At the end of a Black Diamond media lunch at Outdoor Retailer last November, I was given a t-shirt that we’d been quickly briefed about but that seemed like vastly inferior product seeding relative to the new powder skis and airbag packs that’d really wow’d us.
I’m notoriously particular about my athletic clothing, and I expected this Black Diamond Rhythm Tee would be dropped off at my local Goodwill before Christmas. Each year I receive mountains of new clothing, but I own only about a dozen go-to tops and bottoms — like an airy Smartwool long-sleeve from 2008, a wispy Salomon windshirt from 2013, and versatile Road Runner Sports short tights from 2014 — that fit and perform exactly how I want.
Long-term review: Black Diamond Rhythm Tee
To my surprise, the Black Diamond Rhythm Tee worked its way into my system. I’ve run in it over fifty times, including multiple long runs in the 2- to 2.5-hour range; and this spring I’ve been wearing it on training hikes with a 50-lb pack in the foothills in advance of a busy summer guiding schedule.
The Rhythm Tee is a simple pocket-less crew neck short-sleeve shirt. At $75 MSRP, it shares the uppermost price bracket with t-shirts from Smartwool, Arc’Teryx, and Salomon S/Lab.
I’ve found it ideal for road and trail runs in cooler temperatures (upper-40’s through 60’s, at which point I switch to a singlet or go shirtless), and for hikes and backpacking trips in summertime conditions with low sun exposure (or with regular applications of sunscreen). The Rhythm Tee has general outdoor applicability (e.g. climbing and cycling), but I haven’t used it in other capacities.
- New for spring 2019
- Pocket-less short-sleeve crew neck
- 95 g/m2 fabric weight
- Exactly 100 grams in size Medium
- Made of NuYarn, 57% nylon and 43% merino
- A men’s and women’s version
- Available in Black and Nickel
- $75 MSRP
The Rhythm Tee is most unique for its fabric, NuYarn, a product of The Merino Company.
NuYarn is made by wrapping merino fibers around a nylon core, and contains 57 percent nylon and 43 percent merino. I’d describe it as soft, airy, slightly textured, and lofty for its weight. After testing merino fibers between 17 and 19.1 microns, BD says it settled on 18.5 for the Rhythm Tee, because this fiber weight seemed to have the best balance of comfort and durability.
The Rhythm Tee is made of 95 g/m2 NuYarn, which is about one-third lighter than standard “lightweight” merino fabrics at 150 g/m2. It’s actually not much heavier than a pure synthetic — my size Medium weighs exactly 100 grams (3.5 oz), versus 90 grams (3.1 oz) for my favorite polyester running t-shirt made of Columbia’s Omni Freeze Zero (from 2017, if you’re wondering).
I’ve long thought that synthetic/merino blends could offer the best of both worlds, and NuYarn seems to validate this. The Rhythm Tee rivals the weight, moisture management, and durability of a pure synthetic knit top like Patagonia Capilene. But it also has the odor-resistance and temperature regulation of a pure merino shirt like the discontinued Ibex Hooded Indie, making it suitable for long trips and wetter climates. I’ve yet to find any downsides.
NuYarn vs Core Spun Technology
NuYarn sounds similar to the “core spun technology” that’s now widely used by classic merino brands like Smartwool and Icebreaker. I’m unable to compare field performance; on paper, the two most notable differences are the fabric weight and the fiber ratio — core spun is heavier (150 g/m2 seems to be the lightest) and predominately merino (80+ percent). NuYarn should feel lighter and cooler, and it should dry faster, but it’s odor-resistance and temperature regulation may not be as wool-like.
The Rhythm Tee has an athletic silhouette that, thankfully, fits me perfectly. I appreciate the extra inch-ish in torso length, too, especially while wearing a pack.
For context, with most tops I prefer Slim Fit in size Medium; I can fit a Relaxed size Small, but the sleeves and length are usually too short.
If you have a more muscular or thicker build, do not be deterred. NuYarn is absurdly stretchy — about one-third stretchier than normal merino, per data from the supplier — so it’s more forgiving of different body types than more static fabrics.
My initial concern about the Rhythm Tee was its stretch. With extensive use, I feared it — and, by extension, its fit — would be lost, as happens with elasticized fabrics. But the Rhythm Tee fits the same now as when it was new, because the stretch is inherent to the fabric knit. I should note that I rarely wash it as recommended — after a run or hike, I usually bring my clothing into the shower, where I hand-agitate it in a bucket with mild water and detergent.
The sole durability issue I have found is abrasion-related pilling of the NuYarn. So far it’s superficial. In my case, the pilling is most notable on the chest and shoulders, underneath my pack straps.
In-house Martindale abrasion testing suggests that the 95 g/m2 NuYarn fabric is more durable than standard 150 g/m2 wool, which has endured many normal thru-hikes. I’m not yet sure that I’d recommend it for extensive bushwhacking though. Hearing from harder-wearing readers would be insightful.
Black Diamond will expand it use of NuYarn in its growing SolutionWool collection. In fall 2019 expect a 150 g/m2 baselayer long-sleeve crew shirt, tights, and three-quarter tights (as well as some mid-layers and an insulated parka). And in fall 2020 BD is considering a long-sleeve crew and long-sleeve hoody.
These final products have me more interested. A 95 g/m2 long-sleeve would be ideal for running in cooler weather. And a 95 g/m2 long-sleeve hoody would be perfect for backpacking in the sun-blessed Mountain West. I’d give BD bonus points if it treats the fabric with permethrin so that I can wear it in the High Sierra during peak mosquito season.
Black Diamond is often associated with innovative engineering, not necessarily sustainability. But it seems to understand that consumer expectations of climbing hardware are different than merino wool, so it’s doing more on this front with SolutionWool.
In particular, NuYarn will be made only from responsibly sourced, certified non-mulesed merino. And it’s working with Australian Merino Exports Pty Ltd to ensure that the wool is app-based traceable from farm to garment.
Questions about the Black Diamond Rhythm Tee, or have an experience with it? Leave a comment.
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