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Bamboo Arrives for Baselayer Season

Showers Pass introduces merino-bamboo weave

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Showers Pass Bamboo Merino Henley

What Is It? The Showers Pass Bamboo-Merino Henley base layer

Linkage: Via Showers Pass website. Retail cost $75.

What’s Special About It? Unique fabric makes wool super comfortable on your skin.

Downsides? Probably not dead-of-winter warm; not cheap.

Verdict: Positive, and stylish!

I had a pretty outdoorsy childhood back in the day. I don’t know if that’s a prerequisite to becoming a cyclist, but it certainly comes in handy often enough, like when you’re well into a six hour ride in the, uh, elements, and trying to remember why you thought that was an OK decision to make. Anyway, if you spend enough time in the wild world, you will eventually learn about plants and how useful some of them can be. The reigning champion of useful plants is the cattail, a grass species that looks like it has burnt hot dogs hanging off of it, but which is also edible, contains fiber that can be used for a million things, and is a source of fuel. Basically, if you knew what you were doing, you could build and operate a small vehicle from the plant’s various parts, and munch on the grains as you drove around.

I’m maybe exaggerating a bit, but while cattails aren’t super useful for cycling, bamboo certainly is. Another of those enormous grass species, people have been making bike frames out of the denser stalks for a few years, when not making hardwood floors or panda food or just a nice decoration. Done right, bamboo can be incredibly beautiful.

Kyoto, Japan’s famous Arashiyama Moso Bamboo forest, a good place to wear the Bamboo-Merino Henley

And now, it can be clothing too.

Earlier this year Showers Pass of Portland, Oregon debuted its Bamboo-Merino Short-Sleeve Henley shirt, ostensibly a base layer made from fabric that combined warm merino wool with soft, comfortable bamboo fiber. The result is a shirt that works perfectly as a base in cooler temperatures of spring and fall, even a mild winter day, and that looks and feels so good you might prefer to just wear it around town instead.

The Henley is a short-sleeve (or long sleeve) shirt with a three-button neck for temperature regulation, and a bit of style, that functions mainly as a snug-fitting base layer for cycling or other activities. It is designed to be moisture-wicking, breathing, and warm, with mesh panels under the arms. It’s mid-layer warm, which is a little surprising since the thickness of the dual fabric feels like the weight of ski clothing. This isn’t your lightest-weight fall and spring layer, if that’s something you care about.

In all other respects, though, it’s a total success. The feel of the bamboo layer on the inside is like a synthetic, soft and cool, rather than how even nice merino wool would feel on your skin. But by pairing it with an outer layer of wool you get the performance benefits of a wool layer on top of a layer that doesn’t feel itchy or produce the body odor that it otherwise might. I started wearing the Bamboo-Merino Henley in March, through Flanders and France, and thanks to the antibacterial properties of the bamboo, it still smells like new.

Closeup of the mesh side and stitching

And by wearing I mean both on and off the bike, which isn’t something one might expect to ever say about a supposed base layer. But between feeling comfortable and looking more like an actual shirt, this is a bonus feature. Remember when I mentioned the thickness? Well, not being sheer like some baselayers means it looks like something you can wear around, and the Henley button style furthers that.

As is often the case with Showers Pass, the price is not at the low end of the market, but their plan seems to be to always give you more in return, and the Bamboo-Merino Henley base layer is no exception. It’s almost never in my base layer pile because it’s either in use or waiting to get washed. It’s another bit of clever, high-quality technology from Showers Pass that, if it’s in your price range, you’ll find well worth the cost.