Chocolate Fish new Taranaki Zip Neck, Beanie. Crew and Leggings update

Regular listeners might remember the Taranaki Crew Neck from Chocolate Fish that I featured a few months back. On almost every trip I’ve had since then it’s been my baselayer. I’ve worn it to work, so it’s been crawling around on its belly under church floors looking for cast iron pipes, inside steam boilers repairing the brickwork, bumping up the price to unsuspecting customers who I don’t like and sitting in cafes denying reality with Eggs Benedict, coffee and cake. I’ve also layered it under a t-shirt for both practical comfort and insulation and also to look like I’m not 40 in about ten minutes.
I’ve washed it water that was far too hot, I’ve left it lying crushed and festering at the bottom of the washbasket on occasion and it’s been accidentally tumble dried with Holly’s stuff on more than one occasion.
Simply, I’ve tried to destroy it and failed.

It’s been great to wear, performs as you’d expect a nice bit of merino to do and it’s kept its shape. The seams, which aren’t flatlocked, haven’t caused me any grief. This is something which always comes up in reviews and in popular opinion, flat lock seams don’t chaffe. I think we need to revisit that and say “Well finished seams don’t chaffe”.
Oddly the only bad case of that I can remember is an old raglan sleeved microfleece where the flatlocked seam lined up perfectly with my collar bone, and with dexterously applied pressure from my rucksack strap over the top my life was a living hell as that particulat gear alignment sawed its way down to the bone over a weekend.

I digress, but the Crew is a great bit of kit. It looks well used now, but there’s no holes and there’s no burst stitching. But, a couple of weeks back it got put in reserve when the new Zip Neck arrived for test.
The Zip has a finer fabric (it’s worth reading about the fabric on the Chocolate Fish website and the links from it, there’s a wealth of ethical and environmental information there as well as the genuine Kiwi credentials) and the same long body and sleeves. Teamed up with the Taranaki leggings from before, this has been my winter kit for the last few trips.
For the recent tent-in-a-blizzard trip the Zip and Leggings were my sleep kit and comfort was sublime, cosy, dry and smelling of roses was the order of the day night. The high collar is great, but there’s always a worry that a baselayer zip will irritate my neck in my sleep, but it was fine. In fact the zip hasn’t caused me any grief in that way, even when layering up under other stuff. That’s the joy of using intelligently designed midlayers as well, collars made to allow baselayer underneath. They don’t all do it you know.

Coming back into winter you realise a few things again. Merino is where it’s at for your first layer, it’s just more comfortable and it protects you from the unfriendlines of softshell pants against the skin. You don’t stink in the tent or in the motor on the way home. Last Saturday there were four of us in merino from wrist to ankle and the journey back was entirely pleasant.

I like the Chocolate Fish stuff. The fabric strikes the right balance between stretchy softness and having a bit of resistance. The cut is just right for me, the tops keep my kindneys warm and stay tucked in, the leggings don’t have an irritating waistband or ride up the crack of my arse (these things are vital to our mission and must be shared), and the Beanie is magic.
Yes, the Beanie. A simple wee bunnet made from fabric offcuts from the Taranaki kit, it fits under a helmet, a hood and weighs nothing. I had to fight Holly for it at one point as well, so there you go, it’s also a natural fibre non irritating weans heid warmer.

Another thing, there’s important words attached to Taranaki kit. The obvious ones are well used above, but these need saying; independant and different.
I’ll be using it all constantly through winter, I’ll come back again and see how it’s survived.

18 thoughts on “Chocolate Fish new Taranaki Zip Neck, Beanie. Crew and Leggings update”

  1. Couldn’t agree more ptc*. My Chocolate Fish Taranaki Crew is the finest piece of Merino underwear I own, and I own a lot. I wear merino every day over here and I’ve tried every brand: Smartwool, Howies, Icebreaker, Devold, Dale, etc, etc. My Chocolate Fish Crew fits better and is lasting better than any of them.

  2. A great company offering great products run by great people.

    They kindly donated free gear for a sponsored stravaig a couple of years ago – they couldn’t have been more supportive and even fell out with OutdoorsMagic on our behalf!

  3. That’s good to hear, looks they’re a bit of a cult classic then.
    I’m looking forward to seeing a new Taranaki midlayer in Spring. A merino midlayer has never been done right, here’s hoping its the same stripped down functionality of the baelayers.

  4. Looking forward to seeing the midlayers. I really like my Powerstretch ones at the moment but merino would potentially be warmer if they’re damp. Hmmmmmm…..

  5. Aye, I hope the weight isn’t too high either.

    Funny you shoud say about Powerstretch, when I was at the Haglofs bunker last week I picked up a LIM PS III sample for test. I wore it on the trip on Saturday and it’s easily the best midlayer I’ve ever use that doesn’t have a hood.
    The Powerstretch fabric is the top-end light and grid versions and I was completely dry and comfy all day, in fact all the Saturday kit was brilliant.

    The LIM PS III has already been canned as it’s just too pricey for most retailers, and next years price hike would just make it sarcastically expensive.
    So I’m looking at buying a spare, haven’t done that for a while!

  6. Surely ‘buying’ is something us mortals have to do! ;-) I love my Rab PS zip, especially for trail running in the snow, it breathes and stays remarkably dry on the whole with just a little dampness in the usual sweaty areas. The big test will be wearing it under the Villain next week. Sweaty-back-tastic!

  7. My old LA Powerstretch saw me thru’ many a winter. That, a baselayer + windproof was pretty much all I needed. The arrival of Paramo killed it off as a “go to” mid-layer. It’s good stuff tho’ & I’ve a mind to dig it out.

  8. That beanie looks fantastic, though I think it’s the casual rusk eating that’s selling it to me. How warm is it compared to a fleecey one as it’s presumably quite thin merino? I tend not to like too thick a hat though, buffs being my choice headwear for much of the time until it gets far too cold for them.

    Also, I’ve been eyeing the LIM PSIII for some time now, so it’s good to hear it’s a great top. That or the new treble hood are on my wish list, but both are pricey any favourites between them? Is the treble much the same as previous versions or has it improved (or got worse)? Also what’s the sizing like on these tops? I’m usually a very happy chappy in a Haglofs Large, but it’s not always perfect in the sleeve and shoulder, on the Kaza windshirt as it’s an outerlayer the large is perfect but on the azer zip neck base I wear running the sleeve length could maybe be a centimetre longer for my ape arms or an ever so teeny bit broader for my shoulders (which might solve the sleeve length thing come to think of it). The slim fit in the body is always spot on though.

  9. Kev, Powerstretch is miracle stuff, but very unforgiving on the less that athletic figure…

    Benjamin, the beanie is just enough most of the time. A bit of insulation, quite a close weave so it takes the sting out of a cold wind. Plus it doesn’t smell like sour milk after you’ve slept with it on. It’s the same fabric as the baselayers, made from pattern offcuts at the factory.

    I’ve been wearing a Treble for a wee while. It’s got a lot of powersttetch on it, more than the previous Gemini or Triton, but less that the Bungy jacket. the Treble kinda replaces all of those. The fit is slightly looser, not baggy at all, but not spray on either. Bobinson’s got a shot of me wearing it here

    If you fancy either a Treble or a PSIII it’s a toughie. the Treble is a great all round piece of clothing, but the PSIII is pure insulation performance, no pockets, no fannying around.

  10. Holdfast, I’ve been trying the ’09 Villain and Jirishanca recently and I was pleased by how dry my back has been with the winter test kit. The Jirishanca has a new mesh pad on the back which will help a bit maybe, but it’s the new fabrics more than anything I think.

  11. Hi,

    Hope Christmas went well? At least the cold and snow justifies the gear expense (cough) for normal uses too.
    I’ve been thinking about upgrading my Buff to a merino one and saw that you were very pleased with the Chocolate Fish gear you tried. Any thoughts on their Buff-like product or Smartwool’s neck gaiter as opposed to Buff’s? The Smartwool is priced as per the Buff but the CF one is cheaper and I am, post Xmas, officially poor.

    Likewise, I am keen to expand my collection of beanies beyond bamboo to include merino wool and I guess you have now had some time with your Smartwool reversible and the CF one? What weight was the CF beanie you have, light or mid-weight? And which works best d’you think? I tend to run hot in hats but at times recently bamboo hasn’t been enough and it does loose its shape/elasticity with wear. CF, again, is cheapest, I noted.

    All the best,


  12. The CF beanie is 190 single thickness merino, great under a bike helmet or a hood. Sizing is on the limit for my 59cm napper.
    The Smartwool reversible beanie is with me at all times, I love it. Not too warm, nicely wind resistant and you can sleep in it. Highly recommended.
    The CF neck gaiter is pretty different from a single-skin Buff, it makes a better hat, where the Buff layers under a hood better. I kinda like having both.

    None of that is a do-it-all though, the CF gaiter is maybe the closest?

    Icebreaker? Not been impressed of late with the quality, but if the fit and price works the best yoy can’t argue with it.

  13. Hmmmm, cheers again; decisions. The Icebreaker, like Finisterre is, imho, overpriced and I have read a few negatives about Icebreaker, so that’s one down. I just can’t buy into Finisterre for some reason beyond just the price and irritating videos and I look enough like Duncan Goodhew not to need a swim cap-esque beanie from Icebreaker.

    I think the CF beanie will be much like my Rebearth bamboo beanie – not a bad thing – and I didn’t realise that the Tuaras neck thing is double thickness as that might make it too warm for me. As much as I like the idea of making hats out of Buffs and Buff-alikes – I do a mean protest-style bala -, I usually wear them as neck and chin warmers and wear a beanie as well. If the CF neck option is warmer than a Smartwool or Buff merino one then I might have to discount it. The reversible Smartwool beanie seems as rare as hen’s teeth to judge my searches so I will probably have to bite the bullet and get one at full price in the sole colour choice I can find (black) and plump for whichever grey/black neck choice seems best.


  14. Ah, Finisterre… I’ve been talking to them on and off all year about this and that. They’re very clever, folk think they’re buying into a brand with eco-friendly gear made by their best mates. Alpkit on a surfboard in fact!

    The beanie/buff combo is a cracker, that’s what I wore for most of my Grey Corries trip.
    There should be more Smartwool about next year, they’re pretty much coming back from the dead in the UK.

    Happy shopping whatever you decide on!

  15. And so this all comes to an end because they can’t get NZ made wool anymore. Sad on several levels :(

    I’ll be slightly bereft when my final piece dies in several years. At least the merino-possum things seem due to live on.

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