Saturday, 28 August 2010

Trekmates bamboo baselayer

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the sour vinegar smell that rises up from inside my waterproofs after a couple of hours in a synthetic baselayer. It’s more rancid than good honest sweat which I can put up with and it was always a pointless exercise to even try to combat it with deodorant. Add to that, the fact that I’m not a fan of chemical scents in the wild and the slightly dubious notion of trying to block up your pores for three days without washing and merino starts to look like a good option. I managed to pick up a smartwool ultralight shirt in TK Maxx for 25 nicker but after only a couple of trips it looked like it had gone a few rounds with a moth heavyweight. Enter bamboo fabric. It claims to limit smell in the same way as merino but be harder wearing. I was definitely interested.

Trekmates is an odd company. They seem to be struggling to decide whether to be a cheap as chips budget company or one of the companies more willing to experiment and they walk a fine line between the two. I’ve always been happy with my gear based on how much I’ve paid for it. I had a windshirt off them- did the job but the finish was a little slapdash, and some gloves which I’ve been very happy with. A lot of people have raved about the stretch Goretex socks they did but which seem to have been discontinued. But they also do a bunch of stuff which seems to be aimed at people who do most of their walking in the park with the dog but fancy themselves as hardened explorers. Odd.

I actually had two of these shirts. The first was from Ultralight Outdoor Gear. The label says to wash them to shrink the shirt by 6%. But the shirt drowned me. I am at the lower limit of the size guide, and really I’m an XS ratger than a S, but this was ridiculous. I rang back UOG where the guy was reasonable but (understandably) didn’t want to take back a shirt that had been washed. I rang Trekmates and they said to try to wash it again. In the meantime, I had seen another of the same shirt in TKMaxx, tried it on and found that it fitted better than the washed UOG shirt. Comparing the two, the new shirt was definitely slimmer in the torso. I’m guessing that a small label had been in a medium shirt. Although the bloke from UOG had said I could send it back, I couldn’t really be arsed. I washed the new shirt and sent the other one to charity.

The feel of the material is nice and soft. It’s stretchy, but not as stretchy as merino. On the Trekmates shirt, it’s pretty thin, but feels quite tough. The colours are a nice muted grey and black. I wore it on the trip with Solomon and the smell resistance was definitely as good as merino. The cut is relaxed. More relaxed than I would like in a baselayer and seemingly aimed at a T-shirt look. Like I said, I’m on the small side of the sizing. I would say that it would be worth getting the next size down if you want it a bit more skin tight- but certainly, I would recommend trying it on before buying. The arms especially were loose and long- good for rolling up, not so good for falling down and protruding under a coat in the rain.

I had two big gripes with this. The first was the neck. I’d got a round neck, so can’t comment on the zipped variety, but the opening was way too big. The edging on the opening was in the same bamboo material so not very stretchy. It gave it a kind of ‘indie’ 80’s retro look. Not so good on the hill, especially as it was so big that the neckflap on my OR sunrunner didn’t cover it.

The second problem was the fact that the shirt as a whole was pretty shapeless. Not only was the neck baggy, it became a strange shape after the washing. One of the arms was noticeably longer than the other. It’s all a bit...wonky.

So, another case of a nice idea, poorly executed. I swapped my Trekmates windshirt for the Rab version. And I’ve swapped my bamboo baselayer for an Icebreaker. Bamboo is certainly worth keeping an eye on, but I’ll wait until someone else does it a bit better.


Mac E said...

I've tried Trekmates Bamboo and my experience is pretty much the same as yours. The fit is very loose (I'm quite small/slim) it didn't appear to shrink at all and the neck is really wide. On the plus side I found it very comfortable to wear, smell free and quick drying if you're wearing under a wicking midlayer. I prefer the fabric, if thats the right word over merino but it needs to be executed better.

I also agree with your take on Trekmates, they seem a bit unsure where they want to place themselves.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, always useful to know the drawbacks of gear.

Art said...

Thanks for the review. I'm considering what to buy for my next adventure and I do like the impression on how soft and smooth it is. I think it is almost like silk. I want to wear what fits me well and the comfort it bring while using it.