Hands-on Gear Review

REI Merino Midweight Review

The REI Merino Midweight provided above-average performance across the board without wowing us in any specific areas. It's all you need, without any extras.
REI Co-op Merino Midweight
By: Ross Robinson ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 19, 2016
Price:  $90 List  |  $89.50 at REI
Pros:  Solid across the board, good breathability, relatively fast drying speed
Cons:  Moderate durability, did not stand out in any category
Manufacturer:   REI

Our Verdict

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.


Our Analysis and Test Results

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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.

Performance Comparison


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.
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.

Warmth


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.

When things got warm under the REI model  the 12 inch zipper granted us control to ventilate excess heat.
When things got warm under the REI model, the 12 inch zipper granted us control to ventilate excess heat.

Breathability


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.

Feel free to sweat some in this model  as you can count on it to move moisture away from your body effectively.
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 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.

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.
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 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.

Drying Speed


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.

Durability


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 densely-sewn under arm and side seams of the REI model.
The densely-sewn under arm and side seams of the REI model.

Layering Ability


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.

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.
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.

Best Applications


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.

Value


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.

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.
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.

Conclusion


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.

Ross Robinson


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Most recent review: December 19, 2016
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