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Ridge Merino Inversion Crew Review

If you want to add a little extra warmth to your winter, the features in this base layer will surely help
Ridge Merino Inversion Crew
Photo: Ridge Merino
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Price:  $90 List
Pros:  Heavier and warmer than most midweight tops, thumb loops, long cut
Cons:  Slow to dry when saturated, questionable durability
Manufacturer:   Ridge Merino
By Aaron Rice ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 10, 2020
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 16
  • Warmth - 25% 8
  • Breathability - 20% 6
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 8
  • Drying Speed - 10% 3
  • Durability - 15% 6
  • Layering Ability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

Walking the line between heavy- and mid-weight base layer, the Ridge Merino Inversion Crew is guaranteed to provide that extra little bit of warmth we so often seek in the dead of winter. This top is thoughtfully and purposefully designed for the winter sports crowd (in fact, owner/co-founder Jeff Russell headed up D&D for technical outerwear at Armada Skis for a decade.) With features like a raglan construction to keep seams off your shoulders when wearing a pack, thumb loops, and an extra-long cut hem to keep your base layer tucked in and snow out, we cannot wait to get this 100% merino wool layer out in the snow for more testing.

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Pros Heavier and warmer than most midweight tops, thumb loops, long cutTemperature regulation, ultra-cozy, balance of warmth and breathabilitySpectra is the strongest fabric material on the market, lightweight, quick-drying, merino wool-like comfortAffordable, fashionable fit, breathableAffordable, tough and ultralight, thoughtful articulation, UPF protection
Cons Slow to dry when saturated, questionable durabilityExpensive, recommend special laundering, slow to air-dryEasily picks up odor, stiff collar, lack of articulationFiner thread Merino is not quite as warm, slightly itchy, shoulder top seamsIneffective odor control, warm-weather focused
Bottom Line If you want to add a little extra warmth to your winter, the features in this base layer will surely helpThis all-around favorite continues to keep us warm, dry, and comfortable in nearly any situationAn ultralight, breathable base layer that incorporates Spectra fiber to make it the most durable on the marketThis top delivers the fine qualities of a merino wool base layer without the extreme costA versatile, lightweight, and affordable layer that protects from the sun and fights off the chill of early adventure mornings
Rating Categories Ridge Merino Invers... SmartWool Merino 25... NW Alpine Spectra Meriwool Midweight... Outdoor Research Ec...
Warmth (25%)
8.0
9.0
5.0
8.0
5.0
Breathability (20%)
6.0
7.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
Comfort And Fit (20%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Drying Speed (10%)
3.0
5.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
Durability (15%)
6.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
Layering Ability (10%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
Specs Ridge Merino Invers... SmartWool Merino 25... NW Alpine Spectra Meriwool Midweight... Outdoor Research Ec...
Material 100% merino wool 100% merino wool 90% polyester, and 10% Spectra 100% merino wool Airvent 100% polyester
Fabric Weight 270 g/m² 250 g/m² 105 g/m² 250g/m² 108 g/m²
Weight (size M) 11.0 oz 9.3 oz 4.8 oz 9.8 oz 3.4 oz
Types available crew crew, 1/4 zip, hoody crew, short sleeve crew crew, 1/4 zip, hoody
Thumb Loops? Yes No No No No
Air Dry Test (minutes) 70 50 40 45 30
Fit Slim fit Slim fit Slim fit Slim fit Slim fit
Stitching Flatlock and flat seams Flatlock seams Flatlock and flat seams Flatlock and flat seams Flatlock seams
Dryer safe? No No No No Yes
Shoulder top seams? No No Yes Yes No
Drop tail hem? No, but extra long cut No No Yes No

Our Analysis and Test Results

Although we wouldn't quite qualify it as heavyweight top—despite advertising—the 270 g/m², 100% merino wool fabric of the Ridge Merino Inversion certainly adds a little oomph to warmth when compared directly to its competitors. This base layer is designed with winter sports in mind, incorporating thick thumb loops and an extra-long cut to ensure that your base layer doesn't become exposed to the harsh realities of an alpine winter.

Performance Comparison


Clear and crisp, a perfect start to an autumn day of alpine climbing...
Clear and crisp, a perfect start to an autumn day of alpine climbing and a perfect excuse to cozy up in this extra-thick base layer.
Photo: Jill Rice

Warmth


From skiing and snowboarding to expedition and ice climbing, the Inversion is a layer designed to optimize time spent out in the cold. Ridge defines it as a "heavyweight" base layer at a fabric weight of 270 g/m², which is only 20 g/m² more than most of the merino tops we tested. We would qualify it as a beefed-up midweight layer. We noticed a difference in warmth when the temperature dropped, and this base layer managed to keep us comfortably warm in our sleeping bags even as the thermometer sank well-below freezing.

The Ridge base layer was a great addition to our early Spring or...
The Ridge base layer was a great addition to our early Spring or late Fall backpacking kit. It's breathable enough to hike in all day, and particularly warm to sleep in at night.
Photo: Jill Rice

More importantly than fabric density, this top incorporates design specifics to help it stay in place during cold-weather activity. An extra-long cut of the hem allows one to tuck it in easier, and plush thumb loops keep snow out of your sleeves. We particularly appreciated that the thumb loops are designed with accompanying garages, so they partially tuck-away when not being used.

Double the thumb loops, double the fun.
Double the thumb loops, double the fun.
Photo: Jill Rice

Breathability


The Inversion top is spun from ultra-fine, 100% merino wool and enjoys all of the benefits of this all-natural super-fiber. Efficient thermoregulation is driven by wool's ability to effectively wick up and disperse moisture to the outside of the fabric for evaporation. The slightly thicker cut of the fabric on this top does seem to slow this process slightly, but certainly not in the way that it would be obvious while working hard on the skin track. One unique and thoughtful design point is the thick sweatband around the back of the collar, which does help catch sweat when working particularly hard. But it really comes down to personal preference — is a slight decrease in breathability a tradeoff you are willing to make for an extra boost in warmth?

Though it is certainly not our top choice for running, this top...
Though it is certainly not our top choice for running, this top performed nicely on fall trail runs when there is just a tinge of cold in the shadows.
Photo: Jill Rice

Comfort and Fit


The thick cut of the Inversion makes it extra plush. This is the type of layer you will love to wear all day up on the mountain, to bed as pajamas, and then back out onto the mountain to start the process all over again. Dirtbags, rejoice! Fortunately, Merino wool's natural antimicrobial properties make this more of a reasonable reality — even after a full day of alpine climbing, we had no issues with stench when we curled back up into our sleeping bag at night.

Our head tester is 5'10", 155lb, wearing a size medium.
Our head tester is 5'10", 155lb, wearing a size medium.
Photo: Jill Rice

The Inversion is purposefully cut long to make it easier to tuck in, and although it is a slim fit, this allows for a little extra room for girth. Similarly, the arms are cut a bit longer than most so that you can comfortably tuck into the thumb loops without stretching out the naturally elastic wool. Our head tester is 5'10", 155lb, with a slender mountaineer's frame, and fits perfectly in a size Medium. If you fall between sizes on the larger side of the spectrum—for example, a medium is a tad too small, but a large much too big—we suggest sticking with your normal sizing based on the extra-long cut.

If it was tough to see in the size comparison, here is a close-up of...
If it was tough to see in the size comparison, here is a close-up of the extra-long hem of this base layer top.
Photo: Jill Rice

Drying Speed


It may come as little surprise that the extra-hefty Inversion took the longest to dry out of any of the midweight Merino tops we tested. But it did take an extra-long time, so for those planning to pack this as one of your few layers on an extended backpacking or expedition trip, make sure you give yourself much more than an hour to wash and sun-dry. Fortunately, this same slow drying speed didn't directly translate to high-intensity activities. We had no issues with the fabric soaking through with sweat when worn next to skin—the Merino wool worked precisely as it should.

Designers include an extra-thick sweat band that extends only across...
Designers include an extra-thick sweat band that extends only across the back of your neck, adding not real bulk and doing a nice job of keeping sweat from dripping down your back.
Photo: Jill Rice

Durability


Please don't let our hesitance surrounding durability turn you away from an otherwise great base layer top. But when directly compared to others in a similar weight class, our abrasion test revealed some serious pilling and a slight discoloration of face fabric unique to the Inversion. Nothing to be seriously worried about, but it does raise an eyebrow and is certainly something to watch out for if you plan on taking this top along on a desert crack-climbing trip.

Although we don't forsee any major issues with durability, the...
Although we don't forsee any major issues with durability, the pilling that resulted from our abrasion test was a bit concerning.
Photo: Aaron Rice

Our main concern is that while most of the construction is backed by more durable flatlock seams, for some reason, the hem and main cuff are simple flat seams that can be more prone to unraveling through wear and tear. Fortunately, Ridge backs up all of their products with an 100% satisfaction guarantee that protects against, "manufacturing and material defects for their lifetime [of the product]." That said, they also claim that normal wear and tear does not qualify as under warranty.

A direct comparison of hem stitches between the Ridge Merino...
A direct comparison of hem stitches between the Ridge Merino Inversion, with a simple flat stitch (top), and the full flatlock seam of our favorite top overall, the SmartWool Merino 250 (bottom). We expect the SmartWool seams to last longer.
Photo: Jill Rice

Layering Ability


One good thing about thick base layers, you don't have to excessively layer them when the temperatures drop. We loved the fact that we could wear the Inversion confidently under a lightweight shell (like a windbreaker), through a range of temperatures, and only have to reach for a light puffy when alpine temperatures dropped at night. Like other, thicker layers we tested, this top also doubles well as a less bulky mid-layer, making it an extra-versatile addition to your winter wardrobe.

Just enough to keep you warm without adding any extra bulk: that is...
Just enough to keep you warm without adding any extra bulk: that is the constant struggle in the layering game. Fortunately, this base layer handles this problem with ease.
Photo: Jill Rice

Value


Unfortunately, the Inversion does not entirely escape the stereotype of expensive, 100% Merino wool base layers. While you can expect to pay for top-quality features, they may also be more than worth the extra cost, particularly if you are in the market specifically for a go-to base layer for a slew of winter adventures just off the horizon. And while this top isn't cheap, it's one of the least expensive merino wool tops in our line-up.

Even though this top was little warm for the 9 miles of uphill on...
Even though this top was little warm for the 9 miles of uphill on this trail, nonetheless it does perform nicely as a standalone layer for fall mountain biking.
Photo: Jill Rice

Conclusion


We love the plush, cozy, and athletically-inclined performance of the Ridge Merino Inversion. For those particularly susceptible to chilly core temperatures, the extra heft of this base layer may be just what the doctor ordered for staying warm, comfortable, and dry this winter.

Aaron Rice