Carhartt Base Force Heavyweight 1/4 Zip - Women's Review
Cons: Need to size up on fit, shorter torso and arm length
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|Pros||Warm, durable, breathable, thumb loops, 1/4 zip design vents well, excellent value, no odor||Wide range of thermoregulation, cozy materials, no odor after long wear, longer fit through torso and arms, versatile||Great thermoregulation, exceptional at wicking, impressive durability, least itch factor of all wool tops tested||Cozy fleece interior, easy to layer, warm, high quality performance, versatile, stash pocket, tight fit||Great thermoregulation, comfortable and fitted fabrics, great patterns and colors|
|Cons||Need to size up on fit, shorter torso and arm length||Stretches after wearing for several days, thick construction isn't ideal for warmer days||Not very cozy||More expensive, not super breathable||Poor durability|
|Bottom Line||A high value contender built to take on the elements of all seasons||Comfort and excellent thermoregulation with quality construction||A lightweight base layer that packs in amazing comfort and versatility||Versatility and performance all in one package||Impeccable comfort and thermoregulation, but not without some durability problems|
|Rating Categories||Base Force Heavyweight 1/4 Zip||Merino 250 1/4 Zip||Merino 200 Oasis Crewe||Rho LT Zip||185 Rock'N'Wool Long Sleeve|
|Comfort And Fit (20%)|
|Layering Ability (20%)|
|Specs||Base Force...||Merino 250 1/4 Zip||Merino 200 Oasis...||Rho LT Zip||185 Rock'N'Wool...|
|Fabric Weight||Midweight||Midweight (250 g/m²)||Midweight (200 g/m²)||Midweight (185 g/m²)||Midweight (185 g/m²)|
|Measured Weight||6.8 oz**||8.4 oz**||5.8 oz||7.0 oz||5.1 oz|
|Material||80% polyester, 20% wool||100% merino wool||100% merino wool||Torrent (84% polyester / 16% elastane)||100% merino wool|
|Cuts avaliable||1/4 zip||Crew, 1/4 zip||Crew, 1/2 zip neck||1/4 zip neck||Crew, 1/4 zip|
|Smelly over time?||No||No||No||Yes||No|
|Odor Control Fabric||Naturally odor resistant||Naturally odor resistant||Naturally odor resistant||Polygiene||Naturally odor resistant|
|UPF (Sun Protection)||N/A||No||No||N/A||No|
|Length (short, medium, long)||Medium||Medium||Medium||Long||Medium|
|Fit (Based on 5'7, 140-lb woman wearing size small)||Fit is small, size up||Fitted (not tight), true to fit.||Fitted (not tight), true to fit.||Tight and long, true to fit.||Fitted (not tight), true to fit.|
|Accessory Pocket?||No||No||No||Yes (on arm)||No|
|Flat-lock seams (prevents chaffing)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Carhartt Base Force Heavyweight ¼ Zip is a polyester-merino wool base layer top that balances warmth and breathability. Midweight in its performance, it can easily be layered under any cold-weather outfit or worn on its own on warmer days. Its durability and value are unbeatable, making it a great option for deal-seekers. Just be sure to get the right fit.
This deliciously warm base layer top is a great choice for the four-seasons where colder weather might abound. Advertised as a 'heavy-weight' base layer top, it's built to keep you warm when the temperatures plummet. While it is thicker than most base layer tops, it still feels more like a midweight top. It's one we'd sport throughout all the seasons, although summer use is mostly restricted to alpine environments and nighttime.
Built with a polyester-merino wool blend, it features excellent thermoregulation to keep you dry and, thus, warm. When we took a windy hike-run up the Red Mountains in Ouray, CO, we decided to wear this as our stand-alone layer. When we got sweaty from running, it wicked and breathed efficiently while the thicker materials kept us protected from cold, cutting winds.
During a cold spell during the Fall months in Colorado, we chose to wear it as our primary base layer while working outside in 10-degree weather, all-day. It kept us dry and warm in these conditions. We also wore it during warm days and learned that it still did a great job.
It has all the warmth extras that we appreciate. The ¼ zip collar allows you to regulate heat build-up and with added neck protection. The length is also sufficient to keep you completely covered. Overall, a warm contender that'll keep you protected and happy as either a layer or a stand-alone long sleeve.
With a construction that boasts both polyester (80%) and merino wool (20%), it has a wide range of thermoregulation. The 1/4 zip construction allows you to off-load heat easily with the fabric breathing efficiently. It's not the lightest construction, so we'd recommend it for any aerobic mission in cool or cold weather, but it's not built to completely keep you dry when the temperatures begin to rise.
When you hold the materials up to the sky, you can see the porosity of the fabric—little tiny holes that promote airflow, and thus breathability. The rigid polyester fibers do an excellent job of wicking and moving moisture, while the merino wool aims to keep you warm whether the shirt gets soaked or stays dry.
When running with it on in 40-degree weather, it remained on our bodies the whole time. We zipped up the collar when a cold wind came by and zipped it down when it started to heat up. Once the temperatures moved into the 50s (F) we ended up taking it and just running with a tank layered underneath. For climbing, we were able to climb in this top easily during crisp and cool weather, with it breathing well for this activity.
Overall, breathability is as you'd expect it to be for any high-performance top. It provides excellent breathability with a material thickness that resembles a midweight layer. It's thick but not too thick that it doesn't breathe through the fabric. It's a great option to wear as a complement to any winter outfit or a stand-alone layer in warm weather.
Comfort and Fit
When unpacking this top, we were initially surprised at the level of high-quality construction. The materials are as soft as any 100% merino wool contender, with a stellar fit that doesn't stretch out even after wearing it for days. While we can appreciate that most merino wool tops are super cozy, many will deform and will not hold their shape over time. With the polyester integration, you get the best of both worlds, cozy comfort with a fit that stays consistent as you wear it, even after days of no washing. This was our experience anyway.
Another excellent comfort feature is the ¼ zip neck, which allows you to wear it in two different ways. Either zipper up or down for different types of weather. The neck collar is nice and roomy, while the materials offer just enough stretch and mobility to move with the body.
As an added bonus, it has thumb loops, which we love! While our testers did use them often, our team felt the loops are a bit small. Since it is simply a thin piece of material and not very padded, it's not as comfortable as other thumb loops we've seen.
The fit of this top feels a little small. Our main tester is 145 lbs, 5"7, with an athletic build who normally wears a size 6 or size small top. We ended up ordering a size medium, which Carharrt advertises as a perfect option for size 8 - 10. This fits our size 6 tester perfectly. As a result, we'd recommend sizing up, especially if you're between sizes.
The length is sufficient for ladies with a medium torso, but those who are a little longer might find the fit short. The arms are just long enough for "medium" and "short" limbed testers but a little short for those with longer arms. On a windy day on a ridge, we did wish for longer arms and a little more stretch to the materials. We tried to pull the shirt over our hands when we didn't have a coat on but couldn't quite get that extra coverage. As a result, the fit feels a bit small and offers just the right amount of stretch. For some, the coverage may not be enough.
The layering ability of this shirt is excellent. Whether you're adding a fleece over top in cold weather or a tank underneath, we had no problems pulling them on. The materials are primarily polyester with less friction than 100% merino wool tops. The materials don't bunch and will maintain its shape without riding up. The thumb loops help too.
Wow! After testing the Carharrt Base Force Heavyweight 1/4 Zip while running, climbing, biking, and hiking, it still looks new. We've washed it, thrashed it, and pulled at the fibers to see if they'd deform. After all our abrasion and washing tests, it holds up. We will continue to test this top for a longer period and get back to you if anything changes over the year.
One of our main abrasion tests was wearing this top with a 70-L loaded pack for two weeks while working an outdoor education job. We typically did a lot of bushwacking, getting into the willows of beautiful riparian zones and commonly encountering bushes that grabbed and pulled on it. We also wore it while climbing in Red Rocks on multi-pitch climbing routes, wiggling up dihedrals, and face climbing with friends.
Through it all, the polyester-merino construction holds up. After inspecting for any signs of wear, we see no holes and just a tiny bit of minor pilling (as we observed with all merino wool tops). The construction also looks solid, with no thread fly-aways or unraveling. So far, we deem it quite durable and are happy with its performance.
To be frank, we haven't found a base layer top that offers this high level of value. While it's not 100% merino wool, it boasts all the performance and comforts of merino wool, with better durability (due to the polyester integration). It also doesn't stretch out after wearing for days on end, like other 100% merino tops typically do. For the price, the performance is unbeatable, making it one of the best value options you'll find on the market.
If you seek a high-value base layer top, find confidence in the Carhartt Base Force Heavyweight ¼ Zip. While advertised as heavy-weight, it feels more like a midweight top. It's a great choice for four-season use, providing ample warmth in the winter in a layered system and excellent breathability to wear on its own. It's a cute, comfortable, and welcome addition to any outdoor woman's closet. The best part? It's affordable. Just be sure to get the right fit.
— Amber King