Do you remember padded checked shirts? Before I discovered mid weight thermal tops I once had a selection of padded lumberjack shirts, these I could colour co-ordinate with my latest pair of ex-army trousers, I obviously knew how cool I looked! Funny thing was though, they were cheap to buy and available everywhere, the only downside was that they were a little bulky. Combined with a “smelly helly”, it was actually quite a winning combination in the mountains, but the lumberjack militia look didn’t have a long lifespan!
I think one of my first real midweight thermal purchases was a Lowe Alpine Powerstetch top, back in the days when they made some pretty cool and functional clothing. Admittedly I could have bought about 15 lumberjack shirts for the cost of this top, but I did wear it until it literally fell apart and powerstretch made it sound like I could climb E9!
Through some expensive experiments over the years I’ve found some very reliable products and some at the other end of the scale too! Personally I like a hood on my tops, if I’m not wearing a hat, it’s quicker and more convenient to pull up my hood, they also easily fit under a helmet and quite often over a helmet! A while back, some bright spark put an asymmetrical zip onto a top and then everyone seemed to follow, initially it felt all wrong, especially when the hood wasn't up as it felt like it was hanging off one side. After the 1st winter season, the benefits were easy to see, mainly the zipper closed higher up giving you more protection and you looked like a ninja!
I prefer a smock / half zip version rather than a full zip, jacket versions seem to have more pockets, on a midweight a small chest pocket is more than adequate for me, as long as it takes my map section / phone. Different panelling / weights of materials in areas of hard / low use are all useful, sometimes it looks a bit strange, but although it may seem to save a few ounces / breathe better, the overall affect when combined with the rest of your layering will tell you whether it works or not. Weight is important to me, if something will do the job and weighs considerably less then I’ll balance that up against the extra cost, obviously how it looks is the number one reason for buying anything though! On that note Patagucci tops, specifically the R1 Hoody have been my favourite for the last few years, I genuinely like their ethos as a company, their name is pretty cool, they design great looking kit and the number rule 1 of the mountains “always look good”….is ticked!
This year I been using some Black Diamond Kit, a CoEfficient Jacket with hood, wow, very impressed. Firstly as with everything nice, it’s fairly expensive, but I found a top reduced and thought I’d trial something different. I got a jacket version (hmmh….), but no hand pockets, just a good chest one and with all the every usual specs on an item of this quality. However there are 2 main differences for me, firstly the fit is snug, which again I prefer, it has a stretchy material so really clings to you (it doesn’t allow for cake eating) and as a result it feels really warm. I haven’t used an equivalent top of this weight that provides so much warmth, fortunately we’ve had a fantastic summer and I’ve sweated badly in this trying to look good…….roll on the winter!