I have a soft-spot for the plucky British start-up company which takes on the big, well-established foreign rivals at their own game, and Armadillo Merino is going up against some of the biggest names in the outdoor industry with a new range of products which could well win it a bit of a cult following.
Established in 2011 in northern England, Armadillo is a small company which has chosen to aim at professional users like the military and search teams rather than go mass-market straight away. It’s a marketing plan which may pay off because it’s these hardcore users who could possibly benefit the most from the properties of Merino.
I’m a huge fan of Merino. If I could afford to throw away all my clothes and buy a new load, it’d be all wool. I’ve been wearing the Armadillo Cougar T-shirt now for 2 weeks (on and off) without washing it, and it still smells neutral rather than like the cotton T-shirt I wore yesterday which was honking like a hobo’s handbag by early afternoon under hot lights at a tradeshow. It’s superbly comfortable and soft on the skin, with no hint of itchiness (merino fibres are too thin to cause itching, unlike traditional ‘wool’ fibres).
The Cougar T-shirt is a semi-fitted design with a front and rear panel, and a separate sculpted shoulder panel which causes it to sit squarely on your shoulders and make you look rather… buff. It also means that there are no seams up on your shoulders to abrade if you’re wearing a pack all day.
The Cougar is made in a 175g fabric, which is to say that it’s about the same weight as a thin cotton Tee. That’s pretty much heavy enough for most duties, and I’ve been wearing similar thickness T-shirts from Smartwool and Trekmates now for a couple of years and they’ve been just-right.
The Merino used by Armadillo is sourced from the ZQ Standard in New Zealand, which is a benchmark which ensures consistent quality. A look over the Cougar shows a nice, consistent fibre with no visible bobbles or wads.
Back to Armadillo’s core market for a moment, and they cite a couple of interesting facts on their website – Flame retardation and Anti-static. Considering that they’re targeting the military, this is quite interesting. The flame retardation certainly made me think about all the times I’ve been standing over a campfire wearing man-made materials.
Overall, the Cougar has been a comfortable pleasure to wear. The fit is loose and unrestrictive and the fabric is showing no signs of being subjected to the rigours of everyday life after a couple of weeks’ wear.
The only possible down-side to the Armadillo Cougar is the price. It’s coming in at £55, which is significantly more than equivalent garments from some of the big-boys. Of course, the niche marketing will appeal to some people, as will the fact that you’d be supporting a small British brand. But others will be put off.
SUMMARY: Armadillo’s Cougar is a high-quality Merino T-shirt which seems to be made very well, is comfortable and looks good. There’s very little branding on it, and it comes in a range of low-key colours. The price may be a sticking point for some, but if you’re a fan of Merino definitely take a look.
More: Armadillo Merino