Gear Review: Virus International Keep Warm Coffee Charcoal Series

Virus base layers

To say I love coffee is an understatement.  Not only do I love the taste and texture but I love the way it makes me feel – whether it is waking me up and getting and keeping me going, or warming me up.

So, naturally, a base layer with the words Stay Warm Coffee in its name is going to pique my attention.

Base layers that do just what coffee does

This winter, I have put Virus International’s Stay Warm series to the test, in a variety of environments, both aquatic and land-based.  And I am pretty sure I will never buy another kind of base layer again.  When temperature demands, these well-engineered, technical yet extremely comfortable tops and tights will be my go-to insulating layer, whether I am paddling or skiing, or just being active outside and need to stay warm and comfy.

The Virus Stay Warm Coffee Charcoal fabric can be described as mid-weight.  It has a nice heft to it but at the same time, it is extremely comfortable and affords full range of motion.  According to the website, the Coffee Charcoal fabric “acts as a natural heating element with an ultra-moisture wicking design that keeps the athlete dry. The Coffee Charcoal is infused with a heat trap weaved yarn that has been tested to increase and regulate the body’s surface temperatures up to 10o F.”

Mocha, Mocha, Where’s the Java?

How is this done? The answer warms this java junkie’s heart just like a rich cortado pulled by my favorite barista at the best coffee house in Raleigh.

The fabric Virus uses in the Keep Warm series is actually infused with recycled coffee grounds that have been carbonized through a nano-technology similar to those used to turn bamboo and coconut fibers into insulating fabrics.  It not only creates a very effective insulating quality to the cloth, but also adds UV protection and quick drying as well as odor-fighting properties to the garment.

The only thing it doesn’t do – well, it doesn’t smell like a good cuppa, but I can live with that.

Does it really work?

Does this sound like a marketing gimmick designed to appeal to coffee lovers and eco-enthusiasts everywhere?

All I can says is that my Stay Warm pieces certainly lived up to the claim after I huli’d just off the South End of Wrightsville Beach this January in 56 degree water.  I was wearing both the tights and top underneath neoprene pants and a Body Glove jacket.  After righting my outrigger, I was concerned that paddle would have to be cut short but in no time, I was warm and perfectly comfortable.

One of the most noticeable aspects of the Coffee Charcoal fabric is the inside that is next to the skin. It is soft, and has an almost brushed texture that is extremely soft and comfortable, even when soaked.

The Coffee Charcoal fabric does just as well wicking away sweat and keeping you warm when working hard in cold temperatures, even when you don’t take a swim.  On a recent skiing and snowboarding trip in West Virginia where regulating body temperatures was complicated by rapidly changing conditions, the Stay Warm Coffee Charcoal was able to handle the aerobic stress and strain of snowboarding lessons, a night prepped for inner tubing in 20-degree temps, and spring skiing conditions.  It was really all I needed underneath my snow pants and ski shell.

Compression saved my session

It’s not just the insulating properties that have me sold on the Virus Stay Warm series.  The compression aspect of the tops and tights is awesome.  For paddling, the Stay Warm Coffee Charcoal X-Form Posture Control Long Sleeve Compression Top provides fantastic support for shoulders, which helps fight fatigue.  I decided to use this piece during my day of snowboarding lessons, when I knew I would be falling a lot and trying to guard against wrist injury by rolling on my shoulders. I was extremely grateful for the extra support for my battered shoulders! The compression from the wrists up my arms was also a blessing after a morning of trying to pull myself up off the snow over and over again.

Virus Posture control top

The next day, the legs got put through the wringer.  While much has changed in the  20 years since I’ve been on the slopes, ski boots are still heavy and uncomfortable, especially when worn for eight hours.  Add onto that, the stress and strain on the quads the comes with challenging oneself on the more technical runs.  I am quite certain that I am no more sore than I am because of the support provided by the Stay Warm tights.

Virus makes Stay Warm Coffee Charcoal pieces for both men and women and if cold water or weather is your nemesis, then you owe it to yourself to get a set, or maybe two.   The prices are reasonable and they are extremely versatile since they can be used in a wide variety of activities.

Trust me, you’ll appreciate them as much as a good cup of coffee first thing on a Monday morning.

Virus International


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