Alex Roddie reviews a lightweight T-shirt made from bamboo fibre
When it comes to base layers for hiking and hillwalking, I’ve traditionally gone with one of three options: Páramo, Coolmax or one of its many variants, or a lightweight hiking shirt in hot weather. BAM offer a range of clothing made from several different fabrics, but the unifying factor is that they all use a significant proportion of bamboo fibre.
Fabrics made from bamboo fibre are soft, feeling more like the softest wool than other base layers, they offer UV protection, and BAM claim that bamboo fabric is highly breathable and good at moisture management. There are environmental credentials too: bamboo requires little additional water to grow, it’s biodegradable under the right conditions, yield is high (reducing land use), and it’s claimed to be good for the underlying soil.
I was intrigued to try this fabric out to see how good it is in typical walking, running and hiking scenarios. I’ve been testing a T-shirt made from BAM’s Air Jersey fabric all summer.
Air Jersey is a 160GSM “lightweight, highly breathable” fabric positioned as “ideal for training, warm weather and travel”. Composition is 65% bamboo viscose, 28% organic cotton, 4% elastane. It has a UPF of 50+, it’s stretchy, and it’s incredibly soft to the touch. The Short Sleeve Zip Neck Bamboo Sports Top is a standard T-shirt with a few interesting details. The marketing and design are very much oriented towards general sports rather than walking and hiking.
The sleeves are very short and there isn’t much of a collar. I prefer slightly longer T-shirt sleeves that extend almost to my elbow, but this is personal preference, of course. I also prefer a collar I can turn up against the sun’s rays. There’s a highly reflective strip running in an arc across the middle of the back, which is a nice detail if you’re walking or running after dark. In the picture above you’ll notice a small pocket on the left-hand side just above the hem – this is a curious feature, and one I haven’t seen before on a T-shirt or base layer. The pocket is almost invisible from the outside and is big enough for a set of keys or a small wallet. This is very handy for runners. It’s too small for a phone, and anything too heavy will make the shirt sag awkwardly.
The fabric feels luxuriously comfortable and soft, even after hard use and multiple washes. It also has a very high level of stretch. The fit is on the snug size for a medium so stretchiness is essential.
In use, I’ve found the T-shirt fairly breathable, but it does not wick moisture as well as other base layers I’ve used when worn under another layer – it tends to absorb the moisture rather than transport it through the fabric, no doubt due to the cotton content. In warm weather when you’re wearing the T-shirt alone, this is absolutely fine. It dries fairly quickly so it doesn’t feel like wearing a soggy 100% cotton T-shirt.
Where this T-shirt really shines is as a running top. I’ve used it extensively for running this summer, and it’s by far the most comfortable T-shirt I’ve used for the purpose. When you’re working hard, the temperature is high, and you aren’t wearing any other layers, this T-shirt performs superbly – but if you are looking for a do-everything base layer for use in the mountains in variable weather, I’d look elsewhere.
Overall, this is a good T-shirt for general active use and travel, or perhaps something to carry as a spare T-shirt on the trail. It’s comfortable, looks good, and has impressive environmental credentials.
Pros: Extremely comfortable; eco-friendly fabric; great for running
Cons: Not ideal as a mountain base layer; a little expensive
- Price: £44
- Weight: 189g (men's medium)
- Fabric: Bamboo Air Jersey (Composition is 65% bamboo viscose, 28% organic cotton, 4% elastane)
- Colours: Grey Blue Marl, Laurel Khaki