Ministry of Supply Aero Dress Shirts

Note: Ministry of Supply provided these shirts at a discounted price for review purposes.

Ministry of Supply was my first foray into the performance clothing realm, and they have a very science backed approach to clothing. They also make a large variety of clothing with a clear focus for office workers and business travelers. It is also worth noting that they have a robust women’s line offering (when compared to other performance brands). I first tried the Apollo line years ago, so for this go around I wanted to test the Aero line which seems to fit what I like best: hidden performance.

Material

The material on this shirt is a polyester and elastase blend (98% moisture-wicking polyester, 2% elastane), making for a comfortable shirt with excellent wrinkle resistance and good mobility. (Note: Ministry has a few newer Aero shirts that use a nylon blend, I have not yet tested those.) The hand feel on this shirt is interesting, as exterior of the shirt is very slick feeling, while the interior is softer feeling.

The fabric itself is very thin, perhaps the thinnest shirt I have tested yet, though it thankfully has no issues with transparency. Overall the fabric is very nice, with no noise when you move, solid stretch, and excellent dry times.

Fit and Style

Ministry sells both slim and standard cuts of the shirt, both I bought are size L Slim, and they fit very well on my body. The sleeves are long enough, the collars are sized correctly, and the shirt has a tailored look through the body. As far as styling goes, they have a huge selection of colors and patterns available, almost all of which are very classic business looks. Nothing about the design of this shirt will stand out in an office, which is good.

Crucially the collars are something worth noting, as Ministry has taken the time to try and perfect the collars of these shirts. I bought two styles, a traditional button down (where the collar buttons down), and a button up (where the collar has no buttons). Both are great, with the button down having a stiff enough collar that it always looks sharp.

But I want to focus on the button up, as those collars are notoriously hard to manage. Here’s what Ministry says about the collar: “Geometric design and built-in, never-warp collar stays remain crisp on its trips through the washing machine. (Yes, the washing machine.)” I will attest that this statement is not hyperbole or marketing fluff, it’s the real deal and has left me very impressed. The collars have built in stays which are not removable and are very flexible. I didn’t realize they were there at first. And the entire collar stays put just as you would want it to all day long. I am not sure what kind of magic this is, but it does feel like magic.

The material looks pretty close to cotton, but has a very slight sheen to it. Not enough that most would notice, but when comparing to cotton side by side you can tell. Otherwise the shirt is very normal looking, making it even better for blending in.

Overall, whether it be the style, or the fit, this shirt is perhaps the best looking and fitting of any I have tried.

Comfort and Performance

Ministry has three claims to the performance, so let’s tackle them all individually. The first claim is that the shirt is great for mobility, because of the stretch and cut. While the shirt is better than basic cotton, I do find myself wishing for a touch more stretch, but only in the most extreme circumstances like bending forward with both arms to tie a shoe. Otherwise I’ve not been restricted by the shirt in any way.

The second claim, as stated on the website, is: “Targeted laser-cut ventilation combined with moisture-wicking, breathable fabric pulls sweat away from your body, reducing stains and odor.” This is almost two claims in one, both that the shirt will resist odor and keep you cool and comfortable. Let me just state now that I don’t see a high odor resistance with this shirt, as I can only get one wear out of the shirt before it stinks. On the cooling however, this shirt is amazing.

As I mentioned this shirt is very thin, which means that it wears very cool. Couple that with how fast the shirt wicks moisture and dries, you can start to get a sense for how well it handles heat. But there’s also a series of laser cut vent holes in each armpit that you cannot see when wearing the shirt, to further aid with cooling.

I’ve worn this shirt both in a Seattle winter, and high 80 degree humid heat in Houston. In cold weather, this shirt is very cool to wear and needs layers. In hot weather this shirt is awesome, where even a slight breeze can cool you greatly. It is the best hot weather dress shirt I own, with only the linen shirts competing.

For all this awesome there is one issue I’ve had with the shirt: it shows sweat easily. So it is common to see armpit sweat on this shirt when the sweat is still wet, in both colors I own, and though it dries quickly and there’s no residue left behind. There’s no masking of it at all, which is rather unfortunate.

The last claim is wrinkle resistance, and I’ll be short in this one because this shirt resists wrinkles better than any other I have tested. They fall out quickly and are harder to get set in. If you often are annoyed by your bag causing your shirt to wrinkle, this shirt will remove that annoyance.

Overall

At just $115 this shirt is a great value and perhaps the best option on the market for office workers looking to fly under the radar with shirts that perform better. It would also be a killer travel shirt if it had a little better odor resistance, but unfortunately there are better options to keep you from needing to wash with every wear.

For me, I’m going to get one or two more of these shirts, because they are great if multi-day wear is not something you need to worry about.

Get one here.

Ministry of Supply Aero Dress Shirts

Initial Impressions: Thursday Boot Company ‘President’

I’ve been wearing the President boots now for a couple of months, not long enough for a full review, but enough to give you some idea of what they offer. I went on the search for a pair of boots to wear into the office everyday, and was lead down the dizzying array of boot offerings. Ultimately I settled on a pair of Thursday Boot Company ‘President’ boots.

These are fantastic.

About Thursday

Started on Kickstarter a few years ago, Thursday Boot Company has a simple mission:

We started Thursday to offer an alternative: ridiculously high quality footwear at honest prices that could handle our busy lives in New York City.

I’d say they have done just that with the price range for all their shoes being $149 – $265. And for a a shoe company those are not only low prices, but a very tight price range. The boots I am reviewing here are $199 and offer a Goodyear welt construction — which means you can resolve them when the time comes.

There’s a few criticism of the company out there:

  • They are really young so the warranty doesn’t mean much yet. And their youth also means there’s not any way to know how these will be a decade from now.
  • At $200ish dollars their boots are not an insane value, which makes them compete with other established low cost offerings.

If you search around about this company you are going to hear negative things. These negative things really are not fair, as they mostly are complaining about Thursday differing from the promise of the Kickstarter campaign, and not on the actual quality of the boot. This is common with projects like this. But a few years on now, the consensus is: really solid boots at very fair pricing, with good customer service and longevity.

Or put another way, people have been wearing these boots since they came out, and they are still going strong. At $200, that’s a pretty sweet deal. Even better, all of their shoes and boots are designed to be resoled.

Fit and Buying

Thursday is of course one of those new companies that exist only online. You buy them online and they offer guidance on what you should buy as it relates to sizing and fit. I ordered the President in Brown, size 11.

However, the size calculator on the site encouraged me to order size 10.5, I have found the 11s fit me perfectly. I decided to go against the sizing as every shoe I have bought in a 10.5 has been proven to be too small. (Steve had the opposite happen, where it recommended a size which ended up too large.) I did worry these would initially fit fine, but stretch out and be too large.

Those fears were unfounded and the boots have fit great the entire time.

You can return/exchange your boots for free, assuming they show no visible wear. I hate that type of caveat as it is extremely subjective. So I would say putting the boots on, lacing them up, and walking across the room is about the limit before you can’t return them.

Luckily I guessed correct, and I would say that if you are new to leather boots, get something close to your normal dress shoe size, and order two pairs if you are on the fence about the sizing. It will save you a ton of hassle.

Style

Thursday offers a lot of classic styles, and the President is as simple as they get. From the moment I opened the box, and still today, I love the style of these boots. The designers hit the sweet spot with these boots, and the brown is a rich a vibrant dark brown that should age quite nicely.

Comfort

Out of the box these boots were very comfortable, so much so I had assumed I was doing something wrong. I broke them in by wearing them while working at home (I stand to work) wearing them for 4 hours the first day, waiting a full day, and then wearing them for another 8 hour day. After that I put them on for a work trip where I wore them for four days straight (not recommended, but I hate traveling with more than one pair of shoes). Not once did my foot get fatigued, or have any hotspots.

These boots broke in quickly and were comfortable the entire time. They have only gotten more comfortable since then, and I am very impressed with the comfort.

Durability So Far

On a recent trip I had to walk through a bad snow storm which left slush and deicing agents everywhere. The boots held up impressively well, with the deicing agents used wiping off with a damp towel. They have weathered many flights, my kids, and everything else.

They have the light scuffing you would expect to find on the leather at this point, and I have yet to try and remove those. Overall, they are holding up well, but it is certainly too early to tell.

Thoughts So Far

I am impressed, beyond what I expected. There’s a lot of value in these boots — not only from a price perspective but from a classic design, Goodyear welt, and comfort. I expected my feet to hurt after a full work week of wearing these boots everyday, walking all around, but not only did my feet not hurt, but they weren’t even fatigued.

I haven’t had the boots long enough to form a a definitive position on them, nor have I had them long enough to sort out what (if any) gotchas may lie ahead — I will say I am planning on my next shoe purchase being another Thursday Boot.

Initial Impressions: Thursday Boot Company ‘President’

Outlier AMB Hidden Placket

Note: Outlier provided this shirt for review purposes.

The Outlier Albini Merino Broadcloth Hidden Placket shirt is a mouthful, and perhaps the most luxurious 100% merino shirt you can buy right now. It’s made from a very fine material which doesn’t feel or look like any other wool shirt on the market.

Material

This is a 100% merino wool shirt, but to stop there would be disingenuous to this shirt. Outlier’s detailing of the fabric is: Made with Albini Merino Broadcloth, 100% Super 140s, 16.5 micron merino fabric, 130gsm, woven in Italy. If, like me, that’s a pretty confusing statement for you, then let me break that down a little more.

The ‘Albini’ portion of the naming (the ‘A’ in ‘AMB’) is representative of the Albini Group in Bergamo, Italy who wove the shirting material. The material itself is 100% 16.5 micron merino wool — a very fine micron to use for shirting of this type. The Super 140s refers to the fineness of the material, and since I am quickly getting out of my depth I will say that means the material is made of very fine strands of wool. The broadcloth, is the type of weave which is seen as dense and soft.

Now, let me translate all of this for you, assuming you still are a little unsure about what all this means. First, this is a 100% merino wool shirt, and it is made with a very fine merino wool strand — this leads to a very soft and luxurious wool. The weave of this shirt, means that it lays down very flat and looks very fine. Further, it is light in weight at just 130 gsm — it’s thin. Translating this further: this shirt is closer to my white button up dress shirts (my cotton ones) than it is to any other wool or synthetic shirt that I own.

The hand feel is smooth, more so than soft, and the drape is a not nearly as rigid as most merino shirts, and especially less so than cotton. It doesn’t ‘stand’ on it’s own, so gravity will always be guiding it. Overall, it’s actually quite a unique and impressive fabric.

Fit and Comfort

I not only love the fit of this shirt, but it is also extremely comfortable. There’s two reasons for this:

  1. The cut of the shirt is excellent, and when you combine that with the natural drape of the material it feels great.
  2. From a comfort perspective not only do you get the great merino wool properties, but there is subtle give in the shirting, and the thinness of the shirt really makes it quite comfortable to wear even in warm weather.

Overall, I have nothing bad to say about the fit or comfort of the shirt — top marks.

Style

Outlier offers this shirting material in two styles: button-up, and hidden placket. They are wildly different looks. The button-up could likely easily be worn into the office, the hidden placket — which I chose for this review — is another beast entirely.

What’s hidden is the buttons on the front, as they have an extra flap of material that sits over the top of them — some might be familiar with this look from more formal shirting. Additionally, this shirt has a front pocket that is a slash pocket — which means instead of it being a more traditional swatch of material sewn on to the face — there’s a slit at the top, and a pouch on the inside of the shirt to make up the pocket. It also seems as though the collars are slightly different between the two shirts, with the hidden placket having a shorter collar.

I personally like the style — it’s a little odd and not something I would typically pick, but I think it is for that very reason I like it. My wife, on the other hand, isn’t the biggest fan of the style. This is one of those: it looks like the pictures, so if you like the pictures then you’ll like the shirt — cases.

Durability

I have noticed that people often ask about the durability of the shirt — likely because it feels so fine and thin, people assume it is not durable. As you might know from my other reviews I have an older top-loading washing machine with an agitator. I washed the shirt in that — no issues. Further, I think this shirt is more durable than at first glance — though I certainly won’t want to wear it with a rough GORUCK style backpack.

If worn and used as a dress shirt, or without a backpack, there should be no problems at all.

Overall

This shirt is among the more luxurious shirts I own — not only from a comfort perspective but from the overall look and feel of the cloth itself. It is thinner than expected, but more substantial than other ‘thin’ feeling wool shirts I have experienced.

This particular shirt lends itself to more casual wear, whereas the ‘button-up’ variant would blend better in the office. Either style you chose, the material is likely not like anything you have felt before, and feels incredibly high quality.

I love the fabric, the cut, the comfort, and really the entire shirt. You do pay for this level of quality though, which is reflected in the $225 price tag. I don’t think most will fill the entire closet with these shirts, but many of us surely would like to fill them with this shirt. It is quite special.

Outlier AMB Hidden Placket

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