By The Numbers: Testing the Performance of Mountain Hardwear AirMesh Garments
Jul 5, 2022 at 9:00 am #3754428
Companion forum thread to: By The Numbers: Testing the Performance of Mountain Hardwear AirMesh Garments
Is Mountain Hardwear AirMesh a breakthrough product or a prisoner of wicking base-layer physics?Jul 5, 2022 at 10:07 am #3754430JohanBPL Member
Those tests are very interesting data. although, I am not sure how they translate to my real-world experience with the shirt. I am not at all close to as smart of some of you here, so feel free to rip my thoughts apart accordingly. LOL
1. Did you ever try running the Airmesh inside out? It completely changes the way it performs in real-world use, when inside out. The mesh layer absorbs liquid much better than the fleece side. It also changes how the air interacts with the heat and moisture exchange.
2. Wicking is lame. Yes, I said that. Wicking is lame. That’s old-school dinosaur stuff. ;) I’ve moved away from any sort of layers that rely on wicking and it has completely improved my clothing system in every way. I now find that having all of my clothing layers with excellent CFM air transport just plain work better in both heat and moisture management. I think wicking is along the lines of older guys using massive boots, where as trail runners are better in so many ways.
3. The trait of how the fleece side does not transfer moisture, but the mesh side does, seems to have been stated in a negative light here. Well, I think it’s actually a massive positive. I use my airmesh shirt as a camp towel, or even at home in the shower. I can turn it inside out and put it on, instantly soaking up water from my skin, then take it off and flip it right side out and now all that moisture is off my skin, but also in a state where it can dry off from the shirt. I can also put the shirt on over my other layers at this point for the same effect.
4. While not part of this test, airmesh is quite a bit more durable than Alpha-direct. My airmesh shirt has over 100 days of not-kind use and shows no signs of wear, even from pack shoulder straps.
5. Airmesh feels and works better next to skin than alpha direct.
6. I think overall it might be difficult to pin-point this new shirt based on traditional notions of versatility and testing protocols. It could be that it is used in ways that do not translate well to some tests, or that some tests might not show the whole picture when it comes to the net versatility of the shirt. The reason I make these questions is because in my real-world testing, I have never once used any sort of shirt that has the same features and traits of the airmesh hooddie I have.Jul 5, 2022 at 9:45 pm #3754469MarcusBPL Member
Great real world testing Stephen and BPL. Thanks for your objective 3rd party reporting.
Stephen, in your subjective opinion, what is your preferred active insulating fabric based on your testing and personal experience?
I admit it has quirks as a garment, but your tests seem to show Alpha direct as a tough material to beat in moisture transfer and weight:warmth.
Have you tested Kuiu’s Peloton 97 fabric? I’d like to see how that stacks up tooJul 5, 2022 at 10:21 pm #3754470
I have been following your comments on this fabric, so I am glad you read the article. I will respond to your comments.
1) I have to destroy the shirts to accomplish the complete set of tests. I did not run with the shirt reversed and now, the shirt is in two pieces, so I won’t be able to run in the shirt reversed. However, the video I made of the shirt wicking in reverse demonstrates that it absorbs moisture much better in reverse. I did not test drying rate in reverse. Thinking about this, I can come up with reasons why drying could improve in reverse. However, I can also come up with reasons why drying would slow. It would be interesting to test this aspect of performance. So, under some circumstances you might get better performance from the reversed shirt, but under heavy sweating, I doubt it would perform any better. You obviously have a better feel for this than me. No matter how you wear this fabric, poor wetting and little wicking ability on the skin or fleece side and lack of capillary capacity on the normal face side serve to limit moisture management performance of the fabric.
2) I basically agree with you that wicking is not useful or reliable for reasons stated in my prior articles. I also agree with you that air permeability is critical in removing moisture as long as the layering system provides adequate ventilation to take advantage of elevated fabric air permeability.
3) I do state the performance of a napped surface as a negative. It degrades wicking but is often incorporated into a garment designed to wick. I can see how the use case you describe might work, but I am not sure how practical it would be to wear a garment to absorb moisture from the skin and then flip it to dry. I don’t doubt this would work. But it would be a lot of effort and does not address long term use during constant activity. I would rather wear a system that can continuously support sweat evaporation from the skin and vapor transport out of the layering system.
4) As I said in the article, I expect that this material may provide better durability than Alpha Direct. If nothing else, it will avoid snagging more easily because of its tighter knit. However, I wear Alpha Direct as a 2nd layer all winter long for hiking, skiing, biking and more. I probably have well over 100 days use on my single layer 60 gsm shirt and perhaps 30-40 days on my dual layer 60 gsm shirt. My garments have suffered no damage and have been washed after every use. Clearly, as an outer garment, you don’t want your Alpha Direct to be snagged on vegetation.
5) I have worn Alpha Direct directly on my skin only once, but it was very comfortable. That is a use case I should explore more, but that will have to wait until fall. I wore the AirMesh against my skin for hiking, biking and running. It is also comfortable.
6) Ultimately, any garment involves performance trade-offs. My lab tests can provide a pretty good understanding of what those are. In this case, I found excellent warmth to weight performance, excellent air permeability but I found moisture management to be inadequate for intensive activity that involves a lot of sweating. There are many combinations of activity level, layering approaches and environmental conditions that might support adequate performance of AirMesh. This is clearly your experience. There are three more articles left for this series. In the last, I will describe my layering approach which serves me well for my activities in the environmental conditions I experience in the Colorado Rockies. User experience will always vary.Jul 6, 2022 at 11:23 am #3754500Hanz BBPL Member
The octa deployed in the proton Fl seems one sided (compared to above photos) – like half the material knitted to a large open mesh such that it’s individual fuzzy fibers sticking away from the skin (easily seen by eye in pockets). Seems like a different weave/deployment. So curious if that changes the extrinsic properties compared to the weave like deployment above. Obviously your article is amazing and the intrinsic properties are the same. I just wonder if a less dense one sided deployment is why the proton fl shines so less as a versatile lateral – and it definitely does.Jul 6, 2022 at 2:49 pm #3754513
Thank you for reading. I pulled out a portion of my now cut up AirMesh shirt and compared it to the photograph from my article on active insulation that shows both sides of the Proton FL insulation. I would say that these seem to be the same fabric, but in different colors. It looks like Arcteryx made the same choice as Johan (see above comments from Johan) and uses the fabric in reverse of Mountain Hardwear. These photographs are produced differently. The photographs in the active insulation article are taken close up with a cell phone. The photographs in the present article are produced using a microscope. This makes them a little difficult to compare.Jul 6, 2022 at 3:28 pm #3754515
As I discussed in my article on Active Insulation, the term Active Insulation seems to be a marketing construct that covers whatever performance characteristics a manufacturer is trying to ascribe to a particular product. Fleece traditionally was a go to active insulation. I stopped using fleece and replaced it with Alpha Direct. I have a 120 gsm piece (my first, which I no longer use), a 60 gsm piece and a 2×60 gsm piece. I use these with layers that provide ventilation so that moisture vapor from the skin can travel through the Alpha Direct and vent to the exterior. Alpha Direct is hydrophobic. It does not wick. You really have to work at getting Alpha Direct wetted from sweating.
I have not tested Kuiu’s Peloton 97 fabric. I get the impression it is popular among some BPL readers. Looking at Kuiu’s website, the 97 fabric is said to be a wicking, hydrophobic fabric. A fabric that is hydrophobic does not wick because water molecules are not drawn to the fibers. If this insulation is placed against the skin and heavy sweating occurs, moisture will be pushed into and through the garment by diffusion, not wicking. It is also described as themo-regulating. This is another strange, overused and generally undefined and misleading term. Thermo-regulating suggests a performance response that results from a humidity or temperature condition on one side or another of the garment. Wool may be thermo-regulating to an extent because of the way water is bonded to or released from the hygroscopic interior proteins that comprise the inner cell structure of a wool fiber. There are other fibers that can change characteristics in response to changes in temperature or humidity. Neither happens with most polyester fleeces. So, is this stuff “just fleece” or something different? If any readers would like me to test one of these garments, drop me a PM to make arrangements.Jul 6, 2022 at 4:00 pm #3754516Hanz BBPL Member
Ahh. I see. Yes. The same likely.
My opinion is that the proton FL continues to have the most use-case scenarios of any jacket I’ve owned (just a great mix of wind protection and breathability at many high output scenarios. I match this with a highly wicking skin tight Patagonia thermal weight base layer and I get a huge spectrum of comfort while moving. (All opinions of course).
And then thinking out loud, the least useful application of an alpha direct product I’ve tried to date was a Kora zenolith sweater matched yak and merino 240g wool with a alpha direct interior and mesh inner. I just never find a situation that this was appropriate for me.
nice article.Jul 6, 2022 at 4:38 pm #3754518
My next article compares the Patagonia thermal and mid weight base layers. You may be surprised by my test results, so check it out.
I looked up the Kora Zenolith. That is one heavy and expensive garment. The portion of yak fiber is small, so I doubt the user can identify any impact from the blend. I tried to get a yak garment for an article I am working on. No luck. It appears that yak fibers are harvested by yak herders who follow the animals around and pick up the fibers from the ground as they shed. If true, does not seem like a scalable product.Jul 10, 2022 at 11:35 am #3754818Adam KlagsBPL Member
@klagsLocale: Northeast USA
I’d like to see you guys review the VOORMI river run hoody like this too… my non scientific in field use tells me its the best breathable sun hoody in existence for high temp conditions, would likely hold way less moisture than this garment, looks better, feels better on the skin and its only weakness is how thin it is in mosquito zones. This fabric looks like a bit of a fail to me, many other better options available imho.Jul 10, 2022 at 11:48 am #3754819
Adam: Looks interesting. Can you look at the label in the garment and post what the fibers are. This appears to be a bicomponent fabric, but the website is unclear whether the skin side is wool or polyester.
SteveJul 16, 2022 at 9:23 pm #3755256Tjaard BreeuwerBPL Member
@tjaardLocale: Minnesota, USA
Hi Johan (and others),
I too fail to see how wicking baselayer can be beneficial (if they even exist as advertised). This theoretical concept has led me too experimenting with Alpha Direct as a baselayer, with nothing underneath.
I have now worn Alpha Direct next to skin many times and absolutely love it for this use.
Jul 18, 2022 at 7:46 am #3755328Scott SBPL Member
- It’s very soft against the skin, so pleasant to wear (including sleeping)
- low moisture gain, and quick drying, mean even if it does get wet(from sweat or outside moisture), it dries so well, that I rarely need to swap it for a dry garment. (for sleeping etc)
- because of the extremely high air permeability, and low water absorption, it allows moisture to move rapidly away when I open shell vents
- because of high R value, and high loft, it provides high insulation performance when covered by a shell.
- combining 3 and 4 allows me to regulate and adjust for a very wide range of effort and environmental conditions , simply by venting my shell.
Hi. Two comments. 1). The Airmesh has one significant advantage over Alpha: Availability. Other than a few cottage makers (who routinely runout) it is very difficult to find Alpha garments. I love mine—I have both a MacPac hoodie and a Rab Alpha Flash—but I can’t reliably get one. 2) To Adam’s comment about the Voormi, I have the Voormi, and it’s my favorite shirt for walking…in town. On the trail, in anything above 40 or 45 degrees, it’s just too warm for me. It’s moisture management seems okay for a 50% merino shirt, but as Outdoor Gear Labs noted, when it becomes wet it becomes very dark. Not a great feature for a sun hoodie. I am looking forward to trying it in colder temps in the fall.
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