Monday, January 31, 2011

Gear Box: Polarmax Base Layers


There is an old adage amongst outdoor enthusiasts that says "there is no bad weather, just bad gear." We all love to play outside no matter what time of the year it is, but if you don't have the right clothing, it can make for a very long day. This is especially true during the winter, when cold weather can keep you shut inside for weeks on end. Thankfully, modern outdoor apparel is fantastic, allowing us to enjoy our favorite winter sports in even the worst conditions.

For me, a good layering system always starts with the base layers, and we're fortunate enough to have a lot of options in this area. But I recently had the chance to put the entire line of Polarmax base layers to the test when I went to Montana and Yellowstone in early January, and over the course of several days, I had the full gamut of weather to try them out in.

Polarmax base layers come in three varieties: warm, warmer, and warmest. The "warm" category is actually a lightweight travel silk that can be quite versatile in a number of environments, even when it isn't necessarily all that cold. The "warmer" option offers comfort and performance in a great package, and it even looks and feel like cotton, although it performs like the technical gear you would expect. This option is great for true winter conditions, keeping you warm in just about all temperatures. Finally, the "warmest" option is exactly that – warm! I wore the tops as a stand alone option until temperatures fell below zero, at which time I paired it with a shell jacket and stayed perfectly warm all day long.

Each of the various options come in both tops and bottoms, and all of them are extremely comfortable to wear. I rarely need to wear the technical tights, but on extremely cold days they are nice to have on your legs. The Polarmax pants not restrictive to movement at all, and they kept me warm while breathing, which meant that while I was snowshoeing in sub-zero weather, I remained comfortably warm without getting too hot.

When we're headed out for a day in the snow, that is exactly what we want, great technical clothing that keep us comfortable no matter what we're doing. Polarmax delivers that and then some with their entire line of gear and with all the options they have available, they have the right piece for where ever you're headed or what ever you're doing.

On my Montana trip, I wore the "warm" layers while kicking around Big Sky Resort, snowboarding and zip lining. On those days, temps were roughly 25º-30ºF and when used with a shell, it was comfortable all day long. A few days later, while in the very heart of Yellowstone, temperatures dropped to single digits, with some scary wind chill factors. It was then that I jumped up to the "warmest" option, donning both technical tops and tights. They served their purpose quite well while standing out in the cold watching wildlife and geothermal activity. They were also versatile enough to transition to more active pursuits while cross country skiing and snowshoeing as well.

My favorite piece that I tested was the Quatro Fleece Men's Zip that falls into the "warmest" category. It works so well in so many ways that it quickly earned a place of honor in my gear closet. It can be a base layer on it's own, or you can put a technical top under it for added warmth, and on the very cold days, you can pull a shell over top for a complete layering system. I love a piece of gear that can be this versatile, which comes in handy when you're trying to pack light for winter travel. I've used the Men's Zip alone on cold weather runs and as part of a full layering system on sub-zero days.

With a well designed, good looking line-up of base layers available, Polarmax has us well covered for all of our cold weather needs. If you're planning some winter adventures in the near future, you'll find everything you need in the Polarmax line no matter where you're headed. I give them a big thumbs up for comfort and performance and I think you'll love the layers too.

(MSRP: Varies depending on pieces.)

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