First Lite Aerowool vs Exo Mountain Gear Death Hike
I recently got a chance to test the extremes of the Wilkin QZ Aerowool top, and Dobson Boxers from First Lite. Why do I say extremes? 40 or so miles in 34 hours through the middle of the Frank Church Wilderness in Idaho, 12,000 ft of elevation and temps in the 90’s. For most of us, I think we could consider that extreme.
We started by getting dropped off by plane at a remote airstrip. It was close to noon and we headed out after a few pics. I was wearing the Aerowool Wilkin QZ top, and the Aerowool Dobson Boxers. The Wilkin QZ was Fusion, and the Dobson’s were Dry Earth.
First let me explain what Aerowool is in layman’s terms. Its 35% poly and 65% merino wool. Using the 37.5 tech, they have introduced carbon in to the fibers of the material that moves moisture from inside to the outside. Sorry First Lite engineers if i screwed that up, but from my understanding that’s the gist.
I also want to take a second to discuss sizing. As with other First Lite base layer pieces, they run about a half size large. I happen to be between a med and large, so a medium fits me perfectly in the Wilkin QZ. With an average 35-36 inch waist, the medium Dobson’s were also a great fit. I want to mention that they do not fit the same as the Llano, or the Red Desert boxers. The Aerowool does not have as much stretch as the 100% merino wool, so it’s less forgiving. So don’t think you can squeeze into a smaller size than you are. Also rolling up your sleeves might be a bit tricky if you have Popeye forearms.
One other bonus item, on the Wilkin there is about 2-3” of extra length at the bottom. If any of you have had a Chama QZ in the past, rest assured, you’re belly button will be safely hidden when wearing the Wilkin. This was great, esp when putting on my pack. I hate when my shirt rides up and gets above my lumbar pad. Gold star to First Lite for listening to customers on this one.
Not gonna lie.. I was really worried about monkey butt on this trip. Last year, it was a major issue as none of us were really prepared for it. But as the miles ticked off I realized that while i was sweating, it wasn’t bothering me to the point of causing any problems. Obviously the shorts were wicking the moisture nicely away from my… well my butt.
Despite being at around 7,000-8,000 feet, it was pretty warm. My watch said 90’s so, it was probably in the mid 80s. The Wilkin was comfortable keeping the sun off me, and as I would sweat the wind would cool me down, but not to the point of being chilled. I was really happy with that, as we were doing a pretty good clip averaging 3-4 mph and it was never flat.
Once we got to Chicken Peak we decided to sleep for the night, it was around 10pm. It was not warm anymore, and i was a bit chilly in just my Wilkin, we had just peaked out, so I was a bit wet with sweat. I took off my Wilkin and hung it on a tree to dry, and threw on my Chama Hoody to sleep in. The next morning my Wilkin was soaked.. I had hung it on the wrong side of the tree, and the wind had carried the dew under the tree and onto my shirt. So I kept my Chama on and stuffed the Wilkin in my pack.
We hiked out about 8 miles along the ridge before the big 6 mile dive down 5,000 ft to the Salmon river. And that’s the beautiful thing about the Chama Hoody, it will keep you warm when its chilly, but if you get stuck wearing it, it’s not too awful to leave on for a while, even when it gets hot. Like i said we were moving pretty good, and I didn’t want to slow anyone down by stopping to change shirts. So I kept the Wilkin in my pack until we got down to the river.
I don’t think I have ever been so happy to see the bottom of a hill! I stripped down, took out my still wet Wilkin from the bottom of my pack, and threw it and my Dobson’s on a rock in the sun to dry out. I put on a pair of my compression shorts that have always been my go to’s and got in the river. I didn’t have a ton of time to mess around in the water, so I got my 3 liter bladder filled up through my Sawyer filter and headed back to my Exo pack and gear. I was floored when I found my Wilkin and Dobsons dry already. It wasn’t more than 10 min! At that point i was sold on Aerowool.
The last 6 miles up and out of the Salmon River canyon was brutal. My feet were blistered and I, along with some other guys, suffered from heat exhaustion. The trail was pretty much none existant, and all the bushwhacking we did had no effect on my Wilkin QZ. A testament to its durability.