Hands-on Gear Review

REI Co-op Midweight Base Layer Crew - Women's Review

This Best Buy award winner provides a great range of thermoregulation for versatile all-year round use.
By: Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 27, 2018
Price:  $50 List  |  $49.95 at REI
Pros:  Great value, fitted, cute patterns, quick to wick, good breathability
Cons:  Not super warm, stinky fabric over time, lacks durability
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 9
  • Warmth - 20% 5
  • Breathability - 20% 8
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 8
  • Layering ability - 15% 9
  • Drying Speed - 15% 8
  • Durability - 10% 8
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Best Buy Award

Our Verdict

The REI Co-op Midweight Base Layer Crew is a high-performance active-wear base layer suited perfectly for year-round use. Its affordable price tag and performance through a plethora of conditions earns it our Best Buy award winner this year. The soft polyester-spandex blend provides a versatile and long fit for all body types. It's easy to layer, making it simple to wear with a cozy mid-layer or jacket. Thanks to its thinner construct, it doubles as a fantastic wear-alone piece in the warmer months or while breaking a sweat during your favorite winter sport.

We tested this base layer while winter running, fall hiking, and skiing both in the backcountry and at the resort. While it's quite breathable, it's not nearly as warm or comfortable as the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip Neck, featuring a fleece-lined interior and a skin-tight fit. While it kept us comfortable and warm on the move, it wasn't our favorite for standing around in super cold temperatures because the fabric seems to retain moisture more readily than other merino-wool based contenders. That said, it's perfect for more aerobic sports in the winter, and as a great stand-alone piece in the summer months. To boot, its durable and the price for just $50 (retail) isn't bad either. If you're looking for a base layer that won't empty your wallet while providing decent performance overall, this Best Buy award winner is our best recommendation.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

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Taking home the Best Buy award this year, the REI Co-Op Midweight base layer is the most affordable and best-performing base layer tested. Wear it all year while relishing in its exceptional breathability, style, and fit.

Performance Comparison


The Midweight Base Layer wins our Best Buy award for its low price and great performance.
The Midweight Base Layer wins our Best Buy award for its low price and great performance.

Warmth


As a thinner synthetic base layer option, it certainly is not the warmest of all the contenders. As a result, it earns an average five out of ten in this category. Featuring a 92% polyester/8% spandex blend, this layer performs well to wick away moisture and keep you warm on the move. Our testers found it to be sufficient while backcountry skiing in negative 20-degree weather. As a result, its a great option for active wear in cold weather, but it's not our top choice for stand-alone warmth.


If you seek a synthetic base layer offering ample warmth (and a lower price tag), The North Face Warm Crew is our favorite. It features a thicker construct and is a little less breathable, offering better stand-alone warmth on cold days. Alternatively, the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip is the warmest synthetic, but it's expensive. Its fleece-lined interior is not only cozy but warm, providing the best thermoregulation of any synthetic base layer tested. That said, it's best for winter recreation and not our top pick for highly aerobic activities like running or cross-country skiing.

This top is a little thinner than most and as a result  it's not the warmest in this review. That said  it does well as a base layer in colder weather.
This top is a little thinner than most and as a result, it's not the warmest in this review. That said, it does well as a base layer in colder weather.

If you seek the warmest base layer out there, the super cozy Icebreaker 260 Midweight is your best bet. The fabric is thicker and warmer, similar to the WoolX Hannah, providing the most warmth for the coldest days out there. Both of these options are much warmer than the Midweight Base Layer Crew because they are thicker and do a better job wicking away moisture.

A zip neck collar will provide a little more coverage and protection, providing better overall warmth. The Midweight Base Layer Half-Zip adds a little extra warmth.

Breathability


If breathability is what you seek, the Midweight Base Layer Crew does a great job! While taking this layer hiking, running, and backcountry skiing, it performed quite well keeping our testers warm and mostly dry in a wide range of temperatures. The polyester blend is tight fitting, wicking away moisture from the skin in temperatures ranging from zero to 50 degrees. It scores an eight out of ten in this category for its thinner construct that performs well under most conditions.


While it works well in warmer temperatures, we found that when layering it under mid-layers, the fabric will wick moisture away from the skin, but will hold it in the material. When ski touring on a cold day, we found that when wearing the base layer on its own, we were fine and happy. But when a mid layer was added, moisture held itself in the fabric, effectively making us colder while standing. Wool layers like the Smartwool Merino 250 1/4 Zip, our ultra-breathable Editors' Choice award winner, did a better job to remove moisture from the fabric. As a result, we wouldn't recommend it as a layer to wear in super cold temperature where you might have to sit around for long periods of time after sweating. But it does a great job during warmer runs or hikes as a stand-alone piece.

The crew collar of the Midweight base layer is perfect for snow hiking on warmer days.
The crew collar of the Midweight base layer is perfect for snow hiking on warmer days.

If you seek the most breathable synthetic baselayer out there for a comparatively lower price, the Patagonia Midweight Capilene Crew earned a perfect ten for breathability. This is simply because the inner fleece provides more airflow and doesn't hold moisture easily.

Comfort & Fit


We adore the comfort of this contender. Earning an eight out of ten, our testers love the stretchiness of the thinner fabric and its stretchy, longer fit through the torso and arms. While layering it under fleecy layers, the shirt stays in place and conforms to the curves and shoulders of even our more voluptuous testers. It hugs thinner frames and provides great coverage for all body types. It is true to its size.


While the face fabric is soft to the touch, it's not as cozy or comfortable as merino wool contenders like the Smartwool Merino 250 Baselayer Crew, our Top Pick for Everyday Wear. Nor is the interior lined with a fleecy material like the Arc'teryx Rho LT (Our Top Synthetic Pick) or the Patagonia Capilene Crew. The fabric also feels great against the skin, without itching when it gets wet or sweaty. Overall, this is a comfortable bare-bones baselayer is excellent for wear-all-day or multiple days on end.

A look at the fit of this comfortable synthetic base layer.
A look at the fit of this comfortable synthetic base layer.

Layering Ability


Featuring a slippery face fabric and thinner construct, the Midweight Crew is easy to put underneath fleece mid-layers or jackets. The fit is tight to the skin, so the shirt doesn't bunch up or catch when pulling layers over on top. That said, because of its tight fit, it's not ideal to put a t-shirt underneath. Only a tight tank top will fit readily. It earns a nine out of ten for its exceptional ability to layer underneath grabby layers.


Similar to the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip Neck, this REI shirt is super easy to layer. Unlike Merino wool contenders like the Smartwool ΒΌ Zip it does not grab or bunch up. If you prefer a less tight fit that might accommodate more layers underneath, be sure to check out the synthetic Patagonia Capilene Crew. It has a boxier fit that will accommodate a t-shirt or even another baselayer underneath.

Trying on different layers in double negative digits in Northern Ontario.
Trying on different layers in double negative digits in Northern Ontario.

Drying Speed


Looking for a shirt to wear when it's pouring outside? The Midweight Crew is the second least absorbent, and fastest drying tops tested. It took only 50 minutes to dry. In the field, we observed a similar pattern after getting caught in a little snow storm. The top did not absorb the snow easily (like Merino wool contenders), and after it stopped, it took a few minutes before we felt dry again. As a result, it scores a nine out of ten.


Performing similarily in this metric is The North Face Warm Crew. It dried at the same rate and absorbed the same amount of water. The only layer that did better in this metric (earning a perfect ten) is the highly breathable Patagonia Capilene Crew.


Durability


With over three months of testing and over 15 washes, this layer stands up! We took it running, climbing, and skiing, wearing it with heavy (and light) backpacks in a wide range of temperatures. Throughout all, the Midweight Base Layer Crew showed little to no wear and tear! We didn't observe any piling or stitching fly-aways. The burly polyester fabric provides resistance to high-friction sports like crack climbing, and canyoneering earns a high score for its great durability throughout this period. However, the fabric (despite the odor-resistance) started to retain a stench after this period, and we docked it in points.


While the Midweight Crew is a great synthetic layer, it's not as durable as the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip featuring beautiful craftsmanship and thicker fabrics. Another layer earning a high score in durability is the Patagonia Capilene Crew for its more wind-resistant face fabrics that didn't snag while hiking through the bush. While its a little thicker and burlier, the stitching isn't as quality as either the REI Crew or Arc'teryx Zip base layer. Overall, the Midweight Crew will last for a few years with its synthetic construct and high performance during our testing period.

This layer proved to be fairly durable  except there was minor pilling observed at the seams.
This layer proved to be fairly durable, except there was minor pilling observed at the seams.

Best Applications


As a thinner, fitted baselayer, the Midweight Crew is best for warm to cool weather as a stand-alone piece. It performed well for all seasons thermoregulating in temperatures from zero to 50 degrees. It's a great option for hiking in the Fall or Spring, or while touring uphill on colder days. It's highly layerable making it a great option for cold-weather wear, but it's not the warmest option out there; it's perfect for most outdoor adventures that don't involve standing around in the cold for too long. Its cute design also makes it wearable for days out with friends or strolling around town. Take it running, hiking, or skiing all year round!

Take this layer winter exploring or on your next adventure into the backcountry.
Take this layer winter exploring or on your next adventure into the backcountry.

Value


Winning our Best Buy award, we think this base layer is high value. At only $50 retail (and for less online) this fairly durable will keep you happy for years to come. If you prefer a high value merino wool base layer, we like the WoolX Hannah for just $79.

Conclusion


This Best Buy winner will have you charging uphill in the snow, spring, and fall. Wear it as a stand-alone piece in the winter or under a cozy mid-layer in the winter. For a great low price of $50, the durable REI Midweight Crew is a great synthetic option.

Skinning out in Leavenworth WA after a fun day in the snow.
Skinning out in Leavenworth WA after a fun day in the snow.

Amber King

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Most recent review: March 27, 2018
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