Reviewing base layers is rarely a favourite task for gear reviewers, after all they are ‘just’ base layers and it comes down to variations of wicking, warmth, fit, odour resistance, SPF and durability. On the other hand they are fundamental to any clothing system and frequently play a role in comfort out of all proportion to their cost.
Artilect are a new entrant in the market with a full layering system being developed for a phased release. Unfortunately for Artilect their premiere release coincided with a global pandemic but they have negotiated that hurdle, got their initial product to market and seem on course with future releases. I got to try their A/SYS 1 DARKHORSE zoned crew and leggings. These are constructed from Nuyarn®, a method of spinning from New Zealand that ‘drafts’ merino along a high performance core fibre – nylon in this case I believe. The result when compared to normal merino base layer fabric sound amazing:
- 5x Faster Drying Time
- 35% More Stretch
- 35% More Loft (Less Weight)
- 50% More Durable
- 20% Less Raw Materials
Now I can’t vouch for these figures from my own use in any objective manner but I can say that claims of improved durability and drying time are clearly evident. The core fibre can be a variety of materials – in fact chatting with some of the Artilect team they have a light hoody coming out that uses a fibre derived from the banana tree which gives the best SPF factor of any natural fibre! Anyway back to the base layers on review. The DARKHORSE is a 185g/m weight crew neck with a technical zoned construction aimed at further enhancing breathability and mobility. To this end the dark coloured panels are perforated to increase breathability and are strategically placed on the flanks/under arm, elbows and back. Construction is absolutely top notch with neatly executed overlocked seams and features including a micro cord hanging loop and thumb loops. The thumb loops are a good illustration of Artilect’s attention to detail, as you’ll notice from the photo the section that pulls against the ‘web’ of your thumb has not been overlocked but is some form of rolled seam so that you don’t get the harsher stitching rubbing on your thumb – a quality touch.
After several months of wear and washing the top has kept it’s shape and fit impeccably and there is little or no sign of wear. Fit wise the size small I received was very snug on my 5′ 8″, 36″ chest frame, apparently the review samples came out a bit on the smaller side as during the pandemic production checks were more limited – this has apparently all been rectified with the main production run. As a consequence of this my only niggle with my top was the tightness of the cuff seam when I tried to roll the sleeves up, it was doable but only with a struggle and not really comfortable! I haven’t used the tights much as it’s been too warm but pretty much the same comments re fit ie ‘snug’ for a small apply to them, no thumb holes either 😉 (Update I can confirm that production versions allow easier rolling up of the sleeves)
At 185gm the A/SYS 1 DARKHORSE is what would normally be reckoned to be a midweight top but it punches a bit above its weight in many ways. The construction of the fabric lends a bit more wind resistance than is customary with a base layer without seemingly to compromise breathability. On a sunny Spring day in the Lakes I did a 30km run with temperatures ranging from 4°C up to 14°C with a bit of a breeze and felt perfectly comfortable whether running along a breezy ridge or striding up a steep slope, the only time I put another layer on was when we stopped for our sarnies. I haven’t had the chance to test it in proper winter sub zero conditions but initial impressions are very favourable. Besides being as warm if not warmer than a conventional merino top of similar weight and more windproof by a significant margin the A/SYS 1 DARKHORSE also dries more rapidly. Merino is a wonder fabric in many ways; temperature regulating, non stink etc. but its achilles heel is usually (like all wool) that it is slower to dry than synthetics and less resistant to abrasion. The Nuyarn construction is far more competitive on both fronts – perhaps not quite on the level of the best synthetics but a significant improvement over conventional merino but still retaining merinos thermoregulating qualities and odour resistance.
- Odour resistant
- Comfortable over a wide temperature range
- Faster drying than conventional merino
- A little snug but this may well be just the media samples.
Now available direct from Artilect in the UK too
Disclaimer – CGR reviewers are never paid to provide a review and the website does not take advertising. We are a bunch of keen climbers and travellers that accept sample products and offer an honest and independent review of the item. The reviewer will often keep the sample after reviewing it for both hygiene reasons and more often they’re in no fit state to return!