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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Hot Chillys Micro Elite Chamois T > Test Report by James E. Triplett
Hot Chillys Solid Zip T
Micro-Elite Chamois Base Layer
by James E. Triplett
Initial Report - November 7, 2007
Field Report - January 7, 2008
Long Term Report - March 12, 2008
Personal Biographical Information:
I am an
experienced hiker, backpacker, and camper, and am gaining more
experience with winter camping every year. I hike every day,
backpack when possible, which leads to many weekends backpacking and
camping each year. I try and take at least one annual
backpacking trip in addition to many one to three-night weekend
trips. My style can best be described as
not at the cost of giving up too much comfort. I generally
in a tent, and seem to be collecting quite a few of them to choose from.
Additional Hot Chillys Solid Zip T information:
(from the Hot Chillys website)
November 7, 2007
The Hot Chillys Solid Zip T seems to be a rather substantial long-sleeved base layer. Hot Chillys purports that the garment has a warmth factor of "8", but when trying to find an explanation for this on their website I was unsuccessful. I assume that the warmer the garment the higher the rating (which goes from 6 to 10). However the graphic they use is a thermometer, so the higher numbers kind of look like they could mean for higher temperatures. I suspect however, that this is not the case. The shirt has a high collar, which as the name implies, zips open with a 9 inch (23 cm) zipper. Sleeves are full length, and all edges are nicely hemmed. The zipper has a "chilly pepper" trinket, which is loosely attached and it appears to only be for decoration rather than an actual zipper pull. The fabric is soft, and nice, and inviting to try on. All seams appear to be strong and well stitched (see image below). The black color is deep and luxurious.
The Hot Chillys Solid Zip T is made from 29% Bio Silver polyester, 60% MTF polyester and 11% Lycra, according to Hot Chillys. The fabric is nice and stretchy, and seems a little heavier weight than I would expect. The Bio Silver is used to reduce odor and bacteria, which is undetectable when examining the shirt. The effectiveness in odor reduction will have to be verified in testing, but will be great if it works as previous wicking shirts I have owned tend to trap odor. The UPF (Ultra-violet Protection Factor) rating is 30+, which really shouldn't be a necessity for me as I generally hike in wooded areas with lots of shade.
At the top of the zipper there is a small fabric piece to prevent beard and neck snags (see image above). Behind the zipper, inside the shirt, is a fold of fabric to keep wind out, and the zipper off of the skin (see inside-out image below).
I couldn't find a sizing chart on the Hot Chillys website, so I ordered an extra large. The fit is described as "a snug to the body fitting garment", but at least initially the fit is anything but snug. This is an age-old problem for me, as typically if I get the correct size for my torso then the sleeves are too short. In the case of the XL Solid Zip T, the sleeves are the perfect length but the torso area is roomy. Simply stated, on me if fits like a regular shirt rather than a body fitting garment. As I use the shirt I will see if the extra bulk of the fabric is problematic when layering with other warm weather gear, but the fit is comfortable and it doesn't seem oversized. The collar is about right at 18 inches (46 cm) in circumference, although I wouldn't mind if it was slightly smaller. The collar has a double layer of the heavy polyester / Lycra fabric and feels cozy around my neck.
There are no specific measurements shown for the Hot Chillys Solid Zip T. My measurements (for me, not the shirt) are as follows:
My test plans include evaluating the Hot Chillys Solid Zip T shirt for fit and comfort, warmth and durability. I will be using the shirt on all my day hikes and weekend trips, evaluating different layering techniques both under and over this Micro-Elite Chamois base layer. This will primarily be in Iowa and Missouri. The average temperature and precipitation data for Eastern Iowa is in the table below. The elevations here range from around 480 feet (145 meters) near the Mississippi river, to around 800 feet (245 meters) around my house.
Initial Report Summary:
The Hot Chillys Solid Zip T base layer is made of dense polyester / Lycra fabric, and feels like a warm article of clothing when I hold it in my hand. It is well constructed and inviting to try on. I like the color and the "pepper" on the zipper pull. It is void of decoration except for the Hot Chillys logo above the hem, which by the way, is not detectable from the inside of the shirt and thus shouldn't provide any comfort issues. As the weather is dropping below freezing this week, I am anxious to give this soft, warm, shirt some cold weather testing.
January 7, 2008Test Conditions:
I have worn the Hot Chillys Solid Zip T base layer on all my backpacking and hiking outings since receiving it in November. This has included daily hikes in the private woods near my home in Eastern Iowa, hikes in the Faulks Heritage Woods, Squaw Creek Park, and Pinicon Ridge, all also in Eastern Iowa, and three overnight backpacking trips to Pinicon Ridge County Park and Palisades-Kepler State Park. I have worn the shirt for approximately 25 miles (40 km) of snow-shoeing. The Hot Chillys was also worn on day hikes in Missouri over the holiday break.
Temperatures have ranged from 50 F (10 C) down to a low of 3 F (-16 C). Trail conditions include clear dry trails, wet muddy trails, and since about December 7, snow covered trails (both fresh new snow, and well packed snow). I have also worn the Hot Chillys for splitting wood, shoveling snow, and other outdoor activities. Elevations here are around 800 feet (245 meters). Descriptions of my layering techniques are outlined below.
Fit and Comfort:
As described in the Initial Report section, the Hot Chillys Solid Zip T does not fit "snug to the body" on me. That being said, the sleeves are the proper length, and I haven't had any issues with excess fabric. The shirt feels nice, and the zipper works without difficulty, and the zipper guard has successfully prevented the zipper from snagging on the shirt, or getting caught in my beard.
The 29% Bio-Silver® polyester, 60% polyester, and 11% Lycra blend material is comfortable against my skin, and has enough stretch to allow for my unrestricted movement. I haven't noticed feeling overly damp after any excursions, so the wicking nature of the fabric seems to be doing its job. Even after extended use, 3 consecutive days of backpacking, odor has not been a problem despite heavy perspiration.
When hiking in temperatures around 40 F (4.4 C) or higher, I can slip the shirt on over a thin wicking t-shirt and be sufficiently warm. When the temperature is around freezing I add an IBEX wool shirt and continue to be comfortable. For temperatures below 20 F (-7 C) I add a wind-blocking top layer which is nice for starting out, but at least when I've been out snowshoeing has provided too much warmth and needs to be removed. I have also worn the Hot Chillys over two long-sleeved t-shirts and this has worked well too. Even with all the layers described above, I am able to wear a backpack comfortably. When the Hot Chillys is the outer layer, my pack straps slide on easily and maneuverability is perfect.
When snowshoeing or hiking with trekking poles, my arms seem able to articulate nicely. I am able to unzip a top layer, and then unzip the Hot Chillys shirt for ventilation without missing a beat. As my body temperature increases I typically un-tuck the shirt from my pants for additional airflow. Even on bitterly cold days, I usually return from my hikes with the outer jacket and Hot Chillys unzipped at least partially. It seems that the warmth of the Hot Chillys shirt and other layers rarely, if ever, cause me to feel cold after I've been hiking a short time.
Care and Cleaning:
I have washed the Hot Chillys Solid Zip T three times, as I wear it daily and it has become soiled on occasion. I remove the chilly pepper zipper pull, and then machine wash it with other clothing. After washing it, I typically hang it on a hanger near our pot-belly stove, and let it air dry. It has always been dry by the next morning.
So far, after all the use and several washings, the shirt has remained a lustrous black. The fabric seems to stay in its original condition, and the shape of the garment has remained the same as well.
I have worn the Hot Chillys Solid Zip T with several layering techniques. The only thing I haven't tried is to wear it as a base layer, with nothing underneath, and I don't plan on doing that as the temperatures are likely to remain cold throughout the test period. So far this shirt feels solid and comfortable to wear and has not shown any signs of deterioration. The bright red chilly pepper zipper pull tends to attract comments from other hikers, and I am happy to tell them about this attractive Hot Chillys shirt, and (of course) BackpackGearTest.
March 12, 2008Test Conditions:
Test conditions have remained largely the same as during the Field Report phase of testing. I have worn the Hot Chillys Solid Zip T base layer on two additional over-night trips where I hiked in a couple of miles (3 km) and spent the night in some woods near my house. Due to much higher than average snowfall I didn't spend any multi-night trips during this portion of the test period. However, with 58 inches (150 cm) of snow so far this year, compared with an average snowfall of 33 inches (84 cm), I have had the opportunity to wear the Hot Chillys shirt on approximately 40 miles (64 km) of snowshoeing excursions. All of this activity was in the parks and woods near my residence in Eastern Iowa where the elevation is around 800 feet (245 meters). Additional day trips were taken in Missouri and Ontario, Canada.
The temperature back in November when I received the Solid Zip T was around 50 F (10 C). Since December 7 the ground has been covered with snow, despite some warm days and periods of rain. We are just now starting to get our spring thaw as the highs are finally approaching normal, which currently is a little above 40 F (5 C). During January and February there were days in a row when the temperature stayed below zero Fahrenheit (-18 C), and sometimes temperatures fell as low as -20 F (-29 C). The Hot Chillys Micro-Elite Chamois Base Layer was worn with different additional layers through all of these conditions.
Long Term Testing:
The Hot Chillys shirt has become one of my favorite articles of outdoor clothing. I am all for saving weight and packing light, but I love the substantial comfort of this nearly 1 pound (actually 14 ounce, or 400 gram) shirt. Primarily I have worn the Hot Chillys shirt over a wicking short-sleeved T-shirt, and under my IBEX wool 1/2 zip (see picture below). As the temperature dropped I added a wind shell, and when it dropped even further, I replaced the short-sleeve T with a heavier long-sleeved shirt. By doing this, and adding or adjusting other garments such as wool socks, hat, and tights, I have remained perfectly comfortable down to -20 F (-29 C).
When hiking with trekking poles, or snowshoeing with trekking poles, the Hot Chillys articulates well and I haven't had any bunching or binding problems. The fabric is smooth and slides well beneath outer layers or pack straps. The waist and sleeves are long enough, although a little more length would be better for me. I haven't had any problems with the shirt coming untucked, but I wouldn't mind if the shirt extended its warmth a little lower, especially in back. I have long arms and when I reach for things the shirt sleeves pull away from my gloves exposing my wrists. (This is not unusual for me, and the best solution I have found is using a shirt which has a thumb-hole in the sleeve, however the Solid Zip T does not have this feature.) The pepper zipper-pull, which I originally assessed as "decorative", has held up perfectly fine and makes finding the zipper easy, even when wearing large gloves.
I have machine washed the Solid Zip T base layer approximately 10 times, and it still has the nice black sheen to it. When washing I have been careful to remove the plastic pepper zipper pull as to not damage it. The only noticeable deterioration has to do with the stitching on the cuff of the left sleeve. Some of the stitches have popped which resulted in the thread coming unraveled (see picture below). I trimmed the hanging thread, but have not done anything else to the stitches, and there doesn't appear to be any additional concerns. Other than the one thread, the Hot Chillys shirt has held up perfectly.
The 29% Bio-Silver polyester comprised Hot Chillys shirt has avoided or circumvented any issues at all with odor. I have worn the shirt for days at a time, and under heavy snowshoeing part of that time, and the stink-factor has been near zero. The Hot Chillys Solid Zip T weighs in at 14 ounces (400 grams) which seems heavy for a base layer. That being said, in the cold weather I have warn it over a very thin T-shirt (4 oz / 113 g), and under a wool pull-over (16 oz / 450 g), and a wind shell (14 oz / 400 g). So of all these coverings the Hot Chilly's represents less than 30% of the weight. And that doesn't include pants, boots, hats, and gloves. So I don't mind the weight, and I really do like the serious fabric and feel of the Hot Chillys. The Solid Zip T is attractive in black, and the red pepper on the zipper seems to garnish lots of attention. This is definitely a desirable garment which feels nice, wears well, and can substantially add to keeping me warm while hiking in Iowa winter conditions. If the sleeves were just a scoosh longer it would be perfect.
This concludes my report series on the Hot Chillys Solid Zip T Micro-Elite Chamois Base Layer. Thank you to Backpackgeartest.org and Hot Chillys for the opportunity to participate in this test series.
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