Craft ProZero Gore Windstopper Base Layer
The Craft ProZero Gore Windstopper Base Layer looked intriguing from the moment we set eyes on it. It seemed like the perfect undergarment for wet days on road and off, as well as the right thing to go under a long sleeve skinsuit when racing cyclocross in the 30-degree range. And it certainly couldn't hurt to use as the next-to-skin layer on subfreezing days, even with a windproof outer layer. The only thing that's surprising about it is how long it took for us to finally test it out. The top has been on the market for a number of years now, and we just added it to the base layer bin this fall.
Craft, for those who aren't familiar, is legendary for their baselayers. They're light, comfortable, and warm. The fabric, spun from the unsubtly named "polyester" fibers, is Craft's ProZero fabric. Designed to stretch over the body like a second skin, ProZero has vertical ribs that are supposed to contact the body at the high points of those ribs. The low points are supposed to create channels of air. Air that is heated and helps keep the body warm while keeping the air flowing so sweat has a harder time building up. Where the fabric touches the skin, sweat passes through the fabric from the inside to the outside, giving it an opportunity to evaporate there -- provided the fabric is exposed to flowing air.
One of the nice things about the Craft crew neck tops is that there is a collar high enough to keep air from going down the neck. Not as high as a turtle neck; just enough for protection. Interestingly, the height of the collar is the same length as the caps on the sleeves, which seal the arms. Craft also makes their tops with a markedly longer tail than front. It's generally long enough to just about reach the chamois when riding. Finishing off the Craft touches are the flat-lock seams that make the garment often feel as if it was stitched as just a single rounded panel of fabric.
What makes the WS Short Sleeve Crew different from the rest of the Craft line is the Gore Windstopper Piuma panel stitched to the outside front of the garment. Craft says it's Gore's lightest wind-proof stretch fabric. 87 grams per square meter is the weight of the fabric. It is not only light, but so thin as to be barely an extra layer at all.
When we first tried on the top, the WS panel felt loose. Since we're used to Craft garments fitting snugly, we were surprised and considered sizing down for a closer fit. Our person at Craft told us that the front panel shouldn't be tight -- though the rest of the garment should be in full contact with skin. The reason is the loose panel will trap more air thus heating the body better.
We experimented with the top in a variety of conditions. We tried it in lieu of a long sleeve base layer under a long sleeve jersey on mid-40s days. We tried it under a long sleeve base layer and long sleeve jersey on days when we would have otherwise used a wind vest. We tried it under a long sleeve base layer and windproof jacket on a subfreezing day. And just to be mean, we didn't wash it between multiple wearings.
The top never felt too hot, though we weren't sure if this was a consequence of the Windstopper panel breathing just enough to let out some moisture when needed or not going 100% on longer climbs. It did serve as a nice lightweight replacement for a wind vest. By residing under the jersey, the wind panel didn't flap in the wind like vests can, nor did it inhibit access to pockets, which vests do. Under a new windproof jacket on a cold day, it didn't make much a difference in warmth, though it could be that the jacket was better sealed than earlier windproof jackets, or that the day just wasn't cold enough to appreciate the extra warmth.
In terms of the larger picture, it's good to know that Craft ProZero doesn't stink too much, at least when the garment is new. This is generally a benefit of pricier underwear, and it's good to see it holds for Craft as well. While there are several Craft garments in our quiver, all are at least a few years old, some several, and we rarely "test" the tops out in this fashion. Craft's label suggests machine washing on warm in the gentle cycle. This is a good thing; it can be thrown in with the rest of the normal clothes. They also suggest drying on low. We do this as well, though we've found that usually, the final spin of the wash takes out enough moisture that Craft tops air dry pretty fast as well.
This is a great addition to any wardrobe. It isn't that the top is hot, but that it adds just the right kind of layer on enough days that will become indispensable.