Starting from Scratch – Base Wardrobe, Steve

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.

Undergarments and Base Layers

  • UNIQLO AIRism Boxer Briefs, 14 pairs. I’ve recently moved over to favoring the AIRism boxer briefs as they are lighter than the ExOfficio ones I used to favor. While I still have both, I’d just go with the AIRism. They pack down really small and dry very fast from being so light. And an added bonus, they are less than $10 and can often be found on sale.
  • Icebreaker Anatomica Short Sleeve V-Neck, 1. I wear this shirt in the “Snow” (off white) color as an undershirt. I can get a couple days out of it and it dries reasonably quickly if it needs to be hand washed.
  • UNIQLO AIRism Short Sleeve V-Neck, 1. I wear this in the “Light Grey” color as an undershirt (the grey does a better job hiding under a light colored shirt than white). Again, packs down very small and dries quickly. Definitely only one wear, but the price can’t be beat (less than $10 and often on sale).
  • Darn Tough Solid Crew Light (#1617), 3 pairs, Charcoal & Navy. These are my dress socks for work and dressing up. I can reliably get two days out of a pair (merino blend), so they are great for travel. While they are durable, these seem to wear out the fastest of my socks, hence the need for a backup pair.
  • Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion (#1466), 3 pairs. These are my casual cool(er) weather socks. Again, I can reliably get two days out of a pair (merino blend) — I only took three pairs on a two week camping trip.
  • Darn Tough Tactical No Show Light (#T4037), 3 pairs. These are my summer and workout socks. The Vertex style used to come in all-black, but doesn’t anymore, so I’d go with these in the future. I’m able to get two days or 3+ workouts out of these socks (merino blend). They are the most durable light socks I’ve had, but they do wear out so I like to have a backup pair.
  • Patagonia Capilene Midweight Bottoms & Zip-Neck, 1 each. This is my favorite baselayer. Yes, it is synthetic, but I think it provides an excellent value.

Shoes

  • Merrell Trail Glove 4. These are my go-to sneakers, from everyday to workout. I had the Trail Glove 3 and wore them for a few years and replaced them with these when they wore out.
  • Allen Edmonds Higgins Mill Boot, Brown. I’ve had these boots for a year now and they are very comfortable. The Danite sole makes them safe on wet floors. They straddle casual and business casual for me. Not sure these are the exact replacement I’d pick (especially not at full price), but I like that they are at home in many situations.

Bottoms

  • Outlier Slim Dungarees, 1 pair, Darkindigo. These are my favorite casual pants. They are as comfortable as sweat pants, but look as good or better than jeans. I currently have them in “Gray Shadow” (which is a blue-green color to me), but I think “Darkindigo” is the most versatile color. I find that the main reason I wash these is because they start to bag out. I would, however, have to consider the Strong Dungarees as well, as I’ve heard great things (and briefly owned a pair myself). Although, I wouldn’t need both as they fill the same need.
  • Outlier Futureworks, 1 pair, Phantom Grey or Charcoal Grey. As we’ve said many times, you can’t beat these for business casual pants, especially at the price point of $140.
  • Bluffworks Gramercy Pants, 1 pair, Blue Hour. When I want to look dressier, these are the pants I go to. They still perform well and are very comfortable, but they look closer to wool slacks.
  • Outlier New Way Shorts, 1 pair, Navy. These shorts are great, they perform well but also look good at a restaurant. I currently have the Longs, but think I’d go for the regular length the next time.
  • Myles Momentum Short 2.0, 1 pair, grey. While I love my Patagonia Baggies Long, these shorts keep the functionality as a workout short, but can double as a short for everyday wear. They can easily go from a workout to a coffee shop.
  • Patagonia Quandary Pant, 1 pair. I currently wear the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pant for outdoor activities, but would pick these to replace them. I haven’t found the Ferrosi fabric to be as durable as I like (I have a few snags). I’ve tried the GORUCK offerings, but found the pockets to be lacking.
  • Synthetic Sweat Pants, 1 pair. Have to have something comfortable and warm to lounge in during the winter. Not super picky on these, but do appreciate my Myles Apparel Momentum Pant, although I’m not sure they are worth the price for lounging.

Tops

  • Woo&Prince Crew Neck, 2. My current favorite (nice) merino t-shirt is the Outdoor Voices Merino T-Shirt. I think I’d give the Wool&Prince shirt a shot next as I like that it is nylon core-spun merino, which gives more durability.
  • Y Athletics SilverAir Merino Crew Neck, 2. Still my favorite workout shirt that can easily double as a casual t. The nylon face makes it more durable (I still managed to get pilling with a GORUCK bag while hiking though) while keeping the comfort of merino against your skin.
  • Wool&Prince Button-Down, 2. My current favorite is the Burgundy Oxford. The thicker fabric is beautiful and does a better job at resisting wrinkles as compared to the lighter fabric. I’d probably pick up that and one in light blue or grey.
  • Bluffworks Meridian Dress Shirt, 1, Peak Blue Tattersall. I think this is my favorite dress shirt. It looks normal and is comfortable, all while remaining wrinkle resistant and durable. While it is only good for one wear, it dries quickly.
  • Patagonia R1 Pullover, 1. This pulls double duty as a top and an insulating layer for me. It looks nice enough to be a casual sweater when it’s cold and it also is surprisingly warm for its thickness. It has become a key part of my cool weather wardrobe.

Outerwear

  • Arc’teryx Proton LT. This would replace my current down insulation layer. While down is great for packability and warmth to weight ratio, it falls short in wet conditions. And by wet conditions, I don’t just mean precipitation, but at times when you are putting out a lot of heat. The Proton LT is very breathable and has continuous synthetic insulation (which is supposed to be the most durable). I also find the cut of Arc’teryx jackets to be fairly stylish (at least for a technical forward jacket).
  • Patagonia Torrentshell. While I love the hood on my Outdoor Research Helium II, the lack of pockets drives me crazy sometimes. This jacket remains well priced and packable, while adding pockets and pit zips. This also can double as a windbreaker.
  • Wool&Prince Blazer. While the fabric has changed, I have been so impressed with the one I have, I know this would be the one to get. It is still half-lined, so it continues to have a great unstructured look and breaths much better than a fully lined blazer.
Starting from Scratch – Base Wardrobe, Steve

OxiClean and Merino Wool

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:

  • Spot treated with Kookaburra, then washed. No change.
  • Spot treated with white vinegar, then washed. No change.
  • Spot treated with dish soap, then washed. No change.
  • Spot treated with baking soda paste, then washed. Slightly better by about 4%.

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.

The Problem

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.

First Go

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.

Second Go

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.

After which:

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.

Overall

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.

OxiClean and Merino Wool

Watch Guide

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.

Dress Watches

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:

  • Tissot has a couple options to consider as well.
  • Hamilton’s Intramatic is a fantastic choice, but is more expensive.
  • Dan Henry’s 1947 is more unique — something you are not likely to see on many people’s wrists.
  • Seiko 5 Automatic at $80 is about as inexpensive as it gets, but you’ll need to get a leather band for it.

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.

Casual Watches

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:

  • Diver Watches: These are modeled after the classic Rolex Submariner, and could be dressed up in a pinch, but are best suited to casual wear. Take a look at offerings from: Orient, Casio, Seiko, and Steinhart. I’d start with the Seiko, but can vouch for the Steinhart being worth the price if you want a solid piece.
  • Field Watch: These are a more classic and timeless look, and are modeled after a military watch which was issued to infantry or officers. The top one to look at is Hamilton, for next to nothing at $40 you can grab a well known Timex, for in between the two take a look at MWC who makes all sorts of Field Watches with cool things in them (like tritium vials). Another to look at is Lum-Tec who does limited runs and makes beautiful watches which are very durable — but they cost more.
  • Aviator Watch: Like with field watches, these are basically what was given to pilots in WWII era. They are marked by having an triangle at the 12 position and don’t have standard hour marks. Seiko has a inexpensive option while the likes of Steinhart has much better looking and quality options. I generally would stay steer clear of these unless you already have other watches and want to branch out.
  • Chronographs: These are watches for timing things and generally have multiple push buttons on the case, with the most popular being Omega’s ‘moon watch’, the Speedmaster. You shouldn’t buy that, everyone owns one and there are better options. I’ll skip over the obvious choices and point out two ridiculously affordable options, which also make quite a bit of a style statement: Dan Henry’s 1963 and Undone’s Tropical Vintage line. Personally, I’m torn between which one will be my next watch.

Conclusion

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.

Watch Guide

Layering for Warmth

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.

Why Layers?

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.

How to Layer

My layering system consists of a thermal baselayer, a shirt and/or insulating midlayer, and a shell for wind, rain, or snow.

Baselayer

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.

Midlayer

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.

Shell

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.

Conclusions

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.

Layering for Warmth

Performance Fabric Blends

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.

Natural/Synthetic

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

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 Blends

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.

NYCO

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.

All Synthetic Blends

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).

Brand Name Blends

Outlier

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.

Schoeller

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

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.

New, Cutting Edge Technologies

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.

Wrap-up

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.

Performance Fabric Blends

Car Camping in the Rain, a Retrospective

Over the last weekend of June, I went car camping in western Washington with a two other people and all of our kids. It was a great time, and the second year we did this. This year it rained for most of the trip, even though it was forecast to only have a ‘few’ showers.

I didn’t pack anything for real rain.

Let’s start with what I did pack, as I packed light:

My thinking was that I could use the Simple Windbreaker for the passing rain, as it repels that just fine, and my Rogue jacket whenever it got cool (it’s the perfect jacket for that type of weather). The reality was two and a half days of near constant rain during the day. I spent an entire afternoon on a boat, and part of that was in the rain in Puget Sound.

In other words: I was not prepared for this at all — truthfully only our kids were as we always overpack for them.

However, things were not nearly as bad as they seemed. I basically lived in one of the t-shirts, the Sequence, and the Simple Windbreaker during the day, with the Simple pants as well. My Salomons take quite a bit to soak through, and only did one time, drying fast. Because of the materials used in these clothing items I stayed warm and pretty dry. Even when the windbreaker soaked through, sitting by the fire dried it fast (be careful with synthetics and heat sources), and the merino layers did their work to keep me warm, and dried themselves fast.

One night I had to wear flip flops to deal with the boat, and my feet got a bit muddy. I rinsed them off with water, but not wanting to use a towel to dry them, I put on my merino socks and never once noticed that my feet were anything but comfortable. That was pretty amazing.

The entire trip was a testament to what we mean on Everyday Wear when we talk about “better clothing”. I was entirely unprepared for the weather, and it could have sucked. In my mind I knew that even if it got bad, these clothes should do their job and keep me less miserable, but theory is different than practice. And yet, in practice, I was far more comfortable that I ever thought I would be.

I was cold twice, which isn’t too bad, and even then only for 10 minutes or so until the fire warmed me up. A large part of this is having a good heat source and fast drying clothes. Even when it was raining on me, I could start drying my clothes just by sitting near the fire.

Looking back, I would have liked to have had a true rain jacket with me. That said, this trip gave me a new level of confidence in the clothing we are testing. It’s one thing to talk about how fast merino wool dries when you wash it, and quite another to experience it keeping you warm, comfortable, and drying fast when you are camping in the rain.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this during the trip. I never actually felt wet on my back or shoulders, but I knew I was wet. I just felt slightly cooler in those spots for a moment. I don’t recall my pants ever feeling wet, nor being wet when I went to bed. But I do know I sat in more than a few wet chairs.

This isn’t to say you should be foolish and camp without proper rain gear, that was stupid on my part. But should you be caught out in the rain walking home from work or to work, and you’re buying the type of clothing we talk about here, it’s going to make your life noticeably less bad. It will be the difference between a ruined event, and a minor footnote of the event.

That, in the end, is what we are talking about when we say “performance clothing”.

Car Camping in the Rain, a Retrospective

Aerogel Insulation

We’ve recently noticed a new type of insulation showing up in outerwear. Many sites promote it as “NASA-inspired”, and they are not wrong. What we’re talking about here is aerogel, a very high tech and unique insulating material that found its original applications from NASA.

How does insulation work?

Outwear keeps you warm in three ways: conduction, radiation, and convection. Conduction occurs when objects are in contact (heat always moves from warm to cool), radiation is the transfer of heat as electromagnetic radiation (the body radiates mainly in the infrared region), and convection is the transfer of heat through fluid motion (air is a fluid, so wind causes convective heat loss).
Insulation helps slow conduction by trapping air, which has a low thermal conductivity.

Two common measurements of insulation value in outerwear include the insulation weight (in grams) and fill power. Weight is just what you’d expect — the weight of one square meter of insulation. Typically, warmer insulation is heavier. Fill power is the volume one ounce of insulation fills (higher fill is warmer because it traps more air).

What is aerogel?

Imagine a gel (gels are mostly liquid with a 3D solid network to hold them together) where the liquid is replaced with air — that’s aerogel (>98% air). Due to the size of the pores that contain the air, the thermal conductivity of an aerogel is far lower than insulation filled with air. Due to this extremely low thermal conductivity, aerogel insulation can retain its insulation ability even when compressed. This is due to the fact that while you can compress the air out of fibers embedded with aerogel (or in the case of an aerogel sheet, there isn’t much air to compress out), the aerogel itself is not compressed and still provides significant insulation.

The biggest issue with aerogel when it was first developed was that it is rigid and easily breaks into a powder. Since then various advances have given it some flexibility.

OROS

While it appears that other companies have made jackets from aerogel, OROS Apparel seems to have the oldest jacket still on the market. They developed what they call SolarCore, which is an aerogel in a polymer sheet. SolarCore is breathable and water-resistant, retains its insulation under compression (something many insulations can’t do), and is very thin and light. Their warmest jacket, the Orion Parka, claims to have been tested in stormy and below zero conditions — I’d say that’s a warm jacket!

PrimaLoft Cross Core and L.L.Bean

Just recently, L.L.Bean announced an outerwear exclusive with PrimaLoft for their new Cross Core technology. PrimaLoft has developed a way to fuse aerogel particles into their PrimaLoft Gold insulation fibers (here’s the patent if you’re curious) — this is called “PrimaLoft Gold Insulation with Cross Core”. Right now you can find this insulation in the L.L.Bean Packaway Jackets and the new line of Ultralight Sleeping Bags (35 °F semi-rectangular, 20 °F rectangular, 20 °F mummy, 0 °F mummy). The ability to retain insulation when compressed is a big plus for a sleeping bag, and not even the current standard, down, can claim this. Also, they seem to be at least half the weight of a comparable down bag (but they compress to a similar size).

Outdoor Research

Outdoor Research has also announced gloves utilizing a PrimaLoft aerogel technology (called “PrimaLoft Gold Aerogel”) for Fall 2018. We haven’t been able to find much information on these gloves, but they will most likely be unique in their thickness to warmth ratio. Also, from what we can find, it looks like this is a different technology in which the aerogel is encapsulated in a sheet that is not very breathable.

The Future?

We are excited to see how PrimaLoft builds on this technology as well as how our favorite outdoor brands utilize these two different types of aerogel insulation for the apparel industry.

Aerogel Insulation

Outlier Pants: Overview

When I talk about Outlier pants with people who are not familiar with the brand, I do so by taking great pains to call them “technical versions of normal pants”, instead of trying to call them cycling pants, or travel pants — because for many people they’ll be more stylish than the pants they currently wear and those terms don’t do them justice. Outlier pants will also be more comfortable, durable, and versatile than almost any other pants.

So when it comes to Outlier, I’ve not found anyone making better pants. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on the pants they sell, where they fit in, and my advice on each of them.

Slim Dungarees

This isn’t Outlier’s first/original pant, but it is what they consider their ‘core’ pant (I own two pairs). What’s hard to get over with these pants is just how poorly named they are, and that name really frustrates a lot of people. Initially, I didn’t buy them, because I’m not a skin tight pants type of guy, and thus I was worried these would be far too slim. However, these pants are a fairly standard tailored cut.

At the same time, I’ve seen a few people talk about how unhappy they are that these pants are not slimmer. So the name is working against Outlier on both sides. (Then there’s Steve, who will point out that they were far too slim in the thighs for him.)

Overall, these are my favorite Outlier pants, as they are incredibly versatile and comfortable. They don’t have a magical amount of stretch, but they have enough stretch and are designed well enough that I never find discomfort. They are the very core of the Outlier pants, because they are the best to start with and by far the best all around option.

I wouldn’t hesitate to do anything in these pants, and yet they look like a nice pair of jeans. I started this guide with these pants for a reason, because everything else on this list is somehow less versatile than the Slim Dungarees. However, as comfortable as these pants are, they have nothing on some of the other options. I wear these about 80% of the time.

Find them here.

Futureworks

For the Futureworks, Outlier made a pair of chinos with F.Cloth — a very stretchy and lightweight material. These pants are going to feel thin when you put them on, and yet they drape well enough that I’ve never had anyone point them out as being out of place in an office setting. They look like chinos, but can be comfortably warn in very warm climates. I’ve worn them in 90 °F+ humid weather in Houston and been fine.

They are very comfortable and almost like a cheat code. For over six months they were my go to, daily wear pants. However, they look like chinos and this might make them too dressy for many people. They also don’t handle colder weather well without a layer under them. I’d say you want to stay about 50 °F to not be chilled wearing them. That said, if you need a pair of pants from Outlier to wear in a more traditional office setting which are still insanely technical and awesome: these are the pants you get. (And they are more roomy in the thighs, but still slim enough for them to fit and look tailored for Steve.)

Find them here.

Strongworks

Strongworks are not a variant of Futureworks, as the cut is different yet they look similar. They are made from Outlier’s Strongtwill, which is heavy and very durable. If you wanted a pair of pants that don’t look like jeans for the cooler months, these are them.

I wore a pair for an entire winter and while I liked them, I eventually came to dislike the cut of the pant. It’s an acquired taste and thus you should pay close attention to Outlier’s dimensions and press images on this pair of pants.

Not currently for sale.

Strong Dungarees

This is Outlier’s take of a heavier pair of 5-pocket jeans. They are similar, but not the same cut, as Slim Dungarees — they are generally a little bigger. (Steve finds they fit him in the thighs well, unlike the Slim Dungarees. If anything, they fit even larger in the thighs than the Futureworks.) They utilize the same Strongtwill as the Strongworks, and are thus just as durable.

They are also very comfortable to wear, and as long as the temp is below 50 °F, they are among the better pants to wear from Outlier. They also look closer to a non-synthetic material than even the Slim Dungarees (they look the least technical of all the Outlier pants). What they lack in stretch, they make up for with signature Outlier treatments like a gusseted crotch and more.

Find them here.

OG Climbers

These are made from Outlier’s OG Cloth, and this is the stretchiest, most insane fabric you can get. They are styled very casually, fit and wear casually, and I describe them like wearing loose fitting yoga pants — you won’t want to take them off. OK, I’ve never worn yoga pants, but this is what I imagine wearing yoga pants is like.

If you want something for outdoors wear, you could do a lot worse than these — as they were made for actually climbing in. I personally find my pair much to casual to wear out of the house unless I am hiking in them, but I do wear them everyday when I am lounging around. They are the most comfortable pair of pants I’ve ever owned — including warm ups and sweat pants. If you live a casual life, start here.

Find them here.

OG Classics

I’ve not owned these pants, but they are the same material as the Climbers, with a more formal and dressy look. They are also Outlier’s first pant. I’ve long wanted a pair, but my experience with the OG cloth leads me to believe that they wouldn’t find much use, as the OG material does not look or drape correctly enough to get away with wearing these in more formal settings. Perhaps there’s a difference here, but I am skeptical. (Steve ordered these and found the fabric too shiny and the drape off so he sent them right back.)

If you have an office that is borderline business causal, you could wear these all day and look sharp. Any more formal than that, and I think you would be pushing it. However, if you work in a restaurant, these might be the game changer for you if Reddit posts are to be believed (then again, the price will really hurt).

Find them here.

60/30 Chinos

The 60/30 Chinos (a cotton/nylon/spandex blend) are a great pair of pants if you don’t think you can pull off technical pants (even if they don’t look technical). They move, they are durable, and are treated with DWR for a little extra water resistance, but they are still mostly cotton. And while these NYCO blends can be quite good, they won’t perform nearly as well as most of the other pants on this list. They will, however, blend right in with every other pair of chinos. For the price, I’d rather have any other pair of pants on this list.

Find them here.

New Way Shorts (Long and Regular)

While these aren’t pants, they do deserve an honorable mention for quite possibly being the most versatile shorts money can buy. Made from Outlier’s F.Cloth (same as Futureworks) they are breathable, durable, look sharp, and dry quick enough that you can swim in them. Yes, they’ll dry slower than purpose built swim trunks, but the mesh drains in the bottom of the pockets will allow you to swim without issue.

These are my go to shorts, the only ones I own, and I’d highly recommend them. They come in a long variant as well, for those who prefer more length in their shorts. (Steve also recommends these shorts.)

Find them here.

Others

Outlier makes a ton of other pants, from joggers to merino wool “backed” pants made for colder climates. While there are far too many options to dive into, I will point out that they tend to use a core set of fabrics, so it pays to look at what the above pants use for fabric to help guide you on some of their infrequent offerings.

For instance if you want Futureworks, but a trimmer style, look out for Futuretapers. Outlier seems to come out with a couple new runs of pants every month, so keep an eye out.

Outlier Pants: Overview

Workout Shirt Odor Resistance Comparison

If you’ve been around the performance clothing world, you should be well versed in the odor resistant properties of merino wool. While many tout the “magical” properties, we have not seen many head-to-head tests of merino vs. other fabrics for odor resistance.

The Test

I picked out three of my workout tees for this test — standard 100% polyester (Nike Dri-FIT), Olivers Convoy Tee (100% merino, our review), and Pistol Lake Minimalist Performance Tee (Lightweight Eudae, our review). I wore each shirt for my standard workouts (kettlebell or rowing), hanging to dry overnight, until each started to smell. The tests were repeated two times each.

100% Polyester

This shirt smelled after just one workout. The smell was bad enough that even if I were in the woods, I wouldn’t have wanted to give it a second wear. When dry, especially in winter, polyester gets terrible static cling. When wet or sweaty, polyester clings to your body in the worst way possible.

Eudae

Eudae is a 76% polyester, 19% Tencel, and 5% spandex blend. I was able to get a respectable four workouts out of this shirt. If I were hiking I could have probably pushed it another day or two. Eudae is my favorite lightweight material — it is amazingly soft and comfortable, with just the right amount of stretch to get out of your way at the gym. It looks and drapes just like cotton, and does a great job wicking sweat without getting that damp clingy feeling.

Merino

100% merino turned out to be the champ. I was able to get eight-plus workouts out of this shirt. And really, when I decided to wash, it was because it was getting a little dirty looking. Merino is on par with Eudae on sweat wicking, however is not as good looking or comfortable. In the looks department, merino tends to have a slight shine and doesn’t quite drape like cotton (it almost has a “heavy” look). As for comfort, 100% merino has a decent amount of stretch for exercise, but it can sometimes be slightly scratchy when compared to other materials (this depends on the grade of merino).

Conclusion

If you want the best odor resistance, nothing beats 100% merino. If durability is important, you can find merino/nylon blends, but expect the odor resistance to decrease with increasing nylon content. For comfort and looks with respectable odor resistance, go with the Eudae. And the polyester — just forget it.

These performance tees can also become part of your regular wardrobe. With the extended wear you can get from them, it becomes easy to justify the higher prices (all while slimming down your wardrobe).

Workout Shirt Odor Resistance Comparison