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Pactimo's High Grade Wool Long Sleeve Base Layer functions as a good quality three-season under layer, with thought given to breathability over outright warmth. It costs a lot, though.
The weather has well and truly turned now, the summer baselayers have been put away, and thicker, long sleeve options have started to take over. The good news is that Pactimo has a product here that manages to straddle the gap between something for the coldest months and the mild weather – it's a very good three-season layer.
The wool used in it is merino – the wonder natural textile of recent times – blended with polyester to create a fabric designed to boast the performance of the natural material and the tried-and-tested resilience of the synthetic.
It's a great mix that feels wool-soft against the skin, but is thin and light enough (pure merino feels thicker than this) that you don't start sweating as soon as the sun peeps out from behind the clouds. It does its job of wicking moisture from the skin as well as any baselayer I've come across, and the wool component means it doesn't retain odour.
The stats are 69-31% in favour of the polyester, but that takes into account the mesh panels on the rearside of the shoulders. They're positioned for additional cooling in an area that obviously doesn't face the wind, and although it somehow looks a little fussy, when the baselayer is on you can't have any complaints of how it works.
In a long sleeve baselayer, this is as cool (not cold) as I've felt on a mild 10°C autumn ride, while the full sleeve coverage sees you through – with a winter-weight jersey or jacket on – until right into low single figures. I'm not sure about the claims of performance in -17°C, but I suppose you'd wear more layers in that situation.
The construction is high quality, but although I had a medium on test when I tend to size between and medium and a large in most tops, I was surprised at just how tight the sleeves were, while they pulled up a little higher than I'd like too. The former is probably a side effect of the latter – cuffs designed to fit around wrists being pulled up thicker forearms.
I found a similar thing with the brand's Torrent rain jacket too – while I was wearing a half size smaller than I'd consider perfect, the amount the sleeves wanted to pull up my arms was a little too much even with this taken into account. I do have long arms, but this isn't an issue I find with other brands' kit (on the whole), which suggests to me it's a feature of Pactimo's sizing.
It's worth bearing in mind that in a baselayer this can be more easily forgiven – after all, you'll be wearing a jersey or jacket over the top, so as long as the outer garment gives you complete coverage to your satisfaction, then it's arguably a non-issue. Opting for the bigger of two sizes if you sit between, or simply trying one size up is likely to make up for much of the fit shortcomings.
Otherwise, it's an excellent product. The cut is slim and figure-conforming – so a size bigger shouldn't suddenly give you bags of excess room that you don't need – and the polyester content adds enough resilience that you can get away with a 40 degree wash (low spin, though) despite the recommendations for a 30 degree delicate cycle. Just don't put it near Velcro.
Anything with merino wool in it tends to cost a fair amount, and this is no exception: £70 is a huge amount of money for a garment that – let's be honest – no one is going to see. (Lusso's Bioactive baselayer does a similar job for half the money.) That said, baselayers are all about their wicking performance in that key zone right next to the skin, and on that basis alone the Pactimo at least partly justifies the price thanks to its three-season suitability.
A great performer, but it'll cost you a fair chunk of cash
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pactimo High Grade Wool Base Layer
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Pactimo says: "The High Grade is an excellent choice for those who want a natural fiber, cold weather base layer that will perform exceptionally well at retaining heat, even when wet. Merino wool is known for its exceptionally soft characteristics, is naturally breathable and extremely efficient at regulating body temperature due to its great warmth-to-weight ratio. This base layer is ideally suited for pairing with our cold weather and thermal outerwear for defence against the harsh cold and winter conditions, and temperatures between -17° - 4°C."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- 69% Polyester; 31% Merino Wool
- Stretchy, zero-weight mesh in shoulders for excess heat discharge
- Pactimo TotalFit™ design for excellent anatomical fit
- -17° - 4°C
It looks messy, but actually it's very good.
The fabric is great, and the temperature range is wide.
It seems sturdy enough, but I'm always wary of merino blend baselayers – they tend to show their age after a while.
Great fit – aside from the sleeves which run up a bit more than I'd like.
Sizes about right, except a little short/tight on the sleeves.
At 151g for a winter wool blend baselayer, there's nothing out of the ordinary here.
The fabric is very soft against the skin, and despite the tightness around the arms I experienced, it's not uncomfortable.
£70 is a helluva lot of money, but it does perform well to partially balance the equation.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Easily, given the wool content.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Really well indeed.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Temperature regulation, breathability.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Very expensive, sleeve length.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Lusso's Bioactive baselayer does a similar job for half the money, while we said that the Shimano S-Phyre Winter Baselayer was very expensive – and costs the same for similar performance.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? I'd look at it as an option.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe, if cash wasn't a problem.
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's an excellent winter baselayer, but there's a price tag to go with it, which holds it back a touch.
About the tester
I usually ride: Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 SL (2016) My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding