An excellent, eco-friendly, lightweight mid layer which manages to keep the gram count down while retaining warmth thanks to its innovative hexagonal inner knit
Crafted from recycled polyester
Warm and comfortable
Clever gap in left sleeve for checking watch
No hand warmer pockets
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This year, inov-8 has applied its considerable trail running expertise to a brand-new collection of hiking apparel. With new pants, shorts, t-shirts and mid layers – plus a waterproof jacket set to land in the fall – inov-8 is aiming to satisfy the needs of fast and light hikers with durable, high performing and sustainable kit.
There are two iterations of their mid layers: a hoodie with a full front zip and this, the lighter VentureLite Mid Half Zip. Both are available in male and female versions.
• List price: £85 (UK)
• Fabric: 92% recycled polyester, 8% elastane
• Gender specificity: Men’s and women’s versions available • Sizes: Men’s XS-XL, women’s 6-16
• Weight (Men’s): 260g / 9.2oz
• Colors: Blue (men’s), teal (women’s)
What struck me immediately was the textured feel of the lightweight polyester. This is due to the fabric’s hexagonal structure, which is revealed by a quick inspection of the inner. According to Helen Stuart, inov-8’s head of clothing and equipment, 'Comfort and warmth, whilst maintaining a low weight' were key considerations in the design of the VentureLite mid layers. This is what the hexagonal inner knit achieves, creating more air space than normal fleece fabrics, thus trapping more heat.
This structure helps the garment wick moisture away faster too, important for those long, sweaty ascents. An added bonus is that it compress smaller too, taking up less space in your daypack.
Another key consideration is clearly the environment. The fabric is crafted from 92% recycled polyester and 8% elastane to give it a little stretch. Sustainability is high on inov-8’s agenda and all their recycled yarns carry the Global Recycled Standard (GRS).
A really neat feature is a gap in the left sleeve for checking your watch. Just think how often you have to pull all your sleeves back to access this important navigational aid.
The sleeves are also extended, each featuring a thumb loop for enhanced warmth in the kind of conditions where you probably wouldn’t pull out your gloves but would still want a little extra insulation around the hand. There’s also one small, zippered pocket for items like keys or a phone.
On the trails
inov-8 says the clothing in the VentureLite range includes ‘everything you need and nothing you don’t’. Their ultimate goal was to allow hikers to wear the garments without noticing them. The Mid HZ achieves these goals well, managing to be comfortable, lightweight and, crucially, warm. Meanwhile, the stretchy elastane in the fabric gave me glorious freedom of movement allowing me to scramble, hike or run unhindered.
Testing it in sweltering July heat also gave me a good opportunity to really put its breathability credentials to the test. inov-8 say that it’s a mid-layer than can also be worn as an effective base layer, which I can testify to. The textured inner knit means it’s not quite as smooth against the skin as, for example, a Merino base layer. However, it wicked my sweat away effectively and dried very quickly after use.
Of course, it’s as a mid-layer that this top really shines, as it holds on to heat remarkably well on colder outings. When it comes to winter use, the zippered pocket and front zip both have pull tabs, making them easy to adjust with thick gloves on.
My only minor gripe is the lack of hard warmer pockets. I can well imagine wanting to wear the VentureLite Mid on mild, dry autumn days in the fells, when its cold enough to require a second layer but not quite cold enough to wear gloves the whole time. I find it’s nice to have hand warmer pockets that you can dip your hands in and out of to keep them a least a little toasty. However, this is probably a personal thing and inov-8 would undoubtedly point out they make a fine range of running gloves and mitts!
Alex is a freelance adventure writer and mountain leader with an insatiable passion for the mountains. A Cumbrian born and bred, his native English Lake District has a special place in his heart, though he is at least equally happy in North Wales, the Scottish Highlands or the European Alps. Through his hiking, mountaineering, climbing and trail running adventures, Alex aims to inspire others to get outdoors. He is currently President of the London Mountaineering Club, training to become a winter mountain leader, looking to finally finish bagging all the Wainwright fells of the Lake District and hoping to scale more Alpine 4000ers when circumstances allow. Find out more at www.alexfoxfield.com