When it comes to baselayers, I’m now exclusively a natural fibres man – merino wool wins. Previous experience with man-made fibres has been underwhelming. The garments were uncomfortable next to the skin and soon developed nasty niffs in use.
Wool, on the other hand, delivers comfort even when damp and natural ‘anti-stink’ properties. Merino is not perfect, though, taking longer to dry and having a tendency to lose shape when wet. And it is more expensive.
Nevertheless, I was keen to try the Berghaus and see first hand whether improvements in man made fibres might steer me away from merino.
The Vapour Long Sleeve top retails at £34, nearly half the price of an equivalent merino wool top. It is a lightweight garment too, pulling the kitchen scales down to 150g.
Test conditions (so far)
This top has been worn as a single layer while hill walking in warm muggy conditions in the hills of Scotland and as part of a traditional layering system under waterproofs in the Peak Distinct. It has also been used for daily commuting by bike.
The Vapour crew is made from Argentium, a 100% polyester fabric which Bergahus claims offers quick drying and breathable performance and improved freshness due to the incorporation of ‘silver ion’ technology.
Polygiene uses small quantities of silver salt as an antimicrobial agent to inhibit the growth of odor-causing bacteria.
The main body fabric has two textures… a more open knit on the outside of the garment and a denser closed texture next to the skin. This improves breathability and moisture management. The fabric is open weave at the arm pit, again to help with breathability. The contrast shoulder panels are stretch fabric.
Initially, I found the fabric had that uncomfortable ‘plasticy’ feel of other man-made tops I have tried. However, when worn under a rucksack for a five-hour trek, it lost much of this characteristic and, after a few washes, now feels soft next to the skin.
The Vapour crew top has an unusual three-part construction with stretch panels on the shoulders, which Bergahus claim are designed to free up body movement. I’m not entirely convinced of the effectiveness of this approach, but the top looks good as a result, resembling a baselayer under a t-shirt. All seams are flat locked and comfortable.
I do have a problem with the fit. I like baselayers to fit closely, but the large on test here is too big in the body and too short on the sleeve. I readily accept that I am far from a standard size, though.
As already mentioned, after a couple of wears the Vapour top is very comfortable next to the skin and breathes well.
Using it alone with a rucksack – my GoLite Pinnacle, not known for its moisture management qualities – I get a sweaty back but the fabric handles this moisture well, remaining comfortable. Where the top really scores compared to a wool layer is the speed at which it dries, far quicker than merino in my experience.
The Vapour top has been worn for a week in Scotland without washing in some quite tough conditions. It has also been worn for a week at a time without a wash as a commuter top (again used with the ‘sweaty’ GoLite Pinnacle).
The top picks up the smell of deodorant more readily than wool, but I found it performed better overall than other man-made fibre baselayers I’ve tried combating smells. It’s not as good as wool, though, and I have found that antimicrobial treatment becomes less effective over time while merino keeps on performing. Time will tell.
The Vapor has washed well so far following the manufacturers’ instructions. However, the fabric has a number of pulls in the back from wear, a problem I’ve encountered on other synthetic tops.
I will wear this top throughout the winter and report back in the New Year on its longer-term performance.