More companies are joining the merino wool bandwagon pioneered by the likes of SmartWool, Ibex and Icebreaker. Rounding out its outerwear line, Mammut debuted a base layer line made of a merino wool blend with body mapping construction. Patagonia has broken out a merino base layer program into its own collection and is offering various weights and blends.
Hot Chillys has veered away from merino wool for what it says are softer fabrications including alpaca and cashmere. GoLite is also breaking the mold and introduced its first base layer line using Cocona's Minerale textile. GoLite has exclusive rights to the fabric made of volcanic material and it's reputed to dry hyper-fast – naturally, proof is in the pudding and SNEWS® will be testing this in the months to come.
Companies, such as Ibex and Icebreaker, were also playing a "weighting" game, rounding out lines with complete light, mid and heavy weight offerings.
Here then, are a sampling of the companies and products that stood out to the SNEWS team at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2009:
GoLite debuted an all-new DriMove base layer program featuring Cocona's Minerale, an activated-carbon textile fiber made of volcanic material (photo to right). We were told the Minerale material is permanently imbedded in the fibers so it won't wash off or wear out. Its claim to fame, we're told, is making garments dry phenomenally fast. Base layer pieces are available in three weights -- BL-1, BL-2, BL-3 -- and use a dual fabric system with lighter fabrics in high sweat zones and thicker fabrics in those where more warmth is needed. Available in a variety of styles for men and women -- Zip-T, crew neck, tank, short sleeve and tights -- they have anti-chafe, flatlock seam construction and a surprisingly soft hand. The DriMove BL-2 long-sleeve zip retails for $55 and the BL-3 long-sleeve crew is $65. www.golite.com
Hot Chillys showed us a new base layer line that addresses the growing popularity of natural fabrics. The Superior Performance Naturals collection includes short sleeve and long sleeve tops as well as bottoms made with Cashmere, Tencel (polyester), silk, performance cotton and alpaca. Hot Chillys told SNEWS that it chose to use alpaca rather than merino wool because merino is still too itchy for some consumers. Clearly, this is a high-end line, with an alpaca Zip-T retailing for $96 and silk bottoms retailing for $100, but the stuff looks very nice, with fine stitching and great attention to detail. The alpaca pieces feel super soft as do the base layers combining silk and pima cotton. www.hotchillys.com
Ibex has rounded out its base layer line with the addition of a third weight -- a 195 gram (approximately 6.9 ounces) mid weight that slides in between its light (150 gram – 5.3 ounces) and heavy (230 gram – 8.1 ounces) offerings. Available in men's and women's sizing, the Indie series (MSRP $85-$92) includes crew neck, zip T, turtleneck and hoody styles, which are made of a merino wool jersey with a semi-fit. www.ibexwear.com
BodyFit+ is a new 200-weight base layer collection from Icebreaker spun from superfine merino and featuring edgier all-over prints that tie back to nature in an effort to capture a younger demographic. In addition to contrast stitching and bold colors (bright reds and blues), there's a men's camo print (see photo to right) derived from the outlines of the north and south islands of New Zealand and a women's print that looks like snowflakes but is actually pieced together sheep shear graphics. www.icebreaker.com
Mammut debuted a new base layer line made of a merino wool and micro-polyester synthetic blend treated with an antimicrobial silver technology (photo to right). Tops and bottoms are designed with body mapping technology to regulate temperatures for different areas of the body. Elbows and knees have a higher heat requirement, so those areas have a higher proportion of merino wool. Areas of the body that quickly produce excess heat, which results in sweating -- like torso sides and shoulders, thighs and calves -- have more synthetic microfibers for moisture management and to help warm and cool the body. Zones that protect parts of the body that sweat intensively and are not highly sensitive to the cold resort to 100-percent microfiber material for maximum moisture transportation and quick drying. Men's and women's sizing are available in zip-T neck (MSRP $79), crew neck (MSRP $65), short sleeve (MSRP $55) tops, as well as tights and briefs (MSRP $35-$60). www.mammut.com
At Patagonia, merino moves out of the performance base layer category into its own merino category for fall '09. Different weights (MSRP $65-$200) are available -- Merino 1 and Merino 2 are lighter and blended with polyester, while heavier Merino 3 and Merino 4 are pure merino wool. Soft and silky, the Merino 1 Crew (MSRP $90) is a jersey knit blend of a 16.5-micron merino wool spun around a recycled polyester core with offset shoulder seams to bypass backpack straps. www.patagonia.com
SmartWool has revamped the Next-to-Skin base layer line with a more fitted silhouette, an increased hem width on the cuff and waist, rolled forward side seams and the addition of underarm panels. Other NTS finishing details and design updates for both men and women include: chin guard on zippers, contrast neck taping, subtle flat lock stitch detail and seamless shoulders to reduce chafing. www.smartwool.com
After a foray into lifestyle apparel looks last year, Snow Angel owner Pamela Moyce said the directive for this year is to stick with what it knows best -- base layers. With retailers telling her at the show that they had 75 percent to 80 percent sell through, it's probably a wise move in today's economy. The goal is to have a little "something" on every piece, details like graphic hits on wrist cuffs and pant legs, rouching (fabric gathers), a tuck, etc. It now has matching top and bottom sets. The always popular thumbhole has been moved slightly down so the fabric covers the hand more like a glove and has been dubbed the "gluff." And, when not needed, the cuff can be folded over so the hole can't be seen. Also new is the Cat Suit (MSRP $128), a one-piece long Jane with zip-T neck and hidden feminine fly in its Wilderknit micropolyester/spandex blend. www.snow-angel.com
Terramar's new Geo micro-fleece, featuring ec2 Qwik-Dri technology, is a blend of 95-percent micro polyester and 5-percent spandex with dual-surface knitting to incorporate high-loft grid channels for breathability and moisture transport. Pieces have flat seam construction and rolled forward panel shoulders with no seam at the top of the shoulder. Tops and bottoms come in sizes for men, women, children and toddlers with retail prices ranging from $26 to $68. www.terramarsports.com
From The North Face comes the Fusion and Nemesis shirts (photo to right) for endurance sports. The Fusion is a long-sleeve, crew-neck shirt with body-mapped seamless technology in an athletic fit and glow-in-the-dark fabric (MSRP $50). The poly Nemesis features the company's "active venting system," which has mesh vents on the chest that open when in motion. It's available in long sleeve (MSRP $40), short sleeve (MSRP $35) and a tank (MSRP $30). www.thenorthface.com