When I first stumbled on Bambool Thermics (via Twitter) the brand’s idea – performance base layers made from a blend of bamboo and merino wool – just struck a chord.
Bamboo is uber soft, anti-bacterial and moisture wicking; while merino wool offers insulation along with its own moisture wicking properties. Could this be a base layer that felt comfortable to wear, didn’t smell and kept me warm in the winter and cool in the summer? I couldn’t wait to find out.
Bambool Thermics is a Colorado company that was founded by husband-and-wife team Craig and Jessica Woods just last year. (In the photo below, they're skiing at Vail, where Craig is an instructor)
“People have made a lot of advancements in other areas of ski wear, and yet base layers seem to be sort of forgotten,” Jessica said. Any true advancement has to start with the fabric, she added, so that’s where they first focused.
The moment of inspiration came when they saw a pair of bamboo bed sheets. In addition to all the properties of bamboo mentioned above, the couple also really liked that bamboo is an ecologically friendly fiber, as its one of the fastest growing plants in the world.
A fabric made of a blend of bamboo and merino didn’t exist, so they had to find a manufacturer willing to make it for them. After lots of searching, they found a plant willing to do it, but on the condition of a large minimum order size.
“We didn’t know what it would turn out like, so it was a huge leap of faith on our part,” Jessica said. Luckily, the gamble paid off. The final product is 67% bamboo, 28% merino and 5% elastic.
The Bamboo Base Layer Design
After figuring out the fabric, Jessica and Craig turned their attention to the design elements of their bamboo base layer. Bambool tops and bottoms included a:
- gusseted crotch
- gusseted arm pits
- zipper cage
- thumb holes
- flatlock stitching
- tag free design (sizing and washing info are printed directly on the garment)
“So there’s nothing on the garments that will chaff or irritate the skin,” Jessica said. Currently, the company offers a men’s and women’s version of ¾ length long underwear bottoms (designed with ski boots in mind) and half-zip pullover shirts. The only color option is black.
Back in January, my husband (Cory), our store manager (Chris) and I each received a Bambool Thermics top and bottom to try out. And after a few months of wearing the bamboo base layers to ski and run the consensus is that we love them, especially the fabric which is soft and surprisingly warm.
They’re my first choice for base layers when I head out for a day in the mountains.I had to laugh at the constructive criticism that Cory and Chris brought up, when I asked via e-mail, because of how completely they disagreed from each other.
Cory: “I thought the collar was a little stiff, but I'm not a collar person.”
Chris: “I really like that the collar is slightly stiffer than a traditional collar as it keeps it from folding down.”
Then, there was this: Chris: “I have been surprisingly bothered by the fact that there is no fly. As a man it's one of our highest pleasures to be able to whip it out anywhere. This is the first pair of underwear that I remember not having a fly and it made finding my manhood and taking care of business a little annoying.”
Cory: “I have experienced no problems finding my penis.” (Apparently, my husband is not a fly using type of guy, I just learned)
This pretty hilarious e-mail chain then led to passing around the link for the Seinfeld shrinkage episode. Here it is for your own entertainment.
But, back to the point. From my perspective, here are a few thoughts on the pros and cons:
- Super comfortable to wear
- Surprisingly warm for how lightweight the fabric is
- Doesn’t smell after a long day playing in the mountains
- Love it for running, as well as skiing (something I've had a lot of opportunity to test out due to a lack of snow, as seen in the photo above).
- Stretchy fabric makes for a good fit
- Truly fabulous people behind the fledgling company. I got to have coffee recently with Amy, the gal who does all the marketing for Bambool, and it was a lovely encounter. I also really enjoyed talking to Jessica on the phone.
- The pants are a little sheer; I actually like how lightweight they are when skinning up a mountain while backcountry skiing, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable walking into the grocery store wearing them.
- I wish the shirt were an inch or two longer; I actually haven’t had problems with the shirt riding up, but I really like being able to count on a layer of fabric between my waist and the hip straps of my backpack.
- Made in China
- I’d love to see a version offered with a hood and in different colors. I suspect this will come with time.
- I’m typically a size small, but needed Bambool bottoms in a size medium. To Bambool’s credit, they’re very aware that the sizing for the women’s bottoms on their first run of product is a little off, and they sent me a size medium along with the size small, and just asked to send back whichever one didn’t fit.
The bottom line: “It’s like wearing pajamas,” Jessica told me. And, I’d have to agree. When my husband got the flu in January, he spent a week curled up in bed, wearing his Bambool Thermics top and bottom. And, truth be told, I'm wearing my Bambool top as I write this review, here in my office. Then again, it's been a sort of mission of mine to get to a point in life where I could wear performance layers to work, but that's a different story.