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Kari Traa Rose Half Zip Review

This 100% Merino wool contender is surprisingly durable and stylish.
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Price:  $110 List | $65.97 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Durable, cute style, warm, venting features
Cons:  Lacks fabric breathability, lacks a wide range of thermoregulation, itchy fabric, uncomfortable fit
Manufacturer:   Kari Traa
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 14, 2018
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65
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 10
  • Warmth - 20% 7
  • Breathability - 20% 7
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 4
  • Layering Ability - 15% 7
  • Drying Speed - 15% 7
  • Durability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

Are you in search of a durable Merino wool option? The Kari Traa Rose Half Zip features a 100% Merino wool construct that will keep you toasty on the nippiest days. It layers well with its tight fit that doesn't bunch. As a bonus, the face fabric is tightly knit, providing a little wind-resistance and fantastic durability. Plus, we love the cute patterns of the material and the flattering design. With all those pluses, there are a few caveats.

While Merino wool is supposed to be touchably soft, like the Smartwool competitors, our testers reported this shirt it be itchy and less comfortable than other options. The fabric is so tightly knit that it doesn't do an outstanding job (comparatively speaking) of thermoregulating from warm to cold temperatures. As a result, we don't recommend it for highly aerobic activities like winter running or backcountry skiing. A great alternative to these caveats presented in this layer is the Smartwool Merino 250 Crew - a cozy and stylish option. Otherwise, this is a great option for wearing under a jacket around town or on its own during cool days of the Fall or Spring.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Kari Traa Rose Half Zip is a cute and stylish 100% Merino wool base layer. While it is relatively warm with a few unique features, the wool feels scratchy against the skin and sadly doesn't thermoregulate like other Merino wool options. As a result, its a great option for cold weather, but not our favorite as a wear-alone piece during the warmer months.

Performance Comparison


A look at this 100% Merino Wool base layer.
A look at this 100% Merino Wool base layer.

Warmth


A perfect option for cold days and nippy mornings, the Rose Half Zip features 240-g of 100% Merino wool. The fabric is loaded with fine fibers that trap and lock in warmth for the coldest days of winter. The tight-knit face fabric provides a little bit of wind resistance, while the stretchy underarm fabric allows for easy venting. This base layer functions as a stand-alone piece in temperatures ranging from 30 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

A look at the breathable underarms where less Merino wool is used.
A look at the breathable underarms where less Merino wool is used.

Given the tightly woven face fabrics that offer superb durability, the piece actually holds moisture, causing you to cool quickly after exertion. In fact, it almost performs like a synthetic in that regard. As a result, it doesn't offer a whole lot of warmth after activity. Overall, the Rose provides decent warmth for stand-alone use or when milling around town. It's not an excellent option for aerobic purposes.

Breathability


This contender provides reasonable breathability. Unlike other Merino wool contenders, the face fabric is woven super tight decreasing the breathability of the face fabric. It's also not able to wick moisture as well as other contenders either. The unique, stretchy underarm panels and zip-up collar provides ample venting opportunities that other shirts did not have. We also like that the zip offers venting options. As a result, this top isn't our favorite for aerobic days, and we prefer it for walks or running errands around town.

The zip neck provides great ventilation while the underarm fabric provides a place for the escape of heat as well. The face fabric is tightly knit and sadly doesn't breath very well.
The zip neck provides great ventilation while the underarm fabric provides a place for the escape of heat as well. The face fabric is tightly knit and sadly doesn't breath very well.

Comfort & Fit


While Merino wool is typically cozy and comfortable to the touch, we are disappointed with the feel and fit of the Rose Half Zip. While the fabric is soft to the touch, it's itchier then Merino wool contenders…especially when wet. Every other Merino wool base layer did not itch or provide discomfort.

The Kari Traa Rose H/Z is constructed of 100% Merino wool fibers isn't super stretchy  and sadly the fabrics aren't the softest out there. However  it still provides functional comfort for wear outdoors.
The Kari Traa Rose H/Z is constructed of 100% Merino wool fibers isn't super stretchy, and sadly the fabrics aren't the softest out there. However, it still provides functional comfort for wear outdoors.

The fit is another story. The piece is not true to fit and has constrictions around the shoulders and chest. The arms were short, as is the torso. Part of the reason why fit isn't so great is that the fabric doesn't stretch as readily as other contenders. Our advice is to size up if you plan on buying this product.

Layering Ability


This top is perfect to layer underneath your favorite puffy or shell. The face fabric isn't very slippery and can grab layers that are being put over the top, however, it layers better than most Merino wool layers. Since the fit is so tight, the arms and torso don't bunch up. A smaller or tighter shirt can easily be layered underneath this top.

Forging the creek on the way up to a neat little hot spring in Washington. This top is great for wear on its own or underneath a layer.
Forging the creek on the way up to a neat little hot spring in Washington. This top is great for wear on its own or underneath a layer.

Drying Speed


Standing out as a merino wool contender that is not highly absorbent, it has a place in wet weather. In addition, we observed in both our field and dryer tests, it takes an average amount of time to dry. This makes it a great contender for wear in humid or wet weather.

Durability


This top is stand-out for its durability. Given the tightly woven face fabric, it is incredibly durable that can be worn anywhere! It doesn't snag or grab easily and can take abrasion. Through our testing period, we noted no stitching fly-aways or holes after three months of intensive use. The fabric is not nearly as fragile as other Merino wool options, ensuring its use for the years to come.

A look at the tightly knit face fabric that proved to be the most durable Merino wool base layer tested.
A look at the tightly knit face fabric that proved to be the most durable Merino wool base layer tested.

Best Applications


If you plan on frolicking in the snow this winter, the Rose Half Zip will keep you toasty and warm under many layers. Since testers reported itchy fabrics when it was wet, it's not our favorite for aerobic activities, but works great for a day hike or hanging around town. Use it on cool to cold days, but opt for a more breathable and lighter weight article for warmer days in the fall, spring, or summer.

Take this layer skiing  hiking  or camping!
Take this layer skiing, hiking, or camping!

Value


This is not a high-value option. Its performance is sub-par and the price is high at $110 is way too high for what you get. For that price, you can purchase a much higher value product with better features. However, if a durable merino wool layer is what you seek, it might be worth paying this high price.

Conclusion


This 100% Merino wool contender is super durable and offers exceptional warmth. The fabrics aren't as comfortable as most merino wool contenders but it layers nicely and features a cute design that some women love.


Amber King