Monday, July 01, 2013

Wool for Summer Running? Finally Yes! Ashmei Race Vest and Socks

Since the advent of light merino wool running shirts several years ago I have been looking for  true "summer weight" wool. When the weather cools and in winter I almost always run in wool from Ibex and Icebreaker. Come summer and above 60 F I have gone back to synthetics.
Wool has great thermo regulating properties and is practically stink proof so I have been on the lookout for lighter cooler wool.

This year I discovered wool apparel from Ashmei that recognizes that when it's really hot,  pure wool needs some "technology" help to keep us cool.

"ashmei was established to fulfill a gap in the market for stylish, quality running apparel that had an understated and classic style.

Our mission is simple – To develop running apparel using only the very best quality and performance materials available. We achieve this by creating product purely based on this mission statement rather than looking at target retail price points and we worry about this only when we are completely satisfied our product cannot be improved further."

Their clothing is classy, understated and made from what they term "bespoke" fabrics. Bespoke I had to look up on Wikipedia, the term means the buyer has a high degree of control of the fabric used, the features and fit, and the way the garment is made. 

No question their apparel is of the highest quality, beautifully made, and understated. But there is more to this bespoke than quality and looks. There is serious fabric technology that takes wool for performance running to the next level.

I have been testing their Merino+Carbon Race Vest and Merino+Carbon Socks. 
Ashmei Merino+Carbon Race Vest

Ashmei: Merino+Carbon Race Vest

According to Stuart Brooke, Ashmei Founder,  34% carbon fibers are incorporated into the fabric as carbon is the driest and thirstiest element. Moisture seeks out the carbon.  Incorporating carbon helps keep the merino wick, dry (vital in cold) and keeps the runner cooler in hot conditions by accelerating evaporative cooling. The soft jersey fabric is also the lightest wool I have ever used at 145 grams/m2. The lightest from Icebreaker is 150 grams/m2. 

It absolutely works for me, especially in NH hot humid conditions 80 F/ 26 C  plus with 70%  plus humidity. Next I will test in hot desert conditions. Once the fabric has some sweat on it, any breeze at all produces a distinct cooling effect. In addition to warm conditions the Race Vest is ideal for changeable long trail conditions : long run to ridge then cooler windy conditions and as a base layer in cooler conditions

Semi form fitted, the vest also features a small back pocket and a plastic earphone cord loop on the right shoulder. The back pocket will fit an iPhone 5 in thin case in a very thin baggy. Only disadvantage of the gray color, or anything gray, is once you sweat it really shows. It's been so humid lately that the darker happens pretty fast all over so really noticeable from afar!  Most Ashmei running apparel is available in 3 colors: red, black, and gray. 

I also got a 3 pack of their Merino+Carbon Trail Socks. Soft, lightly padded under the mid foot and heel they have stayed relatively dry and certainly comfortable in the humid conditions when everything ends up soaked.
Ashmei: Trail Socks

This kind of quality, technology, and style comes at a price for sure, like any good thing, but I think serious runners will find it worth it. Also available in Ladies styles. Merino+Carbon also available as a short sleeve zip jersey.

This fall I will test their Merino Sweatshirt. Very light with a smooth outside and a bit of texture inside to help with wicking and warmth.  This 65% Merino, 35% Nylon Spandex sweatshirt with hood and thumb holes as well as full zipper should be ideal for a very wide range of cooler temps.

Ashmei: Merino Sweatshirt

Ashmei is available direct from the company in the UK. US distribution is being considered. I ordered (Ashmei provided me with a reviewer's discount) and received in about a week UK to US.
Merino+Carbon Race Vest: 50 UK pounds, approximately $76 US
Merino+Carbon Trails Socks 3 pack: 33 UK pounds, approximately $50 US.

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