Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Gear Closet: WoolPRO Performance Base Layers

When it comes to high performance fabrics, merino wool has become the defect standard by which all other materials are judged. Based on the performance of merino it is easy to understand why. Not only is it warm and comfortable, it also features natural wicking properties, it is highly breathable, and it has antimicrobial attributes that help to fend off odors too. This of course makes it a great choice for outdoor apparel, where this level of performance is most appreciated.

The down side of merino wool is that it can sometimes be expensive, which can make it a cost prohibitive option for some outdoor enthusiasts. But recently I had the chance to test out some great merino base layers made by a company called WoolPRO, which makes a number of outstanding products on par with those that I've found elsewhere in the industry, but at a more affordable price. 

Spring isn't always a great time to test base layers, but on my recent trip to Alaska I found plenty of weather where they still came in handy. I used WoolPRO's Scout mid-weight merino half-zip top ($84.99) and Thor mid-weight bottoms ($49.99), while my wife had the chance to try out the Agena mid-weight tops ($69.99) and tights, each of which proved very useful while exploring the icy waters of the Inside Passage.


All of the garments fit snugly, but moved naturally with our bodies so as to not hinder motion in any way. Considering the fact that our trip was an active one, this was much appreciated. On top of that, the base layers were incredibly comfortable to wear, and it didn't take long for the Scout to become my go to pullover when I was simply lounging around on our ship or heading out for a hike or kayaking excursion.

With their trim, athletic cut, these base layers seem like they were designed with the outdoor athlete in mind, but little details like a dropped tail and raglan sleeves help to make all the difference. Those features, combined with well-placed stitching, help to create a piece of clothing that you'll feel comfortable in for hours on end. That's due in no small part because of the company's patented Activeseam, a stitch that was created specifically for active apparel that is strong, soft, and barely noticeable on the garment itself.

I'm told that WoolPRO spent several years creating the lightweight blend of merino that it uses in its products, and it shows. The company also knits and dyes its own wool, which is then used in short production runs on clothing that the owners and employees themselves want to wear on their outdoor adventures. All of the production is done right here in the U.S. in Fall River, Massachusetts, where the WoolPRO line was first conceived and designed. The WoolPRO line has only been around for a couple of years, but it is already gaining momentum with amongst outdoor athletes looking for affordable gear that still offers excellent performance.

Having tried a wide variety of base layers. merino wool shirts, and various other products over the years, it is safe to say that WoolPRO's offerings are amongst the best I've seen in the lightweight category, particularly for the price. They deliver all of the performance you would expect from merino, and manage to look and feel good at the same time.

The WoolPRO base layers that I used performed beyond my expectations, making them a great option for travelers. Lightweight and highly packable, these are the type of garments you can throw in your pack and use numerous times throughout a single trip, always knowing how reliable and comfortable they will be. They are also durable enough to withstand the rigors of the road, shrugging off punishment and continuing to look great.

Beyond travel however, these base layers can be put to good use in variety of other activities too. I wouldn't hesitate to use the Scout top while trail running or mountain biking for example, while the Thor bottoms are a good choice for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or cold weather hikes. That level of versatility is always welcomed in my gear, and it is nice to know you have these products at your disposal when you need them.

As impressive as these products perform, one of the best features of WoolPRO's products are the prices. Just about everything in their line-up is priced very competitively, which makes it easy to recommend them to anyone who is looking for great performance without breaking the bank. The items that I've used are definitely on par with the competition in terms of how well they function, but are offered at a price point that is more palatable for the mainstream audience. That's a winning combination that is tough to top. 

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