Bamboo base layer: From oddity to hot commodity | AspenTimes.com

Bamboo base layer: From oddity to hot commodity

Jon Maletz
Aspen Times Weekly

Bamboo makes me think of flooring, panda food, salad tongs or low-cost torture devices. But clothing?

That sounds about as comfortable as damp cardboard. Or chain mail. So I was skeptical when Linda Gerdenich, head of public relations at Sport Obermeyer, suggested I try the company’s new Bamboo Mesh Top base layer.

“It’s like your favorite cotton T-shirt,” Gerdenich reassured me a few weeks back. She went on to talk about anti-microbial fabric, the benefits of wicking and the company’s efforts to use new technologies and sustainable fabrics.

My mind wandered uncontrollably. Images of Managing Editor Rick Carroll competing in the Denver Marathon raced through my head ” especially the one of him crossing the finish line with two streams of blood stretching from his chest to his waist band. The “chafed nipple” was not a good look for him.

For the next few days, the skis came out of my Jeep ” but the bamboo top didn’t. Instead I went with my old, yet reliable layering scheme: My $10 long-sleeve T with a hole in the cuff, a wool sweater, a lightweight fleece and my soft-shell. I know as much about proper layering as I do women, but this combination seems to work. Until it gets bitterly cold.

I woke up one morning to find the temperature dipping lower than President Bush’s approval rating. I felt like I was at some research center on a remote part of Antarctica ” save for the $10 million mansion across the street.

A perfect day for bamboo.

Following Gerdenich’s orders, I traded in my long-sleeve shirt for the mesh top, then continued with the usual layering regimen. I clumsily climbed into my ski boots, fished through a pile of clothes on the carpet to find my hat and gloves, then headed for the gondola.

The temperature hovered around zero. The windows of my cabin had long since frozen. When I reached the top, the wind was whipping so hard that, had the flags at the Sundeck been ripped from their poles, they would’ve flown to Glenwood Springs.

The trees shivered, but I was warm. Surprisingly warm, in fact. The top’s zipper wrapped snugly around my neck, keeping my core toasty.

And Gerdenich was right about the fabric, Obermeyer’s E-Tex Bamboo Ultra Blend. Even when charging through a gladed area on Bell Mountain, I felt unencumbered. That’s saying something, considering that when I ski I wobble like a bike with two bent rims.

I figured the mesh would be rough against my skin, but I could hardly feel the top. Had it not been for some frigid appendages and a little wind burn, I could have stayed out until the lifts closed.

At the beginning of the day, I was pessimistic. By the late afternoon, I was lounging in the comfortable top as I watched football.

I will no longer doubt Klaus, the man who invented the down ski jacket and has created cutting edge on-mountain apparel for more than 60 years. This latest base layer, which is environmentally friendly and retails for less than $80, is money well spent.

A bamboo top seemed like an oddity. Now, it’s a daily commodity.

Cotton T-shirt, you’re on notice.

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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