Triple Aught Design Traverse Tech T

I picked up one of Triple Aught Design’s merino blend shirts, the Traverse Tech T, while it was on sale. Like all other blends, these shirts perform well, with varying compromises in each. Let’s dive into the particulars of this one.

Material

The shirt is a 150 gsm material of 86% merino and 14% nylon. There’s no listed micron for the merino, but if I had to guess I would put it at the rougher end of the spectrum, likely somewhere around 18 micron. Overall the shirt is very thin feeling and smooth with no sheen at all. On my body the material feels a little rougher, and those bothered by wool in general will likely want to pass on this as the merino is not so fine as to remove all the wool scratch.

However, I have yet to have any issues with the wool on this shirt, and it is thinner than most offerings I have tried (with the Dreamweight being the only one thinner), while still looking like a standard tee shirt.

Fit

This shirt is cut with a more athletic style, which puts it closer to your body and not in the boxy shirt realm. I found the size Large to fit me incredibly well, exactly how I prefer t-shirts to fit.

Of all the merino wool shirts I have tested, this one fits me the best. I have no complaints at all. I will note that since the fit is less relaxed, you might want to adjust your sizing accordingly.

Where It Sits

This shirt performs as well as any merino wool shirt, and thus I’ll skip right over talking about that. At $70 new (I paid $35 for it on sale) it has a lot of competition. Notably the Outdoor Voices Merino T-Shirt, and the Wool&Prince T-Shirt. The Traverse can not compete with Outdoor Voices based solely on the price, at $55 your money is better spent on Outdoor Voices. Both have great athletic fits, and are thin and casual.

Wool&Prince is a different situation entirely, as I find this to be slightly less casual looking as it is heavier and adds a slight sheen to the material. Again, at $68, it is essentially the same price as the Traverse, but the fit isn’t as good.

There is nothing stand out unique about the Traverse, other than the thinness of the shirt. I do not know the weight of the Outdoor Voices shirt, but it is not lighter than the Traverse. The Traverse seems like a great shirt for those who want a thinner merino t-shirt with the added durability of a nylon blend.

This is not the best or softest shirt, but it is one of the thinner and better fitting shirts I have tried. There’s nothing wrong with it, but the fit is the only thing that stands out. Wait for another sale, or save some money and get the Outdoor Voices shirt. If you truly want a thin shirt, get the exceptional Dreamweight t-shirt I reviewed earlier. It is thinner and softer.

Triple Aught Design Traverse Tech T

Outlier Dreamweight T

Note: this item was provided by Outlier for the purposes of review.

The Outlier Dreamweight T takes all the luxury in the Ultrafine T-Shirt and stops it down to a t-shirt which feels too thin and too soft to exist. It’s extremely light, which is where the name comes from.

Material

This is a merino and nylon blend shirt, which is 75% 16.5 micron merino, 25% nylon for a 110 gsm weight. First, notice how fine the micron is on the merino — it’s insanely soft in hand feel. But the bigger deal here is the “intimate” process Outlier talks about with the nylon blending.

I’ll let Abe from Outlier explain it (from his comment on Reddit):

Lots of differences but the biggest is the intimate blend we use versus two different nylon filament techniques. This stuff is intimately blended which means chopped up nylon staples are mixed with wool staples before the mixture is spun into a yarn.

The most common way to combine wool and nylon is core spun, where there is a nylon filament in the middle and the wool is wrapped around. There are also some “beta spun” ones that invert that technique, the wool is in the middle and thin nylon filament are wrapped around the outside to protect the wool yarn. Both these techniques are good for making durable stuff but tend to lose some of merino’s softness. The intimate blend adds nylon strength but if anything it actually makes for an even softer fabric than pure merino.

Typically I can tell when a shirt has nylon in it, versus when it is pure merino. Had I not known beforehand that this shirt had nylon in it — I would have had no clue. It’s softer and thinner than any other merino shirt I have — blend or not. The material is amazing

Fit

I think the fit is the most interesting aspect of this. As I mentioned it is really light, so that lends the shirt to two primary use cases: a shirt for warm weather, or a shirt to wear as a base layer. The material works great for both, but you likely need to adjust the size you order based on how you want to use it. I ordered my standard Outlier size of XL and washed it and dried in on low per the label. The standard thought is it should shrink a bit.

It still fits looser than my Ultrafine T-Shirts of the same size, but not so much so that I would necessarily want to size down. However, if I wanted it as an undershirt, I would size down for sure. At my normal size, the shirt is a great fit for warmer weather where you don’t want your clothing clinging to your body.

The neck is wider on the dreamweight.
The neck is wider on the dreamweight.

Compared to my Ultrafine T-Shirts (I have two, different colors from different time periods) it is larger is most respects by a touch. It’s longer, and wider, with larger arm openings.

Performance

This shirt performs amazingly well — better than any other t-shirt I own currently. It’s cool and breathes very well. It dries very fast, and resists odor on par with any 100% merino shirt.

From a performance aspect it’s an extremely light weight version of the Ultrafine T-Shirt with no drawbacks for how much thinner it is. It’s the shirt you want for hot weather if you want to stick with merino wool.

There’s one other aspect, and that’s the hand feel. This shirt is amazing feeling. It’s not fragile feeling at all, and I do not think I own a softer feeling shirt than this one. It’s the kind of shirt that makes you wish you could wear nothing but this shirt all the time.

Drawbacks

There are two drawbacks to this shirt. The first is the sizing issue I mentioned in the fit section — you’ll want to wear it under stuff but will have a hard time doing that unless you size down. Luckily, this is as easy as ordering two shirts in different sizes.

The second issue is the collar of the shirt. I find it to be a larger opening, which from a style standpoint is fine. It’s great for under other shirts, or in warm weather. The issue is that this is a more casual look, which means it should look crisp and here is where the shirt fails. The neck is very prone to ‘bacon neck’ where the collar has ripples in it like bacon out of the fry pan.

It’s not a complete deal breaker, but it certainly is a setback for what would otherwise be a near perfect shirt. I have noticed that drying the shirt flat and being careful when you dry it will minimize this issue, but using a dryer on low exacerbates the issue.

Overall

I love this shirt, and if it were not for the bacon neck, I would likely only buy these going forward. However, the fit is a bit odd, and I would like to try one size smaller before I fully commit. That said, in hot weather I can’t see wearing the Ultrafine instead of this shirt.

It is fantastic and the hand-feel of the shirt certainly lives up to its name. The neck issue is not an issue for the most part if you dry the shirt carefully, and because of that, I would highly recommend this shirt to anyone looking for a nice undershirt, or a fantastic light weight t-shirt.

Go get one.

Outlier Dreamweight T

Outlier Grid Linen Towel

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

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

Material

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

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

Why

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

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

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

Use

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caveat

There are just two caveats with this towel:

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

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

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

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

Overall

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

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

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

Outlier Grid Linen Towel

Ben’s Packing List: 2/11/19

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

For this trip I wore:

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

Ben’s Packing List: 2/11/19

Massdrop Peak Merino Hoodie

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

Fabric

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

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

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

A Note on Cleaning

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

  1. A Hoodie
  2. A Merino Garment

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

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

Fit and Style

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

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

Performance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall

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

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

Massdrop Peak Merino Hoodie

Bluffworks Departure Jeans

Note: these were provided by Bluffworks for this review.

The best I can recall, it’s been 2 years since I owned a pair of jeans, and perhaps a little longer since I wore them at that. So the Bluffworks Departure Jeans are my first jeans in quite some time, and I will fully admit that it was weird for me (and for my wife) for me to be wearing jeans again. At the same time, these are super comfortable jeans.

The idea with these jeans is that there are some people who refuse to give up denim, and thus they should be offered a better pair for travel. Bluffworks did this with a custom material, as well as adding a few slick features.

Material

First thing you need to understand is that these are not like many of the “modern” 5-pocket type of pants we talk about. They are not made from a completely technical, non-cotton material. They are trying to improve upon jeans, while still keeping them jeans. To that end, Bluffworks came up with a blend of: 68% Cotton, 22% COOLMAX Polyester, 9% Rayon, and 1% Spandex. There’s a lot going on there, but suffice to say they basically feel like a stretchy pair of standard jeans, even the weight/warmth feels like jeans.

These feel closest to a pair of jeans I had which were made by Mavi, meaning they are very soft to the touch. They look and act mostly like traditional denim with the stretch barely noticeable. Happily, the jeans will easily cuff and remain cuffed — something which more technical materials still find mostly elusive.

The COOLMAX is the biggest addition, which is a fiber designed for moisture wicking and breathability. Given that we are in the dead of winter, I have yet to be able to test anything about this aspect of the pants. I will note that they don’t seem to dry any faster than standard jeans when they get wet.

Travel Pockets

I’ll first start by saying that I really hate it when clothing manufacturers add zippered pockets to clothing. These types of pockets almost always look silly and get in the way. The Departure Jeans have two of these zippered pockets on the back, which are hidden in the seam above the standard back pockets.

What’s really amazing here is that you cannot tell these pockets exist in any way. The inner part of the actual pocket is a thin and almost nonexistent material. On the outside of the pants the zipper is perfectly hidden and perhaps the most discrete zippered pockets out there.

What this all means is that if, like me, you wish pockets like this didn’t exist then these won’t bother you at all. However, if you do like having secure pockets like these, then they are here for you and are the best I have seen.

Comfort and Wear

I have been wearing these jeans non-stop since I got them, with only one day (while they were being washed) switching back to the pants I normally wear. I’ve found them to be extremely comfortable. There’s no doubt about it, for non-travel and casual lounging wear, cotton still is king. These pants prove that out.

Moreover, they move very freely, more so than any other jeans I have owned. I have had no issues working in the yard, folding piles of laundry on the floor, watching TV, chasing the kids, or any other activity I’ve done while wearing these. If nothing else, these move extremely well.

The fit on these is classic, not slim or baggy. They also look identical to standard jeans. There’s nothing to tell people that they are anything but ordinary jeans one way or the other. The wash is accurate at a medium, but I might prefer a slightly darker wash. All in all, I have no complaints whatsoever in the comfort department.

Travel Friendly?

I think the elephant in the room for me is whether or not these work for travel. This is largely going to depend on how you travel. If you are among the many people who simply refuse to travel anywhere without jeans, then these are certainly a better option that what you normally pack. Bluffworks says that these are 11oz per yard, whereas most jeans are 14oz — that’s hard to conceptualize, so think of it that these jeans are going to weigh less than standard jeans.

However, if you are someone who wears more technical pants (like me) then you’d be hard pressed to want to travel with these. They will not dry very fast if you sink wash them. They won’t repel dirt or grime any better than standard denim. And they will take up more space than your technical pants.

Where these really fit in for me is in the classic style domain. If I am not flying to my destination, I wouldn’t have a good reason not to pack these. So while they may not be the best option for a jet setter, they are a very good option for a weekend away. How much better than a standard jean — for that you’re going to have to ask someone who regularly wears jeans.

Overall

One thing I tested with these is a wash and dryer cycle. Though, not recommended, I found that tossing them into the dryer only barely shrunk the waist, while nipping a bit more off the length of the jeans. I mostly did this to break them in a bit more, and because I find myself in between sizes with my pair being slightly too big in the waist. I wouldn’t recommend you do this, but the pants didn’t fall apart when I did.

My only nitpick about these jeans is the fifth pocket, which seems unnecessarily large. Other than that, these are very comfortable and classic looking jeans. The price is right in line with what I always paid for jeans, and is certainly less expensive than most other pants I buy.

These are jeans, and if evaluated solely against other jeans, they rank very high for me. Evaluated against more technical five pocket pants, they only win on aesthetics. That said, there are very few Americans who don’t own, or like wearing, jeans and these are a particularly comfortable pair of them.

Bluffworks Departure Jeans

Proof Nova Series Insulated Jacket

I have been testing the Proof Nova Series Insulated Jacket for about a month now, and found it to be quite impressive. The jacket is billed as an insulated jacket for travel and adventure, which is in line with the other clothing Proof produces.

Material

This jacket is made of two materials, with the insulation being PrimaLoft Gold at 60 g, and the shell being a “Japanese four-way stretch nylon fabric, with a durable water repellent finish”. I know what to expect with PrimaLoft Gold, but I have no clue what this outer fabric is.

Nylon with stretch? When I got it I found that the nylon itself is very thing feeling, and the stretch is, well, very stretchy. I expected the jacket to have just a touch of stretch, but instead the jacket has a good amount of 4-way stretch. So much so that the jacket fits me rather snug (good for a mid layer, or something you don’t want a lot of bulk under) and if it were not for the stretch, I would need to go up a size. However, the stretch allows the jacket to fit me a little closer, while not restricting my movement in anyway. This is rather impressive.

The nylon, while being thin, feels durable and overall offers me no worries about wearing this as a primary outer layer. The thickness is in line with other jackets of this nature, like Patagonia’s popular Nano Puff Jacket. I will note that the nylon used by Proof is a matte finish and thus offers a unique look.

Warmth

This jacket is warm. PrimaLoft Gold is great synthetic insulation, and proven to work well. This jacket is no exception, and the biggest issue I have had with this jacket is that it is often too warm to wear in a lot of situations. I am only able to drive while wearing this jacket if I am only wearing a t-shirt under it.

I recently reviewed the Triple Aught Design Catalyst Field shirt, and while that weighs more, it is about half as warm as this Nova jacket. After buying this jacket, I am confident I will not need to get a heavier down jacket at all. This is all the warmth I need.

The unfortunate part is that the jacket doesn’t breath well. So when you move into say a store, you will have been warm outside, and now will start to overheat being inside. You’ll need to remove the jacket. Even unzipped I have at times found the jacket too warm. The best way I have found to mitigate this is to wear the jacket with only a t-shirt under it.

In temps below 44 degrees F, this jacket excels, but it has been unseasonably warm in the Pacific Northwest so far this winter.

Comfort

This jacket is very comfortable and cozy to wear. The materials used form well to my body and move fairly easily. The stretch is a little odd, as it offers more resistance than you might expect, but once you start stretching it moves decently well.

Overall it’s a warm jacket with stretch, so it’s perfectly comfortable.

Packing

The compressibility of this jacket is less than what you get with down jackets, but the jacket does come with a stuff sack which is attached to the inside of the breast pocket. As with most synthetic insulated jackets, this doesn’t pack down to any impressive size. The stuff sack does help get the jacket out of the way, but it is made out of a stretch material, so the compression offered by the stuff sack is limited. It is also sized a bit too large for the jacket, thus affording extra room.

All in all, I don’t think it is fair to call this jacket packable. Yes, it is very svelte in the overall weight, but I’ve had lighter and warmer down jackets which pack down to a much smaller size. This is always going to be the trade off.

Style

This jacket is as basic as it comes. It is designed to cut more athletic in looks, and yet be simple enough that it can reasonably blend in anywhere. I think the big thing to note about the style of the jacket, is that it doesn’t look tacticool, nor does it look like a jacket for hiking.


It’s simple and fairly innocuous in design. The biggest miss for me with the style is the collar, as it leans into your neck instead of standing up on its own. I think this looks a bit odd, and am unsure if this is something unique to my body or not.

A Few Complaints

This jacket isn’t perfect and thus there are a few areas I think need improvement:

Stuff sack: It’s too big and too stretchy. It needs to be smaller and not stretchy. I also don’t understand why it is connected. I am removing it so I can ditch it from the jacket.

Wrinkling: The material of this jacket is prone to wrinkling, which sucks when you stuff it into a stuff sack for travel. It can get quite wrinkly and the wrinkles don’t fall out that quickly. Typically it takes about 3-4 hours wearing the jacket before the wrinkles release.

Pocket zippers: The zippers for the exterior pockets are very small, and the zipper pulls are even smaller. They are hard to operate. The stretch on the material means that you often need two hands to open the pockets, and it can be quite difficult to open and close them without the jacket itself zipped up. It’s nice they are zipped, but they are hard to use.

Cuffs: The jacket sues a narrow elastic band for the cuffs, which is pretty typical of this style/type of jackets. However, they are almost rolled under, so that you do not see the actual cuff when you wear the jacket. It’s really odd and makes the cuff catch on my watch when I put the jacket on. It also looks a little odd and takes some getting used to.

Overall

Despite the small little issues I have with the jacket, I really do like it. I had been considering many of the more common mid-layer insulated jackets, and am glad I went with this one over those. It strikes the right balance with style and performance. I am glad it is as warm as it is, and prefer jackets to trend in that direction over being not warm enough.

What I like the most is that this jacket moves really well, fits great, and doesn’t look like something I just came from a hiking trail wearing. I could see taking this jacket anytime I need a warm layer when I travel, and will likely wear it a ton this winter.

Proof Nova Series Insulated Jacket

Proof Passage Tee

One of the most common things I hear from people when I tell them to buy merino wool t-shirts is that wool is too scratchy for them, or the person they want to get a shirt for. While I don’t find merino wool scratchy, and many people agree on that, there are still some who do. The issue is that the majority of non-merino shirts out there don’t perform nearly as well as wool. Which brings us to the Proof Passage Tee.

I used to tell people to go buy Pistol Lake’s Minimalist Tee (our review). Both of us were surprised by the performance of the Eudae fabric, but the shirt is very lightweight and more geared towards an athletic look. Proof makes technical clothing with the traveler in mind, and they do it out of a range of fabrics. The brand (formerly Proof NYC) is now owned wholly by Huckberry and sold through them.

I picked up their Passage Tee on a whim and have been impressed by it since. I bought another too. Let’s dive in.

Fabric

This shirt is a cotton blend of: 48% cotton / 47% polyester / 5% spandex. This isn’t specifically listed, but I am confident it is treated with some anti-odor chemical as well, but we cannot determine which.

The fabric itself feels like some of the softest cotton out there. It’s very soft, almost feeling slightly fuzzy at times. The shirt stretches well, and is thick enough that you will have no worries about any see through aspects, and yet light enough that it packs well.

Comfort

The moment you put this shirt on, it is comfortable. Nothing beats soft cotton against your skin. The shirt is made even more comfortable with the addition of stretch and moisture wicking. It’s not as moisture controlling as a wool shirt, but it is far better than straight cotton. It’s almost as good as wool for general wear when it comes to moisture.

The stretch seemed like an odd choice to me in a t-shirt, but it works out quite well. Allowing the arm openings to be cut closer to the body, without restricting the movement of your body. The stretch isn’t a ton, but it’s more than enough for this shirt to make it a really nice touch.

At the end of a long day, I am generally happier with a merino t-shirt, but for shorter wears this Passage Tee is really hard to beat for comfort. Because, while it doesn’t quite have the performance of merino which aides in comfort throughout the day, it feels very relaxing to wear.

Performance

My benchmark for performance is that I generally can get 4-5 days of wear with merino, and 3-4 with something like Pistol Lake’s shirt. I find the Passage Tee to be about a 2-3 wears shirt. If I air it out for longer between wears, I might be able to get an extra day. Cotton kills this for a ton of wears in a row.

However, that’s not to say this shirt doesn’t perform well, because it is quite impressive for a shirt with such high cotton content. I first tested the shirt by wearing it for 24 hours straight, airing it out for 8 hours, and then wearing it for another 12 hours. It didn’t stink so bad after all of that, but it smelled enough that I would prefer not to wear it again without washing it.

Speaking of washing, the shirt dries well when hanging. It’s not as fast as a merino shirt, but it is pretty quick drying overall.

Overall

As I mentioned at the start of this review, I bought a second of this shirt. The Passage Tee is the pure comfort of a well worn cotton t-shirt with much better performance. It’s not something I’ll be traveling with, but if I know I am going somewhere to relax and lounge, it is the shirt I would want to have.

At standard retail of $42, it is a decent buy. Right now it is on sale for $28, and at that price it is a steal.

Proof Passage Tee

Starting from Scratch – Base Wardrobe, Ben

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.

Undergarments and Base Layers

This section is pretty easy to go through, as the below are all items I own, and basically all I wear for undergarments.

  • ExOfficio Give-N-Go Boxers, 4 pairs. These are the only underwear I own and wear (aside from any I may be reviewing). I love how they fit, feel, and perform. These were actually the item which got me started on all of the rest of this clothing, because if underwear could be this good, imagine what possibilities lie for the rest of the clothing. These are expensive and I own about 10 pairs right now, but I know I could easily get away with 4 if I were more diligent about doing laundry.
  • Outlier Megafine Socks, 2 pairs. I was really torn about which socks to pick as my day to day socks, but the Megafine socks are too good not to pick. The style and colors are very basic, but they are a good weight, and comfortable. I think they also last the longest of any merino socks I have purchased. The amount was the big one for me, but 2 pairs should be able to last me 3-4 wears each, and that’s plenty.
  • Darn Tough Solid Crew Light (#1617), 1 pair. This is actually the type of sock I wear the most, and is a very nice if light weight sock. They wear out fast for me, so I am limiting it to just a single pair, which I would wear when I need something that looks more dressy.
  • Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion (#1466), 1 pair. I recently got a pair of these to wear when I am rucking, and they are really nice. I can certainly see why hikers love these, so one pair is necessary for my workouts and if the temperature drops and I want a heavier sock.
  • NVSBL Undershirt in nude, 1 shirt. The fabric on this undershirt is very different from anything we typically talk about here, however its also very good. It’s a one and done type of wear, as it does nothing to resist odors. This is my go to when I need to wear an undershirt, but do not want to look like I am wearing one. I own two now, but wear them so infrequently that I know a single shirt would be more than enough.
  • Icebreaker Anatomica Short Sleeve V-Neck, 1 shirt. I think I have had my Anatomica for 4 years now, and its still holding up. This is a great layer for putting under another button down, or general undershirt wear. It is passable as your only shirt in darker colors, but I would choose a lighter color to blend better as an undershirt. This would be what I travel with if I plan on wearing button downs on the trip.
  • Darn Tough Tactical No Show Light (#T4037), 2. For when I wear shorts.

Shoes

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.

  • GORUCK MACV-1, coyote. I currently have the black version and find them pretty ugly looking. The coyote in pictures looks better. These would be dedicated rucking boots for me, as that is my workout I do 4-5 times per week. They would also double for hiking, yard work, and any other wear that is hard use. There’s other options you could go with here, but I think these are a pretty well rounded pair of boots if you are not too worried about looks.
  • Red Wing Iron Rangers. I’ve wanted a pair of these for a while now, but I cannot seem to get my Clark’s Desert Boots to die, so I have yet to have reason to buy these. I would get them with the Vibram mini-lug sole, so that I can wear them year round. I think they are classic and would last a long while. As an alternative, the Clarks Desert Boots with the beeswax finish I have been wearing for four years now are beyond solid and versatile. Cheaper too.
  • Nike Flyknits. These would be if I need to pack a backup pair of shoes, travel with a workout shoe, or generally for shorts and leisure wear in the summer. I hated the Allbirds when I tried them, and love Nikes. The bonus here is that I rarely hear anyone complain about this shoe, and they weigh nothing.

Bottoms

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.

  • Outlier Slim Dungarees, Dark Indigo. I’ve owned pairs of these in Grey Space, Charcoal, and Dark Indigo — I think Dark Indigo is the most versatile of the lot, followed closely by Charcoal. I could easily see these being my only pants for everything, I think I could get by like that. If I could, I would have a closet full of these in every color they make, they’re the best. If you do find yourself in a warmer climate, the Oliver’s Passage pant is likely a better choice as it will wear cooler. A colder climate, and I would go with Strong Dungarees from Outlier, they too are fantastic, but heavier to wear.
  • Outlier Futureworks, Charcoal. These are a great stand in for a charcoal chino, which may be the most versatile pant out there. The Futureworks are great, handle heat well, and I actually wore a pair of Futureworks for nearly everyday for about a year. They are fantastic, and priced well too. This would be my business casual wear, as well as something to dress up the look a bit.
  • Bluffworks Gramercy Pants, Blue Hour. I really like the Grammercy pants as they offer a dressier look, while performing really well. Having these in blue give you a complete setup, and the variation of the coloring on these make them look less technical than the other options. These would be a great option for when I need to dress it up a bit, or for a second look as they work in almost any scenario where the Futureworks go.
  • Outlier New Ways. Everyone needs shorts, and New Ways are the best I have found for all around wear. These would also double as swim trunks — and I speak from experience there having worn mine swimming on many occasions. If you do swim a lot, you would want proper swim trunks, but for the occasional dip these work well. I’d stick with a dark color on these.
  • GORUCK Simple Pants. These come in two weights, but for this guide I think the original “light” weight is the best. They look passable, perform well, and pack down to nothing. If you packed a pair of Slim Dungarees and these, you could go and do anything you wanted. These pack so small and weigh nothing, so there’s no penalty for packing them. They typically travel with me anywhere I go as a backup. I’d buy the coyote color in these, as it looks the best. They would also be my workout pants, and yard work/ hiking pants. If you get the Olivers Passage Pants, you could likely forgo these, as they perform almost as well in warmer weather and workout situations.
  • Nike DriFit Joggers. Everyone needs a good pair of pants to lounge around the house in. This would be my choice.

Tops

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.

  • Wool & Prince Merino Blend T-shirt, 2. I wanted to pick Outlier Ultrafine here as I think they are killer. And I thought about the Outdoor Voices, but I think Wool and Prince offers the best color selection, price, comfort, and durability of any brand. I would go with the blend so the shirt lasts longer, and the performance hit is negligible. Pick on in a dark basic color, and another with a pop of color.
  • Y Athletics SilverAir Merino, 2. This would be my go to for workouts, or whenever I need a shirt to keep me cool. Love these shirts.
  • Wool & Prince Button-Down, 1. You could get away with just this button down, I see people who do. However, variety is the name of the game, so I would select one in a solid color like light gray. It’s a versatile shirt with classic looks and fantastic performance. I’d have more than one on this list if the next shirt didn’t exist.
  • Bluffworks Meridian Dress Shirt, 2. I love these shirts, and I think they look fantastic while performing really well. I don’t rely on them for odor resistance, but they dry fast enough that you could travel indefinitely with two, washing them between wears in a sink. They also hold up much better than a wool shirt, and with the GORUCK backpacks I tend to use, that’s important. The fit on them is stellar too — I do wish they would make some solid colors. Either way, everyone should own one of these shirts.
  • Wool & Prince Merino Polo, 1. I bought one for the summer and wore it a ton. I would get the next in the blend fabric, and it would cover me in any warm weather I encounter. I’d stick with something light in color.
  • Banana Republic Merino Wool V-neck Sweater, 1. Funny enough, my first encounter with merino wool was from Banana Republic’s sweaters, I have a closet full of them. They are great, and Banana Republic still sells them for about $90 each, which is a great deal. This is not only an insulating layer, but it will help to dress up your look if you pull it over a button down/up shirt. Classic, get one in dark gray or brown.
  • GORUCK Rucking Hoodie Full Zip (Heavy), 1. Everyone needs a good hoodie for lounging in, this would be my choice. It’s not the warmest, but it would double for actually rucking I do, and is and overall great layer and durable piece.

Outerwear

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.

  • Aether Dakota Jacket. Where I live you need a good, warm, and stylish layer. I originally thought Patagonia Nano Puff, but everyone has one. Perhaps a Filson Tin Cloth Down Cruiser, but that’s a PNW style only. Instead I think Aether makes some of the best outerwear on the market, so I would go with the Dakota Jacket. It ticks all the boxes with a great cut, a waxed outer fabric to give a great look, and heavy down filling to take you to the coldest temps.
  • Bluffworks Vest. Although I have not tested this, it would make for a fantastic layering piece and I think it looks great and sits at a really good price point. I still might pick one of these up this winter, as I love the looks of it.
  • Arc’teryx Zeta SL. I’m in Seattle and rain is a thing here. Also, you need a good layer to block wind. The hard part for me was deciding between something technical looking like this, or something with a little more style. End of the day, I think I would rather stay dry and have a jacket I know could perform out in the woods. This jacket is well made, light, packs down, and would work in almost every situation I would need it in. I actually have a precursor to this jacket which I have been wearing for about 8 years now, a great jacket.
  • Bluffworks Grammercy Blazer, Blue Hour. This is a nice sport coat/blazer for dressing up a look, performing well, or traveling with. Pair it with the Grammercy pants and you have a make shift suit, which won’t pass for a nice suit, but would get you buy in most situations if you need it.
  • PROOF Nova Jacket: I just got this jacket so no review yet, but it has a lot of promise for travel and as a mid-layer.

Comments

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.

Starting from Scratch – Base Wardrobe, Ben

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