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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Cloudveil Run Dont Walk Half Zip > Test Report by Roger Caffin
|Initial Report 22-January-2009
I started bushwalking at 14 and took up rock climbing at University with the girl who became my wife and my permanent walking partner. Ski touring and canyoning followed. Winter and summer, we prefer long hard trips by ourselves: about a week in Australia, up to three months in Europe/UK. We prefer fast and light in unfrequented trackless country. We would be out walking, skiing or snowshoeing for at least three months a year. We have now moved to lightweight gear, much to our backs' relief. I designed and made much of our lightweight gear myself.
I am also the maintainer of the Australian aus.bushwalking FAQ web site www.bushwalking.org.au/FAQ/.
Winter 2008: where I would love to be to test this top.
|Year of manufacture:
|Country of manufacture:
|9 oz (255 g) (unknown size)
|11.8 oz (335 g)
|88% Polyester, 12% Spandex
Product Claims and Product Description
The company web site claims that the 'Power Stretch® fleece traps heat, sheds light moisture and packs small when crammed along an epic annual trip'. The Polartec swing label which was attached to the Run Don't walk 1/2 Zip Top confirms the fabric name and adds that the fabric is 'highly breathable' and is 'wind and abrasion resistant'. In the hand the fabric has a smooth knit outer surface and a fleece inside surface, and it feels tough but quite stretchy. The web site says 'Multi-sport dexterity makes this piece the first layer we put on pretty much all winter long' but I have to disagree with the 'first layer' part of this. It is certainly not a base-layer garment in my book; the thick Power Stretch fabric puts it in the range of middle or warmth-layer. I discuss this further under First Impressions.
As far as style goes, the web site claims 'a trim cut layers with no bulk, a DeepDrop™ front zip lets air circulate, a chest pocket holds daily items and flatlock seams add contrast.' It is a reasonably trim fit, not loose and flappy like a big fleece jacket, but not quite as tight as a thermal base layer. The 'underarm gusset' they mention is there, although I suspect it could have been replaced by a more simple part of the sleeve. The 16" (405 mm) front zip is quite long, as the photo shows. The front pocket is there, but it is not large. It would be quite adequate for a compass or a handkerchief, but not much more.
The seams are sewn with a flatlock stitch which does indeed produce a neater result than the old-fashioned style of seam. There is no seam going along the top of the shoulders to make marks on my collar bones - that is nice. Curiously, the cuffs use the same fabric but with the fleece on the outside rather than the inside. The collar is quite high when zipped up.
The web site claims the weight is 9 oz (255 g) for an unknown size. That's too heavy for a good base-layer, but reasonable for a warmth-layer which is where I think it fits. The actual weight of the one I received is 11.8 oz (335 g), which is 31% heavier than expected. Now I know we have to allow some variation in weight due to manufacturing tolerances, but 31% is a bit over the top. If I had bought this via the Web I would be rather unhappy at the unexpected increase.
At this actual weight it is significantly heavier than my Bozeman Mountain Works Cocoon warmth-layer top (also reviewed here at BGT). Going on my previous experience with fleece layers, one of this thickness won't be nearly as warm - although that has yet to be tested in the field. However, it is obviously far more robust than the ultralight fabric used in the Cocoon, and I think it could easily be worn while carrying a pack - also to be tested of course. I would not risk wearing the Cocoon with a pack. Robustness has to be traded against weight.
The first impressions I got were that this top smells! Perhaps stinks would be a better description. It emitted a rather unpleasant almost acrid synthetic smell when I took it out of the box it arrived in (by post from America). I have no idea whether the smell came from the manufacturer (highly unlikely!) or was collected somehow during shipping. It is possible that the smell was actually some sort of fumigant used somewhere in the shipping chain or in Customs - it smelt like that sort of thing but I don't know. It persisted for a couple of days until I gave the top a good hot wash. That got rid of the smell. This was not a good start, but I don't think the manufacturer was responsible.
Going on what I read on the web site ('the first layer we put on') I was expecting some sort of a base-layer 'thermal' top. I was not sure how they managed to justify US$125 for a base layer, but that's the purpose of testing. Well, the quoted weight of 255 g (9 oz) is rather more than a normal thermal top weighs (mine typically weigh about 190 g or 6.7 oz), but the actual weight of 335 g (11.8 oz) was far more (31%) than that. Had I been a customer trying to buy a base-layer thermal top using the web site information I would have been a bit unhappy at the real weight. To me it seems that the web site is misleading: this is a warmth layer, and the quoted weight and price are fairly reasonable for that. I do think that Cloudveil should update their web site with real weights and a better description.
Never mind: the top still looks good. I am normally a medium size, and the fit of the Medium Walk Don't Run 1/2 Zip Top was fairly good on me. I tried waving my arms over my head to see whether the underarm gussets made any difference: I couldn't see much difference from other clothing, but maybe the fabric stays a bit closer under my arm pit. I did the zip on the collar right up, and found that the top of the collar does come a long way up my neck. It seems to rise up further than might be expected from the way it sits around my neck in the lead photo.
I mentioned above that the pocket seems small. Actually, it is fairly high (180 mm or 7") but quite shallow (just over 115 mm or 4.5"). I think that may be a smart move by the designer: the narrow width lets the pocket stay out of the way of pack shoulder straps. The 150 mm (6") zip closes upwards: much better than some I have seen which close downwards. An upwards-closing zip does not risk losing things if slightly open.
The web site did not seem to say much about the length of the top. Well, it seems to be a good length: it covers my backside moderately well, and the back looks to be long enough to stay tucked in if I have overtrousers on. This matters: I can remember having to tuck my wife's shortish top back in several times during an epic retreat in a winter storm last year. She didn't like the way the wind whistled around her kidneys.
The arms seem plenty long enough for me too, and I have fairly long arms. Waving my arms over my head as mentioned above, I was not conscious of any downwards pull on the sleeves and cuffs. It's nice to be able to keep my wrists well covered in bad weather.
I am intrigued by the use of fleece with the fluffy side outwards for the cuffs. I have not seen this before, and wonder whether the fluffy surface will pick up dirt or snag or wear quickly. I note that the hem is conventional, with the smooth surface outermost.
Field Report - 4 April 2009
Field Test Conditions & Locations
When I applied for this test my plan was to take the 1/2 Zip Top on some walking trips before Xmas 2008, but as may be seen from the date of the Initial Report the Top did not arrive in time for that. Unfortunately our summer, covering January, February and the start of March in Australia, was a season of unusually extreme heat, and it saw some of the worst bushfires on record on the East Coast (200 dead and 750 homes lost, and climbing). We were not game to overnight in the bush, and neither were we willing to leave our farm unattended overnight in that time. Consequently some of my testing so far has been at home during a few evenings late in the Field Test period when we had sudden cold nights. These resulted from sudden flips in the weather with severe storms coming over the mountains.
Fortunately I was able to take the Cloudveil Top up into our alpine region late in March to get a bit of use in the field. This was at altitudes up to 1,600 m (5,250'). That said, night-time temperatures only got to about -2 C (28 F): quite warm relative to a real winter.
Field Test Findings
Despite the predominance of at-home testing, I have quite a few things to report.
It never returned after the first wash. I blame somewhere in the shipping or Customs.
The fabric is interesting. It has quite a smooth surface which is remarkably robust. I have deliberately bashed around a bit in the 1/2 Zip Top at home and outside in the field to give it a slightly rough time, and the knit surface has largely managed to look untouched. I am quite impressed by this. And it feels good too.
The flat seams have been good. I don't feel them and they show no wear either. They are good stuff.
Neck and Zip
The fit of the neck when the zip is done up is 'close'. It is not too tight, but I am conscious of the height of the neck. However, I had better qualify that by stating that I have yet to wear the top in genuinely cold conditions. I suspect, based on experience, that the neck would be just fine in bad weather. A little more testing under more suitable conditions is needed.
As may be seen in the lead photo and in the photo here, the cuffs are actually made from the same fabric, but turned outwards so the fluffy bit of the fleece is showing. I had reservations about this in my Initial Report - it seemed that the fleece might get a bit damaged by being exposed this way. Well, the fleece pile has flattened down a bit at the cuffs, but so far not too badly.
The cuffs are not tight around the wrist. While some might prefer this, I found it a slight nuisance. The cuffs kept drifting down to cover the bottom part of my hand, leaving me concerned that they would catch on something or drag in something or get tangled up in something - or just get grubby. The way it overlaps my hand is visible in the photo. When washing up (at home and in the field) I was continuously hitching the cuffs up out of the way. It's a very small thing, but I think the design could have been a bit better here. The problem is fixable with a little bit of elastic threaded through the cuff.
To be honest, I have not experienced enough really cold weather to be able to properly test the warmth of the Top. If it is worn as a first layer, as the web site suggests, and I have a fleece 'warmth' layer over it, I get very warm very quickly. It is a lot warmer than one of my 'standard' Australian thermal tops.
This is where I have to report being a bit confused. When I saw this on the Cloudveil web site I identified it as a warmth-layer garment. That impression persisted when I inspected the fabric on arrival. However, the web site says it was 'the first layer we put on pretty much all winter long'. I interpret that to mean it is meant to be a base layer, not a warmth layer. After two months' use I have to report that I am still a little confused. Let me explain.
The torso part of the 1/2 Zip Top is not a tight fit around my body. Looking at the photo here one can see that the torso is a little slack on me. Granted, at 167 cm (67") and 63 kg (139 lb) I am neither large nor fat, but the Top is a Medium and that is my normal size. What this means is that if I wear the 1/2 Zip Top as a base layer, I do feel a little drafty at times around my kidneys, and this persists somewhat even if I tuck the top into my trousers. This would not be good in snowy weather.
On the other hand, if I put a light long-sleeved thermal top on underneath this 1/2 Zip Top, the result is much better. That applies for a cotton skivvy, a silk-weight thermal top by Duofold (also tested here at BackpackGearTest.org), and some Australian polypropylene thermal tops. So judging from the torso fit I would still say this is a warmth-layer garment. However, note that I have not tested this as a thermal top under a thicker heavier fleece layer: it has just not been that cold yet.
When I look at the arms it is a different matter. The arms are cut long and narrow, to suit a base layer. That is to say, if I wear the 1/2 Zip Top as a base layer the arms work OK. The cuffs are not tight, but they are not really drafty. On the other hand, if I try to wear the 1/2 Zip Top over any other top I have a real problem with the sleeves. The inner fluffy side of the Cloudveil fleece drags on the thermal top underneath, such that I cannot get the Cloudveil sleeve adjusted 'correctly'. It often feels a bit wrong, and I think that is because the fleece does not slide well over other fabrics. This is visible in the photo here, where much of the sleeve is bunched up near my wrist.
So the top seems to have a curious split personality. Some thoughts occur to me about this. If I was a bit fatter, as so much of our population is today, the torso might fit me just fine as a base layer. Alternately, if I had a Small fitting instead of a Medium, that too might fit me just fine as a base layer. One possibility is that the design is aimed at those members of the population who are a bit 'heavier' than me, or maybe that the Medium is just a bit too big for me.
Another definite possibility is that I am wearing the Cloudveil Top under conditions that are a bit too warm for its real purpose, that being a base layer for really cold conditions. If I needed and had a heavy fleece on over it I might find the fit was better, but this is something I have not been able to test here.
I think I need some more cold-weather testing before I can really give a solid assessment of the Cloudveil Run Don't Walk 1/2 Zip Top.
Long Term Report - 14-May-2009
Later Test Conditions & Locations
We simply didn't get sufficiently cold weather during the Long Term part of this Test for a real assessment of the Cloudveil Top under severe conditions, but I did get to wear it under lots of cool conditions in the mornings and evenings. Actually, I must have worn it on and off for well over 30 days in this period.
I never did get the sleeves to slide easily over any clothing worn under it, and it never got cold enough to wear the Top as a base-layer with something over the top of it. But I got used to having to hold the cuff of a light base-layer in place while I pulled the sleeve of the Cloudveil Top over it. Once again, I think my conditions were just not what the Top was meant for. That said, it did keep me quite warm when I wore it 'my way'.
The surface of the Cloudveil Top is a smooth knit. Normally I would have expected that surface to be on the inside with the fluffy layer outside. In fact, I made some hut slippers out of a very similar fabric that way. But the Cloudveil Top has the smooth surface on the outside - so how did it fare? Actually, extremely well! The tight knit of the surface made it very resistant to catching, snagging, or getting damaged. To be honest, towards the end of the Long Term Test period I got just a trifle rough with it. Well, let's say I stopped worrying about snagging it on bush and so on, and the Top handled it all very well. Even at the end of the whole Test period I can't actually see any damage, wear or abrasion.
Crashing around the place did result in the smooth surface of the fabric picking up dirt marks from branches and such. And I am sure it might have got a little sweaty at times, as I often waited until I was quite warm before taking it off in the mornings. It got thrown in the washing machine with other stuff and emerged looking all bright and clean each time. It still has no marks.
The final thing worthy of note is that the good quality of the fabric. It has not stretched at all, even at the elbows. The pile seems as fluffy as when new. I do have a top made of some lighter pile fabric which has got a bit flattened at the elbows, but this stuff seems to have retained all its spring. I expected the fluffy cuffs to show some serious wear over the whole test period as they are very exposed. There was some impact, but the amount of flattening of the pile is not great. This is not cheap poor-quality fabric by any means.
I have not been able to use the Cloudveil Run Don't Walk 1/2 Zip Top as it was probably meant to be used, as a true base layer in severe cold; instead I have used it more as a light fleece layer under cool conditions. But it has proved to be both warm and rugged enough. The sleeves are cut to be a base layer, which has given some minor hassles, but that has been manageable. I normally have the zip at the neck open a little, so I haven't had much experience with it tight around my neck, but it was OK on those occasions when I did do it up. Importantly, the fabric has held up very well.
I would not recommend the Top as a fleece layer: there are many other options with a better fit over the arms, but it has given me good service despite that. It will certainly remain on my 'active' pile.