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Mountain Hardwear Microchill 2.0 Review

Mountain Hardwear Microchill 2.0
Price:   $55 List | $47.00 at Amazon
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Pros:  Very warm, long-lasting product, works well as second layer
Cons:  Not very breathable, slow drying speed, doesn't work well as first layer
Bottom line:  The Microchill 2.0 will keep you warm and last a long time, but its low performance against the skin in breathability, drying speed, and comfort make it better suited as a mid-layer.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Mountain Hardwear
By Ross Robinson
Monday December 19, 2016

Our Verdict

The Mountain Hardwear Microchill 2.0 base layer is unique in its fabric; it was the only micro fleece product among our pool of competitors. In turn, this product was very durable and quite warm, especially when used in low activity. Unfortunately, this product was also unique in its score, which was the lowest of all products in this review. While landing at the bottom of this laundry pile, it remains a quality product at a great price.

If you're looking for another warm, synthetic base layer with improved performance in comfort and layering ability, the Arc'teryx Rho AR is a good place to look. Or, for another budget option with much higher scores across the board, our Best Buy award winner The North Face Warm is available for only $5 more. For a full list and analysis of the products we punished in our tests, check our the complete Men's Long Underwear Review.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Long Underwear and Base Layer for Men

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Microchill 2.0 fared the worst overall in our tests of all eleven base layers, but don't let its low score convince you that it's completely worthless. Although it does have several shortcomings, this base layer provides plenty of warmth and durability to last more seasons than most. And at only $55, it is the least expensive model included in this review.

Performance Comparison


The Mountain Hardwear is warm and durable  but fell to the back of the closet in a number of other key areas.
The Mountain Hardwear is warm and durable, but fell to the back of the closet in a number of other key areas.

Warmth


Weighing 10.3 oz, the Microchill 2.0 is the second heaviest product included in our selection, which also resulted in a lot of warmth. The fleece fabric kept us warm in some very cold, dry conditions, both next to skin and as a mid layer. The neck collar is reinforced and very warm, and behind the zipper was an extra strip of material to block air from passing through this more porous area. We appreciated this attention to detail. This top could improve its warmth with a tighter fit, though. The baggy torso and sleeves allowed cool air to move in between our skin and the shirt when untucked, and therefore was unable to trap heat effectively. Alternatively, the Arc'teryx Rho scored a 9 out of 10 in this metric; the highest out of any contender.

The Mountain Hardwear model is a synthetic model that brings some serious heat to any situation. Seen here  it was more than enough to stand up to the autumn chill coming off the Pacific Ocean.
The Mountain Hardwear model is a synthetic model that brings some serious heat to any situation. Seen here, it was more than enough to stand up to the autumn chill coming off the Pacific Ocean.

Breathability


We were least impressed by this product in terms of its breathability. While still much more breathable than hard shells and rain jackets, it fell behind the other base layers in this metric. When activity became more intense, our sweat frequently condensed to the inner layer of the garment. This moisture would eventually be transmitted away from our bodies, but it took longer. In our indoor workout test, it took our torsos at least ten minutes to dry under the Microchill 2.0. For greater breathability, without sacrificing warmth, have a look at the Editors' Choice winner, the SmartWool Merino 250 Base Layer.

Comfort and Fit


We found some positive and negative qualities of the Mountain Hardwear product within this metric. The Velous Micro Fleece is incredibly soft to the touch, and felt great (when dry) against our skin. We also liked the zipper garage that protects the neck against the cold touch of the metal zipper, a feature also found on the Rab Merino+ 160 and Minus33 Isolation Midweight Wool.

We enjoyed some aspects of this top  but the itchy inside of the large logo wasn't one of them.
We enjoyed some aspects of this top, but the itchy inside of the large logo wasn't one of them.

While there were no deal breakers, we did find some features that increased discomfort in this product. When zipped up, the neck becomes very stiff and somewhat unpleasant. Also, the backside of the logo on the left chest is very scratchy and irritated our skin, especially when pressed firmly to our chest under the pressure of a backpack strap. Lastly, the seams of the Microchill 2.0 left clear room for improvement. It was the only product in this review that had bulky overlock seams instead of flatlock ones running up the sides of the torso and along the bottom of the sleeves. We also weren't happy to see a seam running over the top and center of the shoulder, which was again less comfortable under backpack straps.

If you plan on wearing a backpack with your base layer, we recommend considering models that have offset shoulder seams that do not rub under the straps of your pack.

Drying Speed


This product was the slowest to dry in our drying speed test, taking 68% longer to dry out completely than the fastest model. There was some saving grace, however. First, the Microchill 2.0 was one of the toughest synthetic models to fully saturate with water, resisting water absorption as if it thought it was made of wool. Second, the top ¾ of this base layer dried as quick as any other model in this review, as nearly the entirety of the water pooled down around the hems of the sleeves and shirt bottom. In the backcountry, this concentration of water in a smaller area would be easier to wring out to speed up the drying process. In both these manners, the Arc'teryx Rho was very similar to this contender.

Durability


This product is likely the most durable of all products featured in our review. Its fabric is very strong, and there were virtually no signs or wear, and definitely no tear, after three months of extensive use. The Microchill 2.0 was also the least likely to get stuck on velcro, which was handy when reaching into packs and adjusting snow pants. The only potential weak spot is in the armpit, where a seam runs directly to the center of the pit, a point of frequent failure in shirts of any kind. Other models, like The North Face Warm and tasc Base Layer, have gussets to remove the potential for seam failure in this vulnerable location.

The Mountain Hardwear product is probably the most durable model we reviewed this year. Its seams are strong  as well as its fabric  making it ready for rugged backcountry use. The footwear in this photo are the Arc'teryx Bora2 Mid boots  featured in our latest hiking boots review.
The Mountain Hardwear product is probably the most durable model we reviewed this year. Its seams are strong, as well as its fabric, making it ready for rugged backcountry use. The footwear in this photo are the Arc'teryx Bora2 Mid boots, featured in our latest hiking boots review.

Layering Ability


This contender works extremely well as a second layer over t-shirts and other base layers of varying sizes. It could fit over any base layers in this review with ease. Many of our reviewers actually preferred to wear this product as a mid-layer. As a first layer under a jacket or another long sleeved shirt, this product fits too loosely. The extra material cannot avoid bunching up, which limits mobility. For a contender that functions as a base later in terms of layering ability alone, we would recommend checking out the Arc'teryx Rho, which scored a 10 out of 10, or the Editors' Choice winner, the Smartwool Merino 250, which scored a 9 out of 10, and offered high levels of performance in all metrics.

Reviewer Ross Robinson wearing the Mountain Hardwear model over the NTS Mid 250 for solid insulation  breathability  and comfort.
Reviewer Ross Robinson wearing the Mountain Hardwear model over the NTS Mid 250 for solid insulation, breathability, and comfort.

Best Applications


We think this Mountain Hardwear product is best used during periods of no or light activity in cool and cold conditions where working up a sweat is unlikely. We do not recommend using it in wet, cold conditions, or during activities of higher intensity that will generate a lot of sweat. Otherwise, this product also serves as an excellent mid-layer over top of t-shirt or another base layer.

Value


This product didn't provide great performance across the board, but it still has some value. At $55, it costs the least of any product in this review. If you're looking for a warm base layer that can double as a mid-layer at an affordable price, this could be the product for you.

When stopping for a mid-hike lunch  we were happy to have the Mountain Hardwear in our packs to throw on for extra insulation during periods of inactivity.
When stopping for a mid-hike lunch, we were happy to have the Mountain Hardwear in our packs to throw on for extra insulation during periods of inactivity.

Conclusion


The Microchill 2.0 by Mountain Hardwear was the only fleece in our base layer review, and we quickly discovered that it is not the fabric of choice in many circumstances. Its lack of breathability, slow drying speed, below-average comfort, and low versatility made it tough to warrant it for use in several outdoor activities. That said, its low price makes it a justifiable purchase for a limited amount of application, and it will likely outlast most other synthetic, wool, or blended fabric products.

Ross Robinson
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