Weight: 125 grams
Materials: Recycled Polartec Power Grid fabric;
91% polyester, 9% spandex;
Zippered chest pocket;
Fixed scuba hood;
YKK reverse coil zipper
Until about five years ago, I never gave much thought to base layers. It was just something I had—usually tight and soon-to-be really stinky—that went on underneath everything else. The first one to change my mind was a pair of Helle Rambouillet merino leggings from Duckworth. Then it was Patagonia’s Merino Air wool. Today, it’s the Basecamp Hoody, a base layer from Strafe that I wore practically every day this season.
With such high-performance base layers available, there’s no reason for any skier to be cold and clammy ever again. What’s so surprising about the Strafe Basecamp is that it’s not merino. Rather, the secret sauce is in Polartec Power Grid material. Being synthetic, you’d expect it to lack the soft subtle feel of wool while being susceptible to the putrid stink after wearing. But it actually does feel like wool against your skin and I’ve found it to be stench-free even after multiple uses without a wash. (I’m wearing it now as I type this, hoody up to block the wind, on the front porch of a coffee shop in the unseasonably cold Boulder, Utah.)
The way Polartec Power Grid works is by creating a bi-component knit construction that uses different yarns on either side of the fabric. The point is to create two different surfaces: one to wick moisture away, and one to dry quickly. It’s essentially a grid on your skin, and it looks like very small puffy lines of fabric separated by air channels across the interior. Polartec describes this feature as “touch lines,” helping to wick sweat while increasing airflow and thus drying.
Essentially, it means that you can wear the piece on everything from backcountry missions to tram laps to weekend camping trips at the lake. Besides that, the Basecamp Hoody has just enough good style from Aspen-based Strafe that you don’t feel like such a techy gear nerd if it’s the only thing you’re wearing at the bar. The large chest pocket is a nice touch, but I don’t really use it. The key factor is simply that the piece goes everywhere I do, no matter the weather or my intentions.