For a while, my preferred base/mid layer for anything cold (running, snow shoeing, cycling: sweaty pastimes) has been the Arc’teryx Konseal. Its lightweight thin fleece fits closely to my body, and the ‘scuba’ hood with integrated face warmer/jaw component of a balaclava keeps my head warm and fits unobtrusively under a helmet without impeding my hearing. When it gets too warm, its zip drops immodestly low, allowing for rapid cooling.
Last week, TAD released their Vortex top. It’s of the same mould: thin fleece, hood, thumb holes, good zip length, low bulk. While it lacks the face/neck warmer of its Arc cousin, it has sufficient differences to make it unique. The fleece is, for want of a better word, loftier, and thicker in places where one might want it thicker (around the neck). There’s shoulder reinforcement to stop your fancy pack straps from chewing through the material there, and the hood is looser. What I’m not sure about is the seams: every so often, the seams on the should just don’t quite fit right, although this is entirely subjective: your shoulders are not my shoulders, and if they were, we’d have to have a timeshare agreement.
Particularly pleasing, is that it’s $40 cheaper without a discernible compromise, which given the arena both tops inhabit (high-end mountain sports wear whose price is only relevant to the rest of the line and the competition’s) is refreshing. TAD also highlight that the Polartec fleece is made from recycled polyester, and who doesn’t like recycling? Given Icebreaker’s recycling of old socks into new jacket lining, it’s nice to see other company’s getting in on the trend. (Who knows? Perhaps one day old TAD fleeces will be recycled into the lining of new Equilibrium jackets.)
I’ve been wearing the Vortex in the many (irritating) microclimates of the Bay Area, and it’s been satisfactory. Spending most of a day in a cold server room, the thumb holes (loops?) and hood were comforting, zipping the neck all the way closed. After running between floors, or being in the sun, discarding these and zipping the neck down allowed for immediate cooling. It hasn’t got cold enough to layer it yet, but on a cool windy July evening by the bay it was just warm enough to be warm on its own.
I look forward to taking it on a jolly somewhere cold where it sits over a merino T and under a jacket, but until then, this is a fine top to own.