Duofold by Champion Varitherm Base Layer top and bottom
Review items provided by Duofold by Champion
Duofold is a name synonymous with base layer protection and they offer several tops and bottoms for different conditions in 3 distinct categories; the Original, Thermal and Varitherm. I will be testing the Varitherm Mid-Weight Brushed Back top and bottom. As can be guessed by the name, the Varitherm line is designed to be useful within a wide range of temperatures. Both utilize the same 100% Polyester material that is said to pull moisture out while locking heat in. It definitely feels softer on the inside. A great feature of the Varitherm line is the flatlock seams. I have not tried the top out with a pack yet but this is obviously a nice feature to have across the shoulder area. I do know that when I tried them on the seams felt good, or maybe more correctly, I could not feel them at all. I also like that both the top and bottom do not have any tags. The size, care, where made and material information are printed right on the material of each. It basically says not to use bleach or fabric softener. There is no mention of how to dry but I plan to line dry mine. Here is the tag for both.
Based on measurements given on the website I saw I needed an XL top and bottom. However, when the set arrived, there was a note informing me that they were out of XL tops and they had sent a L. My immediate thought was Oh-No, but I decided to try it on on the outside chance it might fit. I had measured my chest and was 46 inches and the fit chart showed the XL fitting between 46 and 48 inches. In other words I was on the low side of the XL, however, the L showed fitting between 42 and 44 inches. Notice that 45 inches is left out. I think that was intentional because each increase in size starts 2 inches past the last measurement given I think they expect you to order up a size if you fall between sizes. Anyways, since I was not even between sizes, I tred on the Large expecting it to be very tight, so imagine my surprise (and relief) when it fit very nicely. I would prefer the waist be a tad longer but I’m long waisted and have this problem with almost all shirts. The top fits my chest snugly but not tight. I know arm length will vary with individuals so it always seems like a hit or miss proposition when getting a good fit but these are just about the perfect length for me.
I requested the XL pant based on the same size chart. They recommend the XL for waist between 40 and 42 inches. I measured mine at 43 inches but contrary to my normal practice of going up a size when there is doubt, I wear XL sweat pants on a regular bases and have no problem with the waist fit. What I do have a problem with is length. And true to form, these fit great in the waist but are a tad long. However, these are made so that they are tighter fitting at the ankle so I don’t foresee any problem with them sagging down too far when wearing them. Here is the size chart provided on the website.
Summary so far
I am pleased with the fit of both the top and bottom. I am looking forward to getting out in some cold weather to see how they perform. I plan to do a lot of fitness hiking in them and also use them when riding my bike. Both these activities test any garments ability to keep me warm and dry because I work hard at times but will then be resting after a particularly hard climb when walking or coasting under similar conditions on my bike.
And now for something a little different. I usually don’t comment on the name of a company when doing a review, but when I saw Duofold by Champion, I was a little curious as to why the 2 brands I am very familiar with were now combined. Turns out, both are owned by HanesBrands, and the merger was fairly recently (announced as Sept 14, 2011 on the website). They compared it to the pairing of several great tandem athletes like Montana and Rice or Jordan and Pippin, but seeing that I’m writing this the on Jan 8th 2013 I’m going to compare it to coach Saban and Bama Football…apologizes to any Irish fans out there. Anyways, Duofold by Champion base layers are still pretty much the same except that they now have designers for both brands working to improve the product line. The website actually mentions that the Varitherm line is a result of this collaboration. Stay tuned for my next update!
Update: February 19, 2013
Since receiving the Varitherm top and bottom the weather has been a mix of cold and not so cold so I have not worn them a lot but I have worn them when they were appropriate. This has included several walks on some chilly mornings and a few bike rides on my Rans Dynamik (crank forward road bike) and my new off road Recumbent. I did manage one walk when it was 28 F and there was snow on the ground. I actually missed the snow because I was at work in the valley and it did not snow there but it was a cold day and I had them on at work. When I got home the following morning about half of the 2 inches of snow was left so instead of my usual nap I took a long walk after my breakfast and a few cups of coffee. I walked down to the creek in the holler behind the house and when I dropped down a few hundred feet in elevation the snow disappeared. However it was only a couple of degrees warmer so it was still a cold walk. However, on my walk back home I got pretty warm, warm enough that I had to remove my jacket. It was only 33 F when I made it back home but I had worked up a pretty good sweat.
I have been very pleased with the performance of the set of thermals so far. One thing that I have really liked is that they feel more like cotton than 100% Polyester. But not only do the feel great against my skin, I have been pleasantly surprises at how they don’t seem to build up static electricity like some synthetics do. I have not washed them after every wearing which translates into 3 washing so far. They seem to be holding up well. I have dried them out on my deck a couple of times and once in the house across a couple of chairs. They dry really fast when hung outside, I estimate about an hour but I was not keeping a timer on them. However, it took several hours the day I hung them inside. Of curse it was raining so the humidity was high. When I did get sweaty in them and then continued to wear them they also dried pretty fast. I particularly noticed this after a ride on my off road recumbent the other day. It was about 40 F when I headed out but warmed up during my ride and had made it up to 46 F by the time I got home an hour and a half later. I only covered 4 miles so it stands to reason I was not going very fast. In fact I was pushing the recumbent on several of the climbs. But the point being, I worked up a good sweat in them and then wore them several more hours after getting home.
My wife also borrowed them once. She needed to be outside a lot that day and asked me for something that would help her stay warm. She really liked wearing them and I was a little concerned I might not get them back. OK I kid, she was just glad I let her wear them and I was glad to be able to help. Anyways, that’s all for now, but there should still be another couple of months of cold weather and hopefully I will be able to continue wearing these thermals enough to shed even more light on their performance.
Final Update: June 4, 2013
The weather has been rather warm and my knee is also still bothering me quite a bit which has limited my hiking and other forms of exercise. As a results, I have not used the Varitherms a much as I would have liked during the last phase of testing. However, I was able to wear the Varitherm top and bottom on several occasions even though sometimes I wore just the top or just the bottom. For instance on a day hike on April 4th I wore a pair of sweat pants and the Varitherm top under a light jacket on a short exercise hike to the holler. It was 55 F and wearing the bottoms under my sweat pants just seemed like it would be over kill. However, on May 18th I wore just the Varitherm bottom. I was on an 11 mile bike ride around Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountain National Park. I needed a shirt with pockets to keep my cell phone handy (for GPS not calling) and felt like one shirt under my rain jacket was plenty. However, I wore the bottoms under a pair of gym shorts and they kept my legs warm despite the almost constant rain during the ride. The temperature was about 55 F at the beginning of the ride and several of the riders were complaining about their legs being cold. Some even had on rain pants so I had to wonder if they were just cold natured. Here is a photo after the ride, it has stopped raining but I am soaked from the waist down in the photo.
I wore the Varitherm top and bottom on three overnighters. The first was on March 12 and I hiked about 4 miles total with a 24 lb pack. I stayed on mostly level trails and took it easy due to my knee. The high on this hike was 51 F and the low was a chilly 35 F. The next overnight hike was on March 18. I hiked same 4 mile hike but to help my tender knee I did some major load (weight) cutting and got my total pack weight down to 17 lb.. It was stormy during the day and I was not sure I would make the trip but the thunderstorms cleared out a couple of hours before sundown. The temperature was 55 F at the start of this trip and dropped to 37 F overnight. On both hikes I wore the Varitherm top and bottom while I was hiking and while sleeping. On the March 12 hike I carried my Exped Dreamwalker sleeping bag. On the March 18 hike I carried my Brooks Range Elephant foot sleeping bag which is basically just a sleeping bag for the hips and legs. Therefore, I wore a down jacket over the Varitherm top during the night. I was pleased with the warmth of the top and bottom during the hiking and sleeping portion of both hikes.
My last overnight use was on May 17th when I stayed in a KOA in Townsend Tennessee. I was there for a Recumbent Rally. It was around 70 F when I arrived at my campsite so I had on shorts and a tee shirt. I waited until I was ready for bed around 10 PM before putting on the Varitherms. Even then I really did not need them until the latter hours of the night and I laid on top of my sleeping bag for much of the night. When I finally did cool down at around 3 AM I put on my rain jacket and just kind of draped the sleeping bag over my legs. It was 50 F the next morning and I kept on the bottoms on for my bike ride but chose a different top that had a pocket.
I have enjoyed testing the Varitherm top and bottom. They were great during the early part of testing even though we never did have a lot of cold weather. Once it warmed up I was still able to benefit from the moisture wicking properties of the thermals. They have maintained their color and have not stretched or lost their shape after about a dozen washes. I seriously doubt I will be able to wear the Varitherms until this fall when overnight temperatures start dropping again but I am glad to have them as part of my winter arsenal of clothing. Thanks to 4AllOutdoors and Duofold by Champion for this testing opportunity
I am from northeast Alabama where I spend a lot of my time divided among several hobbies that include backpacking and dayhiking, canoeing and kayaking, and just getting out enjoying nature.