Layering: Power Stretch Fleece

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, March 1995

Layering: Power Stretch Fleece
By Douglas Gantenbein

Does the world need yet more fleece? The answer would seem to be yes -- that is, if the question is asked of Mountain Hardwear's new line of garments made of Malden Mills's Power Stretch fleece.

This, of course, raises another question: Mountain who? Mountain Hardwear, that's who, a year-old company based in outdoor-gear-happy Berkeley, California, already home to such industry giants as The North Face and Sierra Designs. In fact, Mountain Hardwear was started by a small group of Sierra Designs executives who left the firm after their buyout attempt fell through. Its new line of Gore-Tex, fleece, and down-filled clothing is now available in stores across the country.

The Power Stretch line is nothing if not versatile. These lightweight pieces -- a reversible zip T, reversible tights, a hooded jacket, and a balaclava -- are designed to be worn either as a base or middle layer, with a bicomponent fabric that's woven in such a way that each side features a different fiber. On one side there's brushed polyester fleece, which can be worn next to the skin to wick moisture away. Reverse the garment, and the smooth, mostly nylon side will slip easily over clothing when layering. A touch of Lycra in the blend provides elasticity.

Even though I've got a closet full of fleece, the zip T and the tights quickly became essentials in my climbing, backpacking, and bicycling wardrobes. Both pieces fit well and allow full freedom of movement. The tights are snug and come up high in the back to prevent gapping, while the T has a deep zipper for ventilation.

Zip T, $79; tights, $69; hooded jacket, $99; balaclava, $19. From Mountain Hardwear, 950 Gilman St., Berkeley, CA 94710; 510-559-6700.

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