There is always a lot of talk about puffy jackets and fleecy mid-layers that look cool on the outside, but the layer against your skin is probably some of the most under-appreciated gear you have. I’ve seen many guys wearing t-shirts or other cotton material under really expensive jackets — definitely a newbie mistake. Once you get sweaty and that cotton soaks it up, then it doesn’t matter how many insulating layers you have if you are wearing an icy layer of cooled-off cotton right against your skin. The moisture-wicking Polarmax 4-way Stretch Zip Turtleneck could be your answer.
I have been a fan of zip turtlenecks for a long time, since I was barely 10 years old, because they are so useful for regulating core body temperature. Overheating? Just unzip the neck a bit and you get a blast of cool air right down your chest. Too chilly? Zip it up full and retain that heat.
Polarmax takes that value and extends it further by building a 4-way stretch material (Acclimate dry polyester) into their Mountain Skins line, whereas most competitive zip turtlenecks are only 2-way stretch. This makes for a noticeably more comfortable range of motion for highly athletic activities. Also the Polarmax zip-turtleneck is a much thicker wicking material than many others, so it is what I pull out on the coldest days. I’ve used it backcountry skiing as well as nordic skiing. It was too warm for nordic skiing, so I had to go most of the time showing off my hairy chest with it fully unzipped. But the 4-way stretch was very welcome for such an aerobic activity. If I were to use it for cycling it would have to be longer in the waist and not so thick.
The 4-way stretch is really comfortable for the really active adventures you do. The thick material is 90% Acclimate dry polyester, 10% Spandex, and is very welcome for backcountry skiing. Even more welcome riding the lift on blizzard days. It is cut very square in the torso, which was the perfect cut for me (while I’m fit, I don’t really have the lats of a swimmer). But I had others with a v-shaped torso try it and they felt it was too much material in the body. To each their own. Overall, the medium fit me well (I am 5’11″ and 170lbs).
The zip-turtleneck is great for regulating body temperature, but was very uncomfortable on my Adam’s apple so I had to use it a little unzipped most of the time (see pic at right, with me wearing my avalanche beacon over the shirt). We have had side-zip collars on ski jackets for a while now (see the Oakley Alps Jacket and the Arc Teryx Sidewinder) but why isn’t anyone making side-zip turtlenecks? Maybe someone is, and I just haven’t seen them yet. Seems like a no-brainer. My last gripe is the wrist cuffs. They are quite tight, which I suppose is good for blocking out snow and wind from making its way up your sleeve. But I very much prefer a wrist cuff that actually hangs a bit below the wrist and is looser, possibly with thumb loops. The tight wrist cuffs are uncomfortable when you reach above your head (to clip your goggles to your helmet, for example) because the cuffs get stuck halfway up your forearm. Then you have to fish your fingers inside your jacket cuff to try to pull them down. But again — it’s personal preference on the wrist cuff style.
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