The Rho series is the focus of Arc’teryx’s current collection of performance baselayers. Available in a range of weights and styles, including baselayer tights as well as tops, they’re designed as multi-activity first layers that provide different levels of warmth and wicking performance depending on your activity and output. For skiing, snowboarding and winter climbing, there’s the Rho Heavyweight, while for higher-tempo scenarios there’s the Rho LT (‘lightweight’). Somewhere in the middle is the latest addition to the range, the Rho Hybrid, with matching bottoms. The top also comes in either crew neck or half zip styles – we tested the latter. As a midweight layer, it’s arguably the most versatile Rho baselayer of all, suitable for cool to cold conditions through autumn, winter and spring – but is up there with the best baselayers (opens in new tab) available today? Read on to get our thoughts.
Arc’teryx Rho Hybrid Half Zip Baselayer: specifications
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RRP: $125 (US)/ £95 (UK)
Materials used: Main fabric: Phasic AR II (100% polyester with DAO finish), Zoned panels: Nucliex 150 (87% Wool, 13% Nylon, RWS wool)
Sizes: Men’s S-XXL, Women’s n/a
Arc’teryx Rho Hybrid Half Zip Baselayer: Design and features
Why is this called a hybrid layer? Well, because it employs two different zoned fabrics, made from a combination of natural and synthetic fibres. The main body utilises Arc’teryx Phasic AR II fabric, a midweight polyester that has been treated with silver ions to neutralise body odour. Meanwhile, underarm panels are made from a blend of natural merino wool and hard-wearing nylon. Taken together, this design maximises the performance benefits of natural and synthetic fibres to deliver great wicking performance, comfort, warmth and durability. The use of merino in areas prone to perspiration also keeps things fresher, minimising the chances of this layer picking up unpleasant odours.
Both of the hybrid fabrics used in this layer are soft and comfortable, and the panels are stitched together with very thin, flatlock seams to avoid irritation. The merrow stitching also resists snags a lot better than conventional flatlock stitching, which is a plus for durability. Another bonus is that the fabric is sleek without being shiny, so it slides easily under a midlayer fleece or puffy.
As mentioned previously, we tested the half zip version of the Rho Hybrid. Though it’s a little more expensive than the crew neck version, we think it’s worth it. The deep neck zip is a great way to dump a little extra heat if you’re working hard uphill.
Any niggles? Only one really, which is that the sleeves lack thumb loops. This is a matter of personal preference, but it’s a feature that many users appreciate, helping to ensure sleeves are pulled in under gloves and jacket cuffs. On the other hand, the sleeves of the Rho are fairly long and not at all baggy, so it’s not a major issue.
Arc’teryx Rho Hybrid Half Zip Baselayer: Performance and comfort
In terms of performance, the hybrid design does its job really well. It’s possible to wear this layer for multiple days straight, without it getting noticeably smelly. The merino wool underarm panels also generally stop things from getting too damp or sticky.
The Rho Hybrid also has a great fit for a long-sleeved technical tee. It has plenty of length in the arms and torso, plus a stand-up collar that helps to prevent chills from creeping down your neck. The cut is trim enough to feel cosy without being skin-tight, unlike a lot of other compression-style winter layers out there. It keeps neck, wrists and lower back warm, even during dynamic activity – whether you’re skiing, hiking or climbing. This is all the more impressive since the fabric has no natural stretch, as there is no elastane (Lycra or Spandex) in the mix. This does mean that shape retention could be an issue – although after several wears and washes, it still looked and felt great. Similarly, it showed no signs of wear (unlike pure merino layers, which tend to develop holes relatively quickly), and the fabrics showed no obvious pilling or bobbling.
It’s a mid-range layer in terms of overall warmth, which offers plenty of versatility for variable temperatures and conditions. It’s a little too warm for summer wear, and in deep midwinter or high Alpine environments some might want a heavier layer, but outside of those extremes it keeps you very cosy and comfortable.
Arc’teryx Rho Hybrid Half Zip Baselayer: final verdict
The Rho Hybrid is a top-quality bit of kit that delivers everything you want in a baselayer; namely great next to skin comfort, a decent level of insulation and good moisture wicking performance. It is soft and comfortable to wear for extended periods and during dynamic activity thanks to a great full-coverage fit. That hybrid combination of synthetic fibres and natural merino wool also seems to be a winner, not just in terms of performance, but also in terms of keeping things fresher for longer.