The Merino Midweight
by REI quietly snagged an overall top five score in our long underwear review. Without dominating any category, this no-frills merino wool model received solid marks on its outdoor report card, and comes at a price of $89.50.
Carpe diem! Ross Robinson gets ready to take advantage of the sunny day in the REI base layer and Asolo Jumla GV boots, which won a Top Pick award in our hiking boots review.
Featuring a moderately dense merino wool as its fabric, this REI model scored above-average in this metric. Also adding to its insulating ability is its good fit for temperature regulation, neither squeezing the torso, nor hanging baggy off our shoulders. It has a significant drop tail, which helps cover your bum and keep the shirt tucked into your pants when active. We also like the long 12-inch zipper that provides a great amount of ventilation for when things got too toasty. The SmartWool Merino 250
was the warmest merino wool product in our review, whereas the Patagonia Capilene Midweight
and Under Armour Base 4.0
were the least warmest contenders, each scoring a 4 out of 10.
When things got warm under the REI model, the 12 inch zipper granted us control to ventilate excess heat.
This contender scored its highest mark in this category, receiving an eight out of ten for its breathability. As expected from a thin, midweight merino wool product, moisture quickly passes through the fabric and is released into the external air. After working up a sweat during our indoor workout, it only took six minutes before our skin was completely dry again. For the most breathable models in this review, check out the Under Armour Base 4.0
or Helly Hansen Lifa Stripe Crew
, which scored 9 out of 10 in this metric. Alternatively, our Top Pick for Light Weight, the Rab Merino+ 160
, scored an eight out of ten, as did the Icebreaker Oasis
, Patagonia Capilene Midweight
, and tasc Base Layer
Feel free to sweat some in this model, as you can count on it to move moisture away from your body effectively.
Comfort and Fit
The REI base layer
reviewed here gave a solid performance in comfort and fit, but didn't sweep us off our feet. It's good enough, with no extras, which is basically this top's mantra. It's not very itchy, and if the longer than average sleeves slid up our raised arms, they generally slid back into place on their own. The top is free of bothersome seams, and underarm gussets allow for sufficient mobility.
This reviewer's best kept secret, a six-pack of hoppy abs, was kept under cover in the REI model, which stayed below the waist with our hands raised overhead.
The fit is similar to that of the Rab Merino+ 160
, which is snug enough for above-average performance without uncomfortable squeezing in any areas. A minor complaint is that the zipper bubbles out somewhat when zipped up, making it look a little awkward. Overall, the comfort and fit is absolutely enough. We only noticed that things could be better when slipping into something more comfortable, such as the SmartWool 250
or Arc'teryx Rho AR
This product dried 23% slower than the fastest drying model, the Helly Hansen Lifa Stripe Crew
. Like the other merino wool products, this top was also resistant to absorbing water and had to be agitated under water before becoming fully saturated.
Being made of wool, we generally don't expect this product to last as long as some of its synthetic counterparts. That said, with the exception of one loose thread at the hem, it didn't show any signs of wear and tear after three months of use. We were impressed by the workmanship of the seams, which were very compact and appeared more durable than many others included in our review. It also didn't pill at all, even after several washes. The top scoring contender for this metric, earning a 9 out of 10, was the Mountain Hardwear Microchill 2.0
. Earning an 8 out of 10 was the Arc'teryx Rho
, The North Face Warm
, and Patagonia Capilene Midweight
; nearing the bottom of the pile was the tasc Base Layer
, which earned a 3 out of 10.
The densely-sewn under arm and side seams of the REI model.
The Merino Midweight fit easily over a form-fitting t-shirt, but its mobility suffered somewhat when worn over another base layer. This model doesn't stretch as much some of the other competitors, like the Rab Merino+ 160
or the Minus33 Isolation Midweight Wool
. It did fit under jackets and tight mid-layers, though, and maintained its mobility well when worn as a first layer.
When moving around in cold weather, just a thin jacket on top of this functional top from REI was all that was necessary. Of course, as temperatures dropped below freezing, we used an more insulating mid-layer and outer shell on top of this shirt.
As this product runs around all the bases well, we found it to be very useful in a wide variety of cool weather activities when worn on its own, as well as cold weather activities under another layer or two. Feel free to wear it on extended trips, too, as the odor-resistant properties of the wool will keep you from smelling rank in your tent at night.
As this product is moderately priced for a zip-neck 100% merino wool top, ringing in at $90, we find it has good value. It might not be as soft, warm, or durable as other models, but it certainly gets the job done in a variety of applications and conditions.
This merino wool product from REI provided very solid performance in the wide range of settings and activities we put it through. From stoking campfires to more arduous activities, we were stoked to wear this first layer.
We were pleasantly surprised by the very solid performance of the Merino Midweight
by REI throughout our testing period. It didn't stand out as the best in any category, but its above-average performance in nearly every test and metric pushed it into the group of top-tier products. In short, it's all you will likely need for most endeavors in which you would consider using a base layer.