About two years ago I put together a set of tops to wear when going outdoors, and I have been using pretty much the same outfit ever since: a short sleeve Merino tee and a long sleeve hooded (balaclava style) Merino shirt – both made by Janus. I have no idea exactly how this happened, since I just bought them as an experiment with a new company, tried them a couple of times and got hooked. I’m not really a big fan of using Merino wool for outdoor outings just for the sake of it – it is expensive and sometimes tends to dry slowly. Despite my less than enthusiastic approach to Merino, these two tops have become an integral part of my outdoors adventures.
Janus is a Norwegian company that unless you are from Norway or its neighbors is not well known,
definitely not in the UK or most of western Europe. While at a trade show back in August 2013 I met one of their sales team members and we had a chance for an non-planned chat, which led to me wanting to find a way for us to work together. In October 2013 a Janus range was featured on SportPursuit and as the person who managed to get the brand on board, I decided to invest my own money and “walk the walk” – I bought a few items to test the products and get the feel for the brand. Fast forward a couple of years and the company has a close working relationship with Janus and I got some great tops that are still up and running.
When hiking, I like having some sort of a close fitted top (aka a baselayer) and some sort of a more versatile long sleeve top that has a bit more volume and can offer some insulation. I also make sure that my long sleeve top (aka midlayer) always has a hood. Thanks to a few lessons from some Welsh climbers back in the day, I know that having a hood means you don’t lose your hat when the wind picks up! I find that the combination of a sweat-soaking and quick-drying tee, and a long sleeve hooded top, means I can deal with almost any conditions while moving (adding a wind/waterproof shell if needed, of course). I have used this combination for a few years now, focusing mainly on synthetic materials as they tend to dry the quickest and are reasonably priced. My main problem on longer hikes was that the tops started to smell after a while so I needed more of them to wash and dry on the go.
Finding the Janus tops meant I could keep my Tee and Hoodie set while utilizing the Merino idea for longer walks, to take less and be more versatile. The trick worked and over time I have just ended up using the tops for any lower impact activity (bar cycling and sport climbing).
Janus is an old (est. 1895) Norwegian textile company that is still manufacturing in Bergen, Norway. Originally making under-garments, they expanded into Merino wool over the years, creating a range of socks, tops, tights and trousers in a variety of styles. They also manufacture anti-flame garments that are sold under another brand (JanusPro). This is by all means not an outdoors or sport specific company, but rather a textile company where the focus is the material and the design is secondary. I think this detail makes the items they make a little more interesting and they come to it with a different view, leading to extremely understated clothes with a very minimalist design.
The Janus range is pretty big, including some more lifestyle/fashion ranges (mainly for women) and their outdoors/active ranges include:
Summerwool – lightweight and thin, this range is made from low denier (I couldn’t get the numbers) and high density fabrics, allowing them to absorb water quickly but take a bit longer to dry. The garments here are fitted and only come in a short sleeve tee and boxer shorts.
Designwool – midweight fabrics with higher denier and low density, leading to garments that are light but can trap
quite a lot of air. This range is less fitted than the Summerwool and offers a wide variety of long sleeve shirts, hoodies, tights, trousers and jackets. Great as a midlayer but I think it is too thick for a base layer despite drying quickly.
Blackwool – all black range that offers a similar idea to the Summerwool but with higher deniers, resulting in thicker fabrics. As it says – all the garments are black, but the range is big.
Janus offers socks, gloves, hats etc in some of the ranges. They also have a range for kids of all ages, from infants to teenagers, if you fancy some more technical clothing for your tot.
I have a short sleeve shirt from the Summerwool and a long sleeve hoodie from the Designwool range.
For specifications on Janus’ products I had to measure myself as they provide no information, neither on their site nor from the company. Below are the specifications the way they measure now, two years into their use:
Tee (size M men’s)
Very simple design with a fitted cut. Flat lock stitching all they around, crew neck and a slight backdrop.
Weight: 127 gr
Chest size: 48 cm
Neck to cuff: 31 cm
Back length: 64 cm
Hoodie (size M men’s)
Weight: 272 gr
Chest size: 48 cm
Neck to cuff: 84 cm
Back length: 66 cm
- Please note that all measurements are after two years of use and not brand new.
How I use it
I covered my usage in the beginning, but to reiterate: I have been using the combination of tee and hoodie in pretty much all the conditions I get in the UK:
- Winter hiking in the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales and more, utilizing the balaclava hood often in conjunction with a waterproof hood. The midweight and good insulation of the hoodie really shine in those cold days when
you are fast hiking, backpacking, climbing or any other higher intensity activity, giving just enough insulation to take the bite away from the low temperatures.
- 12 days of constant use while walking the Cape Wrath Trail – no washing and still no stench. Daily use in a variety of weathers over more than 12 days is a great way to truly test Merino clothing – these two shirts passed the test.
- Weekend trips in shoulder seasons all around the UK including the Lake District, Snowdonia and more where the Janus tops were the only tops I had for walking, camp time and sleeping.
- Multiple day hikes in all conditions including a particularly hot summer in the south east of England (2015) where the tee got thoroughly soaked with sweat.
- Baselayer is thin and comfortable against the skin
- Midlayer is light and easy to wear as a stand alone item and under a shell
- Flat lock seams and no seams at all on the shoulders avoid pressure points from wearing a pack
- Hood on the midlayer is long and its full cover allows use in a variety of ways, eliminating the need for an additional beanie
- No smell, even after many days of use and many washes – the antimicrobial properties of the wool are still working
- Very minimal design with almost no logos (only one on the baselayer, which can be removed), no tags or prints – just fabric
- Slim fit is very comfortable to be used as active wear
- Sometimes, in really hot situations, the baselayer will remain soaked and take a while to dry, as per all Merino
- The higher neckline on the midlayer (part of the hood) can be irritating if it is not cold enough for it, since it cannot be stowed away
- Merino is delicate, and wear and tear has started to show
- The slim fit can be limiting to some
When I decided to buy into the Janus tops it was a gamble, since I didn’t know the brand, but that gamble was a success. After more than 2 years of pretty heavy use, the tops are functional and really comfortable to wear; they were actually comfortable from the very beginning (after an initial wash). The combination of thin and dense baselayer with a thick, low density midlayer is extremely versatile, allowing the Janus tops to be used in a huge variety of weathers. My only concern now is to get another set!