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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Sherpa Sonam Base Layer > Test Report by Ben Mansfield

Sherpa Adventure Gear
Sonam Quarter-Zip Base Layer Top

Initial Report Field Report Long Term Report
10 May 2010 13 July 2010 14 Septemeber 2010

Sherpa Adventure Gear Sonam Base Layer Manufacturer Photo

Sherpa Adventure Gear
Sonam Quarter-Zip Base Layer Top
(Photo Courtesy of Manufacturer)

  Reviewer ProfileBackpacking Background
  Name:Ben Mansfield

I have been backpacking for well over 15 years. These days my normal trips are long weekends, though I do occasionally get out for a longer trip. My normal stomping grounds are western Pennsylvania and southern Ohio, and I have backpacked nearly all of the North Country Trail as it runs through Pennsylvania.

I consider myself a mid-weight hiker, but trending with the rest of the community towards a lighter load. My typical base pack weight (no food, no water) is around 20 lbs (9 kg) or less, and doesn't vary much with the seasons.

 Height:6' 0" (1.8 m)
 Weight:165 lbs (75 kg)
 E-mail Address:benmansfield27 AT gmail DOT com
 City, State, Country:North Ridgeville, Ohio, USA

Initial Report

10 May 2010

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Product Information

Manufacturer:Sherpa Adventure Gear
Model:Sonam Base Layer
Manufacturer URL:
Year of Manufacture:2010 (Presumed)
Manufacturer's Weight:250 g (8.8 oz)
Measured Weight:241 g (8.5 oz)

Product Description

The Sherpa Adventure Gear Sonam base layer is a lightweight top intended for use in warmer weather. The one I received is an attractive red which Sherpa Adventure Gear calls "Tibetan Coral / Lama Red." Other colors are available as well. The Sonam is long sleeved, and has a mock turtleneck collar which can be opened thanks to a partial length zipper. This base layer also features a zippered chest pocket on the left breast that is about the right size for a small camera or a few gels or other small trail snack. As can be seen in the picture above, the pocket is slightly trapezoidal in shape, measuring 5.5" (14 cm) on the long side (toward the center), 3.5" (9 cm) on the short size (toward the arm), and about 4" (10 cm) across.

Sherpa Adventure Gear indicates that the Sonam is a blend of 54% polyester and the remainder a proprietary nylon called Dry Zone, ® which is purported to help with temperature control as the day naturally warms and cools. Dry Zone ® is also supposed to help keep this wicking top water-resistant and fast drying. The manufacturer also claims that the Sonam blocks 99% of UV rays, which is important to me as this base layer will likely be my only layer on top the majority of the time. Another important feature (to my tent-mates, at least) is the silver-ions woven into the fabric to help with odor control.

Aside from the details listed above, the Sonam is also probably the only piece of gear I own with a "Made in Nepal" label. Sherpa Adventure Gear also donates up to $0.50 from each item sold to The Sherpa Education Fund.


Initial Impressions

When I received the Sonam base layer shirt I immediately tried it on. The fit of the size large I received is good, roomy enough that I can move around but no so bulky that I couldn't put another layer or two on top. I would describe it as an athletic cut - broader across the shoulders and narrowing towards the waist. The sleeve length is ample such that they don't ride up too bad when I reach over my head or otherwise extend my arms. The torso length is also long enough so that when I bend over I don't expose anything more than my belt.

The material itself feels really nice on my skin - I almost don't notice that I'm wearing it. I have to admit that I normally opt for short sleeved tops in the summertime. However, my initial impression based purely on the initial fitting is that Sonam will probably not be too hot for me despite its long sleeves. Furthermore, the long sleeves may actually be a benefit in that they should protect my arms from sun and hopefully help to cool me down. I'm really looking forward to spending some time in the Sonam base layer top!

The construction of the Sonam base layer top looks very good to me. The seams are flat stitched so that they hopefully won't rub my skin uncomfortably where my backpack straps rest. The chest pocket is welded so there are no seams around it. Edges are all finished neatly and the stitching is even and consistent throughout.

Sherpa Adventure Gear offers a warranty on the Sonam which is listed on the hang tag that was attached to the shirt, as well as on the web site. The warranty covers defects in materials and workmanship for the life of the product, and excludes damage from abuse and normal wear and tear. Sherpa Adventure Gear also states that if I damage the product and it is not covered by the warranty, they will repair the shirt for a "reasonable fee," if possible.

Care instructions for the Sonam are printed on a tag sewn into the side seam of the shirt, and are pretty simple: Machine wash with like colors, no bleach, tumble dry low. That's pretty much how I wash all of my clothes, so no problem there. The tag also states not to dry clean the shirt (unlikely anyway) and to cool iron, if needed (ironing may be needed at some point, but it is highly unlikely that I will actually do it - I doubt the squirrels will care if my shirt is wrinkled).


Field Report

13 July 2010

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Field Conditions

Stopping to pose with the Sonam

Stopping to pose in the Sherpa Sonam Base Layer

As I mentioned in my initial report, I normally prefer a short-sleeved top in the summer, but I've tried to wear the Sonam on as many days as possible. I wore it all four days of my trip to the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) in Pennsylvania at the end of May. During this trip, the weather was quite warm and sunny, though the trail through the lush forest up there is mostly shaded. Daytime highs reached up to 80 F (27 C) in the hottest part of the afternoons, with evening lows down to 55 F (13 C). The average temperature each day while I was actually hiking was probably about 70 F (21 C). There was one short rainfall on Friday afternoon during this trip, but the skies were clear and sunny otherwise. This particular trip was built as a backpacking and backcountry fly fishing trip, so we hiked from stream-to-stream mid-morning every day, then we'd set up camp in the afternoon, get in some dusk fishing, sleep, and get in some dawn fishing before hitting the trail for the next destination. I mention this only to point out that I was hiking in the Sonam each day during the cooler parts of the day. I typically took it off and went bare on top in the afternoons while setting up camp and performing normal camp chores (and cooling off in the frigid trout streams).

A three-day trip I took in mid-June led me to the Dolly Sods Wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. The temperature range was similar to my ANF trip, with daily highs around 75 F (24 C) and lows around 55 F (13 C) at night, but it was pretty humid throughout the entire weekend.

In addition to the above overnighters, I have also worn the Sonam locally on a few outdoor pursuits - two different day hikes in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in mid-May before my ANF trip. May here was warmer than normal, and typically rainy, but I managed to sneak out for a couple of days that were decent - around 60 F (16 C) in one instance and 75 F (24 C) in the second.

Field Observations

I've had a lot of fun so far testing the Sherpa Sonam base layer. I originally assumed that I'd sweat like crazy or feel like a loony wearing a long sleeved shirt in the heat of the summer, but I've been somewhat surprised.


Getting ready to hang out

For me, this base layer is reasonable up to around 70 F (21 C), but that temperature can probably be offset in either direction by other factors, such as if I am in the shade or the sun, if it's humid or not, if I'm wet from rain or not, etc. The Sonam does a fantastic job of breathing - probably better than any other base layer I own (and I own a lot of them). I might attribute this to the fact that I'm wearing this base layer as my only layer, whereas other base layers I've used in the other seasons are often part of a multiple layer system. The Sonam does feel like it has a weave which is a little looser than a typical winter or shoulder season base layer, so perhaps this loose weave attributes to the super breathability. Or maybe Sherpa Adventure Gear just did a really good job in designing the Sonam.

I have had the Sonam thoroughly soaked at least once and was happy that it dried quite quickly. In addition, it felt fine while wet - in other words, it didn't hang heavily or stick to my skin too badly. The other thing that I noticed - particularly on my trip to the Allegheny National Forest - is that it didn't take on too much stink (wish I could say the same for my socks) despite four days of continuous wear in warm weather. Full disclosure - I did give it a good rinse in the creek pretty much every day.

I haven't found an occasion just yet to put anything in the chest pocket, so for me I'm not sure that it serves a purpose other than aesthetics. I'm also mixed on the zipper. I can't say that I adjust it very often except when putting on or taking off the shirt. I think because the Sonam breathes so well, I don't find myself zipping or unzipping very frequently. I originally wondered about the mock turtle-neck, but I find that it is quite effective in preventing the neckline of the shirt from slipping under my backpack straps - something I've experienced in summer hikes while wearing cotton or similar shirts.

The long sleeves have protected me from the sun - I haven't worn sunscreen with the Sonam and yet haven't experienced any sunburn. I've also been thankful for the long sleeves with respect to preventing bug bites and ticks. The trip to the Allegheny National Forest in particular was a really bad weekend for ticks - I think I must have pulled off dozens of them over the weekend, but for me it was always my unprotected legs and never my arms. This despite the fact that we did a lot of bushwhacking along the backcountry trout streams.

I don't have any news with respect to the quality or durability of the Sonam, which is a good thing. Washed and dried, the Sonam looks the same as the day it arrived.



Long Term Report

14 September 2010

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Long Term Observations

I was able to get in two additional trips with the Sonam since my field report was posted. One trip was a backpacking trip back to the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania to hike some of the trails in the Tracy Ridge area, and the second was to hike the 25 mile (40 km) loop in Zaleski State Forest in Southern Ohio. The weather on these trips was unfortunately mostly similar to the trips I took with the Sonam during field testing. The temperature ranges were similar - highs around 70 F (21 C) and lows down to about 45 F (7 C). I thought it was going to rain during my last day in Zaleski, but the rain held out and we simply suffered through the humidity. In hindsight, a little rain would have been a welcome treat to cool off during the last day of that trip.

Hiking in the Sonam

Backpacking in Zaleski State Forest (Ohio) with the Sonam

During the Zaleski trip, I did notice a few snags on the left sleeve of the Sonam, most likely from one of the many briars that lined the trail. Otherwise the shirt continues to look as good as it did the day it arrived. I don't have any real long-term durability issues with the Sonam, even with the few minor snags, and I'd gladly risk some snags in order to have the relatively open weave of the shirt which has helped to keep me cool through the warm afternoons on all my trips. Even in the humidity during my Zaleski trip, when I was sweating pretty heavily, the Sonam breathed very well, and while it did get a little damp from sweat, it dried very quickly once the day's hike was done.

I've continued to be impressed with the odor resistance of the Sonam - even after trips where the shirt was all I wore for three or four continuous days the shirt was noticeably "fresher" than I expected (though I was not).

I still haven't found much utility for the chest pocket - it's simply not required for me. The pocket is too small for much, and access to the zipper is mostly blocked by my sternum strap. In addition, putting anything of any weight in there makes it hang wrong and uncomfortable versus putting the same item (a granola bar, for example) in a hip belt or pants pocket.

I love the way the Sonam feels against my skin, even when I'm sweaty. It rides very nicely under my backpack; it's long enough to not ride up under my hip belt, and the neckline is such that it doesn't shift around under my shoulder straps. I did start to use the zipper a bit to vent on the hottest days, but only minimally.


Overall the Sherpa Adventure Gear Sonam is a great base layer. I like that the bright color makes me easily visible in the woods (though if others prefer to be less seen - other colors are available). I like the breathability of the shirt, and the fact that it's comfortable at temperatures where I would normally wear a short sleeved shirt (or no shirt at all). The long sleeves have helped to prevent sunburn and bug bites, and without much penalty since the overall comfort isn't really compromised. It does start to get a little warm once the temperatures climb up above about 70 F (20 C), but once the temps get up over about 80 F (27 C), what shirt doesn't? I'll definitely keep the Sonam in my pack or on my back for trips through the summer, as well as for warmer weather trips during the spring and fall. I'll also use it as a baselayer under another piece of insulation, which I did a few times during some of the cooler nights I experienced in the Allegheny National Forest and Zaleski.

Key Features
Areas for Improvement
  • Breathable beyond my expectations
  • Protection from the sun and bugs
  • Pretty stink proof
  • Long sleeves overkill for very hot days
  • Chest pocket and quarter-length zipper are potentially extraneous

  • I would like to thank Sherpa Adventure Gear and for the opportunity to test the Sonam base layer shirt.

    Read more reviews of Sherpa gear
    Read more gear reviews by Ben Mansfield

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