Gear Review: Dakine Callahan Fleece

There are very few gear items I’ve stumbled across I recommend wholeheartedly to everyone. Don’t get me wrong, most products are good. But they’re good for certain types of outdoor athletes. The Dakine Callahan fleece (or for men, the Snorkel) is one of a few items I’ve found that most people can make use of in their wardrobe. (The other two are the Marmot Scree softshell pant and the Marmot Ether DriClime jacket.) Evo has both versions heavily discounted as part of their end of season sale.

I never ever recommend trying to kill two birds with one stone when it comes to your insulation layer and your wicking layer. You want your wicking layer to be super thin. Thicker garments hold more water, and you want sweat to be able to evaporate out of the garment. With regards to your insulation layer, wicking and breathability should be irrelevant. If you’re sweating, take it off. Yet, sometimes it’s not that simple. For rolling bike rides or beer league skimo races, it just isn’t practical to stay on top of layer changes like that. That’s where the Callahan fleece comes in.

Dakine’s fleece is made out of 62% NanoRed polyester, 34% polyester, and 4% Spandex. NanoRed is a licensed polyester from textile engineers at Libolon. It’s treated with a titanium dioxide nano-powders introduced in the polymerization process. TiO2 has thermal properties that helps better capture body warmth or solar warmth compared to fabrics of a similar weight. (The Callahan fleece is definitely on the thicker side – it rivals the Patagonia R1 fabric or expedition weight base layers but feels noticeably warmer). This might sound like a sweat factory, but the capillary channels in the fabric are also extremely effective and make the base layer wick impressively well. The final product creates a fabric that removes much of the tension between staying warm and staying dry. It’s been a clutch layer for the Mountaineers Patrol Race, single digit temps car camping at ski resorts (especially with the hood), and cold weather biking over the past few years.

I’ve been pretty pleased with the durability of Callahan fleece over the past 3-4 years that I’ve owned it, especially compared to merino pieces that tend to be the gold standard for warm/dry pieces. Wool is always a spun yarn, meaning that short wool staples are twisted together to create yarn. Polyester can be made into filament yarn, where polyester is pumped into long strands and twisted. All those little breakage points in the spun staples create more opportunities for pilling and wear.

The Callahan fleece uses a filament yarn that’s brushed on the interior side to make it warm, yet maximize durability on the external face. I’ve gotten a bit of pilling underneath my avalanche beacon harness, but I don’t see it compromising the garment anytime soon. On the one fall scramble where I wore the Callahan fleece, I did notice that it picked easily, so it works best for Dakine’s core sports (skiing and biking) or general hiking.

From a sizing perspective, it runs a little small, but slowly stretches out over time. It was tight fitting when I got the fleece (and was on the small end of an XS), and been accommodating enough as my body’s changed over several seasons. At 4% polyester, it’s definitely not the same kind of stretchy garment where fit is extremely forgiving.

This winter, I’ve gotten more use than usual out of the built-in face mask on the women’s fleece. It’s a thinner poly/span blend that sits around my neck like a buff and pulls up easily over my nose. Hopefully the days of quickly covering my face while passing parties are numbered, but it’s a nice feature to have in the meantime/ The one downside of the Callahan fleece is that they use an overlocking seam (where there’s a small flap of fabric – known as seam allowance) instead of flatlocking the seams. Flatlocking is a touch more expensive, but the $80 MSRP should command that level of craftsmanship. The overlocked seams make it feel a touch tighter and bulkier than the garment could be, and I can find imprints in my skin from some of the seams, but it usually doesn’t feel too noticeable while I’m wearing it. A slight change in seamwork would make the hoodie perfect.

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