Kate checked out the Merino Fusion Switch Hoodie from Wilderness Wear to see if it ticks all the backcountry boxes.
The snowstorm we had been waiting for was finally rolling in. A little late to the season, in mid-August, but it was a snowfall that would absolutely kick off the winter. Weather stations were predicting a 60cm dump and temperatures as low as -10˚C degrees in the sub-alpine. A combo that would bring us the driest, deepest, powder of the year.
We had incidentally lined up four perfect days riding the storm in the backcountry to test out the Women’s Merino Fusion Switch Hoodie from Wilderness Wear. Designed for the storm riders among us, this thermal base layer is for those who battle the weather to seek the reward of untouched powder stashes and re-filling tracks all day long.
Wilderness Wear is a thermal brand that is 100% Australian owned, designed, and made. Sourcing their wool from local farms in Tasmania, the merino quality is up there with renowned Kiwi competitors, Icebreaker & Mons Royale. They are created with heart by outdoor lovers like us, personally testing clothing right in our own Aussie wilderness. Heck, they even have a sock named after the national park I tested the thermal out in, the ‘Kosciuszko Hiker’.
The style of the Switch Hoodie is what makes it perfect for those cold and windy backcountry days. Slim lined and longer than most thermal tops, it tucked snuggly into my Gore-Tex bib, ensuring no draughty gaps between top and pant. Ascending up through the protected canopy of the snow gums, I was quickly down to just the thermal and a shell. The winds whipped increasingly as the sheltering trees thinned and the faint outline of a rock feature could just be made out through the fog.
Arriving at the huge boulder pile, known locally as ‘the Oblisque’, we excitedly transitioned ready for our first turns. Protecting myself from the elements, pulling the hood over my beanie and gaiter up over my nose, I realised I had found the holy grail of storm riding thermals. All built into the one-piece, memories of gaping cold necks between buff and thermal were quickly forgotten as I pulled the full ninja-style balaclava on.
A seamless design for constant transitions, being able to quickly throw the face gaiter on and off as my temperature changed with the incline and decline of the mountain slopes. The first turn I carved was an immediate spray of powder into my well-covered face, entering the white room, this was heaven!
When it comes to backcountry touring, the most important layers are those closest to your skin; your base layer. Skinning through the gums from the car park, reaching the tree-line, and entering the alpine, no matter the weather you’ll go from hot to cold faster than Katy Perry. As the saying goes, ‘cotton kills’ in the backcountry, it gets wet from sweat and stays wet for the rest of the day, sapping your warmth and chafing.
Made from a combination of merino and polypropylene, the Switch Hoodie will keep you warm and dry with the added stretch and softness of man-made synthetic fibres. Wearing it for four days in a row, the natural properties of merino meant that the odour-resistant fibres kept the sweat stink at bay until I had time to wash it again.
By day three the storm was showing signs of easing, with the winds dropping down and the cloud cover beginning to thin. As the sun came out, we headed higher into the alpine in search of some trig points. Whilst the Switch Hoodie is labelled as a base layer, at 190gsm double jersey thickness it is super warm and insulating. This was perfect for the stormy weather I experienced, however, it was a little too warm for the sunny days I rode in the storm’s aftermath.
On day four we were touring in just singlets, with the mountain weather heating up fast, the stormy days just prior felt like a magical dream. On sunny days I would recommend carrying the Switch Hoodie as a light mid-layer and wearing a lighter merino layer underneath.
The only downside to the Switch Hoodie is that it doesn’t come in more colours! Like most merino thermals, it’s hard to find them in patterns or stand-out prints due to the dying process of the natural fabric. Whilst synthetic thermals often have all types of fun styles and colourways, they come with a fair share of downfalls, namely being less breathable and tend to stink fast.
The Switch Hoodie is a completely stable thermal piece that I’d love to wear on every single backcountry day, but I’d love a little more pizzazz when it comes to colour choice and patterns.
Kate was given the Wilderness Wear Switch Hoodie for testing and was allowed to keep it afterwards. We let her say whatever the heck she wanted in this review.