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Going back to base-ics for the perfect winter warmer… no, not a hot toddy, not yet, anyway

I was trying to recall the first time I covered a review of a baselayer. I reckon it was around 2000, as Editor of Lakeland Walker magazine, or it might have been Camping, or Outdoor Pursuits. No, it must have been Lakeland Walker, because I had been spending a lot of time amongst the fells of this treasured National Park, honing my skills on trekking, scrambling, and climbing, and reporting on said activities. I had started to attend outdoor trade shows, getting to know manufacturers, PRs, and fellow journos. Branded items from the likes of Berghaus, Vaude, Sprayway, Columbia, The North Face, Icebreaker, began arriving on my doorstep as I prepared either individual or comparison reviews, sending round robin emails containing forward product feature lists covering jackets, boots, trousers, socks, hats and gloves, trekking poles, rucksacks, and, yes, baselayers, from crews to half zips, short and long-sleeved products for winter and summer wear.

Of course, it is not only adventurers that wear layered clothing. Bikers, too, are a prime example. Can we call ourselves adventurers? I suppose we can lay claim to that one, too, because we are adventurous of mind, spirit, and soul. And we like to keep warm, layered up appropriately as the seasons change. And yet, and yet, even after years of great products on the market and favourable guidance duly offered when appropriate, some bikers still manage to get it wrong. How many times, for example, have we been told not to wear cotton when taking on some form of physical activity, even when there are so many other excellent options out there? If you wear cotton, you will know that as you perspire, the material pulls heat away from the body, leaving you cold and uncomfortable. No one wants that, especially when you may have some distance still to travel on a bike.

Far be it from me to tell you to go suck eggs, but, depending on budget, you will still need to consider breathability and durability, and whether the product is quick-drying and has odour-resistance built in. And, boy, are there plenty of materials to choose from depending on your preferences, from synthetic to wool, silk, or bamboo fibres, all boasting an array of benefits, temperature control being a primary, offering both ventilation and breathability, thereby keeping you cool in a warm environment but warm when the cold sets in. No doubt you have heard of wicking, too, which is when moisture is moved from the skin to the fabric, removing sweat (I hate that word, let’s use perspiration instead) and keep your skin dry. Another mistake newcomers to baselayers make is opting for a loose-fitting product. Bear in mind that baselayers are meant to cling to your body, thereby acting as a second skin, so snug is the keyword, from where the layering process can begin.

And as we head through the coldest, most miserable part of the year, warm baselayers become essential pieces of kit, whether you are cleaning your bike in a cold garage, or planning a ride on a brisk morning when the sun is out, and salt is not going to clog your bike’s pores.

I mentioned earlier that I had tested a range of different baselayers over the years, but new to me, and possibly you, too, are Zerofit. And we are not simply talking torso coverage here, but pretty much the whole of the body, with baselayers, leggings, socks, neckwarmers, hats, and hoodies in the range. The brand hasn’t been dragging sheep off the New Zealand fells to produce Merino wool products in this case. (*See Footnote, a late entry to the story.) Oh no, Zerofit’s collection of award-winning products is designed in Japan, and central to the Zerofit Winter Collection is the Heatrub Ultimate Baselayer, independently tested to be five times warmer than a standard product, and twice as warm as a regular sweater or jumper. Yes, five times. It took a while for that to sink in. As for the Ultimate Leggings, Socks and Neckwarmers, little wonder, then, that they have also become some of Zerofit’s best-selling products, so when the temperatures drop as low as -10 degrees Celsius, their products make for a great option. Mind you, if you happen to be out on your bike in those kinds of temperatures, you must be bloody mad, but then you’ll be toasty, too.

For the techno wizards out there, I refer to the blurb… ‘Technologically enhanced ‘Heat Threads’ inside the Heatrub Ultimate Baselayer are activated through movement, gently brushing against the skin to generate heat instantly.’ And now without reference to any blurb, it works. Do I sound surprised? If so, I don’t mean to. Sometimes we (product testers) can get a bit blasé about such things (oh yes, just another baselayer), but not so in Zerofit’s case.

Zerofit

Ultimate baselayer with mock neck

Donning the baselayer with what Zerofit term as a ‘mock neck’ and four-way fabric stretch, plus leggings, socks and neckwarmer, I head out on a very cold Tuesday for my first test. As I roll the bike out of the garage,  a heavy mist lingers in the air, stretching across the fields in layers. There’s a haunting stillness in the atmosphere. As I increase my speed, moisture quickly builds up on my outer jacket and I quickly find myself wiping my visor clear of water droplets. Once out of the village and into the calmness of the countryside, I glance at the TFT screen and note a temperature of three degrees. Zerofit advise that there is no need to don multiple layers, so I hadn’t. On any other occasion I may have been tempted to throw on a thick midlayer before leaving the house, but I want to see how good this product really is, and, yes, I am seriously impressed at the warmth being generated throughout my body. Just a mere twist of the upper body had got those heat threads working. And yet the strange thing is I hadn’t really given the outside temperature much thought, because it hadn’t affected me. Unencumbered by bulky clothing, I was comfortable, with plenty of flexibility through my body. With no panniers or top box to hand, I had nowhere to store back-up layers, just in case, and, you know what, I didn’t need any. I was back to wearing a leather jacket and armoured jeans over the leggings.

ZerofitThe socks were toasty warm, tucked inside a pair of my regular biker boots. The socks are a perfect length, coming three-quarters of the way up my calf, with a nice, stretchy/flexible top which doesn’t cut off circulation like other, more standard winter-type socks I am used to wearing. The clever design of the sole pattern means that the socks stay in place inside your boots. Yes, they are quite thick, but they are a winter sock, after all, but remain light and soft to the touch. And the best thing, or one of the many best things, is that I have worn them since throughout the day, both on and off the bike, thanks to the moisture-wicking properties. Get the better half (if you’ve got one) to wash them at 40 degrees C or colder, and don’t tumble dry, simply hang them to dry. Simple.

ZerofitThe Heatrub Neckwarmer is made of the same material as the Heatrub Ultimate Socks, and, naturally, works in the same way as the top, so you are treated to the same benefits. Slightly deeper at the front to give your neck more protection from the wind, the Neckwarmer comes with a toggle drawstring, and once on you will instantly feel the benefit.

There’s a lot to take on board here, but even so, Zerofit have not been idle this past year, making available their popular Heatrub Move Baselayer in Dayglo alongside the Black, White, Navy and Titanium colour options. The Move is more dedicated to the spring and fall seasons, particularly beneficial between -5 degrees and 12 degrees Celsius, but even so, with a dip in temperature this is still a great option for milder winter outings, which I was happy to discover, with the innovative fabric and design ensuring no cold sweat to worry about. Instead, you are treated to adaptable warmth for that unrivalled versatility. I say ‘unrivalled’, because I have yet to come across a brand which offers so much clever technology in the product range.

ZerofitOh, did I mention the Hoodie/Parka? Don’t think so. Housed under the Heatrub Move banner, the cooling two-layer construction repels moisture from the body to the outer shell fabric and boasts an ultra-fast drying effect. This was the first of the Zerofit products I tested and at first was intrigued by the construction, which uses 45 per cent polypropylene which is significantly lighter than polyester, nylon, and water. Like many other layers, it offers more warmth for less weight, whilst the unique ‘LABO’ fibres retain more heat for a longer period, making for a perfect accompaniment to the Move Baselayer. I found the insulating properties to be particularly effective, and the top very light yet comfortable, with a drawstring hood which can be closed for a snug fit to keep the chill off the head and ears. Add to that the hydrophobic nature of the hoodie, and I was both dry and warm and therefore happy to wear it throughout the day.

As I mentioned earlier, much depends on your budget, but Zerofit score highly as these products work for a range of outdoor activities, with biking heading my list. I’m not a runner/jogger, but even so, for those that are, the Move Baselayer in (new) Dayglo and Black also come with a thumbhole option to keep the sleeves from rising when you’re pounding the streets at night… that’s whilst I’m planning the next day’s ride – weather dependant, Zerofit at the ready…

  • Heatrub Ultimate Baselayer – £55
  • Heatrub Ultimate Leggings – £55
  • Heatrub Ultimate Socks – £25
  • Heatrub Neckwarmer – £25
  • Thermal Bobble Hat (yes, Zerofit offer one of these, too, for the winter… with a bobble) – £20
  • Heatrub Performance Move Hoodie – £55
  • Heatrub Move Baselayer – £40
  • Heatrub Move Leggings (new for 2023) – £45

Shop for the full collection, colour choice and sizes at www.zerofit.co.uk

Main image | xtberlin from Pixabay

FOOTNOTE

ZerofitEarlier I mentioned Merino wool. As I was about to post this article, I received notification that Zerofit had just made available their Heatrub Merino Wool Baselayer, exclusively designed and manufactured in Japan, to customers in the UK, Ireland and throughout Europe. I understand this follows requests from customers for a Merino option; one that will set you back £89. The baselayer is available in both black and white. Analysed for its thermal properties in the same Heat Retention Test in Japan as the Ultimate and Move Baselayers, it came out three times warmer than a regular product. Comprising 75 per cent wool, it delivers a softer touch against the skin as well as excellent anti-bacterial and odour-resistant properties. Durability is enhanced by utilising a blend of 17 per cent acrylic and eight per cent polyurethane, which aids moisture wicking. Offered as a unisex product like the Ultimate and Move, it is available in Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large.

Gonzo

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