Alpkit: Merino Wool Base-layer
I'm not the biggest wool lover. When I hear about clothing that’s made from wool, I have traumatic flashbacks to my childhood of being suffocated in my Nana’s knitted sweaters. So naturally I was a little hesitant when I saw Merino wool base-layers being marketed as active-wear. Deciding to not judge a base-layer by its wool, I got my hands on an Alpkit Merino Wool Base-Layer to see how it fits into my active lifestyle, and whether I could be converted to be a wool wearer.
What is Merino Wool?
Before I embarked on this mini mission of mine, I did some research into the properties of Merino wool and what made it so good for active wear. It originates from Merino sheep (duh!) whose wool is a lot finer than other sheep wool which gives it a softer and less-scratchy feel, and this is why it's better for people with sensitive skin... like me! The wool itself contains keratin elements, the same kind we produce ourselves for luscious locks and strong nails, and it's the keratin that gives the wool a silky soft feeling.
This material has natural anti-bacterial properties which helps deter bacteria and odours. This is great for us sweaty betty's when we're powering up a climb, or launching ourselves down a mountain. Merino wool naturally locks the bacteria found in sweat, so that it's trapped in the material rather than releasing unpleasant smells. This is another reason why you can afford to wear the same garment a few times before needing to wash it. Keeping on the same point of fluids as well, the wool is very good at holding water and can absorb approximately one third of its own weight before you're left damp. So it's not too bad in a light shower because it holds water well, but also dries super quick!
I hope you're already convinced that Merino wool is the bee's knees, but I'm going to carry on blowing your mind and tell you that despite it looking and feeling thin, it keeps you super warm! Not un-like down, Merino wool allows the heat you create to be trapped in little air pockets between the fibres which keeps you really warm. But, it also has the ability to release the trapped heat because it's so breathable. This feature helps regulate your body temperature when you're exercising, which is brilliant!
So my initial research had me curious and excited to put my Alpkit base-layer to the test. I've worn it out a few times now, both as an under-layer and on its own, and I can honestly say, I wish I had more of them! I love the fit of this top, especially the low scoop neckline as I cannot stand tight neck lines, and a scoop line is more flattering to the female form. One of the smallest features, with the biggest impact was thumb loops! I was pleasantly surprised this top had thumb loops and although it didn't make much sense at first, these play a crucial role whilst riding. The long body fit is great, especially for when you're really stretched over the bike and don't want any exposure. A great neutral colour (eggplant) makes it easy to mix-and-match with bottoms too.
Alpkit Merino Wool and Riding
Wearing my Alpkit Merino wool layer whist riding was really comfortable for a number of reasons. Firstly, the thumb loops. Using these keeps your sleeves down and once you pop your gloves on, you've sealed the wrist area so no wind or water is shooting up your sleeve. This is great as I'm always tucking my sleeves into my gloves, so I love this feature. The top is really lightweight, soft and totally breathable which is ideal for a day's riding as I felt both warm and "airy". As I mentioned earlier, I've worn this Merino Wool top a number of times now, in all weather conditions and I've washed AND tumble-dried it (sin, I know). However, it retains it's shape, fit and colour remarkably well! I feel that it still has a lot of mileage in it for such a thin woollen material.
Throughout the whole process of ordering (which was easy), delivery (which was fast), packaging, wearing, riding and washing... I have very little negative feedback. The only thing I could remark on is the £39 price tag which felt like a lot for just one base-layer. However, having tried and tested the Alpkit's top, the price tag can be justified by the great quality, fit and features of this product. Not only this, but outdoor and active wear is expensive for a very good reason... you need it to be fit for purpose!
Alpkit: "Go nice places, do good things..."
When I buy things which are for a specific purpose, like biking, I always check out the "about us" section on the website because I want to know why and how they got into these areas of business. The reason being is because I feel more confident purchasing products from a company where the founders are active people, where they have knowledge and expertise in their respective fields. It reassures me that they are making kit which is suitable, high quality and stylish. This is what I found with Alpkit. There are four founders, Nick, Chunk, Jim and Kenny who all share our common passion for the outdoors and being active. Between them, you have mountain bikers, climbers, campers and everything outdoors! They are a small company producing really great quality outdoor equipment and clothing, and I highly recommend you check them out!