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Mountain Hardwear Poodle tops


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We promise, the first time you see a Mountain Hardwear Poodle top, either the Hoody or Jacket, you’re going to want to run your fingers through its soft faux fur. In fact, that happens to our testers everywhere they go: Strangers, family, friends, they all go “oooooo” and stroke your arm. You just have to get used to it. Yeah, the colors are wild, and the styling looks like something you might imagine from the ’60s and ’70s — pure retro with attitude – but that’s part of the point. With the Poodles, Mountain Hardwear seamlessly fused fashion and function, and tossed in a dash of humor for good measure.

Once you’ve gotten over the constant petting by others, even strangers and store clerks, you’ll learn to love the attention. Who cares when you’re feeling so cuddly and warm? The Poodle is made from a relatively new entry in luxury technical fabrics: Polartec Thermal Pro Curly Monkey. It’s 100-percent polyester high pile curl with a DWR finish and a veloured back. Unlike its namesake, these Poodles are a shorthair, but its lustrous finish and touch-me texture still begs for a scratch behind the ears. It’s non-piling (we’ve washed ours many times and it still looks fresh groomed) and is highly breathable. And it is much warmer than you would think a top like this would be.

The Hoody (pictured to the right) is fun to wear, we found. It has sweatshirt-styling with a trim but not tight cut. V-shaped detailing at the neck adds to the fashion flair, and a pass-through kangaroo hand pocket provides extra warmth for the hands, or even a place to rest ’em if you so choose. It takes a bold step into the fashion world, turning its tail on the constraints of traditional, seen-before design while maintaining technical integrity.

The Jacket (no hood) is a tad more traditionally outdoor in styling – side zip pockets with a full-zip front and a close-cut straight collar with drawcord for neck warmth. It’s still cut close to the body and has a bottom drawcord too. The zip pockets we found practical but sometimes a bother to zip and unzip since the pull would frequently get caught in the fluffy fabric that is set close to the invisible zipper unless you really paid attention. And the pocket liners kind of bag forward, especially one that has a zip to use as an inner pocket, so if you don’t have the Jacket zipped up at least a bit, they poke out the front in a less-than-attractive manner.

Both styles are available in Spring ’05 in black as well as some very unnatural canine colors: tomato (a bright red-orange) and deep sea (a shiny blue). For Fall ’05 the colors will be black, deep sea, petrol, red onion and butter.

Despite the fact that the Poodles feature a very technical performance fabric, most people will probably wear the Poodles around town. They are light for the size, but a bit bulky to pack for a winter or spring hut trip when backpack space is at a premium. They’re even a bit voluminous for a suitcase if you’re heading out on more mundane travels but, on the plus side, they won’t wrinkle if you decide to wear one in the car or on a plane. And while either could be a great companions on a spring or fall hike (no leash required), in cool weather the Hoody was found to be a bit drafty around the non-cinching waist.

For the Mountain Lifestyle category, we nominate the Poodles “Best in Show.” Woof.

SNEWS® Applause Meter: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)

Suggested Retail: Hoody, $90; Jacket, $110

For More Information:www.mountainhardwear.com or 1-800-953-8375