not nearly as warm as you would think. The knit of the garment is very open, so wind (even light breezes) seem to pass right through it. However, it is warm when you are lounging about. Perhaps it’s best to look at this as a warming layer, not a warm outer garment.

A Note on Cleaning

Massdrop labels this hoodie as dry clean only — which is something I find pretty absurd for:

  1. A Hoodie
  2. A Merino Garment

So I went ahead and machine washed this and hung it to dry. It’s still in one piece, but I now know why it is labeled as dry clean only. For starters the hoodie came out of the wash looking dirtier than it went in — it was covered in lint. Nothing I washed with it should have given off lint, and none of those clothes had lint on them — very odd.

The real change was to the inner fuzzy fabric of the garment. Like with any fuzzy garment this changed with a wash. Instead of matting down, it got fuzzier and a bit longer. And now it gets an extreme amount of lint on a white shirt. So while you can wash it in the washer, I strongly discourage it.

Fit and Style

This is geared to be more of an athletic looking hoodie with a form fitting hood. Something you wear while being active. The body and sleeves are longer than most anything you will be used to. I am wearing a size large (my normal size) and the sleeves are great for me — but typically if I am ordering a button down I order a sleeve length of 36”, where a standard large is usually 35” at the most.

The fit is also slim, but not that slim. It’s long and narrow for the most part — not boxy and short like most other hoodies you might be wearing. From a style perspective this gives it a bit of a weird look overall and not a standard hoodie look. So if you want something to replace a cotton hoodie, look elsewhere. This doesn’t wow me on the style side.

Performance

This is a bit tricky to write about, as we have been having an ongoing debate about whether a garment like this even needs to be made out of merino wool. For the most part, we think it’s overkill. But for the purposes of this review, allow me to compare it to the hoodie I normally wear, a Flint and Tinder 10-Year Hoodie.

Typically I wear hoodies at the beach and when I am vacationing on the Washington coast. I can wear that cotton hoodie for about 4 days before it smells enough that I want to wash it. With the Peak, I wore it for over a month and only washed it for this review. It still never smelled or looked dirty. You might be able to make a case that this doesn’t really need cleaning as long as you wear a layer between the hoodie and your skin.

Is that enough to justify wearing a merino wool garment? I don’t think it is by itself.

So instead let’s skip packability and other traits we normally look at — this isn’t packable, nor a travel item. Instead I want to talk about wearing it and how it performs for that. This feels like a traditional fleece jacket in that it is fuzzy and bulky, but the wind cuts right through it. In a house, you are perfectly comfortable. Using it as a layer, perfect. Wearing it alone and expecting to be warm in any wind, not a good idea.

That said, I found the actual static weight of the garment, the 340gsm fabric, to be a really ideal weight. It’s comfortable in a warm house, and warm enough when layered outside. I wish all my hoodies were like this, as most run too cool or too warm. This is really in the sweet spot.

The worst performance aspect is that this hoodie is a lint and pet hair magnet. If you have any around, it will find it. While it does come off easily with a lint brush, my cotton hoodie never suffers this problem.

And then there is the delicacy of the fabric itself. It feels very delicate, like it could easily and readily be snagged by anything, which is weird given the athletic nature of the design. However, I did wear it with a GORUCK bag and saw no cause for concern..

Overall

Overall, I like it, but I don’t love it. I think the performance benefits from the merino are great, but likely not worth the premium in the price — especially when you consider the extra care and maintenance this garment asks for (removing lint, and dry clean only). That said, if you want everything you own to be merino, or if you often wear a hoodie without a shirt underneath, then this is a pretty darn good option as it will perform really well.

For me, I’d rather stick with a cotton hoodie, or some other more durable variant of a performance hoodie.

Massdrop Peak Merino Hoodie