By Brian Litz
Recently I wandered into the Red Fox retail store, in Boulder, poking around for a replacement for a hole-y, long in the tooth mid-weight zip pullover. One I'd worn year round—layered under heavier fleece or puffies for deep-winter alpine skiing, or, over lighter base layers for energetic backcountry touring, climbing peaks and rocks in cooler spring and summer weather—for years.
Eventually I wandered back out, a Z-Dry Pullover under my arm. At first fondle, it certainly seemed to be exactly what I was looking for: a simple, uncluttered layering piece. I also liked the cool, moss-green color. What really sealed the deal though was the incredibly fair $49.50 they asked for it.
At this price, of course, I wondered just how it would perform. So far, in a word, superbly. In fact I've worn it everyday I've been out backcountry and alpine skiing over the past eight weeks (March and April) .
First of all, at least for my fit, they nailed the fit. The sleeves are ample enough for my 34/35-inch limbs, seamless underarms enhance arm movement. And the body is cut just right, not too loose or snug—a good adult, athletic fit. It's also, thankfully, a simple, uncluttered garment, save a stretchy smartphone compatible chest-pocket.
The real story, and what the pullover is all about, is the Z-Dry's “waffled” fabric. As popular as they are, I've just never been a fan of most “incised” grid fabrics, the kind with raised blocks of fabric set off by channels mowed into the fiber at 90-degree angles. It's a hard-to-describe subjective, tactile thing. But I just don't like how they move when layered, how they hang, and how they always seem static-y.
The Z-Dry, in contrast, uses egg-crate-type voids set into diamond-patterned linear ribs, or ridges. This reverse construction has a totally different feel, one that feels firmer and smoother, and that slides easily over base layers. It' a hard thing to describe in words, but it's noticeable. Their fabric also is super-stretchy and wicks like a fiend.
If Red Fox's Z-Dry were only as good as the many other waffle textured fleece tops from higher profile manufacturers it would be a great deal based on price alone - depending on the brand, up to 50% less. But it's superior. That makes this hoody a steal.