All-Paca Fleece Neck Gaiter: For Natural Fiber Nerds
Appalachian Gear Company is a relatively new outdoor gear manufacturer based in Charlotte, NC, and manufacturing alpaca wool products in small batches. The products are starting to pop up on “best of” lists all over the internet, so I thought taking a look at their All-Paca fleece neck gaiter would be worthwhile.
What is a Neck Gaiter?
A neck gaiter is one of the most simple yet versatile accessories any outdoor enthusiast could own. It’s a simple tube of fabric, usually constructed with a flat seam for comfort. The classic examples are from Buff and showcase over 10 ways to wear a gaiter (as a beanie, a scarf, a mask, etc.). Appalachian Gear Company sells these tube-style gaiters, but they are routinely out of stock.
The AGC’s All-Paca Fleece Gaiter, on the other hand, seems to be easier to find. It has a little more shape than a tube-style gaiter and has some other features that set it apart. Let’s take a look at the cut and style first, and then I’ll delve into the unique material choice.
Fleece Neck Gaiter Cut and Construction
AGC’s All-Paca Fleece Gaiter is slightly longer in the front than the back. It’s also slightly wider at the bottom than at the top. Both of these features set it apart from most of the neck gaiters on the market and give it a sort of a western-style bandana feel. The idea here is to tuck the gaiter beneath layers or leave it on top of the outer layers to prevent snow or moisture from entering the inner layers.
I found this design ideal while downhill skiing especially. I could pull the gaiter up over my face when I needed to, but it was nice and loose around my neck (it also accommodated my beard nicely–bonus points!). I’m actually fairly sensitive to constrictive things around my neck, so this nod towards comfort while layering is well thought out and nicely realized.
Another thing that sets the Appalachian Gear Company All-Paca Fleece Gaiter apart from the competition is its double-layer construction. I found it ideal for active pursuits in below-freezing temperatures, but it is likely overkill if the mercury is above forty or so. It’s also worth noting that the double-layer construction and unique cut preclude this product from being used with as much versatility as the classic tube-shape offered by Buff and other companies.
Appalachian Gear Company makes many claims about the benefits of alpaca fibers, most of which are pretty hard to test. For instance, I don’t have hard data on if this product insulates better than similar products with less weight and bulk, as AGC claims. I did find that the material lived up to the hype where moisture resistance is concerned. I found the gaiter’s fleece fabric absorbed very little water, less than competing neck gaiters, even in heavy snow or rain.
AGC also claims that alpaca fibers are more comfortable (finer) and stronger than merino. Full disclosure, I didn’t test this product long enough or extensively enough to judge its durability vs. merino of similar weight. Time will tell. As far as comfort is concerned, I think it’s a toss-up, at least for me. The material is certainly fuzzier than merino but didn’t itch or irritate the sensitive skin around my neck any more or less than competing neck gaiters made of synthetics or natural fibers from other sources. Interestingly, I find the AGC Crew Sweater than I own to be slightly itchier on naked skin than the Fleece Gaiter.
All-Paca Fleece Neck Gaiter in Review
The All-Paca Fleece Neck Gaiter is excellent for anyone who needs a neck gaiter with maximum insulation (remember that double-layered construction) with enough shape and stretches to stay on the face when needed. The wide neck ensured comfort over or under my other layers and held its shape well with moderate use.
Claims like superior strength, comfort, and insulative properties over merino are hard to test to their utmost, at least in my limited time frame. But I can safely say that the fabric was at least equally comfortable to merino wool and probably holds odors even less than that classically anti-microbial fabric. I certainly noticed that the alpaca fibers absorbed less moisture than similarly weighted merino would have, though exactly how much less is hard to say.
When you combine all that with Appalachian Gear Company’s practice of not using plastics in their packaging — and the fact that there are no chemicals or plastics used in the product itself — you end up with an attractive and responsibly-produced three-season neck gaiter. The MSRP of $39 makes it a little more expensive than competing products, but outdoor enthusiasts with a passion for natural fibers will likely find the price worth paying.