Gear Review: Lululemon Men’s Apparel

I’ll admit it, when I first heard that Lululemon had produced a line of men’s active apparel I was skeptical. As a gear enthusiast with my mind constantly on the mountains I hold brands in distinct categories in my head. When I think of clothing I would wear on a snowshoe or trail running excursion I tend to think of companies like The North Face, Arc’teryx, and Icebreaker, not Lululemon. Even still, for the past few weeks I have set my snobby biases aside and hit the trails to try out two of Lululemon’s new pieces: the Metal Vent Tech Thermal Tight and the Sweat Session Half-Zip. All I can say is I am glad I did.

DSCN5802Out of the box my first impressions were positive. The look and feel of the pieces is great. The Sweat Session in particular is surprisingly soft to the touch, making use of Lululemon’s sweat wicking Rulu fabric. The texture is comparable to that of bamboo cotton despite both pieces being made from 90 percent Nylon, 7 percent Spandex, and 3 percent X-STATIC (silver-infused) nylon. The purpose of the silver treatment is to inhibit bacterial growth and prevent odor. With that in mind, I did my best to introduce some bacteria.

An initial criticism of the tights specifically is that they are tough to put on. The fabric may be soft and warm but it is also incredibly stretchy. The only method I have been able to use to get the tights on and off is balling-up the legs to fit in one hand and slipping my foot through the length of them in one go. It’s a small thing but a novel problem. I’ve used plenty of base layer pants in the past and these are definitely the most challenging to get into. That being said, once on they feel amazing. They are softer than merino wool or any other material I have used. After trying them on for the first time I wore them under my jeans for the entire day just because of the feel.

The Sweat Session is also incredibly comfortable and well designed. Each sleeve has an inside and outside cuff with the inner material containing a thumb hole for easy layering and a solid outer cuff for warmth. The collar is also double-thick, sealing in warmth in cold weather. The zipper is smooth and a thoughtful piece of fabric caps the top end. This feature not only prevents cold metal from touching your skin but also prevents stray beard hair from snagging in the zipper. Very considerate move by Lululemon.

As for putting the pieces to work, it is a little early for snow in the west coast mountain playground I call home but it is the perfect time of year to break in new gear on cold, wet, sweaty trail runs. Over the past three weeks these two pieces have firmly entrenched themselves into my activewear rotation. They wick moisture incredibly well and allow for comfort through a full range of motion. I will note that despite being thicker than similar wool tops I have worn, the Sweat Session is a colder piece when soaked through. The Vent Tech Tights however, have kept me warm in all conditions.

DSCN5803As for the smell… well it is tough to report on something that doesn’t exist. I am a sweaty person. My wife can testify to the rank odors my fitness clothes have wafted through our home over the years. But even factoring in my sweatier than average biochemistry, and even though I didn’t wash either piece until it had been through six hard workouts, there was no odor. The most I can say is that when I finally through the Sweat Session into the washing machine yesterday it didn’t smell quite as fresh as it did on Day One. One wash later and it is good as new.

All in all, I am extremely impressed. I can’t wait to take both of these pieces on snowshoe trips this winter and they have become my go-to fall running outfit. Lululemon may not have the outdoor pedigree of other brands, but they knocked these pieces out of the park.

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Steve Kux

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