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.
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|
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 Two Layers
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).
Warm Freeze Dethroned
Our previous favourite in the Cold Weather Baselayer category was Helly Hansen's Warm Freeze (see postscript below), a well known and highly regarded baselayer; another Merino / Polyester hybrid and another Norwegian brand - clearly the Norwegians know a thing or two about the cold. There are many similarities between the two baselayers, the weights are almost identical (1 gram separating them), the design is very similar, but there are some differences and it's these differences that for us tipped the scale in favour of the Akeleie.
At The Margins: Comfort, Cuffs & Flex
Firstly, comfort. The Bergans is incredibly comfortable against the skin and feels luxurious. The Helly Hansen Warm Freeze is good, but the difference is noticeable.
Secondly, the cuffs. This could go either way and is very much dependent on preference. The Akeleie doesn't have an elasticated cuff and is a fraction longer in the arm. What this means in practice is that the narrow cuffs simply settle at the wrist and should you need to cool down (the wrists are one of those extremities that when exposed fool the body into feeling cooler than it is) you can simply roll up your sleeves and give your wrists / lower forearms some air. The Warm Freeze has elasticated cuffs without much give and is harder to vent. The downside of course is that you could argue that the Warm Freeze is going to trap more warmth - possibly, but a) if it's that cold you're likely to have gloves and/or a jacket on, and they will trap the air; b) the cuffs are pretty narrow on the Akleleie anyway, so it's not like there's a gaping hole at the wrist.
Thirdly, stretch. The Akeleie is noticeably more elastic. If you're climbing or doing things which require you to reach and stretch especially above your head, the Akeleie is far more yielding. The Warm Freeze, due to its "Lifa" inner layer is more constrained - it's not a huge difference, but the Akeleie feels more like a second skin moving with you. In addition, likely because of the stretch, the Akeleie seems a little more forgiving in terms of cut.
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 Warm Freeze
The Warm Freeze is a great baselayer and I want to emphasise that the gap between the Akleleie and the Warm Freeze is small; but having to choose between the two, the minor differences highlighted above swung the decision in the Akeleie's favour.
So far the Warm Freeze has seen more wear than the Akeleie, so we're going to keep testing both baselayers to check durablity and we'll continue to stock the Warm Freeze, as it's an excellent alternative to the Akeleie Half Zip.
|Materials: Merino Wool / Polyester||57% / 43%|
|Weight (Size Large)||257g|
|Product Sizing Reference: 42" Chest =||Large|
|Scramble's Price on SYSTEM||£39.00|
Last Updated: 03/04/17