Salomon Discovery HZ – Stretchy Beyond Belief
A couple of weeks ago, we spoke about how important it is to layer up in the winter to ensure optimum warmth. Most people’s first priority is a good jacket but lots neglect what they wear underneath; others choose cotton which is a bad idea from the off.
For each additional layer, you have a further space in which warm air will be trapped. This is the primary reason why increasing the number of layers you wear will keep you warmer than if you went for the very-thick-coat on top of a t-shirt approach.
One option on the market is the Salomon Discovery HZ Midlayer which is an incredibly stretchy and lightweight microfleece designed to offer the utmost breathability and warmth.
The Discovery HZ as I shall refer to it comes in five different colours – orange, black, blue, grey and an oddly pink-red colourway too. HZ stands for half zip which is something I prefer over a full-zip option.
Salomon say the Discovery HZ weighs 330 grams in size large, which is more than I’d have expected given the incredibly thin nature of the material, plus the lack of pockets and therefore additional zips. Still, it’s nothing to complain about – it doesn’t need be lighter than that.
The cuffs are elastic and subtly embossed on either side in the same colour with the Salomon branding. Oddly, they’re not a tight fitting cuff which to me would have been the whole purpose of the elastic. These won’t fit tightly on even the largest of wrists. Perhaps Salomon intended the elastic solely for when people roll their sleeves up, which as a warm midlayer, won’t be very often. On those occasions where it’s worn, sleeves rolled up without a layer above, the elastic does a great job in keeping the sleeves from falling down.
The Salomon badge adorns the upper-left chest area and is also reflective. The reason for this, I am unsure of. I can’t imagine it makes a difference in any situation – especially since the top is designed to be worn below something else. Still, if you’re going to get lost and your rescuers torch happens to catch the reflective logo, you’ll be happy it was there. I suspect it was a case of “why not?”, though Salomon do promote it as a ‘technology’ which is stranger than the reflectiveness itself.
The Discovery HZ is made very nicely, devoid of any loose threads – even on the inside. Everything is neatly cover-stitched all around, giving a durable and very strong finish. Only one piece of the top feels cheap and that’s the zip puller. I know, I know, it’s a small part that doesn’t matter in terms of performance but there’s simply no need for it to feel or look so poor. It’s a toy-like soft plastic, horribly finished with a seam down the middle where the two halves were joined together. Finishing touches count and Salomon have missed this completely after taking such care with the rest of the product.
The inside of the top is incredibly soft and feels nice even without anything being worn below – you can comfortably wear it without a base layer. The neck can be zipped up to a nice height that keeps you warm in a similar way to wearing a buff.
It’ll set you back £50 direct from Salomon, which is more than a lot of microfleeces but it adds a few elements over the standard warmth factor you should be looking for.
Being made from 87% polyester and 13% elastane gives the ‘fleece’ an almost incredible amount of stretch. The reason for inverted commas around the word fleece is because it’s not an item of clothing I’d class as one. While the definition of a fleece is correct – it’s a general term for a soft fabric – I would usually associate the name with a deeper pile, less sports-top style offering.
I’d call it a technical top or an active layer. Microfleeces usually aren’t as breathable as this and that’s one of the major plus points of the Discovery HZ. It certainly won’t keep out as much wind as a true microfleece will and I don’t believe it contains as much warmth either. However, as an active layer, it’s far better in breathability terms – easily keeping you cool when the going gets tough. Part of that is down to the construction which allows any breeze to easily penetrate the material. As a result of this, you stay much cooler when you’re working hard and that means you can keep your outer layers on longer without overheating.
The downside of this extreme breathability is the greater chance of getting cold. On a slightly cooler day with a strong breeze you don’t last quite so long wearing the Discovery HZ as your top layer compared to a microfleece.
It’s a trade-off between flexibility, warmth and breathability and in most cases this wins on two counts, though a stretchy-panelled microfleece would change the outcome of that.
The sizing of the Discovery HZ is quite loose fitting. I received a medium which is supposedly for a 37-40 inch chest. While it’s true that I like tight-fitting clothes, I could easily have ordered my usual size small which is designed for a 33-37 inch chest despite being a 38 myself. I suspect the huge difference recommended for each size – four inches – is because of the huge amount of stretch present in the top. If it were me choosing a size for you, I’d say without doubt, size down.
Based solely on personal preference, I would head down the true microfleece route – one that has a deeper pile and is more resilient to wind. Nonetheless, if you’re after an Elastigirl-esque amount of stretch and freedom of movement, combined with untouchable breathability then the Salomon Discovery HZ Midlayer will be right up your street.