SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE GEAR REVIEW:

Gear Review: Wear Bamboo with the Bambool Thermics Baselayer

The name Bambool Thermics sums up the new company’s products rather tidily.  Bambool Thermics uses a mix of 68% bamboo, 27% merino wool, and 5% spandex in its baselayers that were designed by a husband and wife team based in Vail, Colorado.  I got a top and a bottom in the mail just as spring was starting to make a dent in the Adirondack snowpack.

Bambool Thermics top, worn on the way down Mt. Monnadnock in New Hampshire.

Bambool Thermics top, worn on the way down Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire. Photo Credit: Walter Raudonis

I’d never worn bamboo before and so had no idea what to expect. Out of the packaging, the material is light and soft. When worn, the black fabric has a shimmering look to it and feels extremely comfortable. The stitching is unobtrusive and there are no tags. The fabric is form-fitting and seems to be forgiving if I lose or gain weight. On the pants, the fabric is a bit sheer, at least for my fit. I tend to wear pants over them if I think I’m going to encounter many people. With the top, I haven’t noticed a problem.

The baselayers were clearly designed by skiers and for cold-weather athletes.  The pants are 3/4 length, designed to stop just above ski boots for minimized friction. Both the top and bottom feature gussets in key areas of extra strength. The top, in particular, has some good features including an extended sleeve with thumb holes that interfaces really nicely with gloves. The collar and last few inches of sleeve have a couple of layers of fabric which adds warmth. I do find the collar to be a little bit stiff and restrictive when zipped up all the way, so I tend to keep it slightly open. I really appreciate that the zipper fits into a snug case when fully closed. The top is designed so that the metal zipper never makes skin contact. I hate being out in the winter and having a cold metal zipper touching the skin on my chin and apparently the folks at Bambool Thermics do too.

Within a few minutes of wearing the baselayer for the first time, my large dog jumped up on me, as if on cue. He ran his sharp claws along the fabric of the shirt. When I inspected the shirt a minute later, I saw that the weave remained intact. However, I wasn’t as fortunate a month later when a spark from a campfire burned a small hole through both a pair of fleece pants and the baselayer. Since the baselayer is made from predominately natural materials, the fibers don’t melt and stick together when burned. The fabric surrounding the burn hole has begun to unravel slightly as it is frequently stretched out when I wear the pants.

On my first day of trying out in the baselayer, I wore both the top and bottom on a snowshoe trip up St. Regis Mountain in the Adirondacks. Although the wind was a bit chilly, the sun was out with highs in the mid to upper 20’s. I wore a pair of nylon pants over the baselayer and soon realized that I’d overdressed as the warm sun heated me up. I sweated into the baselayer on my way up the mountain and continued to stay warm on my way down, following a quick break at the top. As I walked the last 4 miles back home, I began to feel cold and I became aware of the damp layer next to my skin. From the experience, I realized that for my body, wearing both layers makes me run too hot for late winter/early spring temperatures. In terms of its weight to warmth ratio, the fabric definitely packs a punch, given how light the material is. I did notice that in spite of all the sweat, the baselayers held odor far less than most the synthetic baselayers I’ve tried.

Bambool Thermics pants layered under shorts.  Photo taken in Shenandoah National Park.  Credit: Ben Lieberson

Bambool Thermics pants layered under shorts. Photo taken in Shenandoah National Park. Credit: Ben Lieberson

With more of an appreciation of the fabric’s warmth, I found myself frequently wearing the pants without the top. The bottoms are great to wear under light hiking pants on cool days. I wore the bottoms on several hikes and jogs with temperatures in the 30’s and 40’s and they preformed much better when I wasn’t as overheated. I also threw the top in my pack on several hikes, wearing it on the way down. I found that it provided the perfect amount of warmth on cool days when I’m exerting myself moderately.

The baselayers are wonderful camp clothes. They are comfortable and layer well with fleece pants and tops. At first I felt like the top was too short for my torso when I was hunched over my stove or the fire, but I soon realized that I could tucked it into my pants and alleviate the problem. I’ve worn them around camp and in my 3 season sleeping bag with temperatures ranging from the low 40’s to the mid teens. I’ve found that they’re perfect for that temperature range. Occasionally, I’ve found the fabric to be slightly itchy around camp. I tend to notice some itchiness when I’m not moving and it’s not enough to keep me from wearing it to bed when I’m camping. When I’m active, it is always comfortable. I tend to find merino wool to me slightly itchy, while other people never feel any irritation.

Overall, I found that the Bambool Thermics baselayer was really great to wear as long as I wasn’t too warm. I’m excited to give the fabric a try during the heart of next winter. I can see them being my go-to layer for cold days snowshoeing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and other activities where I really want a soft, warm baselayer.

For more information about Bambool Thermics, visit: http://www.bamboolthermics.com/

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