Reviewers Paid: $20.00
100% alpaca fiber
This is a simple neck gaiter, serving a basic but essential part of my various outdoor activities. Alpaca wool performs superior over synthetic and cotton, plus even slightly better than merino wool. Breathability makes it much more tolerable in hot conditions, while it works very well for thermal protection in the cold. It also helps keep the sun off my neck, face, and head.
- Multi-use / multi-wear
- Stretchy and large enough to provide full coverage coverage of the neck, head, and face
- Alpaca fabric is soft against skin, highly breathable, and handles moisture extremely well
- Made from a natural, sustainable material
- Defies odor and dries quickly
- Made in the USA by a small cottage company, shipped in simple, plastic-free packaging
- Highly breathable, this probably doesn't do a whole lot to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
- Availability and color choices limited due to ongoing production and supply chain issues
Background & Conditions: Please see my review of merino wool Buffs for a full discussion of why I like and use neck gaiters so much.
While thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, I had the opportunity to attend the annual ALDHA Gathering, where I unexpectedly met the crew from Appalachian Gear Company. I was wandering through the vendor area when they recognized that I was wearing one of their All-Paca crew fleeces, calling out to say "Hi!" I tested this fleece for Trailspace Review Corps in 2020 and it quickly became my new ALL TIME favorite. I wore it nearly every day while on the Long Trail and later on the AT, where I came to love it even more.
So I was incredibly excited to meet the AppGearCo team at the Gathering. Even though I was still on-trail, with limited ability to carry additional items, I couldn't resist added a few small alpaca garments to my collection. I picked up an All-Paca Neck Pipe and Beanie, immediately replacing my treasured merino Buff.
With hunting season coming on, I figured it couldn't hurt to add some orange to my hiking outfit (albeit not the brightest orange but still better than nothing). I really love the color of this neck pipe...a perfect way to celebrate earth tones and fall colors. I went on to wear it for the remainder of my AT thru-hike, Oct 10 - Nov 4 (1/4th of the trail...650 miles...and 1 month of near-continuous use). I wore it in the heat and humidity as well as in the cold and rain.
Fit & Comfort: I'm the biggest fan of natural animal fiber garments, namely merino and alpaca wool. For prolonged active-wear, I especially prefer them for anything next-to-skin, I.e undergarments. I love that such products resist odors, breathe like nothing else, and feel so comfortable against my skin, no matter what the conditions. I also value that animal wool is a natural, renewable, and biodegradable product. I can feel ok about accidentally shedding the fibers in the ecosystems where I hike.
I've recently discovered that alpaca wool replicates all the great attributes of merino while also slightly outperforming it when it comes to moisture control, odor resistance and breath-ability. The All-Paca Neck Pipe has been the perfect substitute for a merino Buff. Another great thing about the neck pipe is that it's the least expensive product offered by AppGearCo, making it an excellent choice for anyone on the fence about trying alpaca.
If you don't want to invest fully in one of their hoodies or crew fleeces, then just try the neck pipe for awhile. If you tolerate the feel of it against your skin (some are understandably too sensitive for wool fibers, even merino and alpaca), then you can feel secure knowing you'll like their other products.
Warmth & Layering: A neck pipe is perfect for layering. It can slide over hats and beanies and also under hoods and jackets, just like a buff. The only slight difference is that mine is a bit thicker than a lightweight merino buff. I didn't notice any change in comfort when I wore it in the heat but do think it's better suited for slightly cooler temperatures.
Water Resistance, Breathability, & Moisture: As previously mentioned, it's in these areas that I think alpaca outperforms merino wool. I know this because I spent some pretty prolonged periods hiking in rain on the AT. I'm normally able to keep my core dry by using my umbrella, but there were a few times where the trail was too overgrown to have it deployed the whole day. The trail was also going up and down too frequently for me to tolerate my rain jacket, so I just hiked in my fleece layers.
I was rather impressed that I didn't get soaked to the bone, remaining warm and dry under the layers but also not sweating to death. Alpaca fibers are so...hairy?...that they seem to catch and repel a light drizzle, while also allowing inner moisture to evaporate quickly. I see these same properties on the rare occasions when I launder my alpaca garments...they come out of the washer feeling nearly dry so I often just put them on straight away, without bothering to run them through the drier.
Construction & Durability: The All-Paca neck pipe is a simple garment, with only one seam up the middle and hems at either end...all solid. I didn't care for the sewn-on label whenever it accidentally became positioned against my neck or face but it wasn't annoying enough to bother removing. While I always cut the tags off my buffs, I try to refrain from removing labels from the products of cottage companies because I actually like to help promote them.
Alpaca products resist odor so well that they need not be washed very regularly. I usually went several weeks before washing any of my garments. Running them through a drier restores their loft nicely, so this was the main reason I even bothered to wash and dry them while on the trail.
Most unfortunately, I accidentally left my neck pipe behind in a Georgia hotel room at the end of the trail and it has subsequently "gone missing" in the USPS mail, despite my best efforts to have it returned. So I can't report on its long-term durability. I can say that my fleece top became rather trashed after wearing it for several thru-hikes, suffering holes in areas of high friction around my lower back. A neck pipe isn't really exposed to much friction, so I would imagine that I could get many thousands of miles of use from one.
I want to thank Appalachian Gear Company for initially introducing me to such a wonderful product in their fleece crew top, tested as part of one of my Trailspace Review Corps assignments. It was truly one of my most favorite pieces of gear on multiple thru-hikes (LT & AT). In full disclosure, I was gifted the All-Paca beanie at the ALDHA Gathering, but I did pay for the neck pipe...and will be buying yet another one since my first appears to be lost for good.
I use a wool neck gaiter primarily for sun protection for pretty much every outdoor activity, including thru-hiking, biking, skiing, kayaking, and running. These days, I wear it around my neck almost everywhere in case I forget to also bring along a cotton face mask. In a pinch, I double up the fabric to cover my face indoors. However, a purpose-built face mask is still preferable for indoor use.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $20