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

Triple Aught Design Catalyst Field Shirt

I’ve been wanting a better casual insulation layer, but also one that is built to the standards I’ve come to love through the testing we do for this site. Coupled with that, I have been wanting a shirt-jacket, ‘shacket’, as this type of layer. Top on my list was this Catalyst Field Shirt from Triple Aught Design.

I’ve now been testing it for a few weeks and have really put it through its paces. Overall, this has been a great warming layer, but has some strong caveats.

Materials

This jacket is packed with performance materials. The shell of the jacket is 100% nylon at 100 gsm with UPF 50. Triple Aught Design notes this is the same fabric used on their Latitude Field Shirt. Next, the shirt has “Amphibious Cloth” on top of the nylon in high abrasion areas, which here means the tops of the shoulders, and the elbows and forearms. This is the black cloth you see, and is meant to stand up to more abuse.

The insulation itself is Polartec Alpha, which I am going to dive into more in a bit, but for this jacket is fairly light at 50 gsm in weight. Lastly, the jacket is lined with 100% nylon at 95 gsm. Having said all that the jacket feels kind of heavy with a very synthetic drape to it, the insulation is much thinner than you will expect. The outer shell material is soft to the hand and the inner is smooth like silk.

All in all, some of the best performing and durable materials go into making this jacket.

Polartec Alpha versus Polartec Alpha Direct

I’ve previously written about Polartec Alpha Direct here with the Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoodie, and this is a slightly older variant, kind of. The difference is that Alpha is made to work between two layers of another material, whereas Alpha Direct is made to work with a shell layer, and go against your skin on the inside.

Alpha itself has a ton of hype around it. You’ll see lots of “designed for special forces”, which seems to be true and it’s true that the military does use this material a lot. It’s an active insulation layer, which means it still warms while wet, and is highly breathable. Alpha also gets mixed reactions from people who put it through its paces. For me, and for casual wear purposes, I’d put it as more breathable than a standard fleece jacket, but not as warm, and not nearly as bulky.

Don’t get an Alpha insulator thinking it will be magic, because it will not live up to that standard. It is, almost always, a better layer to have than a fleece jacket for casual wear.

Fit and Style

As with all Triple Aught Design goods, they take a very distinct style towards tactical, or tacti-cool if you prefer. It certainly has color and design inspiration which has a nod towards military, a nod towards outdoor, with casual looks thrown on top. I like the style of this shirt, and think it wears well, but it will not be for everyone.

The first shirt I was sent was a size medium by mistake, which actually fit, and I replaced with a size L. The M fit really well, with the exception of the sleeves being a touch too short, and there being restriction in arm movements at more extreme angles. The L doesn’t look as good, but is far more comfortable to wear. This shirt is designed to be a relaxed fit, as you expect from a jacket, not like a shirt. Overall I need a size in between the two, but it’s not terrible. So be aware of potentially wanting to go down a size for a more tailored look, especially if your arms are not as freakishly long as mine.

Performance and Use

This is both an outer layer for cool days, and a mid-layer for cold days. It’s not at all water resistant, and in my wear in rain, it tends to soak up the water, but dry quickly. Ideally this is something that breathes well enough and insulates strongly enough, that you can move between indoors and outdoors without having to shed the layer. Something which most people struggle with during the cooler weather months.

Armpit vent.
Armpit vent.

The armpits have two vents under each which are round and mesh in nature to help with breathing in warm areas. I’ve tested this at the beach, in my house, and around town. Wearing it instead of any other layers, as well as something to warm up with in the house. At times I’ve found it to be on the verge of too warm indoors, or in the car. If the sun is hitting you, you warm up fast. At the beach I’ve found that if I stopped moving I could get slightly chilled in it, start moving and everything is good. The wind resistance is decent but nothing to write home about.

What really sets this jacket apart is how comfortable it is to wear, as long as you don’t worry about keeping it buttoned. The front buttons closed with snap buttons, and I’ve found that the minute I start feeling warm, I can slide my hand down the shirt and open the front. This keeps my temp perfect in most situations and buttoning it back up tends to warm me up quickly enough.

The jacket performs very well in every situation I used it in. Something like this will always need layers, but you can push it for short periods of time. This is a far better implementation of Polartec Alpha than the Ascendant jacket for everyday wear.

Nitpicks

Collar is a bit floppy.
Collar is a bit floppy.

There’s a few small issues with this shirt:

  1. The shell material does look to be starting to have very small pilling happening around the cuffs and the neck line. Granted I’ve worn this a lot, but I do worry how it might look after a year.
  2. The jacket has no odor resistance, and thus the arm pits can and do smell after long stretches of wear. It will dissipate overnight but often not enough. I haven’t washed this jacket yet, but instead I spray the arm pits with Lysol and that rids the smell completely and instantly. No ill effects yet to the jacket.
  3. The collar is quite large and floppy. It also cannot be flipped up and buttoned up in place so that it can act as a neck warmer. I would have preferred a smaller and stuffer collar, or this collar with a button enclosure to add warmth in cool climates by making it a neck warmer.
Light pilling around the collar.
Light pilling around the collar.
Heavier pilling on the under side of the forearm near the cuff.
Heavier pilling on the under side of the forearm near the cuff.

These are small nitpicks but I can see them driving some people crazy. I give the shirt a pass on the forearm pilling because I’ve been working on a new stand at my desk which is unfinished wood and is quite rough, that’s exaggerating the pilling in this area of the shirt.

Overall

At $225 this is an expensive shirt, but not overly so for what it is. Most Polartec Alpha costs good money right now, as do most good shirt jackets. I think the biggest caveat is the styling of the jacket, followed by the lack of odor control in the arm pits. That said, I have no regrets getting this, and is likely to be my most worn layer this winter. I’ve been wearing it over just the Huntsman Henley I reviewed and find that to be a great combination.

You can get one here (the color shown here is Tarmac).

Some Other Options

Here are a few of the competing products I considered if you want a shirt jacket like this, but in a different style:

Triple Aught Design Catalyst Field Shirt

Triple Aught Design Hunstman Henley

I recently picked up the Huntsman Henley as a warmer alternative to the t-shirts I normally wear as a base layer. I’ve been wanting to get a merino Henley for some time now, and I’ve been wearing this one for a few weeks.

Material

This shirt is 93% merino wool, and 7% elastane. It comes in at 200 gsm, so heavier than most t-shirts you would wear. The wool itself is among the rougher of the wools I have felt, something along the lines of what Smartwool has. If I had to guess I would put the micron count somewhere around 19 microns.

This means that it will feel a bit scratchy, and those sensitive to that will likely hate this shirt. In my wear I always notice the roughness of the fabric when I first put on the shirt, but never after that. It’s not been an issue for me at all, but this is not luxuriously soft like other merino shirts we talk about here. As for the elastane, I didn’t realize it had any until writing this section, however it should have been rather obvious because in feeling the shirt now, there is a ton of stretch to it.

Style and Fit

Triple Aught Design labels this as a “next-to-skin” layer, a casual base layer. I snagged one in size L, which is what I typically wear in their clothing and found the fit to be perfect. It fits looser than expected, but still rather athletic in cut.

There’s two interesting style choices which set this Henley aside from others. The first is the mock neck collar. Instead of the collar sitting flat against your collar bone, as a t-shirt does, the collar on the Huntsman stands up a touch to give a much different look. How much it stands up is going to depend on how large your neck is, but for me I found that it does stand up.

The second design choice is using Triple Aught Design’s signature slotted buttons which are attached with a nylon strap. I quite like the look and function of these buttons, but combined with the collar changes, this shouldn’t be seen as a straight Henley, as you would likely be disappointed by the over all looks if you want something classic. This is a more modern/tacticool look which was based on a classic Henley. It’s subtle, but it is there.

Wear

I’ve been very impressed with this shirt while wearing it. It is comfortable, moves well, and the buttons never unintentionally come undone. I can get my normal 4-5 days of wear out of the shirt before the odors start to pile up. When washing it dries quickly and comes out looking like new every time.

I’ve also noticed that the rougher merino seems to resist pilling and signs of wear which I would come to expect after several washes and wearing the shirt with GORUCK backpacks. So far, it’s been holding up really well, but I’ve only had a few weeks time with it.

I also don’t find it to be too warm. Most times it’s only slightly warmer than a t-shirt when on its own, while adding a nice bit of extra warmth when used as a base layer under other garments.

Overall

I really like this Henley, and it’s become my most worn garment over these past few weeks, so much so I’ve not really worn many of my t-shirts. Yes, the fabric could be a bit softer, but I have been surprised that the fabric doesn’t actually bother me. I like the style decisions on the collar and the buttons, and I think it helps to make the shirt look slightly less casual than most slouchy Henleys look.

It’s a great shirt and I recommend it. Your only consideration should be whether you like the looks of the buttons, because if you do, you’ll like this Henley too.

Triple Aught Design Hunstman Henley

Olivers Passage Pant

The item in this review was provided for review purposes by OLIVERS.

The Passage Pant is a highly technical pant which is marketed as: “your favorite jeans, updated for everyday performance.” They are cut from a very light fabric which moves well and breathes even better. I’ve only been testing these pants for a week now, but I’m confident I have a very good sense of what these pants are.

Material

The material is a little hard to sort out, as OLIVERS lists it as “Passage Stretch Weave”, and CORDURA with 4-way stretch. The tag in the pants tells me it is 91% nylon, and 9% spandex. That’s a lot of stretch.

The material is very technical looks and rather smooth to the touch on the outside, but to my legs to feels a touch rougher like terry cloth. Not bad, just worth noting the difference between what your hand feels and your legs. The drape on these is a standard technical drape, but this pant pulls it off (more on this later). There is no DWR coating on the pant, that I can tell or find mention of. Oh, and there’s only a slight amount of sound as you walk, nothing noticeable (I only noticed this as I was writing his section up).

Fit and Style

The fit runs large. I typically wear a 35, and ordered a 36 in the pants only for them to be far too large to wear. Exchanging them for a 34 worked well, but the waist is loose enough that I feel far more comfortable with a belt on, than not. Some of this is the cut, Some is the stretch which is noticeable in the waist as well. In other words, they tend to stretch out in the waist with wear, and snap back to form after a wash.

The styling is a classic 5-Pocket look, with the coin pocket being oversized enough to hold my iPhone XS just snuggly. I don’t recommend placing your iPhone there, as the look isn’t great and it tends to work up and out of the pocket when you sit down.

The big note about the style and fit is that these pants are very tapered. This gets rid of the technical drape look that plagues many pants of this material type, and provides a rather flattering and on trend look to the pant. I have plenty of room in the thighs, certainly more than other slim pants. The calves are where things really taper, as the pants can be a touch snug around my calves if the pant leg rides up at all. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a thing about these pants. I do wish more of my pants had a stronger taper like this, as I find the style quite nice.

Wearing Them

The review sample I was provided is the Olive color, which is almost a military looking green, and I love it. It’s a great color, and something my wife immediately gave a thumbs up to (note: she hated the last dark olive colored pants I owned). The big thing about these pants is that the gusseted crotch, as well as the 9% stretch mean that these feel like pure comfort in pant form.

They easily move with your body and are never tight and uncomfortable. I failed to change to joggers many nights, because I found these pants to be just as comfortable. However, even more so than the comfort is the weight of the pants. They are thick enough not to feel like paper, and yet, they really breathe exceptionally well.

iPhone XS in the 5th pocket.
iPhone XS in the 5th pocket.

It’s around 40 degrees these days in the Pacific Northwest, so it’s hard to say for sure, but I’d guess these are the best warm weather paths I own, and I’ve tried. For the colder weather my knees can feel cool at time, and wind seems to cut through the pants with ease. Stay about 50 degrees and I’ve found the pants very comfortable to wear. I’m excited to see how they perform in warmer climates, as I suspect they are going to be fantastic.

Overall

It’s hard to review these pants stand alone, without comparing them to other pants I own, or have owned. The best I can do is to say they are like Slim Dungarees if those wear made out of OG cloth. Though, they are probably better, because the only cost $158. The Outlier OG Climbers I had (they got too big) were the most comfortable pants I owned, which I also never wanted to be seen in outside the house. The Passage Pants are more comfortable than that, and I’ve happily worn them out to date nights with my wife. They also cost less than many other technical pants.

These are a winner, all around, and likely a staple in my closet moving forward.

One last note: OLIVERS recently expanded the size offering in these pants, they run from 30 to 38 now and as many others reviews point out, run about a size larger than stated.

Olivers Passage Pant

Outdoor Voices Merino T-shirt (Older model)

A few months ago Outdoor Voices was clearing out their older stock of merino t-shirts, so I grabbed one in navy. Then, a couple weeks ago, they released a new version of the shirt, which we are told is the same fit. This review focuses on the previous version, as we are not entirely sure what has changed with the shirt for the new variant.

Material and Performance

This is a blended merino t-shirt with 89% merino wool and 11% nylon. It’s very light weight, coming in a touch lighter than my Wool & Prince blended shirts and significantly lighter than my Outlier shirts. It is, thankfully, thicker than Icebreaker’s Anatomica line of shirts.

Since this is a high merino content it performs almost identically to a 100% merino shirt. I am able to get a solid 3-4 days of wear, whereas a 100% merino shirt would get me 4-5 days. The nylon content adds more structure and durability, which is why it’s become popular to blend merino shirts like this (it also reduces the price). Though I have not had issues with durability in any other merino shirts, it’s a nice addition with a very low hit to performance. Nylon also makes the shirt a better outdoor shirt as it will better handle bags and snags.

The shirt fabric is very smooth and comfortable, certainly on par with the Wool & Prince shirts. However, the micron size of the Wool is not noted by Outdoor Voices.

All in all, no complaints on the performance, and a pleasant surprise with the feel of the shirt.

Fit and Comfort

I love the fit of this shirt, and have found it to be an ideal everyday weight. It fits better than any other merino t-shirt I have, so I am very happy that the fit was not adjusted on the new model.

The comfort comes from the weight of this shirt as it is light, but heavy enough that you can wear it alone without a second thought. Additionally, you can throw a shirt over it for some added warmth using it as a base layer. Two thumbs up on fit and comfort, it’s easily the best cut t-shirt I’ve bought so far.

Overall

I thought I got a steal on this shirt when I bought it on sale, and I did, but at $55 for the current variant, this shirt punches far above its weight. That’s among the lowest price I have seen for a very high quality merino t-shirt. It’s not the softest you will find, but most under the $90 price will be far less refined than this. I cannot recommend it enough.

If you’ve yet to buy your first merino t-shirt, then this is the shirt I would recommend starting with.

You can find the latest version here.


Steve’s Thoughts

I agree with everything Ben said about this shirt. Is is also my best fitting merino t-shirt, and I agree the nylon content adds to the look and durability without sacrificing performance. This is now the merino shirt I would recommend first as well.

Outdoor Voices Merino T-shirt (Older model)

Bluffworks Meridian 2.0 Dress Shirt

Today Bluffworks launched a 2.0 variant of the shirt, the same shirt but with a revised fit. They sent me a review sample to check out, and since the shirt is mostly the same, I won’t do a new review of it, but will add some thoughts about the new fit. I’ve previously reviewed the Meridian Dress Shirt here, and I continue to love it. I take it everywhere.

The goal with the revision is to make it so that if you generally buy a size L shirt, you can buy a size L with the Meridian. But they’ve also done something else, something way better: you can buy this shirt in Slim+Tall variants. As someone with long arms, but a slim body, it is always a torture for me to get a shirt that doesn’t look too big with sleeves that are also long enough.

 

I received a size Large in Slim fit with Tall length and it is perfect. It’s very hard to find this type of a combination, especially in performance based shirting so I am very happy to say Bluffworks offers this.

One last note, they sent the Tattersall color, and it’s great. This shirt is one of my favorites, and with the new sizing it’s only gotten better.

Link