Thursday, 5 December 2013

Lets face facts, I am going to smell....

After running for a few weeks in different tops, letting them dry, washing them in super lightweight camping washing powder, and running in them again. I have found out the following:

I am going to smell terrible..

So why is this news to me? Well, the maximum I have ever been away from a shower, during one of these events, was the Marathon Des Sables, and that's seven days. Washing clothes and drying them didn't really come into question, as the water was more important for drinking, and we all accepted that we would just smell awful. But, this time, I thought that I would be meeting people, and trying to raise some awareness for the help for heroes. Maybe a quick chat with some locals, explaining why I was doing what I was doing, whilst adjusting my socks or having a five minute break. (Sounds all very idyllic and relaxed). 

However, imagine the picture of me half starved, blistered feet, in pain, limping towards a local, with a little bit of dried sweat showing under my armpits, whilst the green mist stench is rising from me. Perhaps the "local" wont be so keen as to pass the time of day with me....

runners get tired, they small and then become alone
runners get tired, then smell and then loose friends...


So the research started. 

There are so many different claims by different companies producing different types of technical materials that I didn't really know where to start. I chose three different types of tops, one which I already owned and wear normally - a Helly Hansen, one "cool max", and one merino wool top.

The test was to be; run three days in a row, then wash the top in camping washing powder, in a sink, and wear again for a further three days. This seemed an accurate test, and one which would replicate what I could be doing finding streams to wash in on my jog. The tops are listed below with the results underneath....

Howies classic merino wool base layer (55 quid!!)

This is a fairly new company that sets its goals with environmentally friendly tops, t-shirts and "cool" clothes, but also makes running tops in merino wool. I tried this top because I was recommended by a friend (albeit a rather well off one, who also gave me the top - thanks). On the Howie's website the top is described as being odour resistant, naturally anti-bacterial and great for sport. Its also described as "made in a nice factory in China", which is not quite what i was expecting from a company claiming to be environmentally friendly, but its not for me to question here. 

The top feels warm and comfortable, rather like some old grandads PJ's that have been washed until they become like a comforter blanket. I rather like the feel, it reminds me of being a small child at Christmas. It fits very well and the seems are like a normal t-shirt and therefore no rub spots that are unexpected. You can tell by the quality that at least some thought has gone into how the top is built.

Day one: smell: negligible, feel: good - no rub spots. 
Day two: smell: a little worse, but not stinking yet. feel: performed as well as the first day.
Day three: smell: mmm, getting there - needs washing. feel: OK actually, thought it would be worse.
washing: washed in a sink with a normal bar of soap....
Day four: smell: musty. feel: OK.
Day five: smell: lets just say I wont be making friends or going out in this. feel: starting to rub under arms.
Day six: smell: god its awful. You never realise until you go back to put it on. My room smells terrible and have to have the window open full time. feel: starting to actually hurt now...maybe a slightly more generous under arm area would help?

rating: 3.5 / 5 - I knew it would smell, but it wasn't as bad I was thinking it would be. Only 3.5 due to the rub under my arms, which was starting to irritate, and also the extortionate price.

Cool Max t-shirt (no brand name 7.99!! ebay)

This I found on Ebay, and the price sold it to me. I wanted to test a COOLMAX t-shirt and whilst searching came across this. COOLMAX has been around since 1986 and claims to keep athletes performing better through its advancement in technological fabrics.
And, as they state:  lets see how that works out!

The tops fit was more generous, take a normal sized t-shirt with no real hugging to it, and you have the same type of fit here. It feels comfortable, although a little cold or cool to wear on its own. Not like the warm memories captured by the Howies top, although you pay a lot of money for that.

Day one: smell: negligible, feel: OK 
Day two: smell: OK, not too bad. feel: performed OK-ish.
Day three: smell: not good, making friends has become more hard work. feel: bad, rubs and irritation..
washing: washed in a sink with a normal bar of soap....
Day four: smell: very strange. feel: back to the same as day two.
Day five: smell: a combination of old mans sweat and a damp mustiness. feel: bad rubbing.
Day six: smell: I think my flatmate will never come home again. very very bad, like someone died. feel: awful.

rating: 3/5 - To be honest I should give this more stars. If it was a normal race such as a marathon or 10K, this would have performed well compared to the others and at a price of 7.99 - its beats the others hands down. However, my trip is longer and the washing of the top is not really an option, so for my purpose this top is rated lower. I am keeping mine though for my training top at home where the washing machine sits happily awaiting it on my return.

Helly Hansen dry stripe crew long (25.00 quid -)
My old favourite running top, which has been around in many different forms for such a long time, I cant even remember how many I have owned. Feels like a thinner t-shirt, or like really heavy denier stockings (how do i know?). Comfortable and adjusts to the motion of your body. Feels like it will tear if you pull it too hard, due to its flexibility, but never actually does rip. A great all-round running and adventure shirt.

so how did my favourite do against the others?

 Day one: smell: negligible, feel: OK 
Day two: smell: OK, not too bad. feel: OK.
Day three: smell: not too bad, bit musty. feel: OK..
washing: washed in a sink with a normal bar of soap....
Day four: smell: a bit strange. feel: OK.
Day five: smell: a little musty, perhaps memory is going, but i think a little worse than the howies top on this day.. feel: not too bad.
Day six: smell: oh god, its bad. Day six seems to be the killer on all these tops. "Old muddy rugby boots kept in a tight bag, with heavy smoker undertones". feel: not too bad, slight rub under the arms.

rating: 4/5. This top has been with me forever, it just fits. Although the smell was slightly worse than the Howies top, the comfort was the same or even very very slightly better. Maybe this is because it just fits my body shape. I have rated it over the Howies top though, because I can buy two of these to the price of one howies top, and that means in general terms, i am twice as good as the howies top (ignoring carrying the extra weight). 

Winner:
Helly Hansen dry stripe crew long - 25 quid




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