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Craft's Women's Active Extreme X Round Neck Long Sleeve Baselayer is an outstanding bit of kit that keeps you warm and dry in cold to mild weather. The fabrics and fit make it exceptionally comfortable. For £45, you get a quality piece of kit made from a good percentage of recycled fabrics. It's genuinely difficult to pick fault here.
I still use several Craft baselayers that I bought while racing, over 12 years ago. The fabric has lost its sheen but they perform as they did on day one and, more importantly, there are zero signs of deterioration. I hasten to add that they are all black – white never fares so well. The Active Extreme X has certainly impressed during the test period; only time will tell if the innovative, recycled fabrics are as durable as Craft's former polyesters.
I followed Craft's sizing guide to test a small, and would say stay true to size. The fit is intended to be snug. There is ample length in both the sleeves and the body, with no riding up when you tuck the vest into tights or shorts, so the lower back stays well protected. There's a chance that some women may find the sleeve and/or body length too generous – I have pretty long limbs and would always rather have too much length than too little, so it was all to my liking.
While the vest really hugs the figure, the fabric is silky smooth with loads of give; it moves with the body well while riding and will accommodate all body shapes. It's so soft and supple that you are not even really aware that you are wearing it.
There is a subtle but effective female cut in the panelling. Yes, there are seams here, but they are all flatlock and you really don't sense any of them.
The neckline is just the height you want in cool conditions: not stiflingly high, but enough to protect you should you lower a jersey zip.
I've used the vest in a variety of conditions, with temperatures as low as 3°C and as high as 12. It's certainly proved versatile – Craft gives it a range of -5ºC to +10ºC.
In single-figure temperatures I've combined it with winter jerseys and gilets or jackets, and have been toasty warm with zero moisture build-up – the baselayer has been consistently bone dry at the end of rides.
Even putting in efforts of a decent duration, I never felt like I was overheating. The strategically placed, underarm mesh panels are really effective. Although I haven't taken it below 3°C, I have no reason to believe that it wouldn't perform well: its thin, snug nature means it can easily be used under a second baselayer too.
I've had good use out of it in milder temperatures, too. It doesn't become overbearing like some more substantial long-sleeved baselayers, such as Assos' Ultraz Skin Layer for example, and its snug fit means it sits well under tight, race-orientated jerseys.
Even if I was sweating due to exertion or conditions, the baselayer simply never clung on to any moisture; it's consistently wicking and drying in an instant.
Overall, it's a baselayer what will span at least three of our four seasons. Given our unpredictable summers, I'd say it could even make an appearance in a fourth too.
The Extreme X doesn't cling to odours as much as some polyester baselayers I've used, either; I've tended to get a few wears out of it before throwing it in the laundry. It comes out virtually dry from the machine, too.
All of this performance is coming from a good percentage of recycled, eco-friendly fabrics. The 39% Coolmax content is doing a lot of the quick-drying work, supported by 40% Seaqual, a polyester made from recycled, marine plastics. Craft claims that the remaining polyester is also recycled. The three fabrics combine to give a ribbed, waffle-like knit.
It's great that manufacturers are incorporating so much recycled material. As consumers, it gives us a choice, and with a choice we can make a difference.
Its rrp of £45 is a very fair price compared to others on the market. For instance, Megmeister's Drynamo Base Layer is £64.95, and Sportful's latest offering has a similar design to Craft's but will set you back £55.
The Active Extreme X is genuinely difficult to fault; it ticks all the performance boxes – breathability, wicking, ventilation, warmth – and on top of that, the fit is functional and comfortable. With 61% recycled fabrics, it's a step towards a circular economy and, in my opinion, one with zero compromise in performance. It's £45 very well spent, not only as investment in a quality, three-season piece of kit, but also as a statement of support for a company trying to address environmental issues.
Exceptional performance and comfort, and eco-credentials to boot – it's difficult to fault for the price
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Craft Active Extreme X Round Neck Long Sleeve Baselayer
Size tested: Small
Tell us what the product is for
Craft says, 'Tight, long-sleeve baselayer jersey with mesh panels and excellent body-temperature, Active Extreme X RN LS is a long-sleeve baselayer jersey designed for racing and high-intensity workouts in mild to cold winter conditions.
'This high-performance garment combines lightweight SEAQUAL™ polyester, Coolmax® Air Technology and recycled polyester to provide exceptional body-temperature management during high-intensity activities. In addition, the garment comes with a waffle-knitted design for enhanced moisture transport and comfort. Great stretch and ergonomic fit ensure optimal freedom of movement while body-mapped mesh panels provide extra ventilation where it's needed the most. A proven favorite among elite athletes and everyday heroes.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* Thin, lightweight and elastic fabric
* SEAQUAL™ polyester produced from recycled plastic
* Coolmax® Air Technology
* Waffle-knitted design for maximum moisture transport and comfort
* Mesh inserts at armpits for enhanced ventilation
* Flatlock seams that follow body movements
* Tight fit
* Moisture transport: 5 out of 5
* Activity level: 5 out of 5
* Temperature: -5C to +10C
40% Polyester SeaQual 39% Polyester "Coolmax" 21% Polyester-recycled
There are further details about fabric technology:
SEAQUAL™ eco-friendly fabric
The SEAQUAL™ Initiative challenges plastic pollution and helps to clean our oceans from marine litter, driving society towards circularity. A result of our ambition to take full responsibility for the entire value chain, Active Extreme X RN LS is made of upcycled marine plastics, a 100% recycled material. The recycled SEAQUAL™ fabric is not only eco-friendly but offers exceptional moisture transport and ventilation as well.
Coolmax® Air Technology
Coolmax® Air Technology fabrics are designed to optimize the body's natural temperature management in cold as well as warm conditions. Featuring polyester fibres with a unique propeller-shaped cross-section, the fabric provides excellent thermoregulation for optimal performance. Tests have shown that garments made with the Coolmax® Air Technology offer superior body-temperature management, great comfort and superb quick-dry effect.
Well-made with secure seams and quality fabrics. I still use Craft baselayers that I bought while racing, 12 years ago. There are no obvious weaknesses to be seen.
Great – breathable, warm and effective moisture transfer, with added underarm ventilation panels.
See my comments on construction. No reason to believe that this should be any different; it's looking like new after the intense test period.
No issues with it falling short in length – sleeve or body – plenty of give to accommodate all body shapes. If your arms are on the short side, you may find the sleeve a little long.
I'd stay true to size, using Craft's size chart.
Both fit and faultless performance make for exceptional comfort.
My experience of Craft undergear is that it works well and it's made to last. You can get cheaper, but whether it will still be performing in years to come is not a given.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Simple: 30 degrees with the rest of your kit. It's looking good still following these instructions.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Brilliant. Does exactly what it claims.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Performance, comfort and eco-credentials.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Very reasonably priced for the performance. Both Megmeister and Assos offer female-specific baselayers that cost considerably more. There are cheaper options from the likes of dhb and Decathlon, but I can't say whether they're as good or will last as long.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
What's keeping it off a 10? I guess the sleeve length might not be to everyone's liking; fit always has an element of personal preference to it. On every other aspect, this is an outstanding bit of kit.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road.
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, Getting to grips with off roading too!
Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling.
After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing.
Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…