Hands-on Gear Review

Kari Traa Rose Half Zip Review

This warm 100% Merino wool layer is the most durable of its kind.
By: Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 27, 2018
Price:  $110 List  |  $71.47 at Amazon - 35% Off
Pros:  Durable, cute style, warm, venting features
Cons:  Lacks fabric breathability, lacks a wide range of thermoregulation, itchy fabric, uncomfortable fit
Manufacturer:   Kari Traa

#9 of 9
  • Warmth - 20% 7
  • Breathability - 20% 7
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 4
  • Layering ability - 15% 7
  • Drying Speed - 15% 7
  • Durability - 10% 8
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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, most of us loved the cute patterns of the material (some of our testers didn't) and the flattering design. With all those pluses, there are a few caveats, however, that gave this shirt our lowest score in the review.

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 - our Top Pick for everyday wear. 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 conditions. 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.


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, similar to the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip Neck, our Top Pick for Versatility, 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.

This top performs similarly to the The North Face Warm Crew - Women's, one of the warmest synthetic base layers tested. However, it's not as toasty as other Merino wool competitors like the Icebreaker Tech 260 Midweight featuring 260g of Merino wool. In fact, when switching out base layers on a testing day in the winter, we felt much colder when changing from the WoolX Hannah, with only 230g of Merino Wool. This is because the Rose holds more moisture in the fabric than other Merino wool tops. In fact, it almost performs like a synthetic in that regard. As a result, it doesn't keep you warm when you stop moving after sweating. Overall, the Rose provides decent warmth for stand-alone use or when milling around town. It's not an excellent option for aerobic purposes.

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


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. That said it still scores a seven out of ten for its ability to vent. The unique, stretchy underarm panels and zip-up collar provides ample venting opportunities that other shirts did not have. As a result, this top wasn't our favorite for aerobic days, and we preferred it for walks around town or while running errands around town.

If you seek a Merino wool base layer that breathes super well, be sure to check out our Editors' Choice winner, the Smartwool Merino 250 1/4 Zip. We'd also recommend our Top Pick for Breathability, the Patagonia Midweight Capilene Crew that does best for aerobic days through all four seasons.

Forging the creek on the way up to a neat little hot spring in Washington.
Forging the creek on the way up to a neat little hot spring in Washington.

Comfort & Fit

While Merino wool is typically cozy and comfortable to the touch, we were 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. Every other Merino wool base layer did not itch or provide discomfort. As a result, this top scores a measly four out of ten in this category.

The fit is another story. Our testers found it was small, with constrictions around the shoulders and chest. The arms were short, as was the torso. Part of the reason why fit wasn't so great is because the fabric doesn't stretch as readily as other contenders like the Smartwool Merino 250 Baselayer Crew - our Top Pick for Everyday wear or the REI Co-op Midweight Base Layer Crew, our Best Buy award winner. Our advice is to size up if you plan on buying this product.

The Kari Traa Rose H/Z is constructed of 100% Merino wool fibers.
The Kari Traa Rose H/Z is constructed of 100% Merino wool fibers.

Layering Ability

Scoring a seven out of ten, the Rose Half Zip is set to layer underneath your favorite puffy or shell. Unlike the super easy to layer Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip, the face fabric isn't very slippery and tends to grab layers that are being put over the top. Since the fit is so tight, the arms and torso don't bunch up like we found with other Merino wool options like the WoolX Hannah and Icebreaker Tech 260 Midweight. If you prefer a synthetic shirt is easy to layer, we'd recommend the REI Midweight Crew, as it features a close to the skin fit and slippery face fabric.

Drying Speed

Like other Merino wool contenders, this shirt took roughly 90-minutes to dry completely. As a result, it scores an average seven out of ten, drying faster than the Smartwool 250 Crew. Also, it is one of the least absorbent merino wool contenders, making it a great option for wet weather.


The most durable Merino wool base layer tested! With no noted stitching fly-aways or holes after three months of intensive use, we are happy to give this product a whopping eight out of ten. The fabric is not nearly as fragile as the Smartwool options, ensuring its use for the years to come.

The tightly-woven face fabric proved to resist snags during a sunny Fall bushwacking excursion, making it a tremendous wear-alone option while hiking. The heftier fabric design doesn't stretch, making it more durable than other Merino wool contenders. If you seek the most durable option of them all, the synthetic Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip is our favorite. This base layer has stood up even after three years of consistent testing. Even after that time, it proves to be more durable as the fabric didn't show any pilling in our testing period, unlike the Rose Half Zip. During our testing, there were no noted 'smells' that persisted in the fabric.

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 still works great as a stand-alone layer. 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!


We are not impressed by the price versus performance ratio. As our lowest scoring contender, the extraordinary price of $110 is way too high for what you get. For that price, you can purchase our Editors' Choice winner, the Smartwool 250 Midweight ΒΌ Zip, which provides a better range of thermoregulation (though it's not as durable). Alternatively, you could also get the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip for just $15 more. This base layer is head and shoulders above the Rose Half Zip, though it isn't Merino wool. If you prefer the best value out there, be sure to check out the REI Co-op Midweight Crew (our Best Buy award winner) or The North Face Crew Warm for just $50.


This 100% Merino wool contender is warm with a cute look to some. While it's perfect for cool to cold weather, it is not hugely versatile or a top choice for aerobic adventures.

Amber King

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