Sunday 3 May 2009

Gear Review - Embers Merino Zip Duotone Base layer

With the rumblings of a week long trip in the air I began to think about the quantity of clothing required for such a trip. Apart from socks, I only really have one item of everything and this is not going to cut it for longer outings

I currently have a Berghaus Tech T which has been a real performer since I bought it. It weighs 200g, never smells and the zip is handy for venting. I sometimes find it a little cool in winter but too warm in summer and it doesn’t feel that nice when wet where you can really notice how quickly it feels cold.

Merino wool seemed to have the answer with all of the benefits of synthetics, whilst being warmer when wet and having much better temperature control in either extreme.

I looked at the usual suspects like Icebreaker, Montane and Chocolate Fish but I settled on Embers Merino. A small company based in Derbyshire they offer a very friendly and efficient service. They were very helpful when it came to sizing and it turns out the advice was spot on. I came across them primarily as I was looking for some biking ‘get-up’ but noticed their array of base layers.

I wanted a fitted, long sleeve top with a zip so went with the Red/Black Duotone Zip. I was advised that a medium would provide the correct combo of fit and comfort to ensure good contact with the skin (for wicking) and this weighs in at 220g.


I’ll shoot myself when I read this back but this top is sumptuous! It feels so nice against the skin and despite fears there is no itchiness whatsoever. It fits so perfectly that I can forget I’m wearing it and the sleeves have enough give to be rolled up your arm – unlike the Berghaus! There is a fairly long zip for venting and all of the seems are flat to reduce any chaffing whilst wearing a pack. The style is such that you could wear this in civilisation without fear of being branded an outdoors geek.

I wore this for the first time on the (failed) solo wild camp from Grasmere and combined with the Rab VR Trail Smock it just worked. I had a heavier pack than normal so at times was working hard and I never noticed feeling sweaty or cold.

I wore it again on the Three Peaks trip a few weeks back where it was well tested in terms of weather and the activity. We were on the move for over 12 hours with a mix of wet and windy weather and again coupled with the VR Trail Smock I never had to don waterproofs or remove clothing. For once I felt equipped for any weather – with no compromises. There were no odours after the long day and it was so good I continued to wear it to the pub (after a shower) and in bed!

If you’re thinking about synthetic or merino for your base layer, I can highly recommend the latter and it is definitely worth the extra few pounds. For the choice and fit I would also have no hesitation in recommending Embers Merino too.


Martin Rye said...

Nice looking bit kit. Last few walks I have been using Icebreaker base layers. 150 weight. Love it. Merino wool is fantastic. Enjoy the new kit and I will look at their web site.

John Hee said...

I picked up some Embers kit at the NEC show - great value for money & a very knowledgeable staff/owners

Thats the way it should be

Nigel Gray said...

Got a similar styled Chocolate Fish merino wool base layer with long sleeves and zip - its all I wear nowadays, though I have noticed it's merino isn't quite as soft as Icebreaker wool. The Embers stuff looks good stuff and good value too.

Marcus said...

I'm impressed with it so far but the only thing I'd ask is if its normal for the merino to smell a bit funny whilst drying.

Commonwealth Exp said...

Just wanted to second the Chocolate Fish recommendation - someone said they found it a bit itchy - try their possum/merino mix which is really soft and cosy. I know we are talking base layers but the socks are worth a look - best I've found yet and I'm wearing them to Antarctica next month!