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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Backcountry.com Prime Merino Crew > Test Report by Chad E. Fike

BACKCOUNTRY.COM PRIME MERINO CREW SHIRT
TEST SERIES BY CHAD EMERSON FIKE
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - March 20, 2009
FIELD REPORT - May 21, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - July 23, 2009

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Chad Emerson Fike
EMAIL: chadfike"at"hotmail"dot"com
AGE: 36
LOCATION: Oakland, Maryland USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 150 lb (68.00 kg)

I have gone camping, usually very close to home, since my teens but only started seriously backpacking around age 30. I do mostly weekend trips and often take dayhikes. My backpacking experience has been mostly in West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia, including parts of the Appalachian Trail. Each trip has been a learning experience about techniques and equipment. I try to balance weight, durability, and cost with my gear choices.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1
March 20, 2009
Manufacturer: Backcountry.com
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: www.backcountry.com
MSRP: Not provided
Listed Weight: Not provided
Measured Weight, Men's Medium: 4.2 oz (125 g)
Color: Brick

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

The Backcountry.com Prime Merino Short-Sleeve Men's Crew Shirt arrived with a hangtag indicating that "Prime layering technology is tuned to meet your body's temperature and moisture management needs throughout the entire range of human activity." The shirt is a solid shade of red called "Brick". A reflective silver goat logo is located on the left breast. The back side of the right sleeve has another small reflective silver goat logo
IMAGE 3
REAR SLEEVE LOGO
beside the word "backcountry". The hangtag advertises that "High-stretch, fast-wicking synthetics and pure Merino wool combine to keep you performing optimally at every level of exertion". Perhaps other articles in the Prime clothing line do contain some "fast-wicking synthetics", but the tag located on the left side interior near the waist indicates that the shirt is "100% Merino". The reverse of this tag provides the following care instructions: "Machine Wash Cold, Tumble Dry Low Heat, No Bleach". Another tag in the neck of the shirt indicates the shirt is made in Canada. The shirt has "chafe-free flat seam construction". The seams do not lie directly on top of the shoulders where they might chafe under a shoulder strap but are offset slightly towards the back of the shoulders. The neck design is in the shape of a "V" with an extra piece of fabric filling in the "V" to make a standard crew neck.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

IMAGE 4
NECK DETAIL
IMAGE 5
FLAWED SEAM
My first thought when I tried on the shirt was that it was a bit tight. This shirt is not yet on the Backcountry.com website so there is not much information available. The fact that the hangtag mentions "Prime layering technology" and "anatomic design" leads me to believe that the shirt may be intended to be a tighter fitting base layer. It seems a bit too tight for casual wear. The shirt is thin and stretchy. In my limited experience wearing it around the house I felt "unrestricted movement in every direction" as advertised. The shirt feels very light and compresses into a ball about the size of a grapefruit. The neck of the shirt seems to strike a good balance between not being too tight or too loose. The tail of the shirt extends about 7 in (18 cm) below the top edge of my pants. The tight fit feels a little bit clingy around my waist. The left side tag is rather stiff and scratchy but the tag in the neck is much softer. I like the look of the Backcountry.com goat logo and found the rear sleeve logo to be uniquely placed.

In general the shirt seems well made. I noticed a small snag on the front of the shirt below the neck rather quickly. Upon much closer inspection I found a few very small stray threads. I also discovered a more obvious flaw that seems to be the result of some stitching going astray. This flaw is located on the exterior left side flat seam where the side tag was sewn in. The rest of the flat seams are very neatly sewn.

SUMMARY

IMAGE 2
CHEST LOGO
The Backcountry.com Prime Merino Crew Shirt seems like a nice item. The fit seems rather tight but the material stretches and moves easily. Overall quality seems good, but I did find a few loose threads, a sewing flaw in one seam and a small snag on the front of the shirt.

This concludes my Initial Report on the Backcountry.com Prime Merino Crew Shirt. The Field Report will be amended onto this report in around two months time and will include field testing data. Please check back then for further information on the Backcountry.com Prime Merino Crew Shirt.

Thanks to Backcountry.com and BackpackGearTest.Org for the opportunity to test this product.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

May 21, 2009
Field testing of the Backcountry.com Prime Merino Crew Shirt took place in the forested terrain of the Appalachian Mountains including Herrington Manor State Park, Garrett State Forest and Swallow Falls State Park in Maryland, and the Canaan Valley Institute National Recreation Trails and Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. Testing also occurred during a short trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Elevations ranged from around 2500 to 6643 ft (762 to 2025 m). The shirt was worn during 6 dayhikes ranging from shorter 2 hour strolls to longer hikes of around 9 to 11 miles (14.5 to 18 km). I wore the shirt during 8 mountain bike rides, each averaging around 8 miles (13 km) and 1 to 2 hours in duration. The shirt was also slept in during two nights of car camping in a tent. Testing occurred at temperatures ranging from 40 F (4 C) to 80 F (27 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

IMAGE 1 IMAGE 2
When I first put on the Prime I am usually cognizant that the shirt feels snug. The first few times I wore the shirt it felt like it bunched up under the armpits but after time I became less aware of this sensation. By the time I hit the trail and started hiking or biking I found that I no longer thought much about the tight fit and found the shirt to be comfortable. While the fit is snug, it is not restrictive and the fabric stretches and moves easily. The material is soft and I have never found the Merino wool to be itchy. Due to the snug fit of the Prime I feel more comfortable wearing it on the trail rather than in a casual atmosphere. After a long dayhike I changed into a looser fitting shirt before stopping for a post-hike pizza.

During testing in cooler temperatures I wore the Prime beneath other layers such as a wind shirt, light softshell, or a long sleeve -zip synthetic shirt. The snug fit of the Prime makes the shirt ideal for use as a base layer. The shirt did not bunch up or feel uncomfortable under any of these other layers. The fabric of the shirt is rather thin and seems very breathable but it did not provide much warmth on a cool morning. When the shirt was worn alone on a warm weather bike ride, I appreciated how I could feel air moving through the thin fabric.

The Prime seems to dry quickly. The area of the shirt under my pack is usually quite sweaty after a bike ride but I have not noticed the Prime staying damp longer than I expected. The shirt became damp with sweat during a long dayhike in humid conditions in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but by the time we drove back to the campground it had dried completely and I slept in it that night. I usually like to change into a fresh shirt rather than wear the same one several days in a row so I have not had a good opportunity to notice whether the shirt holds odors. On a few occasions I did grab the shirt out of the pile of dirty laundry to wear for one more bike ride after finding that the shirt still smelled okay.

So far the Prime has proved durable. During about half of my testing the shirt was worn by itself rather than layered beneath other clothes. In each of these instances I wore a daypack or hydration pack but I see no signs of wear in the areas of the shoulder straps or hip belt. I have noticed that the shirt seems to show sweat stains more than I have noticed on other shirts. Several times after wearing the shirt under a pack, a large sweat stain edged by a thin line of white salt was visible on the back of the shirt. I do not know if that is because of some characteristic of the fabric itself or whether I was just inspecting this shirt much closer than I normally do. I do not have any other red shirts, so perhaps that makes the stain more visible. These stains were not permanent and the Prime has always come out of the laundry looking clean even after it became muddy on some bike rides. The small snag I had noticed in the front of the shirt actually seems less noticeable than it was initially. The areas with loose seams do not appear to have worsened. The "V" shaped neck of the shirt often appears slightly wrinkled. The reflective logos on the neck and sleeve are still solid and have not peeled.

SUMMARY

So far I have been pleased with the Backcountry.com Prime Merino Crew. The Merino wool is soft and comfortable and the shirt has been durable. The thin fabric is cool and breathable on hot days but is not very warm when worn alone in colder temperatures. The snug feel of the Prime is not restrictive but I prefer a looser fit, especially if I intend to wear the shirt off the trail in a more casual setting.

This concludes my Field Report on the Backcountry.com Prime Merino Crew Shirt. The Long Term Report will be amended onto this report in around two months and will include more field testing data. Please check back then for further information on the Backcountry.com Prime Merino Crew Shirt.

Thanks to Backcountry.com and BackpackGearTest.Org for the opportunity to test this product


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Long Term testing of the Backcountry.com Prime Merino Crew Shirt took place in the forested terrain of the Appalachian Mountains including Herrington Manor State Park, Garrett State Forest and Swallow Falls State Park in Maryland, and the Canaan Valley Institute National Recreation Trails, Blackwater Falls State Park and the Canaan Mountain, Flatrock/Roaring Plains and Dolly Sods Areas of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. Elevations ranged from around 2500 to 4800 ft (762 to 1463 m). The shirt was worn during 4 dayhikes ranging from 4 to 8 miles (6 to 13 km), 8 mountain bike rides averaging around 8 miles (13 km) and 1 to 2 hours in duration, kayaking on a lake 3 times and during one 2 day backpack trip. Testing occurred at temperatures ranging from 50 F (10 C) to 80 F (27 C) with an average temperature around 75 F (24 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

During the final phase of testing I most often wore the shirt alone and rarely needed any other layers. The thin, breathable Merino wool material was appreciated during warmer summer days. This disadvantage of this thin material is that it does not provide much warmth in cooler temperatures. During one dayhike on a breezy day around 68 F (20 C) the shirt became sweaty under my pack as I hiked. When I stopped for a break I found myself getting chilled rather easily as the cool breeze found its way through the shirt. I continued to be a little self conscious when wearing the shirt in public because of the tight fit. On a positive note, the snug fit gives a streamlined feel when biking and fits well under other layers and backpacks. The material is soft and I have never found the Merino wool to be itchy. Other than continuing to experience some bunching of the material under the armpits, I find the shirt to be comfortable.

The Prime continued to be durable during the final phase of testing. During each use I wore a daypack, hydration pack, or personal flotation device but none of these items caused any visible wear on the shirt. Some of my hiking and biking was through undergrowth that had a potential to snag or rip the shirt. Close inspection does reveal a few areas that are a bit puckered with slightly misshapen fabric but there are not any real snags or holes. Looking closely also reveals that the material now has a slightly "fuzzy" appearance and some random tiny little lint balls can be seen. The few loose threads I noticed initially did not worsen during testing. The shirt was laundered many times and usually came out of the dryer clean but a bit wrinkly. The "V" shaped neck design (as shown in the Initial Report) in particular always looks wrinkled. The shirt was often muddy after biking but I do not see any permanent stains. The neck of the shirt retained its shape and did not become stretched out. Repeated washings did not cause any shrinkage beyond the initial snug fit of the shirt. The logos and lettering on the sleeve and chest remain intact.

SUMMARY

Overall I was pleased with the Backcountry.com Prime Merino Crew during this test. The Merino wool is soft, breathable and stretchy. I did not encounter any durability problems. My biggest disappointment with the shirt is that the fit is a bit tighter than I like, especially for casual wear.


CONTINUED USE

I plan to continue wearing this shirt on certain occasions. I think it will work well as a base layer as the weather grows colder and I look forward to using it while cross country skiing this winter. Due to the tight fit I think I will be much more selective when wearing it alone and would probably choose a looser fitting shirt for most hikes.

This concludes my Long Term Report on the Backcountry.com Prime Merino Crew Shirt. Thanks to Backcountry.com and BackpackGearTest.Org for the opportunity to test this product

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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