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The Odlo Natural + Kinship Warm Baselayer Top with Facemask is a versatile merino wool base layer that includes a built-in face mask for extra warmth.
To get us a closer look, Odlo and REI sent Man Makes Fire a review unit, which I tested last season. Odlo has since updated its Natural + Kinship Warm Baselayer with Facemask for 2021, which I’ve also been testing. This is what I’ve learned:
Odlo Natural + Kinship Warm Baselayer with Facemask Review
I’m a fan of merino wool because it has superior warmth characteristics and performs well when wet. Better yet, it pretty much never gets funky — even if you end up wearing the wool garment multiple times before washings. (Seriously, if you’ve never tried merino wool socks for most any outdoor activity, you need to.)
Meanwhile, back to the Odlo Natural + Kinship Warm Baselayer with Facemask, which you might also see referred to as the Odlo Natural + Kinship Warm SUW. And what does the SUW stand for? It stands for sports underwear, which is a category Odlo takes seriously.
Odlo makes a very wide variety of high-performance sports underwear and insulating base layers, but the Odlo Natural + Kinship Warm Baselayer with Facemask is the one piece that really caught my attention. Why? Two reasons.
First, it’s made with 52% virgin merino wool (the previous version had 50% merino wool).
Second, it includes what is essentially a built-in balaclava, which is basically a sort of head-covering face mask that’s fantastic in the cold. Balaclavas are similar to neck gaiters in that they can be pulled down to work like a small scarf . . . or pulled up over your chin, mouth, and nose to protect you from cold wind and snow.
Personally, I’m a big fan of neck gaiters and balaclavas for skiing in cold and windy conditions because they protect your face and seriously amp up your warmth.
The Odlo Fit
Before I get into the face mask, you should know that the overall Odlo fit is spot-on. For reference, I’m about 6’3″ and weigh 215-225 pounds . . . depending on all the usual things. The sleeves were plenty long in our XL review unit, and the base layer hugs your body and fits like a base layer should. The torso is also plenty long, which is great for tucking in to avoid cold drafts. The fit is snug and slightly stretchy.
Incidentally, for the 2021 season, I sized up to a XXL. This gives me a slightly looser fit, which I personally prefer. (For best overall performance, though, stick with your usual size.)
As for the fabric weave, you get the aforementioned 52% merino wool, but Odlo has enhanced the overall fabric blend in this new version: The new version contains 52% merino wool, 29% polyester, 13% polyamide, and 6% elastane. (Previous version: 50% wool, 37% Polyester, 11% Polyamide, and 2% Elastane.)
If you’re paying attention, Odlo tripled the amount of elastane, which is basically the generic name for a type of stretchy fabric, more commonly known from the Spandex or Lycra brands. The result? You get a bit more stretch and snugness.
On your skin, the material feels very similar to 100% merino wool base layers, which means it’s not as soft as an old t-shirt. When you first put on a merino wool base layer, it can feel a tiny bit rough, depending upon how sensitive your skin is. For me, this feeling lasts for about 30 seconds and then I totally forget about it. Either way, the properties of merino wool are well worth the initial feel to me. If you prefer synthetics, Odlo makes some synthetic variations, too.
You can wear the base layer with the face mask shoved down around your neck, which is similar to wearing a turtleneck. This alone amplifies the warmth of the base layer top. If you want a trimmer profile, you can also fold/roll the balaclava down to create a turtleneck-style fit.
When it gets really cold, you can pull the hood over the top of your head and raise the face mask portion to cover your face. This amplifies the warmth yet again. I admit, when I first saw the Odlo system, I thought it was kind of gimmicky, but after using it myself, it’s no gimmick when it’s cold — it’s awesome.
The question you might be having is this: Why is the built-in face-mask balaclava hoodie thing better than a separate balaclava?
Answer: The built-in system always retains the correct orientation. Sometimes a balaclava will spin around on your neck and it’s a pain in the butt to get it adjusted while wearing gloves or mittens. Plus, if you try to adjust one while you’re on a chair lift, it can be a hassle not to smack the guy next to you with your elbows . . . while not dropping your helmet, gloves or ski poles in the whole process.
Also, the hoodie is thin enough and snug enough to fit under your ski or snowboard helmet.
Odlo makes a fully synthetic version called the Blackcomb Baselayer with Facemask. In general, fully synthetic base layers can usually dry out faster than merino layers. The downside is that they don’t usually fight funky smells as well as merino. However, the Blackcomb uses Odlo’s ZeroScent technology, which uses silver ions to fight bacteria and fabrics that more easily shed bacteria in the washing machine.
If you’re not sold on the built-in facemask, Odlo also offers traditional base layer top versions with and without merino wool.
All-in-all, the only thing wrong the Odlo Natural + Kinship Warm Baselayer with Facemask is the too-long name. Seriously, it could be called Odlo HoodieMask Merino Base Layer. Boom! I just slashed the number of words and got rid of the + symbol. But hey, you care about the product and that’s most important: The Odlo Natural + Kinship Warm Baselayer with Facemask is a high-quality merino wool base layer that fits well and has a kickass built-in face mask hoodie. Highly recommended.