Aspen Times Weekly: Patagonia Merino Air Baselayer
A base-layer release in July may not be the most savvy marketing move. But apparently Patagonia couldn’t wait for what the brand is touting as “the world’s most advanced base layer” ever developed.
Those are tall claims. But the Merino Air Baselayer product line, which goes on sale this week, appears to be something new. It consists of men’s and women’s pieces made of a wool-polyester blend put through a process I have not seen.
What sets it apart? During manufacturing, the yarn is exposed to a type of high-pressure air gun. The result is an “exploded” yarn that is soft and is stretchy in the hand.
Put it on, and the fabric contours to your body, from the tight-fitting hood on down. It’s a seamless, stretchy fleece that immediately feels warm. But because of the “exploding” process, the fabric is highly breathable.
Like most Patagonia products, there is an environment back story. The company notes it sourced its wool from grasslands in Argentina using “regenerative agricultural practices” and that the garments are made with minimal fabric waste.
I wore a hoody made of the stuff this week. It was too warm outside to test any of the cool-weather capabilities, but having the Merino Air Baselayer on did seem different.
Compared with most merino-based tops I have worn, the Patagonia piece fit and felt more like a thin sweater, not like long underwear. The fabric is thin and super-stretchy.
Pull on the sleeve, and hold it up to a light; the zigzag fabric pattern disappears to reveal an intricate knit web of pinprick holes — you can both feel and see the breathability of this top.
Style comes second to performance. The aqua-blue is a bold color choice, and wearing the face-framing hoody, I was compared to a Teletubby more than once.
But warmth, breathability and wicking are more important than aesthetics with this product launch. Indeed, Patagonia, a business not known for product hyperbole, calls Merino Air a “breakthrough” and “like nothing else on market.”
The company will sell the Merino Air line at its brand stores and online via Patagonia.com. The shirts and bottoms cost $129 and up, a premium rate.
This fall, I will test it out when the weather gets cool. Until then, I’ll wear the Merino Air hoody around for comfort if I feel chilled. Call me a Teletubby — I don’t care.
Stephen Regenold writes about outdoor gear at http://www.gearjunkie.com.
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