Great grid fleece mid layer or cold weather base layer…
Source: bought it new
Great grid fleece mid layer or cold weather base layer for active use.
- Good warm-to-weight ratio
- Performs good when wet
- Wicks well
- Great deep asymmetrical zip
- Good balaclava
- Thermal zoning
- Hood doesn't fit as well to forehead
Of the grid layer fleeces Patagonia's R1 is the one you see the most mentioned. Mountain Equipment's Eclipse Hooded Zip Tee is I think a slightly thinner improved version with some nice details.
The fit allows for a bit wider shoulders and a slim, athletic body. Of course it fits non-athletic bodies as well, just size up. What I mean is that when I get an R1, I feel more restricted in the shoulders with a medium, but with a large it will fit loose around my torso, which doesn't help with the wicking.
The Hooded Zip Tee has a long torso that will keep your back covered, thumb loops that will keep your wrists covered, and a great balaclava style hood. The very deep zipper (useful for venting when postholing or pumping up a steep slope) is asymmetrical. It starts from the middle of your torso and goes to the side of your face so the zipper pull is not in front of your mouth or nose when you pull it all the way up. Very nice detail (see image below).
The top of the hood itself is not very close fitting to the forehead. It seems to not come down enough, or not have enough elasticity there to really protect your forehead from the cold. This surprises me a bit because it is clear a lot of thought has gone into this garment. I am 184cm and 72Kg and my Medium is a body hugging fit and weighs 295 grams. The arms come all the way to your knuckles, while the hem (tucked inside pants) covers your bum well. In short, the coverage is great.
The Eclipse Hooded Zip Tee is made out of Pontetorto Technostretch fleece, an Italian grid fleece alternative to Polartec PowerDry. I have to say I do not know which wicks better, or which is warmer for the weight. I have many items made with PowerDry and love them, and I love the Pontetorto Technostretch as well.
More important I think is the weight/thickness of the grid fleece used, and your intended usage.
For me this fleece is a better option than my R1 jacket because it is a bit thinner overall, and has zones with different fabric thickness. The torso is thicker, while the sides of torso, inside of arms, and the hip area are thinner (see darker areas in image above). This helps you sweat less when very active, while protecting your torso enough in the cold.
I normally wouldn't use this fleece unless it is under -10˚C (14F), probably colder. I have used this straight as a base layer, or layered over another thin layer. It works fine/feels good either way. The R1 is warmer and I have not used it as an active piece because it is too warm for me. For slower treks or post trek layer the extra warmth of an R1 can be very welcome.
More open grid on the left, more closed grid (less air space) on the right:
What I find great about grid fleeces like this, and the Eclipse in particular, is it really does wick very well. That being said, when I climb fast in the cold I do find you can wet it out. The fabric seems to work well, but is no miracle. Especially with a pack on, it is hard to avoid a wet back when working hard. The good thing is, it really doesn't seem to matter while you are active. Even when wet, it feels dry — and warm. I have had to check my back several times during runs or climbs to find I had a bit of a wet back. But even at those sub-zero temps I was never cold.
Because of grid fleece's great breathability, even more so than with other fleece the wind will go right through it. I don't think I have ever used this or other grid fleeces or shirts without a more windproof layer on top. You might find this a hindrance, or not. Personally I really like it this way, because you can get rid of the fleece if you're overheating, while keeping the wind protection.
Points to be aware of:
This item also comes in a jacket (full zip, no hood) version. This fleece, if properly (body) fitting, will not be a convenient piece for around town. If you want to get double use out of it, a full zipper version is easier to put on and off, and a bit looser fitting jacket would be nicer to wear over regular clothing. When you get the right size this garment is all performance.
I have always gone for hoodies with half zip for the most warmth/coverage vs weight. What I find though, is that I do like to bring two balaclavas so that I can put a fresh dry one on, and dry the wet one out if necessary. If I were to buy this fleece again I might find myself go for the hoodless version. Although this version does give very very nice neck protection even if not using the hood.
All in all a great active piece, that in my humble opinion deserves to be more known, used and abused.