Earth Sea Sky’s Silk-Weight Tee and Zip Polo look pretty straightforward – as far as features go, they’ve got two sleeves and holes for your neck, arms and waist. The Silk-Weight Tee looks like your garden-variety t-shirt. The Zip Polo adds long sleeves, a high collar and a short front zip to the mix. Looks simple: looks can be deceiving.
Outdoor clothing company Earth Sea Sky is based in New Zealand, where the weather as changeable as the hairstyle of a rock band’s lead singer.
As certain Kiwi songwriters will tell you, weather-wise, the only thing you can rely on in that tiny, rain-sacked, wind-wracked island-country is that ‘even when you’re feeling warm, the temperature can drop away. In an eco-environment so fickle that ‘it doesn’t pay to make predictions,’ people are used to dressing for ‘four seasons in one day’.1
Layering up is where it’s at and, it turns out, Earth Sea Sky’s Silk-Weight tops are a good place to start.
The Silk-Weight Zip Polo and Tee proved to be a mighty comfy shape. That basic, pocket-free, no-frills top/tee shape is deceptively well designed, with an athletic cut that flows over feminine curves and muscle but didn’t feel bulky under mid-layers or get in the way when I was on the move. They fit snug enough to keep body heat close in cold conditions, but neither top is cling-wrap tight, so they were a good single-layer option when things heated up, too.
Wanting to put the Silk-Weights through their paces, I chucked them in my pack for a couple of overseas trips and wore them on a bunch of adventures. They’ve been taken climbing, mountain biking, hiking and down to the pub, in a range of climates and weather conditions in Central Australia, South Island New Zealand, and North Carolina in the States.
It took a single wear to appreciate that the real magic of these puppies lies in the performance fabric they’re made of. Silk-Weight is a ‘100g/m2 Tecnopile®’. That roughly translates to ‘a super-fine fleece-style polyester fabric that’s about as heavy as helium, and handles like sand-washed silk’. (Three guesses where that ‘Silk-Weight’ name from.)
True to claim, my Silk-Weight review tops felt soft, lightweight and low-volume.
When it comes to overnight mountain bike missions, weight and space are everything. In the New Zealand backcountry, the challenge is being able to carry enough kit to stay warm when that temperature inevitably drops away. In the desert environment of Central Australia, my journeys are limited by the amount of water I can carry in my bike bags. Usually, a fresh post-ride base-layer – with long sleeves to protect me from that harsh Antipodean sun and give an extra layer of insulation when the mercury plummets – is a luxury I can’t justify. But the Zip Polo worked well in both climates, and it squishes down and feels reassuringly light in my hands – thank the mercilessly clear Southern Hemisphere night sky for my new favourite round-the-campsite top!
Wanting to check my weight guess-timate, I carried out a highly unscientific test with the kitchen scales, the Silk Weight Tee and a couple of similar tops from my closet. The Earth Sea Sky Tee weighed 87g.2 A cotton t-shirt clocked in at 112g; a merino tee (with a slightly slimmer cut to the Silk-Weight) was 108g; and a modal and Coolmax polyester combo was 93g. Only a 100 per cent polyester tech tee registered as lighter than the Silk-Weight Tee – 83g – but it was also 10cm shorter in body length.
Whereas silk is super-absorbent (and tends to retain moisture), Earth Sea Sky’s Silk-Weight has found its own balance point between the absorbency of its namesake and its quick-drying, synthetic fibre heritage.
The Tee and the Zip Polo both got a little damp in the underarms when I was working hard, but the damp patches did not spread to socially inexcusable proportions or leave my skin feeling slimy with sweat.
After a day of wicking sweat off me, the Silk-Weights smelled ready for the wash, but then, so did I. A quick wash was all it took to get the tops smelling daisy-fresh again. Out of the washing machine, the Silk-Weights dried pretty quickly sans drier – I averted a laundry crisis during a two-week visit to the US by washing an Earth Sea Sky top each night and then flicking it over the back of a chair to dry.
Though they feel peach-skin soft, the Silk-Weights have survived rough handling and abrasion. They’ve been brushed against spikey Australian desert shrubbery, scraped across rock and lichen, crammed into tight spots in my bike bags and put through some decidedly democratic washing cycles. Despite the unkind treatment, both tops still look good, with no snags or pulled threads. Sweat, grime, crud and smells always washed out, and the Tee and Zip Polo dried without creases.
The verdict? Earth Sea Sky’s Silk-Weight Zip Polo and Tee are making me mighty fussy about t-shirts. Luckily, Earth Sea Sky makes both tops in a bunch of colours (and the Tee is available with the Earth Sea Sky logo or plain), so my friends may not realise that while I’m dressing for four seasons in one day, I’m also wearing the same combo I had on yesterday…
1. ‘Four Seasons in One Day.’ Written by brothers Neil and Tim Finn of Crowded House for the album Woodface (1992).
Who is Earth Sea Sky?
Earth Sea Sky is a New Zealand outdoor clothing company. You can get your hands on some Earth Sea Sky kit in outdoor gear shops in New Zealand and Australia, and at Scott Base in Antarctica, or buy direct through Earth Sea Sky’s website, which ships around the world.