When it comes to mid-layer wear, we cyclists tend to be something of a conservative bunch. If you show us a recognised cycling brand garment, we will probably embrace it with open arms but when it comes to selecting gear from non-cycling manufacturers, there is a tendency to steer clear of them irrespective of the fact that general outdoor manufacturers have considerably more experience in catering for the needs of outdoor users.
Look around any trail centre and you will almost certainly find a majority of riders sporting branded kit from the likes of Gore, Fox, Sombrio, Altura etc. Major outdoor brands such as Rab, Berghaus and Haglofs are in the minority which to my mind is surprising given that when it comes to gear suitable for high intensity activity such as cycling or running, they offer a genuine alternative.
As someone who likes to spend a lot of time in the mountains with my bike, I have a fairly simple set of requirements when it comes to selecting a mid-layer garment. First and foremost, it has to fit well. Fitted without being flappy in the wind but not so tight as to make me look like Rowan Atkinson in a leotard pretending to be a mime on Not the Nine O’clock News. It has to keep me warm on cool rides and when stopped but not make me feel like I am in a Swedish sauna when I start climbing. Sleeves need to be long enough that they don’t ride up leaving that annoying drafty wrist feeling while the top needs to pack down to a reasonably small size in my pack when I don’t need it.
Now you would think that it’s not a particularly high standard that I am setting here but I’ve been through a lot of tops over the years which have promised much but failed to deliver. To the list of test tops, I can now add the Haglofs Actives Warm II Hoody.
In design terms, the top is deceptively simple but it has some interesting features which have proven to be very welcome indeed. Constructed from a mix of 78% polyester, 18% merino and 4% elastane, the Actives Warm features a full length zip with soft back baffle to help stop the wind whistling through. The zip extends high up to the neck to keep things warm when riding into a fierce headwind while there is an elasticated, shaped hood which pulls snuggly onto a helmetless head. It does look a little bit niche Action Man in his SAS Scuba kit but there is no doubt it helps to keep your temperature up when below the thermometer drops below zero.
On the chest, there is a single pocket which is perfectly placed and shaped for a credit card or an emergency tenner for a post ride pub stop. On the sleeves, there are built in thumb loops to keep the arms cinched down. I tended not to use this although I can see the benefit it would potentially offer if you suffer from cold hands.
Finally, all of the seams are flat stitched which means that if you so choose, you can wear it as a next to skin garment. I particularly liked how the design of the stitching coupled with the location of it created no hot spots on my shoulders after several hours in the saddle with a heavy pack on my back.
The inner fabric is extremely soft to the touch and is constructed in a grid pattern. As soon as you put it on, you just feel warmer.
The slim fit of the medium suited my tall and slim frame to a tee with sufficient length to extend down beyond my lower back. The only slight downside was that the softness of the material means that it would occasionally ride up, particularly when combined with lycra bib shorts underneath my riding shorts. For Spring and Autumn days, it has really proven its worth. On a chilly pre-dawn ride in the Cairngorms, the temperature climbed 10 degrees over the duration of the ride. A long climb was followed by a long descent but the top coped extremely well with the changing temperature, at no point leaving me feeling neither too warm nor too cold.
Although not windproof, it has proven particularly effective when used as an outer layer combined with a short sleeve synthetic base layer and a gilet. Feeling comfortable on a ride rates highly on my list of priorities. On this, it scores very highly indeed. One unexpected benefit is that the merino content appears to help the top to avoid the inevitable pong of synthetic garments without the soaked in sweat feeling that almost every 100% merino top I have ever ridden in has given me when coupled with a pack on my back.
It just seems to strike a really good balance and looks as good off the bike as on it. It has survived many washes with minimal obvious effect and dries noticeably quicker than pure merino which means it is a good choice for multi day adventures.
Overall: I’ve really come to appreciate the Haglofs Actives Warm II Hoody. It does everything really well with the initial high cost being the only real fault I can find with it. If it was £20 cheaper, I’d have no hesitation in awarding it ST Recommended status. It is in the process of being replaced by Haglofs LIM Powerdry Hoody. The design is almost identical, albeit lighter, while Powerdry is a great material for high intensity activity. If you are quick, you will pick up one of the originals while the Powerdry Hoody will almost certainly be a worthy successor.
|Product:||Actives Warm II Hoody|
|Tested:||by Sanny for Seven months|