Like my Sealskinz gloves, mentioned in a previous post, this kit purchase was also based on recommendations from readers of the blog who commented on a previous post. Thanks must go to Robin Evans, Gayle and John Hee for taking the time to help.
I have been looking for a new baselayer since my Helly Hansen top started to decompose recently. It has served me well these past two or three winters, but I seem to poke a new hole in it every time I put it on now. I have been using some cheap cotton vests from Asda as an interim solution this autumn, but they hold the sweat too easily and I’ve been having to change half way round into a clean one, just to prevent that uncomfortable feeling of walking in wet clothes, which can also become dangerous in the wrong conditions – and I’ve had some of them in the past few weeks too.
I visited Field & Trek in Chester, a shop I’ve only ever visited on-line before and was pleasantly surprised at the size of the store, the range of items they have and the knowledge of the staff member that served me. Outdoor shops are the only type of shops where I will respond in the positive to a staff member who offers to help me. Generally I can’t be doing with the hovering assistant, their half-hearted enthusiasm and their often tenuous grasp of the required knowledge to actually be of some assistance. Outdoor retailers seem to be different. Generally the staff are outdoors folk themselves and have excellent, “I’ve used that”, knowledge to share with you.
So when the F&T guy asked me if he could help I simply said I was after a new baselayer for the winter. He immediately took me to the Icebreaker stand and started to expound the virtues of Merino wool. This was exactly what I was looking for, but it was reassuring to have that reinforced by the guy in the shop.
I looked at the different weights of wool and eventually selected a 200 weight long sleeve shirt with a zipped neck, to provide ventilation when I’m working hard. The surprising thing about Merino is that it doesn’t feel like wool at all. The vest I selected felt like cotton, it was remarkable.
I’ve used it already – on the wet, windy walk up Birchen Clough. Under a fleece it felt lovely and warm, very slightly itchy to start with, but this soon faded. The inner labels drove me mad for the whole walk, positioned on the left hand side at the lower hem of the garment they scratched and niggled me all morning – but they were easily snipped out when I got home – being very careful not to cut the garment, just the label.
I could easily wear this under a jacket without a fleece and feel comfortable in standard English winter weather. The addition of a wicking fleece layer will add several degrees of comfort to the mix, taking me to windy and snowy winter weather (here’s hoping).
The sleeves are long on me – which is unusual, I’m 6 foot 4 and sleeves are always a challenge in shirts and the vest help very little moisture, other than in the back where my pack causes lots of sweat, but it dried quite quickly and never felt uncomfortable. A sterner test will be this weekend probably, when I’m off to the Lakes for something a bit more strenuous than Birchen Cloough.
I’ll keep you informed.