I think I may have finally found the one hoodie to rule them all - at least for my specific climactic needs. It is a hoodie of such delicious merino warmth and enough style that I can get away without wearing a mid layer during winter activities. It has the most innovative and useful hood I've ever seen on a baselayer. And, for the icing on the frosty cake, it has thumb loops. The holy grail for frigid weather? Let me introduce you to the Aclima WarmWool Hoodie.
The Aclima hoodie is made of a sturdy 200g/m2 merino - one of the warmest rated materials I've seen in a hoodie so far. For hiking or snowshoeing in anything below -12C or so, it offers just the right protection from the cold.
Many people revert to synthetic baselayers in winter for their ability to dry fast when wet from vigorous activity. Merino, being wool, dries more slowly, so it is vital to maintain a balance, using the appropriate weight wool for the appropriate tempatures and your, ahem, personal microclimate. The ideal is to wear the minimum necessary to allow perspiration to wick and evaporate without building up moisture in your baselayer. I've found that the WarmWool Hoodie and a thin mid layer (I've been using my
) allow venting options aplenty to keep me warm and dry while doing moderately strenuous activities in the cold. For more intense aerobic activities (i.e. skiing) a synthetic top might still have the edge, but for hiking and snowshoeing, I've found this combination to be very comfortable - mainly because the Aclima hoodie has some very well-thought out and designed features.
It has a long torso length, which I like because I can tuck it in my hiking pants so it won't keep riding up. I hate it when baselayers do that - it's so annoying to have to keep readjusting things.
Unusually for a baselayer, there is a nice hand-warming front pocket. The design is stylish enough to be worn as a single layer, so this pocket comes in handy for stuffing gloves or odd things in, or for warming your hands.
The next great feature: super thumb loops. These are not just your average run-of-the-mill thumb loops cut into the sleeve. These are essentially extended sleeves. We might call them "wrist gaiters." Why are these so great? Well, they extend well over the back of your hand without stretching the arm, warming all those veins close to the surface without making you feel like you are wearing inflatable tubes on your arms. If you get too hot, you can fold them back
your mid-layer sleeves to let some cold air in. Enough cool air? Slip them back onto your wrists without using the thumb loop and you have a kind of wrist buff. Perfect. And while I'm on the subject of buffs...
The hood of the top is one of the best designs I have ever seen. It's a balaclava style hood that offers a multi-functionality approaching genius.
In "normal mode" you have a basic crew neck. The hood is folded back completely over your neck. Nothing new here.
But because the hood is a balacalva, it has a separate (yet integrated) neck and chin guard. If you imagine pulling on a balaclava, but leaving the top of the hood behind your head, you'll get the idea:
It's a buff! And not just a 'kind-of' buff, but a real one. This is simply brilliant. It provides extra neck warmth, and can be pulled up over your chin, mouth, and/or nose.
Then, when you stop and that slight breeze you hadn't noticed starts to chill your head, pull up the ninja hood.
I acknowledge it's a little weird to get so excited about what amounts to technical grandpa underwear, but I can't help but feel this is the most innovative and useful base layer I own. It is great to have a multi-functional piece of clothing which can be easily adapted to suit different conditions. And for the warmth and flexibility it provides, 360g isn't too shabby.
Of course, there are other tops out there which are somewhat similar. The Silkbody Pilot comes to mind (see
), and indeed it looks very nice. Thumb loops, check. No crew neck mode though. I'm not sure about the ear holes, and Buff mode has yet to be revealed (perhaps in the comments?). But the price... £120. Compare this to the price of the Aclima: £73.54. I got mine from
, and for those outside the EU, the tax-free price is £61.28. A serious bargain.
As I mentioned, for intense activities I might still go for synthetic, but while I've been wearing it for the last few weeks it hasn't felt wet once. I find that in merino I am more aware of my body temperature - I'm more sensitive to when I'm getting cold, or when I'm perspiring. This is good because I then know I need to adjust my layers to compensate. Perhaps that's why I've managed to keep the top from getting wet. I know my back is perspiring, but the WarmWool stayed dry.
In short, the Aclima WarmWool hoodie is a really brilliant design, and a really great top. Highly recommended if you live somewhere seriously cold.