I've posted in the past about kit I've bought from Japanese fashion brand Uniqlo, in particular the light down jackets. I bought one last year and was so impressed that I bought another when the price was reduced. I also tried out their thermal baselayer range, Heattech, again I'm really impressed with Heattech as it's very soft, has just enough stretch, doesn't feel restrictive and dries very quickly.
One other item I purchased last year was a hooded fleece jacket, I hadn't worn it much as to be honest while the down jackets were fine in size Small the fleece was just a little tight. I have been wearing it recently though and although it's currently out of stock I would buy one in Medium if they get them back in.
The final item that I bought was brought to my attention by 'Moonlight Shadow' who posts on Outdoors Magic. Uniqlo do a range of trousers under the title of 'Easy Trousers' I'd ordered fleece lined ones last year called ' Easy Warm Trousers' but returned them as I thought they'd be too warm for walking. The ones Moonlight Shadow mentioned are called 'Easy Windproof trousers'.
Starting with Heattech, the range consists of long and short sleeve t-shirts in a variety of plain or patterned fabrics, both are available in crew or v neck and additionally the long sleeve version can be had with a roll neck. Most of the range comes in a plain weave but the long sleeve t-shirt is also available in a waffle knit. The fabric is 40% Acrylic, 34% Polyester, 21% Viscose, 5% Elastane.
As I mentioned my 1st items were standard long and short sleeve t-shirts (1 of each) when I checked a week ago the price was reduced again so I ordered 2 more short sleeve t's at £6.99 (reduced from £9.99) each, 1 long sleeve crew neck and a pair of longjohns at £9.99 (reduced from £14.99) each.
I've tried a few different synthetic base layers, my favourite being Sub Zero F1 but given the price difference and the fact that I can't really see any difference in performance I think I'll stick with Heattech.
The hooded fleece jacket is made from a slightly furry fabric but it's very soft. The hood is double layer and the cut is slim. The overall design is fairly basic having 2 un-zipped hand warmer pockets 2 inside mesh pockets and one way zip and lycra bound cuffs. The hood is big enough to go over a beanie and has an elastic shockcord and captive cordlocks. I paid £24.99 which is quite a bit more expensive than my usual Primark £5 fleece pullovers but it's still a bargain compared to technical hooded fleece jackets from the well known Outdoors brands. I can't say that there isn't a significant benefit buying a branded fleece, I simply don't know but to be honest I'm slightly cynical when it comes to fleece and I'm not sure I'd want to pay £100+ to find out.
Finally the Easy windproof Trousers, I only really bought these to wear when canoeing as I figured that they'd dry quickly even if the weren't water-resistant and would retain some warmth thanks to a thin brushed lining. The trousers have a sew-in belt with a fastex type buckle, a studded waist and zip fly, a back pocket with a velcro clousure, 2 x handwarner pockets with a stud fastener and a zipped pocket on the right thigh. In addition they have a zipped gussetted opening on the outside of the leg from just below the knee and a shock cord in the hem to draw them in. These were reduced to £14.99 so at the price I wouldn't be worried about trashing them from kneeling in a canoe. The outer fabric is 100% Polyamide and the lining 100% polyester, the swing tag states that the product was developed jointly with TORAY Industries Inc, the same fabric supplier used by Alpkit for their down sleeping bag and down clothing range.
As it turned out I wore them a few days ago when out walking and in spite of a few showers they managed to keep me dry. The outer fabric wetted out on the inside of my calves as I wasn't wearing agiters but in spite of that I didn't feel them wet through. I didn't wear a baselayer underneath but they were comfortable, warm and definitely windproof as there was a really strong wind and I didn't feel any cooling effect. To illustrate how they performed I was wearing a Paramo VAL over 2 x heattech t-shirts (short sleeve with a long sleeve on top) and while the VAL performed as expected the Easy Windproof trousers matched the VAL's performance and didn't look any wetter at the end. I expect in prolonged rain the Easy windproof trousers would wet out and wet through before the VAL but the VAL too has it's limits as I've discovered.