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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Backcountry.com Prime Merino Crew > Test Report by Chari Daignault

BACKCOUNTRY PRIME MERINO SS SHIRT
TEST SERIES BY CHARI DAIGNAULT
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - March 19, 2009
FIELD REPORT - May 27, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - July 24, 2009

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Chari Daignault
EMAIL: chari.daignault@gmail.com
AGE: 46
LOCATION: Orlando, Florida U.S.A.
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 6" (1.70 m)
WEIGHT: 135 lb (61.20 kg)

I've been an ultra light hiker for 35 years -- I take the bare minimum with me and prefer a pack under or close to 25 pounds. I've hiked all the Florida State Forest trails in Central Florida and climbed Mt. Fuji in Japan when I was nine. I have hiked dry & sandy, rough & rocky and wet & boggy trails and as a result, have found what does and doesn't work for me in terms of equipment and clothing. Central Florida affords a lot of sun and rains, with high temperatures and massive humidity. It's a great testing area for clothing, footwear and headgear.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Backcountry.com
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website:
Backcountry.com
MSRP: N/A
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 4.2 oz (119 g)
Colors available: N/A
Color tested: Raspberry
Size tested: Women's Large

Note: At the time of testing, this item was not yet listed on the manufacturer's website.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Backcountry.com Prime Merino SS (which stands for short sleeve) shirt I received feels very soft. The material is extremely thin and it feels very lightweight. The seams are well-constructed, being completely double-stitched flat and having no exposed edges. I can find no missing stitches or frays on the entire shirt.

IMAGE 4

Instead of having a single seam down each side of the shirt, there is an extra panel sewn in, resulting in two seams down each side with about 3 in (76 mm) of material down the center (the extra panel). I think this will offer extra comfort, especially under the arms.

I'm impressed at just how soft this shirt is. And the weight is amazing; knowing that it is wool, I wasn't really sure what I was expecting, but it sure wasn't something with material this thin. I am curious to see if this translates into a breathable shirt out on the hot, humid Florida trails this Spring and Summer.

There are two logos on the shirt; one on the front with Backcountry.com's signature Ram by itself and one on the back of the right arm with the Backcountry Ram and the word "Backcountry". Both of these logos are reflective.

IMAGE 2
IMAGE 1

On the inside back of the collar, there is a clothing tag which is quite large and doesn't contain any info other than the country in which it was made (Canada), the size (Women's L) and the Backcountry.com logo. There are no washing or drying instructions on either this tag or the retail hang tag.

IMAGE 3

I would have preferred a tagless shirt and actually was surprised that a new t-shirt product being produced today would not be tagless -- especially since this shirt was designed to also be the base part of a layering system.

The hang tag specifically mentions "High-stretch, fast-wicking synthetics and pure Merino wool" were used to construct the shirt, but I can find no mention anywhere as to what percentage is Merino and neither can I find any mention of what type or percentage of synthetics were used in the material. There are no other tags inside or outside the shirt.

IMAGE 5

TRYING IT OUT

I ordered a Women's large because I prefer slightly loose-fitting shirts when engaging in physical activity. The Prime Merino SS is designed to be form-fitting -- I figured this out because it fit snug and also because once I saw how snugly it did fit, I checked the hang tag again to ensure I truly did have a size large. The retail hang tag mentioned "anatomic design", which I think is code for "hugs your curves".

Although it does fit snug (although not sausage-casing snug), the weight and feel of the material is so light and soft that it really doesn't bother me. I do think I ordered it large enough that I won't be forced into tucking it in -- I don't like having shirts outside my pants unless the shirt is loose enough for my taste.

The length of the shirt comes to just below my hips. The length of the sleeves is somewhat longer than "normal" t-shirts and the sleeves are very snug, but not uncomfortable. Due to this, I think when wearing this shirt as a base layer, the sleeves won't bunch up underneath my outer layers as I put them on. I will try that hypothesis out during field testing.

The collar is v-shaped with a small, almost "privacy" panel inside the v portion. It looks sharp; but I'm not sure what the purpose is for this. The clothes tag is sewn into the back of the inside of the collar. Depending on whether or not it causes any discomfort, I may resort to removing the clothes tag near the end of field testing. I will have to first try it out during actual heavy physical activity to make that determination.

SUMMARY

In summary, I like the shirt. Given the amount I sweat when hiking, trail running or biking, I am curious to see if this shirt can not only wick the moisture away from my body, but also dry out quickly enough that it doesn't get overwhelmed. I will be paying attention to how the seams feel; especially when wearing gear on my torso or arms. I also want to see if it's true that Merino wool doesn't hold odor -- I'm sure I can give that part a real workout!


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Field testing was done southeast of Orlando in the Hal Scott nature preserve and for five nights and six days on the Little-Big Econ forest portion of the Florida Trail. Elevation is between 12 ft [3.6 m] to 75 ft [22.8 m] above sea level. Terrain in the Hal Scott nature preserve is highly wooded with sandy trails which become extremely dry during times of drought. In Central Florida, we experienced drought conditions for several weeks and those conditions ended during what is normally our "dry" season, in the middle of May.

During testing, I experienced extremely dry weather with higher than normal temps which ranged from 70 F [21.2 C] to 90 F [32.2 C]. Near the end of the field testing period, I experienced normal temps ranging from 67 F [19.4 C] to 88 F [31 C] with several days of full-on rain, thunder storms and tornadoes. Luckily, during the week we were camping out in the Little-Big Econ forest, it was still dry.

I tested the Prime Merino SS Shirt during almost daily hikes and a few trail runs and bike rides in the Hal Scott nature preserve.

Our overnight trip was planned for north Georgia, but life got in the way and we decided to stay locally. We opted for the Litte-Big Econ portion of the Florida Trail which is about 45 minutes from home. The 7.3 mile [11.7 km] trail on this section of the Florida Trail follows along the Econlockhatchee River [the "Econ"] and the surrounding swamps. There are areas in forest and along the river where primitive camping is permitted. We camped along the river in an inlet, spending 6 days hiking and 5 nights fighting off the bugs -- who were very "thirsty" due to the drought. The terrain went from dense forest to sandy river banks. The sandy trails are known to be treacherous to those of us with weak ankles, due to the amount of exposed tree roots and eroded trail areas. The trail allows us to cross the river at several points, with the aid of wooden walking bridges. No bicycles are allowed on this portion of the Florida Trail, so we did not bring our bikes along on this trip.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Prime Merino SS Shirt worked very well for me when I used it for hiking and as a camp shirt. On the occasions when I attempted to use it during trail runs and bike rides, I found that I ended up sweating so profusely that the shirt was not able to wick moisture aways quick enough. This resulted in the shirt becoming extremely wet in places and uncomfortable for me to wear.

Sweaty Betty
Sweaty Betty


The photo above was taken after a 2.5 mile [4 km] trail run in 70 F [21.1 C] weather with partly cloudy skies. This was one of the rare times during field testing in which the temperature was almost below normal and the humidity level was low. I wore it on at least three other trail runs at the same distance, but at much higher temperature and humidity levels. The results were similar, but involved soaking the entire shirt with sweat.

I found that wearing the shirt during hikes and bike rides did not produce the level of perspiration that running did, and therefore I focused my efforts in those directions. The shirt performed very well during day hikes and longer trips. I really like the length of the sleeves and how they kept me from getting any rashes or friction irritation under my arms from my pack. The merino wool worked its magic and kept the shirt from holding odor even after wearing it a few days in a row during our camping trip. While biking, I liked the close fit of the body of the shirt and how that allowed it to stay in place and not flap around or get caught on bushes or low-lying branches.

As a camp shirt, I wore it each evening after we cleaned up and it kept me very comfortable. As the temperature cooled at night, I slipped a light wind breaker on over it and it kept me warm. I did notice that the sleeves did not bunch or roll up when putting on the jacket and I believe this is due to the length and snugness of the sleeves themselves. I wore it as a night shirt for sleeping and didn't need to wear anything else on my upper body. It kept me warm in my sleeping bag and was soft and comfortable.

Even after all that continued use out in the field without washing, the shirt didn't have any bad odors. It was dirty and definitely needed washing, though. Each time I've washed it, I've used the washing machine with cold water and hung it to air-dry inside on a rack. It dries completely overnight. It needs a bit of re-shaping once dried, but did not shrink and none of the stitching has been compromised. My shirt did not have a tag inside indicating the proper washing process, so I looked up other merino-based shirts and the recommendations for washing them.

SUMMARY

I wish I had been able to test this shirt during a much cooler season. I think that then I would have been able to wear it for many more trail runs than I have been able to at this point.

Likes:
Soft
Warm
Light
Comfortable
Soft seams
Longer sleeves don't bunch up under top layers
Contour fit
No odor
Easy to pack

Dislikes:
Too warm for vigorous activity in Southern spring weather

So far, this shirt has worked out great for hiking, biking and camping. It has protected the softer skin under my arms [due to its longer sleeves], it keeps me warm and performs well as a overall camp shirt. It works for trail runs too, but for my own preference, I would wear it during much cooler weather for that activity.

TESTING STRATEGY

I will continue to wear the Backcountry.com Prime Merino SS Shirt on as many day hikes, backpacking trips and bike rides as I am able and will report on the results. The only downside is the amount of washing I end up having to do since I only have one of them! I will report on anything else I discover as well.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have continued to test the shirt in Central Florida, on various state and local trails, during at least 5 day hikes and 3 bicycle rides. Due to the heat we've experienced this summer, I have not worn it for any trail runs. I have worn it several times when doing yard work.

The weather has been sunny and hot with our typical afternoon/early evening thunderstorms. Temps during this period of testing have ranged from 85 F [29.4 C] to 94 F [34.4 C]. When factoring in the humidity however, temps at times have felt as high as 105 F [40.6 C].

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The shirt has consistently performed well and does not show any real signs of wear and tear. The collar has bunched up a bit and does not lay flat, but I'm sure that if I could get myself to iron it out, the collar would shape up nicely. Although I have not ever put it in the dryer after washing, the seams along the side panels have somehow twisted a bit so that the right side seam hangs closer to my stomach while the left side hangs closer to my backbone. This could be due to a defective thread type that was used in stitching the seams, as the material of the shirt itself has not changed shape at all.

When doing any highly physical activity, I still sweat through the shirt very easily. For that reason, I don't wear the shirt for casual occasions around town and reserve its use for outdoor activities. As a yard work shirt, the sleeves protect my chest, shoulders and arms from the sun. I still wear sunblock, but I get the additional coverage of the shirt as well. I've found that as long as I don't completely sweat through the shirt, it actually wicks moisture very well. If there is a slight breeze, I'll actually cool off a bit.

I love the softness of the shirt and although it fits more snug to my body than most shirts I own, I enjoy wearing it. The fact that it remains odor-free is another reason to love the shirt. It also cleans up nicely and as of now, I still don't have any stains on it [which is a miracle in itself].

SUMMARY

The Backcountry Prime Merino short sleeve shirt is soft, lightweight, durable and a pleasure to wear. The Merino wool content of the shirt keeps it odor-free, and the snug fit of the shirt makes it a great base layer piece during cooler weather and a great shirt for bicycling. The longer than usual sleeves helped to protect my arms from any irritation my backpacks could cause during hikes.

Likes:
Soft
Odor-free
Lightweight
Length of sleeves
Reflective logos
Snug fit

Dislikes:
Snug fit [can't/won't wear it to town]
Too warm for trail runs in the summer

CONTINUED USE

I am looking forward to winter, when I'll be taking this shirt with me to Colorado for the holidays. It will be my base layer under other clothing while I'm attempting to remember how to cross-country ski. I'll also continue to use it for yard work, day hikes and bicycle rides.

This concludes my Long Term Report on the Backcountry.com Prime Merino SS shirt. Many thanks to Backcountry.com and BackpackGearTesters.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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Read more gear reviews by Chari Daignault

Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Backcountry.com Prime Merino Crew > Test Report by Chari Daignault



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