New Mid-Layers from Triple Aught Design

Can you have too much polar fleece? I’m struggling with the answer to that question as I eye the gear that’s coming out for fall. I’ve got a lot of it, some of it quite old, as it seems to last longer than I expected it too. Even while I’m switching out a lot of my wardrobe for natural fibers, I’m looking at new polar fleece mid-layers with much better design than my old stuff.

I’ve been trying out hoodies from Triple Aught Design; one fleece, one wool. Packing a hoody is essential for this traveler; it’s perfect airplane wear and you need some kind of warm, versatile mid-layer when you travel.

The fleece version is the Valkyrie. It retails for over $200.00, a steep price tag when you’re used to getting your fleece as corporate swag like I am. It’s made from Polartec Wind Pro — that’s their breathable wind stop fabric. You’ll need a rain shell if it’s really wet, but for a little damp weather, it’s just fine.

The Valkyrie is covered in pockets — hand warmer pockets at the waist, biceps pockets on each side for your mp3 player or phone (with pass-throughs for your headset cables), and a key or lift ticket pocket on the left lower arm. There’s a pass through pocket in the back, too, There’s no interior wallet pocket, though — that’s what I’d add.

There’s a fitted hood — the shape is great and there’s some heavier weight stuff around the outside to help it keep that shape. When the zipper is all the way up, the tab tucks into a finished slot so it doesn’t scratch your face; a nice details. The underarms are vented with button holes rather than zips; kind of a nice change to the usual pit zips, plus, because the pockets are mesh lined on the inside, you can open them for venting. There’s a drawstring at the waist to keep the wind out.The truth? It’s a really nice mid-weight moderate weather sweater-type layer. It’s made in the US, and how many companies can you say that about? I’m struggling with the price tag, though, American made apparel or no. I did a little comparison shopping; the prices are comparable with other similar items made out of the same material. My sticker shock might be due to the fact that my older wind-stop fleece jacket is office swag.

I’m less stressed by the 159.00 price tag on the Artemis hoody, a streamlined merino wool version of the classic sweatshirt hoody. This thing looks great and feels great. The cut is super stylish, fitting, with a soft draping hood and thumb loops in the sleeves. You can absolutely wear this as a base layer in the outdoors, but it’s great on its own too. It comes in black or gray, so it’s appropriate as your evening formal hoody though you’ll be perfectly happy wearing it with those flannel jammies while you wander around with a cup of coffee in hand. The sweater bears a “Made in China” tag, that may explain the more mid-range pricing.

Triple Aught Design has a full line of outdoor gear — if the stuff I’ve been trying out is any indication, their clothing is cut quite nicely and they’ve got a keen eye for materials and detail. I kind of like their travel porn inspired Flickr feed, especially this one featuring their packs.

Want your own Triple Aught Design gear? Check their website.

Images courtesy of Triple Aught Design.

Gadling gear review: Outdoor Research women’s Frescoe Hoody activewear

women's activewearI love hoodies, and ever since I was old enough to waddle around in my brother’s hand-me-downs (which unfortunately included his tighty-whiteys, until I was old enough to realize that, while my mom’s thriftiness was admirable, clothing your daughter in boy’s underwear was not), I’ve worn them. The versatility, quirky style, and marsupial-like comfort a great hoody can provide make it an unbeatable wardrobe staple for travel or at home.

When I started running a decade ago, zip-up sweatshirt hoodies were my favorite layering accessory. Unfortunately, they’re bulky, and one of the reasons I took up running was so I could exercise while traveling. Thus, like most active women, I require workout gear that fulfills my various needs.

That’s why I love Outdoor Research’s Frescoe Hoody. This lightweight pullover debuted last spring in the Seattle-based company’s women’s apparel line, just in time for me to give it a test-run on a monthlong backpacking trip through Australia.

For this particular trip, I needed a piece of activewear that could perform well in a variety of climates (it was winter in the Southern Hemisphere). It also needed to serve as sleepwear in a Sydney backpacker’s, and at a friend’s Arctic-like, 120-year-old stone cottage in the rainy Barossa Valley. Most important: I would have little opportunity to do laundry, so the hoody needed to, as advertised, deliver moisture-wicking, “quick-dry performance,” and remain stink-proof.women's activewearThe Frescoe Hoody is made of Dri-Release® E.C.O. fabric: 83% recycled polyester, 15% organic cotton, and 2% Spandex. New for 2011 is Built-in FreshGuard® odor neutralization. I have no idea what that last part means from a manufacturing standpoint, but it’s a huge selling point for someone (that would be me) who has been known to travel for weeks at a time in climatic extremes ranging from tropical jungle to high-altitude blizzard, sans access to laundry services. My test hoody didn’t have FreshGuard, and still miraculously kept stench at bay.

Pros

I confess that when I first received my Frescoe in the mail and unpacked it, I was dismayed by both the color (see Cons) and size. Although I’d ordered an XS (sizes go up to L), the “relaxed fit” was still generous. I’m 5’2″, and wear a 32A bra, so the V-neck (which is double-layered, to help prevent gaping, I presume) was a bit too low for me, but I’m used to that. How the flat-chested do suffer.

  • From the first time I wore it, however, I decided I loved the Frescoe’s slouchy design, in part because the bottom hem has a wide, flattering, slightly stretchy band. It’s slimming, but also retains body heat. The fabric is soft, light, and unbelievably comfortable, and the hood stays put but doesn’t constrict (there are no drawstrings). When I got too warm on a run, the hoody was easy to whip off while maintaining my pace, due to its loose fit. Once tied around my waist, it didn’t hinder my movement with weight or bulk.
  • women's activewear
  • What really made me fall in love with the Frescoe, however, are two fantastic features: a tiny, hidden zippered pocket ideal for holding keys, a Chapstick, and a couple of bucks, and cuff fold flaps. For cold-handed types like me, these are ideal when it’s too warm for gloves.
  • I’ve worn my Frescoe in Seattle drizzle, hiking and camping in Shenandoah National Park, and on the windy beaches of Kangaroo Island in South Australia. On that trip, I was only able to do laundry once, 10 days into my trip. Yet the top survived daily runs for two weeks, before being crammed in my backpack for four days while I was in the blistering heat of the Ningaloo Reef region in Western Australia. On day 20, the Frescoe emerged, still smelling reasonably fresh, to accompany me on a long run around Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens. I even slept in it that night because it passed the “sniff test.” What? Like you haven’t done the same thing.
  • The $55 price tag may seem a bit steep for what is essentially a glorified long-sleeve T-shirt. But when you take into consideration the bells and whistles, performance ability, durability, and responsible manufacturing materials, it’s a steal.

Cons

  • At 11.8 ounces, the Frescoe isn’t as lightweight and compressible as some activewear, but it’s not bad and it kept me warm. Given how well it performs, I don’t mind a little extra bulk in my baggage.
  • women's activewearMy only other nitpick are the colors. I admittedly have a pet peeve about women’s gear that only comes in impractical, pastelly or bright hues. I do, however, like the little flower graphic on the Frescoe’s right hip. New 2011 shades (available starting in February) include Mist (light blue), Fuschia, Mandarin, and Mushroom (brown-grey).

My own hoody is Fossil, a not-terribly flattering greyish-green that makes me look somewhat cadaverous. It’s practical, however, and never shows dirt. If OR could make this baby in charcoal, burgundy, forest green, or black, I’d buy another one in a heartbeat to wear on the street, or while tossing back an apres-ski cocktail or four.

In summary, I was really impressed with the Frescoe Hoody. It delivered on its promises to stay dry and not get stinky, and the hidden zip and cuff fold features totally rock for practicality, cleverness, and cuteness. I highly recommend this top as a multi-use travel wardrobe staple. P.S. It’s also great to wear for lounging or while typing up Gadling posts.