Outerknown Sur Sweatshirt

Outerknown has been on my radar for a while due to their front and center sustainability mission, but their style is quite casual and they use mainly cotton, so I didn’t see anything that caught my eye right away.

In my search for a new sweatshirt, I was looking for a hemp-cotton blend, and in the process of purchasing and returning a few others, I found the Sur Sweatshirt.

For me, this is the ultimate sweatshirt for around the house.

Material

This sweatshirt is a French terry 55% hemp, 45% organic cotton blend.

The fabric has a substantial feel/weight to it from the hemp content, while still feeling soft — just what I was looking for from this fabric blend in a sweatshirt. It’s a hard feel to describe if you haven’t handled heavier hemp blend fabrics.

The hemp also imparts a great texture to the fabric. Combined with the washed color, this fabric is strictly casual for me.

Fit & Style

The cut here is quite unique for a casual sweatshirt. The body is cut on the slim side while still keeping plenty of length in the body and arms. Something different from the usual boxy casual sweatshirt cut. It looks a little more put together while still remaining extremely comfortable.

The neck here is quite open, and when combined with the causal fabric and longer arms, this makes it wear quite casual. I wouldn’t have a problem wearing it out to the store, but I probably wouldn’t take it much further than that.

Performance

The high hemp content in this blend serves a few purposes — weight (which I already covered), breathability, and durability.

Since hemp fibers are more absorptive, they do a great job removing moisture from your skin. They also make a more airy weave, therefor making a more breathable fabric. This makes for a sweatshirt that is comfortable in more temperatures than with traditional pure cotton French terry.

We will see how it plays out over time, but the durability of hemp and its tendency to just keep getting softer over time also could change the game here for the better. While cotton does also get softer with wear, it breaks down more quickly than hemp.

Overall

Overall, I really like the Sur Sweatshirt from Outerknown. I look forward to putting it on after work and love the weight, texture, and breathability of the fabric.

At $69, I think you get a great value, especially if it proves to benefit from the long term durability of hemp.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Outerknown Sur Sweatshirt

Bluffworks Horizon Quilted Vest

Note: this product was provided at no cost for this review.

Vests are big right now, especially in finance and tech. A vest has in ways become a uniform. But, vests are also pretty practical, and convenient items. There’s a ton of variety, but one of the more popular is something with a quilted bit of insulation, like the Horizon Quilted Vest from Bluffworks. Made to be an everyday wear, and travel item, in typical Bluffworks fashion they tried to make a high quality item, with good style, and tons of performance.

I think they succeeded with this on all fronts, and then when you take the price into consideration you can’t help but own one.

Material

The entire vest seems to be made of polyester, and I am not sure there’s anything bad about that. It is not the type of item to pick up body odors, nor is it an item you really need stretch in. I think the choice is right here, and strikes a good balance with machine washability and looks. The insulation used is 100g PrimaLoft® synthetic insulation and made from 60% post-consumer recycled material. Again this is not a layer you would use for serious outdoor pursuits, so the insulation choice is very good.

There is also a water repellant finish applied to the vest, which helps to shed light rain. Overall the most surprising thing is how thin the vest is, as I tend to find insulated vests to be generally too bulky.

Fit and Style

This is on trend. It looks like a perfectly normal vest, because it is made out of the same material which most vests are made out of. From a style perspective, perhaps the biggest complement I can give is that my wife wishes they made a version for women.

From a fit stand point I ordered my standard Large from Bluffworks and I find that it fits well. They only offer a regular cut, and I would like it if there offered a slightly more tailored cut as the vest wears a little wide around the mid section. It is not bad by any means, but it is boxy enough that I can wear my Proof Nova jacket underneath the vest, but not the vest under the jacket.

To my eyes, I can see the same boxy look on the models that Bluffworks shows on their site. So if they offered a Tailored Cut, I would spend my own money to get one right away. That said, this is far from a deal breaker.

The only other complaint I have is that the collar is a bit tall in the back, and I find it uncomfortable when driving or sitting. I tend to fold the collar down when I drive or sit so that the back of my neck and head are more comfortable. When standing everything is fine.

Performance

There’s three aspects to the performance: comfort/mobility, warmth, and washability. Let’s tackle each individually.

Comfort: this vest is exceedingly comfortable, but vests generally are. I can’t say this is anymore comfortable than my other vest, but the arm holes are cut well, and there is no restriction to my movement. From a comfort perspective, the collar issue notwithstanding, well done.

Warmth: this vest is warm, but not hot. I have warm vests, but I wouldn’t want this to be any warmer. You could wear it sitting around at room temperature to stay cozy, and probably use it as your only warmth layer down to 45°F or so. Any cooler and you might want to layer under the vest. I did layer it with the Proof Nova jacket to spend a night walking around in 30°F weather. I think the warmth factor here is near perfect, if not perfect.

Washability: the vest is machine washable and putting that to the test I found that the only change from out-of-the-box was that the quilted sections now had a bit more depth to them. I think the vest actually looks better after washing. It dries pretty quickly as well.

Lastly, Bluffworks crammed a ton of pockets into the vest, but they did so very well. You can’t see or notice most of them, but there are there if you need them. I think they did a very nice job with that aspect.

Overall

I have one more complaint before we wrap up, and that is about the snaps for the zipper cover: they are a little jingly when you walk. It is not too bad an issue, but it is probably the biggest issue with the vest.

Having said all that, I think this vest is fantastic and I highly recommend it. I wasn’t sure what to expect of this vest, but I have been very happy with it. It has become my go to layer anytime the temps drop here, and for the price, I think it is a great value.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Bluffworks Horizon Quilted Vest

Bluffworks Zenith Dress Shirt

Note: this shirt was provided at no cost for review.

I am a huge fan of the Bluffworks Meridian Dress Shirt (our review) and think it is easily the best business casual shirt you could travel with. They are also some of my favorite shirts to wear to work even when not traveling — so when the Zenith shirt came out I couldn’t wait to try it.

Surprisingly, this is a very different shirt, so let me dive into it.

Material

The Zenith shirt is a light weight shirt made out of 94% Polyester and 6% Spandex. Bluffworks states: “The fabric in this mens travel shirt is made from a high-performing polyester with wrinkle resistant properties and just the right amount of stretch. Plus, moisture-wicking and odor control keep you feeling fresh throughout the day. And, of course, it’s machine washable and easy to care for.”

I can vouch for the stretch, as it is surprising, given how the shirt drapes, that it has that much stretch. The handfeel is slightly rough with a crispness to the fabric itself. This makes is a complete opposite to the Meridian which has a softer drape and a very soft hand feel. There is no sheen to the material at all.

Fit and Style

Bluffworks offers a range of cuts and sizes, so you should be able to get a shirt that fits you well. The Large Slim Fit is a good fit, but slightly boxier than I would like through the waist.

What really makes this shirt stand apart is the drape and the collar. I think Bluffworks nailed this in their description of the shirt:

“So it’s versatile, styling well with a blazer for more formal occasions, layered under a vest for cooler weather, or worn over a t-shirt for a casual look. This blue dress shirt is our answer to the demand for a solid business shirt — this blue micro check reads as a solid color, perfect for dressing up or down.”

I think that’s an apt description and really nails it. This collar is fantastic, it is like a rotomolded collar that sits exactly where you want. That sounds bad, but truly my only complaint might be that it is too crisp. Which, on a scale of what annoys me more, is at the least annoying side of things.

Performance

There are three aspects to evaluate this shirt on: wrinkle resistance, odor resistance, and breathability. I already mention the shirt has great stretch, so there’s no need to dive into that more: it will move with you and be comfortable.

Breathability: here in hot and humid Houston, I can get a really fast sense for how well a shirt breathes. The Zenith shirt is the best breathing shirt I have as far as synthetic shirts go. Only light merino breathes better in my dress shirts. In fact, when the AC is blowing strongly this shirt can wear a bit cool at times.

Wrinkle Resistance: the Meridian is impressive with wrinkle resistance, you can pull it out of the wash and wear it as soon as it dries, or wad it up in your bag and pull it out and put it on. Sadly that’s not the case with the Zenith. You need to steam the wrinkles out after washing, and you can do so with the dryer. It doesn’t take a lot of work, but wrinkles do happen and take a slight bit of humidity to fall out. Seatbelts will also cause wrinkles. It’s on par with a wrinkle resistant cotton shirt. Not great, but not linen.

Odor resistance: again, this is not an area the Zenith excels at. It is not an odor magnate, you could certainly do an 18 hour day in it without finding odor to be a main issue, but not a fabric you can wear multiple times either.

From a performance stand point I think this makes for a very good business casual shirt, but is beaten out by other offerings for a travel shirt.

Overall

If this shirt had a touch better wrinkle resistance, I would by buying up all the colors of it. As it is, at $98, I think it represents a heck of a value. The closest competitor is the Ministry of Supply Aero Dress Shirt (our review) and I think the performance is slightly better than those shirts, while also being less expensive.

For shirts you wear to the office, and wash every day, the Zenith is certainly among the top ranks. For a travel shirt, I would pick the Meridian over the Zenith for any situation because the wrinkle resistance is far better on the Meridian.

That said, I will be looking to grab another Zenith, because come summer, I am going to be thankful for the light nature of this fabric.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Bluffworks Zenith Dress Shirt

Pistol Lake Minimalist Joggers

 Note: These pants were provided by Pistol Lake for review purposes.

We’ve taken a look at many of Pistol Lake’s performance clothing, including their Minimalist Pullover Hoodie last year. They recently released their Minimalist Joggers, made out of the same Eclon fabric.

I’ve been wearing these for a few weeks now, so let’s take a look at how they perform.

Material

The Eclon material is one of Pistol Lake’s custom fabric blends, consisting of 46% nylon, 42% polyester, and 12% spandex.

The fabric is extremely soft and spans the line of having a substantial feeling while still being light. While it doesn’t have any technical sheen to give it away, the high amount of stretch does give it a little different drape.

Fit & Style

These pants are styled in the classic jogger look and are described as having an athletic fit. I think that’s spot on. For me, they have room in the seat/hips, with a close fit through the thigh and calves. They fall above the ankle, as joggers should.

Two nice additions to the classic jogger include a back pocket and an internal snap pocket (inside the right front pocket) to secure your phone or wallet.

Performance

The close fit through the thigh and ankle, along with the stretch of the fabric keep these pants out of your way. The legs don’t seem to ride up when doing exercises like squats, which can get annoying with pants with looser legs.

These pants dry much more quickly than I’d expect for the weight, which seems odd compared to how they perform in practice while exercising. When sweaty, I get almost a clammy feeling — not cold-clammy, but a feeling that the moisture is being trapped between my skin and the pants. Taking both observations into account, maybe the fabric just isn’t great at absorbing moisture at all, helping it to dry quickly, but also causing that sensation when sweaty.

Overall

The Minimalist Joggers are a great athletic cut in an interesting, lightweight synthetic material. If you are looking for a pair of soft pants to lounge in, these work well. Since the fabric doesn’t feel great to me when sweaty, I can’t recommend them 100%, but may be worth a look if you just want them for lounging or have a different feeling about the Eclon fabric.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Pistol Lake Minimalist Joggers

Bluffworks Threshold Womens T-Shirt

Note: This shirt was provided by Bluffworks for review purposes.

A few months ago Bluffworks launched their women’s collection. I was excited to try out some of their pieces considering how much Steve and Ben like their dress shirt, suit, and Threshold T-Shirts. It’s great to see companies branching out into performance women’s wear. While the current line is limited, they have some great wardrobe staples.

The Threshold Womens T-Shirt has quickly become a cornerstone of my wardrobe. I find myself wearing it to work, on the weekend, and layered under sweaters.

Material

This t-shirt is made of 66% polyester, 29% lyocell, and 5% elastane. It wicks moisture, dries quickly, resists odors, and it’s wrinkle resistant.

The fabric drapes nicely without being too clingy or baggy. It was soft from the first wear and has gotten better since washing it. The elastane gives it just the right amount of stretch for it to hold its shape and move well.

The weight of the fabric also makes it a great all seasons piece — layering during the colder months and then on its own during warmer months.

Performance

I can get multiple wears out of this shirt between washes, and it really holds up to its odor resistant claim. I find I can get almost as many wears as I can get from a merino shirt.

This t-shirt dries quickly and wicks sweat away, and it is really breathable which will make it a good shirt for warm temperatures.

Also, I haven’t had any issues with it wrinkling, it’s always frustrating to have a t-shirt that wrinkles as they should be easy go-to pieces.

Fit & Style

I normally opt for a crew neck t-shirt as I find a lot of v-neck t-shirts have a deeper v then I like. The cut of the neck on this shirt is an ideal v-neck cut for me, this also makes it dressier than some of the other t-shirts in my closet. The curved bottom and longer hem in the back give it a flattering feminine shape.

This shirt fits true to size, and is long enough to tuck in if desired.

Overall

This is the technical t-shirt I have been searching for. While $45 for a simple, non-merino t-shirt may seem like a lot, I would highly recommend the Threshold T-Shirt considering the versatility and features.

I am excited to see the next pieces Bluffworks releases for women, including the Trevi Blazer, and look for an upcoming review of the Trevi Pant.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Bluffworks Threshold Womens T-Shirt

The North Face Ventrix Jacket

When it comes to active insulation layers, The North Face Ventrix Jacket (also available in a hooded version) is one that is quite often mentioned as a top contender. I picked one up at the end of the winter season last year, so I’ve been able to give it a try in a wide range of weather conditions.

Material

The body of the jacket is a 30D X 20D 64 gsm 92% nylon, 8% elastase ripstop blend and the forearms are reinforced with a 50D X 40D 106 gsm fabric. It is all coated with a DWR finish. The jacket is then lined with a lighter weight (57 gsm) version of the body fabric.

A few notes about the fabric here, the two denier numbers indicate the thickness of the threads used to make the fabric differ between sides. The higher denier fabric on the forearms gives some extra durability in a common wear point (I’m guessing for climbing). The biggest difference between the body and forearms is that while you can see the ripstop in both fabrics, it actually gives the forearm fabric a raised texture.

The jacket is insulated with 80 g 100% polyester Ventrix Stretch insulation. This insulation comes in a solid piece (like a piece of fabric), rather than a filament or fill, so it stays in place without any baffles. The magic of the insulation comes from laser cut slits that open and close with movement, allowing more moisture and heat to escape while you are moving (see an article from GearJunkie with some photos and video).

Fit & Style

The jacket is listed as having a slim fit, and that is the experience I had. I ended up having to size up to an XL, because the chest was too tight. This makes the sleeves a touch too long, but it isn’t a dealbreaker. If I were strictly wearing this as a midlayer, a L would have been good, but I wanted to have more flexibility.

When it comes to looks, I think this jacket is a lot better looking than a lot of other active insulation pieces. One thing that always ruins a piece for me is when the face fabric is overly shiny, and that is not the case here. In black, the jacket has a matte look. While it still looks like a technical jacket, it is subdued enough that you won’t stick out wearing it to work or around town.

Performance

This jacket met my expectations from all the hype I’ve seen around it since it won Editors’ Choice in Backpacker in 2017.

I found the Ventrix insulation to do a great job holding heat while at rest and dumping heat when moving. Not only do the perforations in the insulation help, but the lining is perforated on the back and the face fabric is perforated under the arms.

This has become my go-to active insulation layer for all but the coldest weather. My down jacket previously served this purpose, but I find myself getting clammy when active while wearing it. I never get that feeling with this jacket (except for sometimes when wearing a backpack).

I would compare the face fabric to a soft shell jacket, and with the DWR, it does a good job of fending off a decent drizzle. It will of course eventually wet out, but that is a benefit of synthetic insulation vs. down — if the insulation gets wet from the weather or sweat, it doesn’t loose its insulating powers.

Comfort wise, the soft lining makes the jacket feel great against your skin. The stretch isn’t extreme, but it keeps the jacket out of your way.

Now for the pockets — there are two pretty standard zippered hand pockets and one very tall zippered chest pocket. Typically I don’t find chest pockets very useful because they hold things too high, but I love this one. It works great for holding things like your phone or wallet and keeps them out of the way.

Overall

Overall, The North Face Ventrix Jacket lives up to the hype. The insulation really does adapt and change depending on if you are still or in motion, and the face and lining fabrics don’t hinder breathability. While it’s no Western Rise AirLoft (our review) in the looks department, it isn’t your shiny technical jacket fabric.

At a list price of $220, it’s on the cheaper end of the popular active insulation jackets, and it often can be found on deep discount at the end of the season. At full price it is a great jacket, but if you find it for a lower price, it’s a steal.

If you want one active insulation piece to cover almost all situations, this is a great one to take a look at.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

The North Face Ventrix Jacket