GORUCK launched their Veterans Day sale today, and there are some great deals.
The Tough Hoodie Full Zip is also down to $75 (from $115).
You will also find one of the best backpacks made, the GR1, available for $265 (from $295).
GORUCK launched their Veterans Day sale today, and there are some great deals.
The Tough Hoodie Full Zip is also down to $75 (from $115).
You will also find one of the best backpacks made, the GR1, available for $265 (from $295).
Note: some of these shirts were provided at a discount or for free, please see the original reviews for more information.
Finding a performance polo that blends in and has a sharp looking collar can be quite the task. This guide walks you through each of the polos we have tested, and how we think they perform. For this guide, we assume you are looking for polos for the warmer seasons and are looking for them to be versatile, from casual to business casual.
The Good: The fabric is pique knit, giving it nice visual interest and a nice matte finish so it blends in. Great collar that doesn’t require any fussiness out of the wash. Very breathable and light. Packs well with no wrinkles.
The Not Good: After one day of wear, the armpits smell a bit. With a quick rinse in the sink I can get a second day.
Overall: The lightweight textured fabric and great collar give this polo a classic look with the performance of 100% synthetic. The wrinkle resistance is excellent.
The Good: The fabric looks and drapes just like a standard cotton pique polo. The length works well for wearing tucked or untucked. The collar stays sharp as long as you pay attention how it dries. The odor resistant content of the fabric lives up to expectations, giving me 3 wears.
The Not Good: There is Mack Weldon branding along the side seam on the back of the shirt.
Overall: This is a great polo, soft, odor resistant, sharp collar, and versatile with no indication that it is technical.
The Good: Extremely breathable fabric and stiff collar that always stands up and looks sharp no matter what you throw at it.
The Not Good: The thickness of the fabric can keep it from drying as fast as other synthetic polos (although it does manage sweat very well). The collar can look a bit unnatural at times and the heavy drape gives it away as something different. There is no odor resistance here.
Overall: This is a polo you can depend on pulling right out of your bag and having it look perfect. The breathability overcomes the thickness of the fabric from a comfort perspective. Can be worn tucked or untucked.
The Good: The fabric is extremely soft and looks and drapes like a light cotton polo. I can depend on two wears (the merino content is only 15%). The length is perfect for wearing untucked. The collar performs well and never looks floppy. Slim fit.
The Not Good: Only 2 wears, better than average but not standout. The shorter length makes it harder to keep tucked in. The slim fit will not be for everyone. The two button (short) placket keeps this more in the casual realm.
Overall: As you can see, this polo is full of trade-offs. If you are looking for a polo geared to casual wear only and you are looking for a slim fit, this might be the polo for you.
The Good: Feels and drapes like a soft, well worn cotton t-shirt. The collar stays put and looks sharp as long as you pay attention to how it dries. Has that magic merino odor resistance.
The Not Good: The 205 gsm fabric makes it too warm much above 80 °F, even in low humidity.
Overall: A great polo except for the weight of the fabric. If you want 100% merino, this is the way to go. Otherwise, you probably want to look to one of the other options.
The Good: The drape and hand-feel of the fabric are spot on. Being a merino blend, there is great odor resistance. The collar stays put and looks sharp as long as you pay attention to how it dries.
The Not Good: Picks up wrinkles fairly easily.
Overall: This is a great polo with the caveat of wrinkles since is it a light merino fabric. If you want the odor resistance of merino with the durability of a blend and the versatility of a lighter fabric, this is the way to go.
Not taking odor resistance into account, my top choice is the Bluffworks Piton Polo, with the Mack Weldon SILVERKNIT not far behind.
The Piton polo for me is the most versatile all around with its lighter fabric, excellent wrinkle resistance (the Apollo 3 is the only shirt that is more wrinkle resistant), and ease of wear from casual to business casual.
The SILVERKNIT polo gives you some extra odor resistance along with some seasonal colors to break up the typical blues, greys, and blacks of performance wear.
If you place odor resistance at the top of your list, the two Wool&Prince polos would be my pick. Which one would depend on the climate you plan to wear them in.
I would recommend getting started with two (or three) shirts, this will give you a base to wear to the office during the warmer months and give some versatility for travel. Here’s what I would buy:
Note: some of these shirts were provided at a discount or for free, please see the original reviews for more information.
Finding the right shirt, a good performance shirt, for wearing into a business casual office environment can be quite the task. This guide walks you through each of the shirts we have tested, and how we think they fit into office environments. For this guide, we assume you are washing shirts after each wear, therefore odor resistance is less of a factor.
The Good: The pivot sleeve on this shirt is fantastic, the material is very durable, the collar is solid, and it has a flattering cut.
The Not Good: The look trends more casual, the short body length makes it hard to tuck in, and the heavy material can make it a non-starter in warmer climates.
Overall: While this is no longer made, it is worth mentioning as it is the perfect smart casual shirt, but doesn’t blend well with business casual. The body is cut shorter making it hard to tuck in, but the pivot sleeve is worth noting alone. The best way to think about this, is that if you can get away with wearing your shirt untucked, this shirt should be near the top of your list.
The Good: The collar stands up nicely, the stretch is very impressive, and the price is worth noting.
The Not Good: The colors are less than ideal, the buttons don’t quite contrast correctly, and the material is slightly too stiff to pass for a standard oxford.
Overall: Take a standard cotton oxford, add some DWR to resist light water and stains, and then add a ton of stretch. That’s what you get with this, and it is impressive. It doesn’t perform as well as the others in general, but it does have that cotton look to it that many do want if you can be OK with a stiffer (like starched cotton) drape. If you want to stay as stealth as you can, this is perhaps the best option, but I do wish they had a larger selection of colors as I find the offering very limited.
The Good: Comes in a variety of classic styles and sizes, the merino wool is thin and wrinkle resistant, and the performance of the fabric to manage your body temperature is amazing.
The Not Good: While good, the wool is still wool and not as luxurious feeling against your skin as other options, the shirts look great, but don’t quite look standard. Overall the cuts also trend towards a boxier look, which can be tough depending on your body shape. No white option.
Overall: Classic style and a classic cut, this is the most conservative of the options and the most odor resistant. It’s 100% merino, but not obviously something non-standard so it blends in quite well. It is perfect for travel and multi-day wear. It resists wrinkles well, and unlike some of the others I have yet to see it actually look dirty. It is the most performant shirt here.
The Good: The shirt is incredibly light, and the vented armpits really make a difference. The material looks fantastic and blends in well, a wide variety of styles and cuts. The collars are top notch and unmatched on this list. The cuts are very flattering and more modern.
The Not Good: It picks up odors faster than others on this list, and can often start smelling after an active 10 hour day, so if you commute that’s something to note.
Overall: The cuts, collar, and style options are robust and cannot be ignored. The shirt is also extremely comfortable, especially in warmer environments. The only downside with these is that they pick up smells quickly, but if you can, or are OK, with washing a shirt after each wear, these are hard to beat. They never wrinkle and the collars always look crisp as do the bodies of the shirts. Great shirts.
The Good: There is no better fabric on this list, it feels amazing against your skin and drapes and looks perfect. There is a large offering of cuts so that you can find something that fits you well.
The Not Good: The collars tend to lay out after prolonged wear and don’t stay as perky as others on this list, and the lack of styles is a big issue.
Overall: If someone can tell by looking that this is not cotton, then they are someone worth talking to. This is a quietly performant shirt. If the collar was button down this shirt would be at or near the top, but as it is it doesn’t hold its place as well as others. The comfort of this shirt is fantastic and it won’t stink too bad after a day, but will require a quick rinse to rid the smell if you want to wear it again.
The Good: Lots of size and style options, with a larger variety of louder styles and brighter colors. The stretch is awesome in these and makes the shirt quite comfortable.
The Not Good: The cuffs and collars are overly thick, and the material has a synthetic look and the shirts pick up odors very quickly — even odors from exterior smells like a BBQ place.
Overall: Looks crisp, but also doesn’t look like cotton. The collars and cuffs are thick and a turn off for many. While the shirt stretches well, there are better options out there.
The Good: Luxurious feeling merino wool, smart cut, and pivot sleeve.
The Not Good: Expensive, limited color options, and a very causal look.
Overall: The cut and styling is perfect for the office, as are the color options. However the fabric is soft and has a heavy drape which makes it look more like a pajama shirt than a crisp office shirt. While I like the fabric and the fit of the shirt, it is almost athleisure levels of casual.
The Good: The material is amazing, and odor/wrinkle resistant. The cut and fit is fantastic.
The Not Good: The price is very high, and the style of the shirt overall lends itself to a more casual untucked environment.
Overall: The fabric is amazing, but the style pulls it more towards casual and an untucked approach which doesn’t work well in offices. The shirt is very thin, and silky smooth, so it is worth considering if your office is more jeans and t-shirt levels of casual.
The Good: It’s cotton, so you can get it in crisp white, and there is also stretch so it is slightly better than a standard cotton shirt.
The Not Good: There is a general lack of wrinkle resistance despite it claiming otherwise, and it can be more difficult to get the shirt to press flat.
Overall: If you are scared by everything else, this is a cotton shirt with stretch and a more comfortable option, but not worth the up charge over a standard cotton oxford.
My pick is the Ministry of Supply Aero without a doubt. The cut and wide variety of options while keeping the price in check makes these shirts a good bargain for any office worker. They offer both button down, and poplin styles which increases the versatility of the shirt. While they are designed more to keep you cool than warm, they still layer quite well.
Bluffworks would give the Aero a run for its money if they offered a wider selection of patterns, and perhaps added a button down collar option. Likewise, Wool & Prince would be hard to beat if they offered trimmer cuts to their shirts.
When I want to look sharp in the office, I grab an Aero dress shirt and pair it with my Futureworks.
I would recommend starting with three shirts, with this base you should have no problem handling a full work week and could even get away with only washing a load of laundry once in the week. Here’s what I would buy:
Those are the shirts and colors I would start with to build a wardrobe for business casual — they will serve you well.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When I mentioned to Steve we should do a post where we outline what we would buy if we had no clothes at all — keeping it minimal and performant for our day to day lives — I had no idea it would be so difficult to write. The challenge here for me is balancing a wardrobe of items that actually fit what I do on a regular basis. Items which fill the need first and foremost, are versatile, and which generally make sense.
There are a lot of things which I actually own, and love, which didn’t make the list simply because upon further reflection they lack versatility. For me, this list isn’t just about starting from scratch, but perhaps is the ideal wardrobe for me to own, but sadly one that I both do not own, and suspect I would find nearly impossible to slim down to.
This section is pretty easy to go through, as the below are all items I own, and basically all I wear for undergarments.
I’ve been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride with my shoes, where I have gone from very minimal to quite a few right now. I need to slim down, and I actually only have worn one pair of these shoes so some alternatives will be listed.
This is one area I feel like I am doing pretty well in. The choice in pants here reflects my lifestyle, as well as the climate I live in (temperate, but often wet, Seattle area). I am also going to provide some options for slightly different climates.
This is a real struggle for me. As a society we are accustomed to seeing people wear the same, or similar pants day in and day out. Rarely do you every hear the comment “are those the same jeans you have been wearing all week”. But with shirts, people tend to notice. Thus this is probably the biggest section with the most variety for that very reason.
I have had closets full of jackets in the past, so this section is the hardest for me. And the one I am the most unsure of, this winter I have been working to revamp my closet on this end, so here’s where I think I would go on this, but there’s going to many alternates here.
With this setup I could still do my worksouts, travel to almost anywhere, and have the clothing I need for work and life. It’s expensive, more so than I expected, but a robust setup for sure.
When Ben mentioned to me that he though we should do posts where we outline what we would buy if we had no clothes at all, all while keeping it minimal, I thought it wouldn’t be too difficult. Once I sat down to actually write it, I realized the challenge, as we didn’t limit it to what we currently own, but what we thought would be the best pieces. This list is intended to be a good base wardrobe, one that could take me though a year of typical wear, excluding one-off stuff (like camping gear, dress shoes that only get worn once or twice per year, etc.).
Living in a cold climate, layers are important for me, so you will see warmer clothes make up a good portion of my list. I tried to balance the list so laundry didn’t have to be an everyday thing, but realistically, I prefer to do my laundry once a week.
The other day I grabbed my Outlier S140 shirt, and noticed that the armpits were discolored. The shirt itself is light blue and the armpits had visible sweat stains, and looked yellowed, even over the blue. I also remembered that a blue Outlier Ultrafine T I own has dark discoloration on the arm pits, with almost a stiff texture to that area.
It was enough of a discoloration and general gross out for me that I decided I needed to do whatever it took to clean them, or just donate the shirts and get new ones. I wasn’t going to be wearing them looking like this. So here’s what I tried, and they all failed:
At this point I was pretty frustrated, and annoyed at all the loads of wash I was doing. There was one last thing that the internet seems to universally claim would work on cotton: Oxiclean. Of course we all know this wonder TV product, but I was worried it would destroy the wool. I bit the bullet on these shirts as I knew I wasn’t going to wear the shirts like this anyways.
One shirt with slight discoloration, one with discoloration and a stiffened texture, and in addition to those two Outlier shirts, another with next level discoloration. I only took pictures of the latter, but looking at these stains I knew it wouldn’t matter if they were ruined, because they already were.
Here’s what the worst shirt looked like before I started:
Pretty bad, as this had mostly been worn as an undershirt. This is an Icebreaker Anatomica crew neck, in what I believe they call “bone” for the color.
My first pass at this shirt was to get a mixing bowl and dump some Oxiclean powder into it, fill with water, and mix in the Oxiclean to dissolve it
Then I submerged the entire shirt to soak for 12 hours. After soaking I wrung out the shirt, and washed it with our standard laundry detergent. I did an extra rinse cycle on it as well.
Note on the Outlier shirts: while the pictured shirt is basically a natural color, both Outlier shirts are blue. When I let those shirts soak overnight, they turned the water blue. I was pretty concerned they would be super faded after washing, but to my eye they look no different. I have no doubt this process took some of the color out of them, but I cannot see it.
After all of that, here’s what the shirt looked like:
There’s still light staining you can see, but it’s mostly gone and the shirt is wearable again. Both Outlier shirts came out looking absolutely perfect
And as you can see, the color looks fine on them as well. I stopped there with the Outlier shirts as I was quite happy with the results.
Since the Icebreaker shirt was older, and had way more staining, I wanted to see if I could knock out the stain even further. Instead of doing another full soak on the shirt, I made a paste out of Oxiclean and applied it with a toothbrush to the stained areas with a bit of scrubbing. Then I let that sit for about an hour before washing the shirt again.
It is extremely hard to see in these pictures but the stain is still slightly there. The paste only removed it a little but more. I think if I soaked the shirt again, it would be gone, but its gone enough that this is fine for the undershirt nature of this shirt.
I am very impressed with the work Oxiclean did on these shirts. Especially with the Outlier shirts which now look brand new again. I was very worried this would make the wool feel nasty, but oddly enough they feel like normal. I guess time will tell on that front, but this process didn’t outright destroy the shirts. I think after washing with Kookaburra again, they will be completely back to normal.
I will not hesitate to use this method in the future on any wool. It really worked well. I think the paste method is a complete waste of time, as it really was not nearly as effective. Do a long soak over night, and I think you will see the best results.
Note: Oxiclean says not to use the product on wool, so while I didn’t see any issues, use at your own risk.
We talk about clothing a lot on Everyday Wear, but part of a good daily wardrobe is having a good watch. Here’s a guide for those of you who want something which makes a better statement than an Apple Watch, while also wanting to spend less than an Apple Watch. We’ll skip talking about Rolexes for this guide, and instead offer a practical guide to some quality time pieces for many styles. Good, fashionable, and long lasting watches don’t have to cost thousands of dollars.
A good dress watch, something you wear with a suit, is simple and understated. It should have a high quality leather band and a plain dial. The go-to for this is Orient’s Bambino line of watches. Not only are these mechanical, and thus take no battery power and are wound with the movement of your arm, but they are classic in style, practical in function, and very inexpensive (while looking fairly expensive).
Most of these can be had for under $200, which is a steal in the world of mechanical watches. The Bambino Small Seconds is my pick for a versatile watch. Get it with a white face and a brown strap and you can likely wear it as your only watch for a decade or more. A black strap or a black face will dress it up, but will limit the versatility.
A couple of other options:
Dress watches are about style first, and price second. Buy the one which speaks to you, but don’t waste money on needlessly expensive watches. I wear a Bambino Small Seconds for my dress watch with a brown band and a white face. It’s perfect for that. Look for watches that aren’t flashy, have a leather band, and don’t stand out.
Most people will get the most value out of a good casual watch, of which the range of offerings are vast. To be clear, you can wear any watch in casual settings, the only requirement is to match your personal style. You can wear the above dress watches in a casual setting (tip: put a light grey suede band on the Bambino to dress it down), but if your casual wardrobe is jeans and a t-shirt, that watch may look more out of place. Here are a few options to consider:
The above run the gambit of prices, starting at just $40 and going up from there. The biggest thing to think about here is to get a watch which is very versatile, where you can buy many straps to swap them out for more variety (look for 20mm or 22mm lugs on watches, those are the easiest and cheapest to find bands for). Buy a few NATO straps, a Perlon, a leather, and maybe even a bracelet for your watch and you’ll likely be set for life. If you are getting one watch to start, I would start with a dressier looking field watch (something like the Khaki Field can be paired and dressed up a touch), or a more statement making dress watch like the Intramatic which can look sharp on a suede strap for more casual settings.
You can typically dress up a watch by adding a leather band with sheen to it, and dress down a watch by putting it on a NATO, or softer looking leather strap.
Now that fall is upon us, it’s a good time to start thinking about your layering strategy for the cold weather. I recently took a camping road trip through the Atlantic states and provinces, and encountered cold weather along the way. On this trip, I was able to test out my layering strategy early and was pretty happy with how it worked out.
Layers are a great way to keep warm while adjusting to changing conditions throughout the day. Typically, layers also allow you to keep warm with less bulk — you can choose pieces that are best at one thing rather than having one piece that does it all pretty well.
Sweat is the biggest enemy to warmth. Without the ability to shed layers as you warm up, you will sweat, and as sweat evaporates it cools. A sweaty shirt or jacket on a cold day is a quick way to get uncomfortably chilled, or even worse, hypothermia.
My layering system consists of a thermal baselayer, a shirt and/or insulating midlayer, and a shell for wind, rain, or snow.
The most important aspect of a good baselayer is how well it wicks sweat and how quickly it dries. This is to protect from our number one enemy in the cold, moisture. While a baselayer also will help keep you a bit warmer when you are static by trapping some body heat, its real purpose is to help manage sweat when you are active.
Since a baselayer needs to be able to efficiently wick sweat, it is important to get the fit right. You want the fabric to sit snugly against the skin so there is no opportunity for sweat to pool against the skin or for cold air to evaporate sweat directly from the skin.
I typically wear a Patagonia Capilene Midweight Zip-neck and Pants (Polartec Power Grid) as my baselayer. All the Capilene baselayers are treated with Polygiene odor control which I find to work pretty well — I can get a few days out of a top and more out of the bottoms, depending on how much I’m sweating. There also are lightweight and thermal weight options if you need less or more warmth.
For 2018, Patagonia released a new merino blend Capilene, the Capilene Air (51% merino, 49% recycled polyester). The fabric has an interesting 3D knit structure and claims to have the greatest warmth range along with the ability to insulate while wet, dry quickly, and resist odor. While double the price of the equivalent Capilene Midweight, this seems like it could be a great fabric and worth the premium for some.
The main job of a midlayer is insulation. The temperature and whether you are going to be active or static can help you choose the most appropriate piece. Active insulation is designed to be very breathable (air and moisture permeable) so the sweat that is absorbed by your baselayer and evaporated by your body heat is able to efficiently migrate into the environment. Static insulation is designed to keep you warm while you are still, so it is less breathable to help conserve the captured body heat. One thing to keep in mind if you are looking at down — while synthetic insulation still works when wet, down looses much of its insulation capability in wet conditions.
Fit is important here as well, but remember to size for the range of layers you may be wearing underneath. Drawstrings, Velcro, and elastic can help with getting the fit adjusted perfectly.
I typically wear one or two midlayers, depending on weather conditions and what layers I plan to shed if I get warm (or end up inside). For me they can be a long or short sleeve shirt, light fleece (Patagonia R1 Pullover), and/or down jacket. Typically I wear a shirt over my baselayer if I think I might get very warm or end up inside. My insulation layer then goes over either the shirt or directly over my baselayer. An alternative to the down jacket could be a synthetic insulated jacket like the Arc’teryx Atom LT or synthetic active insulation layer like the Arc’teryx Proton LT.
A shell is an important layering piece when it is windy or wet. Just like sweat is the enemy, getting wet is just as bad. Being wet in the wind is even worse because the wind accelerates evaporation (and therefore cooling). A good shell will protect you from both elements. However, you should not wear a shell unless it is needed because it will typically be your least breathable layer and will hinder the evaporation or sweat. As the sweat builds up and makes your insulation layers damp, it can hinder the ability for them to continue to perform as expected.
For a shell, the fit needs to be more flexible since you will probably wear it on its own as well as over various layers. This makes drawstrings, Velcro, and elastic important so the fit is adjustable.
I prefer a lightweight shell like the Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket because it packs down small for easy stowage when the weather improves (or to carry just in case). The Helium is an ultralight shell, so unlike a hardshell the waterproof membrane is visible on the inside of the jacket. This makes it lighter but less durable and can more easily loose breathability from having clogged pores from body oils and dirt (hardshells typically sandwich the membrane between two layers of fabric). No matter what type of shell you have, if the DWR fails and the face fabric wets out, you loose all breathability.
Utilizing a shell for wind and water resistance allows you to select a very breathable midlayer which becomes especially important if you are active while out in the cold. If you are going to be out in rain all day (or days) or need more durability you might want a true hardshell, but I’ve never had any issues with the Helium Jacket.
If you want to stay warm outside in cool and cold weather layering is the way to go. You can stay comfortable throughout the day, even with changing conditions, and you don’t have to deal with that bulky winter coat for most weather. A simple system of a thermal baselayer, an insulating midlayer, and a shell can get you through most weather. If it’s really cold, you can swap out your midlayer, wear a warmer baselayer, and/or replace the midlayer and shell with a parka.
Fabric blends are often found in performance apparel with the hopes of capturing the positive properties of different materials while removing as many of the negative as possible. While it’s impossible to be comprehensive with all the blends, brands, and technologies that are out there now, this overview captures the major categories.
There are many great natural/synthetic blends out there. These blends are often made to improve the strength/durability (merino blends), or moisture wicking ability (cotton) of a natural fiber.
Merino blends can vary greatly in their performance (especially odor resistance) depending on their merino content. Blends can range anywhere from over 75% merino to less than 10%. Of course, the more merino the more merino properties can be expected, but the other fibers present (and any treatments) can also make a difference.
The common co-fibers in merino blends are polyester and nylon (and sometimes Tencel — see the Icebreaker Cool-Lite line). Often, these blends are designed to give the relatively fragile merino some extra strength. In addition to just mixing the fibers into the yarn, merino can be “corespun” with a nylon core or woven in a “double weave” where the fabric has one side that is 100% merino and the other side some other fiber. Corespun fabrics give the look and feel of 100% merino while adding strength to the yarn with the nylon core (see Smartwool Merino 150 line). Double woven fabrics also allow allow for the feel of 100% merino, but can add a more durable/different looking material for the face of the fabric (see Y Athletics SilverAir Merino).
Wool can also be made into a batting and used as insulation. Wool insulation is a good machine washable natural alternative to down. It typically offers a similar weight to insulation ratio and is often a similar price point as down (see Smartwool Smartloft and Icebreaker Merino LOFT).
Tencel is seen blended with both synthetic fibers and merino. Tencel is blended with merino as it has higher water vapor absorption and drying speed than merino, it is a stronger fiber, and it improves the hand feel (smoothness) of the fabric (see DryWeight fabric from Western Rise). When blended with a synthetic fiber, it can help improve the odor resistance as the fiber holds moisture in its core, making it less hospitable to bacteria (see Pistol Lake Eudae fabric). Tencel also doesn’t get staticky like polyester, so it can help with static as well.
While not a “performance” fabric as we typically talk about here (no odor resistance), NYCO (nylon/cotton) is increasingly seen used in hard wearing pieces like jackets or in button down shirts where the look or feel of cotton is desired. For a full rundown of NYCO, check our our previous article.
In some cases, 100% synthetic can perform better especially when durability and abrasion resistance are key. A full synthetic blend is also sometimes used as a cost reduction measure. Typically seen in these blends are polyester and nylon. When it’s really hot and humid, this is also typically your best choice since light synthetics hold less moisture and typically dry faster then merino (see the Nike Dri-FIT line).
It shouldn’t be a surprise to see Outlier here, as they make many of our favorite pants. They develop a lot of their own fabrics with various blends of nylon, polyester, cotton, merino wool, and elastane. Our favorites are the F.Cloth (200 gsm, 97% nylon, 3% elastane) which can be found in the Futureworks and New Way Shorts, the Workcloth (275 gsm, dual layer synthetic) which is found in the Slim Dungarees, and the Strongtwill (Supplex nylon/elastane blend) which is found in the Strong Dungarees.
Some of our favorite fabrics are made by Schoeller. Some names you might recognize are schoeller-dryskin (double layer, functional fabric on the inside, durable synthetic on the outside), 3XDRY (moisture wicking and fast drying), c_change (wind and waterproof membranes), NanoSphere (self cleaning).
Some of these are fabrics and others technologies/coatings, but any line of Schoeller fabric can vary between manufacturers, as they customize the fabrics to the specific use.
For example, Outlier Workcloth (Slim Dungarees) and 60/30 Cloth (60/30 Chinos) utilize the NanoSphere technology. The Outlier OG Classics and OG Climbers OG Cloth is Schoeller Dryskin Extreme fabric with NanoSphere. The NanoSphere technology acts as a DWR to repel water, but also helps keep dirt and oils on the surface of the fabric so they can be cleaned easily with a quick wipe of a damp cloth.
drirelease is a line of blended fabrics. The yarns are made with a mix of hydrophobic synthetic fibers and hydrophilic natural fibers. The combination is advertised to do a good job at both pulling moisture from the skin and getting the moisture to the surface so you feel dry and it easily evaporates. They also claim an odor reducing technology called FreshGuard this is neither antibacterial or antimicrobial. The natural fibers can be cotton, merino wool, machine washable silk, Tencel, linen, rayon, cashmere, among others. The synthetic portion is 85-88% polyester (or nylon in one case) with the balance being the natural fiber. They have a huge number of brand partners, including Outdoor Research who uses drirelease Wool in their Sequence line (including the L/S Zip Top).
The wool is the only one we’ve tried, and it does provide more odor resistance than you’d expect for only being 12% merino wool. It does, however, tend to pill fairly easily. The other blends that could be interesting include Tencel, linen, and cashmere.
Of course, there are also some new, cutting edge (and sometimes out there) technologies like ceramic coated t-shirts, graphene coated jackets, and a fabric that is an FDA certified medical device. But those are for another time.
Even though two fabrics may have the same fiber composition, no two fabrics are the same. When comparing fabrics, always take into account the structure of the fabric in addition to the composition. The structure can be just as important for some attributes such as the look, hand feel, and drape of the fabric.