55 g / 1.9 oz
MAPP Merino Wool, Spandex
The Arc’teryx Rho LTW neck gaiter is an extremely…
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $40 Cdn
The Arc’teryx Rho LTW neck gaiter is an extremely long name for a very simple product. Essentially it’s just a tube of fabric (in this case 95% wool and 5% elastane) with unlimited uses. While its primary intended use is around the neck, to keep the cold snow out and the warmth in, I’ve found it handy for many other applications.
I feel like it’s an upgrade on my old synthetic gaiter for a couple reasons—the comfort and quality of the wool, the stretch, it's stink inhibiting, and the thickness. Those reasons helped me grin and bear the price tag, which I feel is the only negative.
- Warmth-to-weight ratio
- No itch, no stink
- Temperature regulation
- Flame resistant
I’ve found this to be one of the most versatile pieces of gear I own, and one of very few that doesn’t leave my pack year round. When I saw that Trailspace would be including it in the monthly giveaways I felt inclined to write a quick review of how, and why, I choose this gaiter. Although this is certainly not my first gaiter, it will be my last.
Fit and Comfort
I’m a big fan of wool, but a bit of a wimp when it comes to itch factor. Arc’teryx doesn’t list the microns of the wool used and just says it’s a MAPP Merino wool, not sure what the MAPP means. After a little digging this is all I could find for an explanation (borrowed from Arc’teryx’s site):
Eon / Rho LTW / Wool Base Layers
Lightweight and itch-free Superfine Merino wool base layer garments provide warmth and comfort in variable conditions. Merino wool is soft next-to-skin and naturally adjusts its thermal properties in changing atmospheric conditions, maintaining a comfortable equilibrium. The fabric achieves this by absorbing moisture, from cool, damp environments, and releasing a small but perceptible amount of heat through 'heat of sorption', a chemical reaction that occurs when water vapor binds to the chemical structure of the MAPP TECH Merino Wool inner core. This process acts to prevent the chilling of the wearer. Wool is the original 'intelligent' fiber.
To me that’s just a fancy description of the properties of merino wool. Basically that it has a hollow inner core that can absorb water (sweat) to keep the user dry and help regulate your temperature, but theirs sounds way more marketable, I digress.
The wool used is very soft and my best guess would be that it’s somewhere in the 18.5 micron range. I’m basing that solely off feel and comparing it to other wool products I use (Smartwool socks, shirt, hoody, Ibex toques and Woolpower socks, shirt and long johns). Being that the majority of time this is around my neck (one of the more sensitive areas), it makes me even more impressed with the comfort and softness.
The gaiter measures roughly 8 by 10 inches but can stretch out to almost double that size without a problem. I’ve actually had to double check the specs a couple times. I thought the percentage of spandex would have to be much higher to get this level of stretch. Merino wool has a lot of crimping, which inherently gives it some stretch, but the gaiter also hasn’t gotten saggy, which wool is prone to. It just seems to pop right back into shape without a problem.
The comfortable size range makes it so much more versatile. With older synthetic gaiters I’ve had they’ve either stretched to the size of my head (when worn like a headband or toque) and been too loose around the neck to adequately trap heat, or been tight around the neck but felt uncomfortably tight on my head. I’ve got a long neck (think human brontosaurus) and I’ve found the 10 inches long enough to cover my neck and still bring up to cover both my mouth and nose when the cold wind gets howling.
The seams are all stitched beautifully (there’s only two, but still), something I’ve come to expect from Arc’teryx. There’s no exposed threads and it’s all stitched flat so there’s no rubbing or chaffing.
Here is where the ideal combination of the wool and the stretch come into play. Obviously any neck gaiter is one of the most versatile pieces of gear in my opinion, the wool just adds to that. Here’s some of the many ways I use mine.
The first couple are the more obvious, and intended uses…
- neck gaiter
- neck gaiter with mouth and nose covered
- headband (easy to vent a lot of heat out through the top of your head without removing it)
But I’ve also found it useful for…
- to hold the hot handles on my pot
- supplemental warmth when sleeping (I’ve found with a toque and your neck covered you can sometimes get by with a lighter bag)
- inside a kangaroo pocket for extra warmth for my hands
- used to hold freezing gas pump handles
- I’ve used it to wrap item in my pack that I don’t watch to get scratched (camera lenses, glasses)
- I also wrap my hot water bottle in it if I’m not sleeping with it on
- eye mask when you need a little extra sleep
- wrapped around your pillow for a little softer luxury
When you pair a gaiter with a toque there are so many variations and tweaks you can make to account for temperature changes, big and small. Having the ability to dump (or add) a lot of heat while on the move, without rummaging through your pack, makes a gaiter more than worth it.
The carotid arteries are major blood vessels in the neck that supply blood to the brain, neck, and face and studies have shown that you can affect your core temperature as much as 1.1 degree Celsius just through the carotid artery alone. Obviously that is an extreme amount (a half a degree temperature swing within the body is big), but when you pair a gaiter with a toque and can have both your head and neck covered or uncovered within seconds, it allows you make those temperature adjustments while on the move.
Wool is one of the more naturally breathable options available. I’ve found it exceptionally breathable, much more so than my previous neck gaiter (Polartec Wind Pro fabric). I find it even more impressive because this one is thicker, and warmer than my previous one. Only the highest exertion levels will make you pull it down. Given the fact that it is wool though, it will hold moisture on the outer layer, and in really cold temperatures, freeze. That can make breathing through it tough.
On a climb of Mt.Washington last winter I had a balaclava on and the gaiter layered on overtop of that, pulled right up to the base of my goggles. Temps nearing the summit approached -50° with wind gusts nearing the 100 mph mark, I was huffing hard (I think the guides wanted the group off the summit as quick as possible!), but was able to rotate the gaiter intermittently to keep the airflow.
Wool naturally draws the moisture away from your skin and can hold up to 30% of its weight in water, so while your skin feels nice and dry it can take a while for the gaiter to dry. The good part is that you don’t have to be too weary about it around a heat source, wool is also flame resistant, so don’t toss it in the fire, but no reason to not hang it up over top.
It also fights off stink really well, and will eventually start to just smell like a campfire. I try to avoid washing mine, but have had to on a couple occasions. I threw it in the washer, like I would with any wool product, gentle cycle and a mild detergent and hang to dry. No problems yet, at most maybe some light fading of the colour.
I feel a neck gaiter is a truly valuable multi-use tool. If you have/ already use one then you know the value of them and may want to look into upgrading to one made with premium materials, albeit at a premium price. I paid $40 (Cdn) for mine, which is no doubt steep, but I would purchase one again, without question, should something happen to mine. The wool fabric, and subsequent workmanship, don’t come cheap. If I knew my way around a sewing machine I may attempt to make my own (doesn’t look overly difficult from a design standpoint), but I don’t. That’s why I just hand over the card, smile and nod.
I’ve had mine for over two years now and use it all four seasons. It’s so tiny there is no reason to leave it at home. So whether it’s a summer backpacking trip, ice climbing in the winter, or just recess duty at work, it’s either in my pack or on me at all times.
I've got an athletic neck, which means it's small.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: 28 cad
I've got an athletic neck, which means it's small. Been wearing the neck gaiter a few time now and it's warm and not itchy.
Fit is the primary thing why I bought this article. It feels great, stretches perfectly and is not itchy. The only thing that could be improved is the price!