Mammut Trovat Powerwool Baselayer Review
Baselayers are, with good reason, a staple of most outdoor campaigners wardrobes. They insulate, wick moisture from skin level through to the outer layers, are easy to care for, relatively cheap and they dry quickly. That's all good - but they have some drawbacks too. They have a tendency to smell after a period of sweaty action and, depending on the fabric they are constructed from, they wear reasonably quickly.
The classic Baselayer fabric choice has, for decades, been synthetic fibres which are comparatively cheap, durable and wick moisture well. The downside is they tend to be the pongiest option (although coatings like Polygiene which we reviewed here are helping to make this less of a problem). A natural alternative to synthetic is Merino wool. Merino insulates really well, wicks superbly and is extremely comfortable to wear. It's production is also less polluting than the manufacture of oil based synthetics. However, it is more expensive and, significantly, it generally wears faster than synthetic.
So, the ideal option may really be a baselayer constructed from a combination of Merino wool and synthetic fibres. Enter Polartec Powerwool. This is an intriguing fabric combining an inner layer of Merino wool with an outer constructed from synthetic fibres. This should mean that Powerwool insulates well, wicks moisture well, stays fresher smelling that standard synthetics and is durable enough to last out a good deal of wear. I was recently sent a Powerwool fabric Mammut Trovat Baselayer top to test and I wondered if it would live up to the hype.
I opened the package without too much initial excitement as I expected this to look same as most other baselayers I've had - they aren't known for being the most attractive items with, typically, fairly drab and simple colour schemes. So, on opening the packet, I was really pleased to see that the Trovat looked like, by Baselayer standards at least, very stylish indeed. It is a long sleeve two tone top with a good cut and short chest zip. You could wear it on the crag or the hill but it would actually still hold its own if you were wearing it in a social context.
I have always been weary of wool clothing garments because I find wool itchy, but Merino is very different to other wool because its very short fibres which make it comfortable to wear next to the skin. The Trovat, as a result, feels great to wear. The cut is trim so I wouldn't suggest sizing down for this top but, having said that, the fit is excellent.
I have been using the Trovat a great deal over the last couple of months. This has included time mountain biking, running, trekking and climbing in the UK along with a few weeks trekking in a very different climate in the north of Vietnam. These varied environments have required different types of performance from the Trovat as the UK weather was predominantly cold and damp while Vietnam was much warmer but with more humidity.
Merino is known to be a brilliant insulating layer and I have found this top to be impressively warm for its weight during the test conditions experienced in the UK. As a comparison test I did a half and half day during a damp and chilly climbing course in the Peak District - for the morning I wore a synthetic mid weight baselayer and then swapped at lunchtime to the Trovat (I wore the same midweight fleece and water resistant softshell over both base layers). I felt the Trovat was significantly warmer than the synthetic.
The more static activities like climbing weren't a significant test of the tops wicking capabilities so I was keen to test it for more aerobic activities. During some full on mountain bike rides I saw how well the Trovat wicks moisture. I would arrive at a rest point feeling damp and clammy but in a very short time the Merino had worked its magic and I was cosy and dry again. It was actually really impressive.
In Vietnam the conditions were very different. The temperature varying significantly from chilly mornings through to much warmer temperatures by afternoon. It was also humid. Again. The Trovat coped really well and I found I could wear it comfortably over the full day and just add another insulating layer for the colder parts of the day.
Merino is known to be better at staying fresh smelling after longer wear periods (when compared to synthetics) and Vietnam offered the perfect chance to find out how well it coped with extended wear. Much to the amusement of the team I was guiding I committed to wearing the Trovat for 7 days in a row. Sure, I didn't sleep in it and left it to air overnight each day, but it still got used all day and every day. The result was again very impressive. It wasn't smell free, but it was certainly still okay - and my team weren't running away when I came close. I was very impressed with its smell performance.
Merino's big drawback has been known to be its durability. It wears relatively quickly and can lose its shape over time. This is especially likely when worn with a heavy rucksack or waist belt rubbing against it. Powerwool is designed to help with this because the synthetic outer layer helps garments keep their shape while also adding more overall durability. This is the aspect of the Trovat that it is more difficult to comment on after this length of time but I can say the top has certainly kept its shape well and so far is showing no signs of significant wear despite a lot of use with a rucksack. I will add some comments about longer term durability after getting more use out of it.
I think the Trovat is a really great baselayer that, despite a relatively high price (RRP £80), is well worth the money. It is stylish, performed brilliantly in varied test conditions, is comfortable to wear and has, so far, shown that it can last well even when used in high wear situations. Very highly recommended.
Posted by Paul
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