Made from 100% premium 160gsm merino wool, the Alpkit Kepler is an excellent multi-sport base layer that claimed to deliver warmth, breathability, quick drying and odour resistance (within reason) and it delivers that pretty well as it turns out.
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Most of us are probably familiar with merino wool; its properties being that it wicks efficiently and is a natural material, as in it's not petrochemical based. Because of having a chemical called Lanolin, it also stops the dreaded stench some base layers can gather after a day or a prolonged period of use, despite washing. It's not completely stink-free, but if you are doing a multi-day trip and want to pack light, a merino layer will work well.
The cut of the Kepler is more all round, rather than classic body-hugging base layer fit of some. I tested a medium, and I think a small would provide a slightly closer fit. The Kepler worked really well, wicking effectively, and if ever sweat built up like under a backpack, for example, it would dry out pretty quickly too.
The top also works across a fairly wide range of temps - it wicks effectively, it's good on its own, with a wind or waterproof, or as the basis for layers on really cold days. The high warmth-to-weight ratio is also a real positive. The only issue with merino is when its soaked with water, it can feel a bit heavy, but it's rare that you’d get to this level of saturation.
The arms are quite long and felt a little baggy on the forearm. The handy thumb loops, which I feel are more focussed on climbing and outdoor walking aimed to keep wrists warm when pulled on. I tried using the thumb loops when on the bike but found the hem to sit oddly, and make the grip on the bar squirm a little, especially on more demanding single track. Still, after ending rides and packing up bikes, they offer a bit of warmth to cold hands.
The looser fit is a conscious design choice as the AlpKit mention that it looks good in the pub after a day on the hills - and that's in keeping with a more relaxed mountain bike style I think. I wore the Kepler for a few days casually, in the name of stink checking, and it lives up to the classic merino reputation of low-stink. Its super soft to the skin, and doesn’t irritate like some synthetics can. Of course, if you don’t get on with wool, then merino isn’t the choice for you.
There is a subtle AlpKit logo on the shoulder, which isn’t garish or shouty, and the finish of the top is good, all seams flatlock stitched and a relaxed, but anatomical fit. There are three colourways to choose from - Tarmac, Nemo (Blue/grey) and Seagrass (green/grey). The price is also pretty competitive and it offers a great looking, well-functioning base layer for three seasons. I’ve found its fast become a default choice.