The BAM 73 Zero is a very warm, highly protective and supremely comfortable fleece made completely from recycled materials, which can also be entirely recycled once you’ve worn it to death – making it a truly circular garment. But beyond its eco credentials, this is an excellent top with expansive pockets and internal storage options, good zips and a high collar that keeps your neck nice and warm.
Made from fully recycled, and totally recyclable material
No thumb hoops
Can’t tighten the hem
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BAM 73 Zero Recycled Fleece: first impressions
Despite its rather minimalist-sounding name, the BAM 73 Zero is not a small, lightweight garment; it’s a big chunky fleece. The Zero refers the top’s environmental impact, not its size. While it might be a stretch to claim that the manufacture of this fleece has no effect on the environment at all, it is a ‘circular’ garment, meaning it’s made entirely from recycled materials and at the end of its useful life it can be recycled again. All of which is very impressive.
• List price: $135 (US) / £95 (UK)
• Fabric: 100% Recycled Polyester
• Gender availability: Men’s and Women’s versions available
• Sizes: Men’s: S-XL; Women’s: XS-L
• Weight (men’s large): 605g / 21oz
• Colors: Men’s: Nimbus / Swamp; Women’s: Peppermint / Heron Blue
By now we’re all painfully aware of how much damage rampant consumerism is doing to the planet, especially when it involves purchasing gear made from synthetic materials that will stick around on Earth long after we’re dead and gone. But we also covet (and sometimes even genuinely need) good outdoor clothes and equipment that will perform properly in real adventure settings. What a relief, then, to discover an item of clothing that isn’t just entirely made from recycled material, but can also be recycled again at the end of its useful life.
BAM usually only make clothing from bamboo-based fabrics (hence the name), but the brand has says it made an exception for this fleece because it could be constructed as a circular piece of kit. (And if you’re wondering which recycling bin the fleece would need to go in after you’ve worn it to bits, don’t worry, BAM will take it back off you and look after the next bit.)
So far so warm and fuzzy, but aside from making you feel good about yourself and reducing your carbon footprint, does this fleece actually work? I’ve been trail- (and hill- and peak-) testing the BAM 73 Zero to see how it compares to the best fleeces on the market.
BAM 73 Zero Recycled Fleece: on the trails
This is a big chunky fleece, but having had the benefit of using the BAM 73 Zero for a full year – in a wide range of outdoor scenarios, temperatures and conditions – I can confidently say that this is a four-season garment. You’ll likely reach for it very rarely in summer, but on chilly evenings in camp or at the crag – especially at any sort of altitude – it can come in very handy. And during the shoulder seasons and throughout winter it’s sensationally effective for keeping the cold at bay.
It can absolutely be used as a mid layer, but if you’re going to be wearing it beneath a waterproof shell then you’ll need an outer jacket with a generous cut (on test I found it nearly as bulky as a puffer jacket). This is more something-to-know rather than a negative criticism, and the massive upside is the enormous level of thermal protection it offers.
There is no hood on the BAM 73 Zero, but again this is more of an observation than an implied criticism. I actually generally prefer fleeces designed for real use in the outdoors (rather than for casual wear) to be sans hood because, while a lid can help keep your ears warm in extreme conditions, I can use a hat or outer layer to do that, and what generally happens is that I forget about the fleece hood until it gets wet.
The BAM 73 Zero is two-sided, with a weather-resilient and hard-wearing outer finish, and a brushed inner for extra fluffy comfort (and it is very comfortable to wear, even next to skin if you have a short-sleeved hiking shirt or base layer on underneath).
The full-length zip extends into a high, draft-excluding collar, and it ends in a really good beard-, skin- and chin-protecting garage. The neck coverage is excellent, and the design keeps breezes out brilliantly.
There are no thumb hoops on the sleeves, which is a bit annoying if and when you do try and get an outer layer over the top of it, and when you’re wearing gloves and want to avoid accidentally leaving bare skin exposed. You can’t tighten the sleeves or main hem, either, and whole the cut is pretty trim; the addition of a cord and toggle on the waist in particular would be good, to prevent the top riding up and letting cold air in when you’re hiking with a backpack.
There are three pockets on the outside of this fleece – two hand pockets and one on the left breast – all with zips, and all three are really generously proportioned; big enough, for example, to take a large smartphone. And on the inside there are two enormous pouches that can be used to stash all sorts of things, including sheet maps.
Overall, this is an excellent fleece that’s gentle on the planet but offers plenty of protection and comfort. It’s also available in a gilet style.
Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing stories involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon and Dorset, and once wrote a whole book about Toilets for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades on Strava here and instagram here.