SOARTD Trail Hiking Australia

Field Test – SOARTD Minimalist High Performance Outdoor Clothing

When I first started hiking, like many others, I simply threw on a pair of shorts, a pair of runners and a t-shirt, grabbed a small pack with a few bottles of water and headed out to discover the next trail. I didn’t give a lot of thought to the type or style of clothing I was wearing as I figured I was going to get all hot and sweaty anyway and could simply change into another set of clothes when I returned to my car or back at home.

If it was cold, I simply put on more layers. If it was hot, I would take layers off. I had read that layering is the best approach to keeping your body temperature moderated and I felt like a knowledgeable hiker because I was using this system. Little did I know at the time that your clothing, the materials they are made of, and their thickness play a larger part in this equation.

I recall one hike I went on a few years back with a few friends. It was an extremely cool day (4-5 degrees) with low cloud and high chance of rain. In preparation for this I threw on a pair of rain resistant hiking pants, a sports base layer, two t-shirts, a long sleeve top, a thicker hooded jacket and a waterproof outer layer. Wow, that’s five layers, was I prepared or what?

About half way through the hike we stopped at a shelter to get out of the rain and blistering cold and grab a bite to eat for lunch. Standing there in the shelter, I was freezing cold and it didn’t take long before I realised that all my clothing was soaking wet. It wasn’t from the rain, as my waterproof jacket was ‘doing its job’, it was from perspiration. While we were hiking, I was slowly stewing under all those clothes and my wonderful cotton t-shirts were doing a great job of soaking up my perspiration and containing it against my skin. There was no way my clothes were going to dry quickly, due to the fabric, so I we had no option but to keep moving, just so I would remain warm.

That was the last time I ever took clothing for granted, and now see the gear I wear as the single most important part of my kit.

Over the years I have tried and tested a range of clothing for the outdoors. Some have been fantastic, some have simply been duds. Your clothing for hiking is important as it is your first line of protection from the cold, wind, rain, sun, insects, snakes and the scrub. A number of light, adjustable layers is preferable to a few layers of thick, heavy fabric. By adjusting zippers and layers to to minimize sweating during exercise, and being sure to add layers before you feel the cold at rest stops will help ensure your comfort, especially on long hikes.

There is a lot more I could say about clothing, but the purpose of this article is to review selected items from a new range of minimalist clothing by SOARTD that I received prior to Christmas 2017. SOARTD are passionate about producing higher quality, better performing clothes that are more durable and that effortlessly coordinate, and seamlessly transcend situations you may find yourself in. It was time to put that to the test.

SOARTD Trail Hiking Australia

Over the 2017 Christmas break, my wife and I had planned a 10-day hiking trip to Tasmania’s South West. The initial plan was to undertake two remote and exciting hikes, Mount Anne and Frenchman’s Cap. By the end of the trip we had ended up completing five separate hikes in the South West and had covered close to 100km in seven days, and I did it all with SOARTD gear.

One of the biggest challenges with hiking in the South West of Tassie, or any mountain environment, is that the weather changes constantly, dramatically and often within minutes. So how do you prepare for that without carrying a wardrobe full of clothes so that you can adjust your layers as required to suit the changing conditions? You kit yourself out with gear that is designed for these situations while wearing/carrying as little as you can to reduce the weight of your backpack.

SOARTD Trail Hiking Australia

Our first adventure in the South West was the summit of Mount Anne. This is a challenging hike that climbs constantly towards the summit of Mount Eliza before crossing an exposed plateau towards the Mount Anne massif. As we were setting out, the air was crisp, and the skies were cloudy with threatening rain. The outlook wasn’t great with chance of sunshine, rain, hail and extremely high winds. Due to these expected conditions I fitted myself out with SOARTD All Terrain Trek Pants, Trek Long Sleeve T-Shirt and Sprint QTR-Zip Pullover. This would allow me to keep warm early in the hike and then remove the outer layer as we started the climb, while still being protected from the cold winds by the long sleeve t-shirt. I also wore gloves and a merino beanie just to keep the warmth in. The trek pants offer a 4-way stretch fabric which performed superbly over the rugged and varied terrain, allowing me to walk easily along the uneven trail and easily stretch my legs as we clambered over the many boulder fields. A large section of this hike is exposed to the elements and soon after leaving the shelter of the lower scrub we were buffeted by strong and icy winds and consistent drizzle from the clouds above. The nylon and polyeurothane woven fabric of the trek pants kept my legs both warm and dry due to their ability to screen the wind and shed water quickly. Even without gaiters, and waterproof over-pants my legs remained dry.

SOARTD Trail Hiking Australia

By the time we reached the plateau the wind had really picked up and was consistently blowing at around 70km per hour with gusts up to 90km per hour and a wind chill in the sub-zeros. As an extra layer of protection, I pulled out my Gore-Tex jacket in order to keep the icy wind and shattering hail at bay. We decided, on this attempt, not to summit Mount Anne due to the inherent dangers of the final ascent so we turned to retrace our steps. We were about two hours into our descent when the weather changed, and the sun started to peak out through the clouds. I was starting to heat up with all the layers that I was wearing so I removed the Gore-Tex jacket and pullover and wore the long sleeve t-shirt for the remainder of the descent. With the sun out, it was a lot warmer now and I could feel that I was starting to perspire. The polyester and wool knit of the long sleeve t-shirt did an amazing job of wicking the moisture away from my skin and soon became quite wet. I soldiered on and within minutes of returning to the valley below I could feel the shirt becoming quite dry. So much so that by the time we returned to the trail head it was as dry as when it started. The trek pants seemed to perform in exactly the same way. I was suitably impressed with my gear selection for this first adventure as it allowed me to easily transition into suitable gear, as required, without the need to be carrying volumes of clothing with me.

Before wearing the SOARTD gear I had always been a fan of merino fabric. Not only for its light weight and wicking ability but also for its ability to reduce unpleasant body odour from a long, hot day on the trail. This is particularly useful on multi-day hikes where you might wear the same item of clothing for days in a row. So, I was keen to put SOARTD to the test and chose to wear the same items of clothing for the rest of our trip. I’ll let you know how that went later.

SOARTD Trail Hiking Australia

Next on the list was a 3-day hike into Frenchmans Cap and once again we were faced with similar weather conditions (minus the hail and gale force winds). I commenced this adventure wearing SOARTD Trek Pants, their Base Grid T-Shirt, Sundance Cap and very interesting Trek Belt. I am not usually a fan of wearing belts on multi-day hikes as the weight of the pack and often ill-positioned waist harness usually means any belt ends up digging into my hips, causing rubbing and bruising by the end of long days on the trail. I am also not generally a fan of wearing hats (much to my wife’s displeasure) as I find they often trap unnecessary heat against your head and cause the rest of my body to overheat.

The belt was amazing. The fast-cinch aluminium buckle is quick and easy to secure, and the solid appearance offers psychological reassurance that it will never come undone. The most exciting thing I enjoyed about this belt is that the waist band is made from a wide elasticised nylon webbing, so you can secure it tightly to your waist and it flexes and moves with you rather than against you. The belt is thin enough that my pack never rubbed, and I honestly had to keep checking I was wearing it as it never felt that I was. The elasticity of the belt is also great when your waist size changes due to trail diet and the physical activity.

SOARTD Trail Hiking Australia

Thanks to the Sundance Cap, my wife was happy that my head was protected, and she even stopped trying to rub sunscreen onto the top of my forehead. Unlike other hats I have worn, the Sundance was lightweight, breathed well and wicked moisture away from my head. I wore this hat in sunshine and rain and it seemed to shed water well and dried quickly when the sun returned to grace us with its presence. On multi-day hikes you often find small things to keep yourself amused and I seemed to find amusement in the fact that every time I tilted my head to duck under a branch a stream of water would run from the peak of my hat. Clearly it was keeping me dry (and I was going slightly insane).

SOARTD Trail Hiking Australia

Out of the bag, the Base Grid T-Shirt is quite interesting in appearance. Like the long sleeve t-shirt it has no underarm seams and appears to be quite thin between the grid like fabric structure. I actually wondered how it would possibly keep me warm as I could literally see my hand through the thinner weave of the shirt. Once I put on the shirt, my thinking changed completely. I felt instantly warm and the soft Polartec Grid fabric felt comfortable against my skin. As I mentioned earlier, I have always worn merino gear and am pleased to say that this fabric feels entirely different; really soft and comfortable against your skin. I have had a number of people ask me what fabrics, other than merino, I would recommend as their skin seems to be sensitive to wool’s sometimes scratchy feel. This gear is for you. In fact, I can happily say that this gear is for everyone.

SOARTD Trail Hiking Australia

Having no underarm seams on a shirt may not seem like a big deal but it certainly can be. I have a number of other shirts that I wear, all with underarm seams, and it frustrates me that every time I return from a long day hike, overnight or multi-day that my left arm always has an abrasive rash just below my armpit. I used to think it was due to my pack rubbing but recently discovered it was the internal seams of the shirt. Needless to say, I won’t wear those shorts anymore on long hikes and I had no such rash following wearing these ones. Yay!

I wore this same kit for the duration of the three-day hike and it was only when we stopped for a break that I would put on the Sprint Qtr-Zip Pullover, just to keep me warm while we rested. I found that the Base Grid T-Shirt was flexible, comfortable, warm when I needed it and allowed me to keep cool when required. As the weather was changing so rapidly and constantly I decided to simply wear the t-shirt at all times. I found that it wicked moisture well and when it did become wet, through perspiration or rain, my skin still managed to remain warm until the shirt quickly dried. It was only when the rain became extremely heavy and the wind howled, closer to the summit, that I put on my extra Gore-Tex layer and swapped my hat for a beanie for added protection.

For our remining hikes to Mount Field West, The Sentinels and Hatrz Peak I continued to wear the same gear with similar weather conditions and similar results in terms of clothing performance. I ended up giving the Base Grid Long Sleeve T-Shirt a run during our Hartz Peak walk and its performance paralleled that of its younger brother (the Base Grid T-Shirt). A great advantage of the long sleeve is that it has thumb holes in the sleeves to help keep your hands warm and a quarter length zip allow you to regulate your body temperature by adjusting the zip.

SOARTD Trail Hiking Australia

A lot of the trails we traversed were rugged, narrow and contained their fair share of scrub, rocks and overhanging branches that try, as best they can, to claw at and destroy your gear. In all of the gear I wear, I am always mindful of comfort, temperature regulation, wicking ability, ability to dry quickly and weight. These are all important factors to consider when choosing the right gear. Another factor is durability. There have been countless occasions where I have purchased new and often expensive ‘performance’ gear only to see it be torn apart on the first outing due to over-stretching, becoming snagged in the waist belt of my pack, rubbing under shoulder straps, rubbing against rocks or snagging on scrub. It is most disappointing when this occurs as my expectations of often expensive performance gear is that it has been developed for the intended conditions. Seems this is not always the case. I have only tested the gear from SOARTD on 100km of terrain, but this terrain has been rugged, varied and exposed to some of the most destructive elements the outdoors environment can offer. Every item of clothing has come through, completely unscathed. I will continue to asses this aspect of the clothing over future hikes and will report if necessary if the situation changes.

SOARTD Trail Hiking Australia

For seven days of hiking in the variety of conditions that we faced I am very impressed by the fact that all I needed were a few items of clothing and that all items performed as I needed them to. Never did I feel under protected or under prepared and this is what you need from your hiking gear. Oh, after seven days wearing the same gear I am also happy to report (my wife may beg to differ), that I did not notice any odour in any of the gear. Nice.

SOARTD claim to be passionate about producing higher quality, better performing clothes that are more durable and that effortlessly coordinate, and seamlessly transcend situations you may find yourself in.

I put this to the test and would highly recommend SOARTD to anyone looking for a minimalist approach to their gear.

The team at SOARTD are offering Trail Hiking members huge discounts on most of their gear until the end of April 2018. Get in quick and grab yourself a bargain.

Tech Specs

Sprint Qtr-Zip Pullover | $120

Promotional Price: $75

Made from Polartec Power Stretch Pro – fabric with a specially researched polyester, nylon and lycra knit, the top wicks body moisture, buffs the wind and is abrasion resistant, while being lightweight, soft and super flexible. Ideal for high-exertion activity where freedom of movement, warmth and comfort are important.

Base Grid T-Shirt | $70

Promotional Price: $50

Made from Polartec Power Grid – fabric with a specially researched polyester grid knit. The grid pads provide increased insulation with less weight, and wick moisture fast. The air pockets support your body’s temperature regulation, ensuring you don’t overheat in hot conditions, while keeping you warmer when it’s cold and/or wet. Polygiene silver odour control built-in.

Base Grid Long Sleeve T-Shirt | $90

Promotional Price: $50

Made from Polartec Power Grid – fabric with a specially researched polyester grid knit. The grid pads provide increased insulation with less weight, and wick moisture fast. The air pockets support your body’s temperature regulation, ensuring you don’t overheat in hot conditions, while keeping you warmer when it’s cold and/or wet. Polygiene silver odour control built-in.

Trek Long Sleeve T-Shirt with Power Wool | $90

Promotional Price: $50

Made from Polartec Power Wool – fabric with a specially researched polyester and wool knit. The inclusion of super soft wool to the pads on the inside provide all-day long comfort and insulation, while the polyester wicks moisture to the outside and makes for an abrasion resistant and easy-care shirt that’ll take you anywhere.

All Terrain Trek Pants | $120

Promotional Price: $75

Made from Pertex Equilibrium – a specially developed nylon and polyurethane woven fabric, with 4-way stretch, that screens the wind, sheds water, wicks internal moisture and dries super-fast. These UPF 50+ pants are equally at home in the mountains as they are at sea, or travelling the world.

Trek Belt | $20

Features a fast-cinch aluminium buckle with an 32mm wide elasticised nylon webbing band that does its job to keep your pants where you want them, but moves as you do, without constraint.

Sundance Cap | $20

Made from Pertex Equilibrium – a specially developed nylon and polyeurethane woven fabric, with 4-way stretch, that screens the wind, sheds water, wicks internal moisture and dries super-fast. This UPF 50+ cap will shield the rays and help keep you cool and dry, whatever your activity.