High Performance/Tactical Clothing - Page
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This section features High-Performance Wear that is not specifically targeted for overt military use, but could be used anywhere.
As a sizing reference: I'm 5'7", 155 lbs (yeah, I'm a little guy), medium build (BDU top medium/regular, BDU pant medium/short), waist 32", chest 43". Keep this in mind when you read my comments with respect to sizing, so you have an idea of how the garments featured below will fit on you. ALL garments in these pages are size Medium, unless stated otherwise.
Many of the professionals (and civvies) I know are avid outdoors enthusiasts, and are not always looking for military-styled clothing when they're out backpacking or around town. While they will work just as well for Military or Law Enforcement use, the garments listed on these pages will definitely be of interest to anyone just looking for high-performance outdoor clothing.
TO VIEW FULL SIZE IMAGES: USERNAME and PASSWORD are both "mm"
TAD Gear Merino Stealth Coat (discontinued)
3/7/08 - Triple Aught Design's (TAD Gear) new 'Green Label" (natural fibers) Stealth Coat is patterned similarly to their Ranger Fleece Hoodie and Stealth Hoodie soft shells shown above, but with a twist. Instead of being constructed out of synthetic fleece or the latest soft shell material, it's made out of 500 gram New Zealand Merino Melton wool. Similar in weight to the familiar Navy Pea Coat, TAD intended the Stealth Coat to be a modern take on the classic car coat or hunting jacket.
New Zealand Merino Melton - TAD Gear is introducing more styles and garments this year in merino wool because of the many benefits of this natural material. Wool is naturally fire resistant, breathable, durable, used in both hot and cold climates, odour and static resistant, and will keep you warm even when wet. Melton wool is a classic fabric typically used for winter jackets, coats and blankets. It's thick and tightly woven, with a heavily brushed nap with no warp and weft (weave) visible, like felt. The 500 gram 19 micron Merino Melton is very dense, and currently available only in TAD's D.F. (Dark Field) Grey. The Stealth Coat is actually a medium-dark grey, whereas the D.F. Ranger Hoodie is pretty much black. As I've mentioned in previous reviews of wool garments, I have very sensiitve skin and fall in the small percentage of people that can find even Merino wool scratchy. However, this is not the case with the Stealth Coat - I don't find it itchy or irritating on my bare skin at all, which is a relief as it's a nice coat. A micron count for the individual wool fiber thickness is typically required to be under 19.5 micron for it to be itch free. TAD's is 19, which puts it in the middle of the industry classification for 'fine' Merino of 18.6-19.5.
- Usually I deal with sizing at the end, but wanted to make sure people
see this before ordering. Somehow, the run of Stealth Coats ended
up with the wrong tags, and are labeled one size down. The Stealth
Coat is cut generously for wear over thick winter layers, and I'd
say it's about one and a half sizes larger than marked, if used as
a stand-alone jacket with thin layers underneath. I'm usually a size
'Medium', as are my Ranger and Stealth Hoodies. The coat I'm wearing
here is labeled 'Small'. Even so, it's still roomier than the Ranger
Hoodie. One of the reasons for the more generous cut is that the Melton
wool has practically no stretch to it. This is noticeable in the wrist
cuffs, as they're cut long enough to cover the hands when the thumbholes
are used, but not elastic enough to be retained at the wrist. I'd
have preferred velcro adjustment tabs to keep them at my wrists, but
found that the issue was easily solved by folding the cuffs back once.
So, make sure you order one size smaller than you normally do, at
least. More about sizing further down.
At first glance, the Stealth Coat is easily dismissed as a clone of the Ranger Hoodie, made in wool instead of fleece. However, closer examination of the details reveals that it also shares elements with the Stealth Hoodie, and even so, not quite exaclty. So, it's actually a blend of both jackets with some features unique to itself.
The summary of features on the Stealth Coat is as follows:
Compared to the fleece Ranger Hoodie, the Stealth Coat definitely has a more 'urban' than 'outdoors/military' look to it, because of the way the Melton wool drapes. It tends to have straighter lines, for a smarter look. The Stealth Coat is a slightly heavier jacket, but a little less warm than the Ranger as it has less loft due to the denser material. However, due the the breathability of the wool fibers themselves, you're less likely to get stuffy when you sweat than with a synthetic fleece top (synthetic fibers do not soak up moisture - they wick it away. Wool fibers actually absorb moisture).
Now, the care label on the Stealth Coat says 'dry clean
only'. I usually shy away from high-maintenance clothing. If it's
meant to be worn outdoors, sweated in and expected to get dirty, 'dry
clean' only doesn't work for me. I decided to be the guinea pig and
see what would happen if I machine washed and dried the Stealth Coat.
Now, wool is notorious for shrinking when exposed to the combination
of wet, heat and agitation. I decided not to try the warm/cold wash
cycle, but to just use the cold cycle, mainly to get it soaking wet.
I also chose the 'gentle/delicate' cycle. Note that I have a front
loading machine, not a top loader/agitator. I would not recommend
using an agitation washing machine for this. After the cycle, I checked
it out, saw no visible damage or change, and threw it in the dryer
with a fabric softener sheet on 'medium' heat. I let it go for about
20 mins, and checked on it again. It didn't seem to shrink at all,
and still looked fine. I cranked it to the 'high heat/cotton' setting
and let it run for another 20 mins. When it was dry, I took it out
and checked it over. The result - I'd estimate about 5% shrinkage
with no bunching or damage to the fabric or components. I put it on
and it doesn't fit as baggy anymore, and fit me better than before.
The sleeves and wrist cuffs are a bit snugger and maybe 0.5"
shorter than they were. Note that all the photos above were taken
before I washed and dried the coat. I don't think you'd notice the
difference in photos, but I can feel it in the fit.
So, if you're looking for something along the lines of the Ranger Hoodie, but prefer TAD's 'Green Label' line of natural fibers, the Stealth Coat offers an option. With its urban cut and colour, and the 'classier' look and drape of Merino Melton Wool, you'll get a coat that doesn't look out of place downtown, but also has the typical TAD technical features and extras that make it a practical piece in the outdoors. Just make sure you understand the sizing before you order.
TAD Gear Merino Wool Garments
3/21/08 - Triple Aught Design's (TAD Gear) new 'Green Label" (natural fibers) Merino Wool Garments are part of their A.C.E. (A.ll C.limate E.lementals) layering system, which describes their highly versatile, component apparel system. Each piece of the ACE system represents a component in an overall total system that can be worn autonomously or as part of layering combination. The ACE System offers performance and functionality from base and mid layers to outerwear. Featured here are three items from the ACE system: the Regulator Base layers, Equilibrium Full Zip Sweater, and the Flux Pullover Hoodie. All are made from Merino Wool.
New Zealand Extra Fine Merino Wool - TAD Gear has introduced more styles and garments this year in merino wool because of the many benefits of this natural material. Wool is naturally fire resistant, breathable, durable, used in both hot and cold climates, odour and static resistant, and will keep you warm even when wet. It will not melt or stick to when exposed to flame. The ACE system components are currently available in TAD's M.E. Green and D.F. (Dark Field) Grey (almost black). As I've mentioned in previous reviews of wool garments, I have very sensiitve skin and fall in the small percentage of people that can find even Merino wool scratchy. However, TAD's merino products have the least amount of itch (none to almost none) that I've experienced with any merino wool product. This is due to the fine micron thickness of the extra/super fine merino wool selected for these garments. With some other merino wool garments I've used, there'd usually be some hint of itch until my skin got used to it. Much less so with the the TAD wool garments.
Regulator Base Layers - The Regulator Base Layers are made of the highest grade of super-fine merino wool for next-to-skin comfort, combined with 5.5% lycra for stretch. This is the softest merino wool used out of all TAD's wool garments, for a body-hugging but unrestriced fit for mobility. I'd liken the weight to most other silk weight base layers. The Regulator layers shown here are in M.E. Green, which is a very close match for the issue Nomex flight gloves, only a hint lighter. The weave is fine, and absolutely no hint of prickliness at all, which is unusual for a wool garment (for me). They could be made of synthetics, as far as my skin is concerned.
Top - The Regulator Top has a zip mock neck using a covert YKK zipper, and has a 5.5" x 3.5" trapezoidal zippered chest pocket for small items. The collar is not tight around my neck when fully zipped up - there's still some breathing room. The bottom hem is cut slightly longer in the back for tucking in. As you can see from the photos below (size Medium shown), the fit is strreamlined to hug the body without being too tight. The cuffs have thumbholes so the sleeves don't ride up when donning additional layers or lifting your arms above your head. You can choose not to use the thumbholes, and the cuffs will function just like normal ones.
Bottom - The Regulator Bottom is a full length cut with fly opening, and diamond crotch. The non-binding elastic waist looks sturdy and is wide enough to be comfortable on the waist. I wore the bottom under a pair of Force 10 Cargo utility pants back in early February, on a cold and windy night in the Nevada desert. It really made a difference between freezing and feeling comfortable.
Equilibrium Full Zip Sweater - The Equilibrium Full Zip Sweater, shown in D.F. Grey below, is a front opening sweater/cardigan. It's designed to be worn on its own, or as a mid layer under a soft or hard shell as part of the ACE layering system. It's made of 360 gm weight 100% merino (no lycra), and is of an all-season, flat knit pattern which is a heavier/thicker weave than the Regulator base layers. It has low nap and is pill resistant. The merino wool used in the Equilibrium isn't as super fine as the Regulator Base Layer wool, but I still find it very comfortable for a wool garment. I'm able to wear it next to my hyper-sensitive skin with only the occasional hint of prick on my neck and crook of my elbows (which seems the most susceptible area to get irritated).
The Equilibrium uses black YKK covert zippers, and the full zip allows for easy donning and doffing, plus heat management. The collar is 5" tall, and forms a turtleneck when fully zipped up. It has a wind flap behind the zipper. It can be folded over for a half-height turtleneck, or just worn open. On the left upper chest is a trapezoidal pocket with vertical covert zipper closure for small items. The elbows are reinforced with elbow patches.
The wool is dense, and doesn't have a lot of loft, so
it's not bulky when worn under another jacket. It's got sort of a
straight, urban cut; not too snug or form fitting. It doesn't look
at all 'military' to me, especially in D.F. Grey. Loose enough to
wear over a base layer but not baggy. I'd estimate the warmth to be
equivalent to a mid-weight sweat shirt (not a thick, heavy one).
Flux Pullover Hoodie - At first glance, the Flux Pullover Hoodie might be mistaken for a merino wool version of TAD's fleece Scout Hoodie, but it's actually patterned very differently. It's made of 360gm weight, pill resistant flat knit New Zealand Merino wool, like the Equilibrium. Because of the pattern/cut, it 'drapes' more than the Equilibirum, for a more relaxed look. The merino wool construction makes it a very sharp looking hoodie, and the M.E. Green (shown here) is a very pleasant colour. I also found it completely itch-free.
The Flux isn't as loose as the Scout Hoodie, and can be worn over a shirt, alone, or under any of TAD's jackets for additional insulation as part of the ACE system. Wear it under the Predator hardshell in the rain, or with the V8 Garage jacket for an urban-chic look. It's go a very comfortable cut for an unrestricted fit. The Flux has TAD's signature Aero hood design, without any adjustments of course. I think the overlapping takeoff points at the front of the hood/collar add to its unique look. The sleeves have thumbhole cuffs which are snug enough to keep the hand warm, and also stay around the wrists when the thumbhole feature isn't used. The elbows are reinforced with patches.
At the front is the kangaroo pocket, with a small mesh
ID hideout pocket in the middle (which fits a small Rite-in-the-rain
notebook). The inside entrance to the kangaroo pockets are lined with
a soft material for comfort. Like the Equilibrium, I'd estimate the
warmth of the Flux to be similar to a medium-weight sweatshirt. It's
a bit heavier than the fleece Scout Hoodie, but more wind resistant,
so I actually found it a bit warmer than the Scout when there was
a cool breeze blowing.
The Merino wool garments tend to be slightly heavier and more dense than their synthetic equivalents, like base layers or lightweight fleece. However, due the the breathability of the wool fibers themselves, you're less likely to get stuffy when you sweat than with a synthetic fleece top (synthetic fibers do not soak up moisture - they wick it away. Wool fibers actually absorb moisture). One potential disadvantage I see to wool is that it's heavier than synthetic garments when soaking wet and takes longer to dry. Again, this is because the wool fibers are hydrophilic and absorb moisture more readily than synthetic ones. Dunk a wool garment into water with a synthetic one, squeeze out the excess water and compare the weights and you'll see. With a thin base layer however, it's pretty much a non-issue.
As most of us know, wool can shrink. You don't just
throw it in the hot/cold cycle with the rest of the clothes and dry
it on high. The tags recommend a cold gentle cycle when machine washing,
and laying them flat to dry. However, I'd found that I can machine
dry these wool garments on the air only or low heat setting without
them shrinking if I'm in a hurry and don't want to lay them out.
TAD Gear Special Service Sweater and Praetorian Hoodie
12/29/08 - Two new additions to TAD Gear's (Triple Aught Design) 'Green Label" (natural fibers) Merino Wool Garment line for 2008-2009 are the Merino Praetorian Full Zip Hoodie and the Special Service Sweater. TAD Gear's ever-expanding wool garment line gives the tactical/military community designs catering to their needs, in nice, subdued colours - something that you're not likely to find at the local REI or ski shop.
The Praetorian and Special Service Sweater (SSS) are also part of TAD's A.C.E. (A.ll C.limate E.lementals) layering system, which describes their highly versatile, component apparel system. Each piece of the ACE system represents a component in an overall total system that can be worn autonomously or as part of layering combination. The ACE System offers performance and functionality from base and mid layers to outerwear. Three other items from the ACE system: the Regulator Base layers, Equilibrium Full Zip Sweater, and the Flux Pullover Hoodie were featured previously (above). These were made from New Zealand Extra Fine Merino Wool, but the Praetorian and SSS are made from Australian Merino wool instead.
Extra Fine Grade Australian Merino Wool - With the Praetorian and Special Service Sweater (along with some other items like the Brain Case Watch Cap and Proline Neck Gaiter) TAD Gear is using Australian Merino vs. the New Zealand Merino used for the earlier garments. When I asked TAD why the change, Patrick answered that this was done to make the garments easier to care for. The Australian Merino is processed and finished differently than the NZ wool to make it more pill resistant and machine washable in cold gentle cycle. For people like me, who did not grow up with wool and are used to machine washing all their clothes, this makes it more user friendly. Wool garments do pill, and the Australian Merino keeps that at bay longer.
As mentioned in previous writeups, some of the many benefits of wool is that it's naturally fire resistant, breathable, durable, used in both hot and cold climates, odour and static resistant, and will keep you warm even when wet. It will not melt or stick to when exposed to flame. The Praetorian and Special Service Sweater are available in additional colours to the ones previously available. Besides the previously available M.E. (Multi Environment) Green, they're now made in Sith Black, M.E. Brown (shown here) and U.E. Gray. Readers of my previous writeups on all wool garments might remember that I've mentioned that I have very sensiitve skin and fall in the small percentage of people that can find even Merino wool scratchy. However, all of TAD's merino products have the least amount of itch (none to almost none) that I've experienced with any merino wool product which is due to the fine micron thickness of the extra/super fine merino wool selected for these garments. I've found the Australian merino used in both these garments to be itch-free.
Weave - As seen in the photo below,
the Special Service Sweater has a high stretch index rib knit pattern,
similar to the familiar commando sweater, but not as large of pronounced.
The Praetorian Hoodie has a smoother, non-ribbed 4-way stretch knit.
The M.E. Brown is a very nice-looking shade of medium brown which
goes well with MultiCam, other earth tones, and just about anything
else. I prefer it much more to a lighter tan colour.
Special Service Sweater - The Special Service Sweater is a medium-weight, full front zip, TAD Gear-update on the classic heavy ribbed knit pattern, snug next-to-body fit of the legendary British 'commando sweater' with a stand up zip collar instead of the crew neck of the commando sweater. The size Medium is shown here, and for reference I'm 5' 7" and 155 lbs with a 43" chest. I found the fit under the arms is a bit snug, but not enough to be restrictive. The SSS is designed more as a layering piece to be worn under a shell or over a thin base layer, not as a baggy and bulky sweater, hence the streamlined cut. Even so, it's stretchy enough that I was able to layer it over a sweatshirt without it being too tight.
The full zip front makes it easy to don and doff, or wear with the front completely open. This is useful for regulating temperature, something you can't do with a commando sweater. Zip it up when cold, then zip it open when it starts getting too warm. The collar is 5" tall and can be worn up, or folded over in half, or partially unzipped. Depends on the look you want or how chilly it is and how much of your neck you want covered. Either way, I found all ways quite comfortable. It's stretchy so it's not binding around the neck.
There's a front internal pocket over the left breast, with a vertical zipper opening. It's large; about 6" tall and 8" deep as it extends all the way to the side/sleeve seam. The pocket material itself is wool. Due to its location, flat items like a wallet instead of bulky ones work better.
The shoulders and elbows are reinforced with an additional layer of merino wool; of the same fine/smooth knit as the Praetorian Hoodie, it looks like. This is a nice touch, especially on high-wear areas like the elbows. The elbow reinforcements cover the bottom of the fore arms and extend all the way down to the ends of the cuffs. The shoulder reinforcements help protect the tops of the shoulders against backpack or shoulder bag straps.
The sleeves are "Alpine length" (long), and the cuffs are designed to be worn turned back under normal usage. If extended coverage is needed for the hands, the cuffs can be worn down. They're long enough to cover the hand when extended. I don't find the turned-back cuffs bulky, nor do they get in the way. One of the practical advantages to having a double layer cuff is that it helps keep the wrists warmer. The wrists are often exposed or neglected when it comes to insulation. Even most heavy jackets have rib/elastic cuffs that don't provide much warmth for the wrists. The arteries that carry blood to the hands are close to the surface, and keeping the wrists warmer is a factor in keeping the hands warm. The turned back double layer cuffs of the Special Service Sweater help keep the hands warmer, especially with short cuff gloves.
Made to the highest industry standards, this full zip sweater is made in a newly updated higher stretch classic heavy ribbed knit pattern which hugs the body for a streamlined fit without being restricting. This updated ribbed knit pattern is tried and trued is inspired by the legendary "commando sweaters" of the SAS and the fishermen sweaters of icy Northern Europe. For this 2008-2009 season, our newly sourced Australian Merino yarns provide unparalleled comfort, the full zip allows for easy on and off, and the modern add-on of the chest pocket gives that extra bit of storage when needed. Our Special Service Sweater is ideal worn alone or underneath one of our shells for maximum versatility as part of our A.C.E. performance layering system. The next generation of Merino apparel is here.
Praetorian Full Zip Hoodie
- The Praetorian Full ZIp Hoodie (shown below in M.E. Brown) is a
very versatile garment suitable for layering or stand-alone wear.
I like hoodies, and the Praetorian is one of the sharpest I've seen, especially in the brown colour. It has TAD's signature Aero hood design, which folds flatter than other hoods. With the wool, however, which has some weight and no stiffness to it, the hood won't really lay flat against the back, but drape naturally. Perfectly colour-matched YKK covert zippers are used and flat cover-stitch seams in some areas for functionality and aesthetics.
There's a zippered 'Napoleon' pocket on the left breast for flat items, measuring about 6.5" tall x 5.5" wide. There are also two side-entry hand warmer pockets in the front, with reinforced openings. These are about 9" tall and 6" wide. The elbows/forearms are covered in a double layer of the same wool knit, and extend all the way to the cuffs. The cuffs are longer, and have thumbholes to keep them in place when the hoodie is worn under a shell or with gloves. The cuffs can be turned back if the thumbhole feature isn't used.
The sides of the Praetorian are scalloped at the bottom
hem, so it's easier to access pants side pockets. I've found this
feature nice to have, and it gives the Praetorian a different look.
Impressions and notes - One of the first things I noticed with the Praetorian and Special Service Sweater when holding them is that they are actually quite substantial. While the fabric is thinner on the Praetorian, it's no lighter because the knit is denser. The ribbed knit of the Special Service Sweater has more 'loft' to it, has a more open knit and is less dense. These two garments have weight to them and practically no stiffness so they will drape instead of puff up like fleece.
Both these Merino wool garments are slightly heavier and more dense than their synthetic equivalents, but due the the breathability of the wool fibers themselves, you're less likely to get stuffy when you sweat than with a synthetic fleece top (synthetic fibers do not soak up moisture - they wick it away. Wool fibers actually absorb moisture). When soaking wet, wool garments are heavier than synthetics and take longer to dry because the wool fibers are hydrophilic and absorb moisture more readily than synthetic ones. Dunk a wool garment into water with a synthetic one, squeeze out the excess water and compare the weights and you'll see. This is less of an issue with thin base layers. The tags recommend a cold gentle cycle when machine washing, and laying them flat to dry. However, I'd found that I can machine dry these wool garments on the air only or low heat setting without them shrinking. Note that while these garments are pill-resistant, they will pill with use, like any other wool garment and get a bit fuzzier than when they were new. This does not affect performance whatsoever.
I found both the Praetorian and Special Service Sweater to be about as warm as a medium-heavy weight sweatshirt. The Praetorian has a slight edge over the Special Service Sweater when it comes to wind resistance due to the tighter knit. This is relative, as they're not designed to be wind resistant. A windbreaking shell is necessary if that's needed. Neither feel stuffy, and they layer well under TAD's hard and soft shells. I wore the Praetorian under the Raptor hardshell jacket on a recent cold, rainy day and was grateful for the additional warmth the hood provided under the Raptor's hood.
The great thing about these two garments is that I can wear them just about anywhere. Paired with 'tactical'/military clothing or worn with everyday street clothes, both will do double-duty equally well and can be dressed up or down. Around town, the Praetorian is more casual, the Special Service Sweater more 'smart casual'. Personally, I prefer the more casual look of the Praetorian than the Special Service Sweater, which can acheive a smart, preppy look with an edge depending on the pants you wear it with. I'm more of a hoodie person than a sweatshirt/sweater person, personality wise. I also like having the hand warmer pockets on the hoodie, as it's more comfortable to walk with my hands there than in my pants pockets. The way wool drapes and looks adds a touch of class to these garments, and sets them apart from the cottons and synthetics.
Worn with military or tactical clothing, they take on
a rugged, outdoor look and don't look out of place at the range or
in the field. Quite the 'multi-environment' clothing line.
TAD Gear Pathfinder Jacket
6/14/08 - Triple Aught Design's (TAD Gear) Pathfinder Cardigan Jacket is part of their new Pathfinder Series of low weight and warmth to weight ratio 3+ season everyday wear. With the Pathfinder Jacket, TAD has taken the latest fabrics and technology in the outdoor clothing industry and engineered an extremely comfortable jacket. It's sort of a 'hybrid' or in-between' garment; when the Ranger Hoodie is too warm and a T-shirt is not enough. Consider it a full zip technical replacement for the sweatshirt with added utility.
Material - The Pathfinder Cardigan is made out of Malden Mills PolarTec Thermalpro fleece, which offers excellent comfort, low weight, breathability, appearance, and warmth to weight ratio. The outside of the fabric has a knit texture making it look more like a traditional wool garment. This gives it a more unique and 'classy' look, if you will. The inside face has a pebbled/shearling fleece texture. Note that this is not windbloc fleece - it is not wind resistant. This makes it extremely breathable and usable during exertion during cooler weather as a slight breeze will help speed up sweat evaporation. It it's too cold and windy, a wind shirt can be worn over the Pathfinder to take full advantage of its insulating properties. This fleece weight makes the Pathfinder ideal for everyday wear in 3+ seasons, as outerwear or for layering under TAD's soft and hardshells. The Pathfinder is available in M.E. Green (shown here), DF Grey, and ME Brown.
The Pathfinder also utilizes Bemis
Thermmoplastic construction (welded seam tape) with TAD Gear Sharkskin
softshell fabric for the upper sleeve pocket and hand warmer pocket
The Pathfinder Cardigan Jacket has a full front zip and 3" stand-up collar. The fit is like the Stealth Softshells - relaxed, but with an athletic cut. The Pathfinder is something that you'd wear over a T-shirt or thin base layer; it's not really cut to fit over thick layers. The fleece material isn't bulky, so it's suitable as a mid layer under wind and waterproof shells. There's a small velcro patch near the waist with one of TAD's removable logos.
The summary of features on the Pathfinder Cardigan Jacket is as follows (size medium shown here):
The Pathfinder Jacket is probably one of the most comfortable
fleece garments I've worn - it's very soft, lightweight, and unrestrictive.
Even at home in the evening when it's cool, I find myself reaching
for it instead of a sweatshirt as it's so damn comfy. Outside, as
mentioned above, it's not really wind resistant, so there are pros
and cons to that, obviously. You're much less likely to feel stuffy
or overheat in the Pathfinder than a windblock fleece during exertion
and it's comfortable up to the mid 70's if you're just lounging around.
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