The Montane Bionic base-layer is constructed from 23% merino and 77% polyester, aka Sportwool™. This makes it dearer than your usual synthetic top, and cheaper than your quality merino base-layers, so does it bring together the best of both worlds?
While you can’t expect it to feel as soft as pure merino, it is still as comfortable next to the skin as I’d expect it to be. We also put it through the stink test, which usually means a number of activities involving a lot of sweating and very little laundry. I used it for six rather sweaty runs in a row and it didn’t smell bad. If you were in a pub, or even sat next to someone one a bus, I doubt they’d notice.
Visibility is important to me at this time of year so I went for the fluoro yellow for maximum impact, but it’s also available in more discreet black, ink or a steel/burnt orange colour for use in the mountains. Though as a half runner – half walker I’m now one of the unfortunates who are happy to walk the hills in luminous yellow though this did make it rather difficult to get a balanced image. The reflective panels on the arm are huge and ensure that you are seen on evening runs in a more urban setting. The seams are even sewn with reflective thread.
It’s not an overly warm top mainly down to a combination of the wicking and as it dries so quickly the evaporative cooling effect is noticeable. This is certainly going to be useful in summer, though it provided more than adequate insulation for cold February runs with just a wind-proof. It is also provides natural UV protection, though there was little opportunity to test that over the winter, at least it’s peace of mind for the summer.
The blurb on the website claims that the merino wool and polyester combination provides rapid moisture management, or that it is claimed to be exceptionally effective at wicking. This is certainly no idle claim as when used as a base-layer beneath my Paramo garment, the outside of which was dripping with sweat. I’ve never seen anything like that despite having worked hard in the same waterproof previously, with the only explanation being that the top was as good as wicking the moisture from the skin as claimed, with the Paramo working to complete the job.
It repeated the feat a few weeks after during a tough walk/run over Snowdon and again during a rough hill walk in the Carneddau in heavy rain, where it kept me comfortable and dry.
The bottom line is that this is a quality base-layer with a price to match. It wicks exceptionally well and is odour resistant, ideally suited for multi day trips or just a run round the park. The price tag appears steep, but cheap tops do tend to stink like a cat’s litter tray after a few month’s use and need replacing.