Initially, the REI Merino Midweight didn't stand out as a product of much intrigue. It just looks like a simple base layer, without extra features or any real style. However, as the testing period carried on, our opinion of this versatile base layer continued to improve. Throughout late fall and early winter, this shirt proved to be a most capable garment for a variety of recreational activities. By sticking to the basics, REI produced a solid product with great performance in the field.
REI Merino Midweight Review
Cons: Moderate durability, did not stand out in any category
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Merino Midweight by REI quietly snagged an overall top 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.
Featuring 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.
This contender scored its highest mark in this category. 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.
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 this top's mantra. It's not very itchy, and if the longer than average sleeves slid up our raised arms, they slid back into place on their own. The top is free of bothersome seams, and underarm gussets allow for sufficient mobility.
The fit 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 are satisfactory. We only noticed that things could be better when comparing side-by-side to other tops.
This top dries moderately fast, and being 100% wool, it continues to insulate when wet. It doesn't dry as quickly as most lightweight tops, but it certainly isn't the slowest either. 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 don't expect this product to last as long as some of its synthetic counterparts. That said, except for 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 quality 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 Merino Midweight fit comfortably 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. It did fit under jackets and tight mid-layers, though, and maintained its mobility well when worn as a first layer.
As this product runs around all the bases well, it is handy 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, 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.
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.
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: December 19, 2016
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