Bergans of Norway's Akeleie Half Zip Baselayer
As always, we're looking at the Bergans Akeleie Half Zip from the point of view of long distance trekking over tough terrain.
We've updated this review (11/06/19) with a special mention for Helly Hansen's Lifa Merino Seamless Half Zip - which has made choosing an outright winner almost impossible.
Test subject: Chest 42", Waist 33", Height: 5ft 8"
Test item: Size = Large, Colour = Green Tea & Lime (aka Green)
Kit Tests: Winter
Disclaimer: None required (item not provided by manufacturer)
|Materials: Outer (Merino Wool / Polyester)||80% / 20%|
|Materials: Inner Lining (Polyester)||100%|
|Weight (Size Large)||258g|
|Product Sizing Reference: 42" Chest =||Large|
|Scramble's Price on SYSTEM||£49.00|
- Performance & Features
- Any Negatives
- Conclusion & Rating
- Postscript: Helly Hansen's Lifa Merino Seamless Half Zip (shared honours?)
Introduction: The Ideal Winter Baselayer
"There are tons of good base layers on the market at the moment, but I’d look closely at the lighter weight Merino wool clothing and better still the Merino / polyester mix’s which don’t get as heavy when wet and dry fast (plus they still don’t stink!)." - Andy Kirkpatrick (mountaineer)
Enter the Akeleie Half Zip by Bergans of Norway - a Merino / polyester hybrid baselayer that's as near perfect as we can imagine.
The Akeleie is part of Bergans of Norway's hybrid series of two-layer, woolen baselayers made from a combination of Merino wool and polyester.
The benefits of Merino wool are well known and I'll summarise them briefly:
breathable, moisture wicking and temperature regulating, resiliant and elastic (maintains shape over time), quick drying, insulating (and warm when wet), comfortable, odour-resistant and anti-bacterial.
There are probably more, but it's easy to see why Merino wool is such a great fit for baselayers (especially those designed for highly active pursuits in cold and wet conditions - you can read more about the wonders of Merino wool here).
The inner layer is made of a very fine and soft, perforated polyester and helps trap air and move moisture away from the skin.
The Bergans Akeleie's outer layer is a Merino / polyester mix (80% Merino).
Merino fibers can absorb and retain up to 30% of their own weight in moisture and still feel dry to the touch. This is a great feature but has a downside, in that a pure Merino layer when saturated can get quite heavy. By adding a synthetic weave to the wool, Bergans reduce the overall moisture absorption of the garment, which in turn further quickens its drying time.
The Akeleie baselayer was thoroughly tested in our most recent Winter Kit Test and was extremely impressive. Throughout the 7 days, precipitation (rain, hail, and snow, mostly rain) was almost constant, yet I was able to dry out the baselayer from beneath the insulated jacket after pitching, and then sleep in it to get it completely dry for the next day. I wore it pretty much constantly for the whole trip (except for a few nights and the final travel day). It remains comfortable when wet, doesn't feel clammy, and dries very quickly.
The baselayer has a good quality zip with a baffle to hold in the warm air and flatlock seams throughout to prevent chafing.
Seasonal? Yes ...
We use the Akeleie during the wintery sides of Spring and Autumn under a lightweight (non-thermal) softshell jacket and in Winter under the combination pictured below. So the baselayer regulates ones heat when active, while the softshells protect from the elements. This combination has been fine down to -10℃ (when active).
Helly's Merino Hybrid Dethroned?
Our previous favourite in the Cold Weather Baselayer category was Helly Hansen's Warm Freeze (now Life Merino Half Zip - see updated postscript below), a well known and highly regarded baselayer; another Merino / synthetic hybrid and another Norwegian brand - clearly the Norwegians know a thing or two about the cold. Since updating the Warm Freeze (we're interested in the Lifa Merino Seamless model) the gap has narrowed and we discuss the close call in our postscript. The difference now is more nuanced, but the bottom line is that we still marginally favour the Bergans
No ... and we like complaining about stuff, but seriously, none.
Conclusion & Rating
If it's not perfect, it's close
There's nothing revolutionary about the Akeleie half zip, they've just got everything right: from the choice of materials, to the fit, the zips, cuffs, collar and seams, all done to a high standard. There's simply nothing we would change.
The Bergans Akeleie Half Zip is a superbly designed, functionally styled, winter baselayer. A second skin that keeps you warm when you're wet, dries rapidly, and is luxuriously comfortable. This ideal balance of function, style and luxury make the Akeleie Half Zip Scramble's top pick in our Cold Weather Baselayer category.
Rating (out of 10)
* The value score is derived from two factors:
1) Competitive Market Price (CMP). This represents our judgement of a competitive online price point if we were to stock the item. e.g. if we feel we would need to sell an item at 40% off (i.e. 60% of its full RRP) to be competitive, then our CMP score will be 6/10.
2) Customer Value Price (CVP). We then make an honest appraisal of the maximum price we would be willing to pay for the item (and we're mean). So if we'd pay 80% of its RRP our CVP score would be 8/10.
We then average the two scores to get our final value score, which in our example would be 7/10.
Postscript: A Note on Helly Hansen's Lifa Merino Seamless Half Zip (Shared Honours?)
The Warm Freeze (pictured below) was a great baselayer and the gap between the Akeleie and the Warm Freeze was small. Helly Hansen have subsequently released a number of Lifa Merino variants; the one we rate is the Lifa Merino Seamless Half Zip. It's a little different and has made the choice between the Bergans and the Helly more nuanced and harder to call.
Not so long ago when life was a little less complicated, Helly Hansen made two Merino / synthetic hybrid winter baselayers (one a half-zip and the other a crew neck): the Warm Freeze and the Warm Ice Crew. Now there's a plethora of Lifa this and Lifa that. We'll try and simplify things:
- The new Warm Freeze is the Lifa Merino Max Half Zip
- The new Warm Ice Crew is the Lifa Merino Crew
However, Helly Hansen now make a seamless lightweight version of the old Warm Freeze the "Lifa Merino Seamless Half Zip", and that's the one that piqued our interest.
The Lifa / Merino material mix has changed for the lighter seamless version: The polypropylene has gone from 43% to 44%, the Merino has dropped from 57% to 45% and this has made way for a little (11%) polyamide (nylon) to toughen things up a little (no bad thing in our opinion). It's lighter, stretchier and more comfortable.
The Ideal Baselayer: Material Mix & Form
In our view all baselayers (without exception, summer or winter weight) must be form fitting (to be considered true baselayers) and should have a good amount of polyester or preferably polypropylene (see caveat below*) in their fabric mix.
* Polypropylene is warmer than wool, and so heavier winter merino hybrid baselayers (~250g+) if using a sufficient amount of polypropylene can feel too hot when active (and thus may benefit from a polyester mix instead, as per the Bergans Akeleie). Polypropylene is best suited for winter baselayers pushing at the lightweight end of the spectrum.
Everyone knows the superb properties of Merino wool; less well known are the "made-for-baselayer" properties of polypropylene. Polypropylene is warmer and lighter than wool and is extremely hydrophobic (fast wicking), it's also nearly as abrasion resistant as nylon when wet (see here for more details).
The Lifa Merino Seamless Half Zip is surprisingly warm for its weight, sufficiently stretchy (to be form fitting without losing recovery/elasticity) and yet tougher than many other similar items due to the added nylon.
There are differences between the Bergans and the Helly, but they are extremely marginal. The Bergans has a little more give, is a fraction less form fitting, is heavier and feels slightly more luxurious. The Helly is perhaps the more pragmatic, ideal baselayer in that it's lighter, more form fitting and wicks moisture more aggressively, yet provides approximately equal insulation. To be honest, if they were the exact same price we may well opt for the Helly. However, they are not and so presently, we still rate the Akaleie top. But because they are so close, we'll attempt to stock both if we can (and provide them at a similar price-point) that's our sneaky way of passing this tricky headache on to you.
|Materials: Merino Wool / Polypropylene / Nylon||45% / 44% / 11%|
|Weight (Size Large)||190 g|
|Product Sizing Reference: 42" Chest =||Large|
|Scramble's Price on SYSTEM||£44.00|
Last Updated: 11/06/19