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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Backcountry.com Prime Merino Crew > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
Backcountry.com - Prime Merino Crew - S/S - Men's
Test Report Series
Initial Report: March 19, 2009
Field Report: May 28, 2009
Long Term Test: July 27, 2009
Front View of Prime Merino Crew
Rear view of the shirt
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy hunting, fishing, canoeing, and most other outdoor activities but backpacking is my favorite pastime. I enjoy hiking with friends and family or solo. I hike throughout the year and actually hike less in the hot humid months of summer. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. However, I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water. I usually sleep in a hammock and cook with an alcohol stove.
Since the Prime Crew is not listed on the Bacountry.com website yet there is not much information to go on. The tag on the shirt just says the shirt is 100% Merino wool. The hang card pictured below mentions "High-stretch, fast wicking synthetics and pure Merino wool combined " but this is obviously for other shirts in the Prime lineup. The rest matches my expectations for a merino wool shirt.
Information on the hang card
My own description would be that the shirt is very thin and very stretchy. I am testing a size XL and it fits me snugly, more so than other XL shirts I presently wear. After weighing the shirt I wore it the rest of the afternoon until I went to church but put on another shirt because the Prime Crew is so thin and made me look fat... But I was very pleased with the initial wearing in that I experienced no itch and even though it was quite warm at 71 F (22 C), I found the shirt very comfortable.
As already indicated, the Prime Merino Crew is snug on me. However, it feels great wearing it. I have already put it on and taken it back off several times and it slides on and off very easily. In other words the neck opening is big aplenty and the rest of the shirt stretches well enough to make it easy to put on or remove. The arms are also tight fitting but do not feel restrictive. I'd call the fit in general an athletic fit due to how little the shirt hangs loose. I'd also say it was closer to what I normally call a Large. However, due to the stretchy nature of the shirt the fit is much more comfortable than a large in some shirts would be.
The care instructions are on the same tag which says the shirt is 100% merino wool. It simply states; Machine Wash Cold, Tumble Dry Low Heat and No Bleach. This tag is located on the inside of the left hand side seam about an inch (3 cm) from the bottom of the shirt. The tag at the neck says it is a Men's XL and is made in Canada.
I will be testing the shirt as I hike, ride my recumbent and kayak or canoe. I will also wear it as every day wear some but due to the tight fit I may not wear it in town a lot. I do know that I put some extra weight this past winter and seeing pictures of me in the shirt is added incentive to get back in shape.
This concludes my Initial Report. Stay tuned for the Field Report which should be forthcoming in about two months to see how well the Prime Merino Crew is working. I would like to thank Backcountry.com and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this short sleeve merino wool shirt.
Field Report: May 28, 2009
Using the Prime on a local day hike
Testing Conditions and Locations
With the arrival of spring and warm weather the Prime has seen lots of use. I wore it on several day hikes, 2 kayaking trips and one overnight campout. I wore the shirt by itself anytime the temperature got up to around 60 F or above and under a long sleeve synthetic shirt in cooler weather and even under the synthetic shirt and a light jacket on one overnighter when it dropped to 43 F (6 C). I did use my Mountainsmith Day on most of the day hikes and this pack covers more of my back than most waist packs. I also have the optional shoulder straps installed on the Day because I like the way it carries my pack when I am bringing lots of water.
One particularly cool day hike was in early May when the high only reached 51 F (11 C) but it was 47 F (8 C) by the time I got back home. This hike covered 5 miles (8 km) but included a lot of steep climbing and off trail use. On other day hikes the temperature ranged from around 51 F (11 C) to around 85 F (29 C) but it was nearly always very humid and several times I walked in some light rain. I also wore it on 12 recumbent bike rides which averaged around on hour each and covered 8 (13 km) to 22 (35 km) miles for a total of 131 miles (211 km). On the 2 kayaking trips I liked the Prime because it did not hinder my paddle stroke and just felt good to wear. Both trips were about 6 miles (10 km) long each and lasted around 3 hours.
The Prime also worked well for paddling
Field Report Test Results
I am very pleased with the performance of this shirt. In fact, I wish I had a dozen more. It is more snug fitting than I would have liked but it feels so comfortable when wearing it that I have to say the snugness only affected the looks of the shirt. In other words, it showed my fat a little more than I preferred. I did find the shirt did not dry out as fast as a synthetic shirt but even when wet the shirt is comfortable to wear. For example, several of the recumbent rides consisted of going down the mountain and back up. This 600 ft (183 m) climb always brings on a full sweat even in winter so it was no surprise that I completely soaked the shirt each time I did this ride. The shirt just could not wick away my sweat as fast as I produced it but I found it did dry out a lot if I rode easy for a few miles after topping the mountain. On the 22 mile (35 km) ride it was a nice cool 63 F (17 C) day with bright sun and low humidity. The ride was almost completely flat and I didn't push it. The Prime felt great and what little I did sweat was almost immediately wicked away. I stooped at the mid point of the ride and noticed the under arm area was slightly damp and again at the end of the ride.
When hiking (even uphill) I sweated less than when climbing the mountain on the recumbent but the results were similar. And by this I mean when sweating heavily the shirt remained wet until I stopped for awhile. On the early May hike I mentioned, I wore the Prime under my DAKINE Ridge Crew (a full synthetic shirt) and I did overheat some, especially when going up a slope that required getting on all fours (hands and feet). I had to stop several times to catch my breath and I was soaked by the time I made it to the top. I even removed the shorts I had on over my sweat pants but left both shirts on just to see what happened. I found the synthetic shirt did dry out faster then the Prime but partly because the Prime was on the inside where it was not exposed to air. Anyways, after the long climb I rested about 30 minutes, then walked back down the mountain. When I stopped at a spring for another break I found the outer shirt was almost dry while the Prime under it was still quite damp.
On the overnight hike when the low dipped to 43 F (6 C) I had the Prime under the Ridge Crew but needed a light jacket over both to stay warm. I could have made it without the jacket but I like to be comfortable if I have the option. I slept without the jacket but kept on both shirts and with my sleeping bag I was fine. I really could have done without either but this was the first time I tried the Prime as a sleeping shirt so I was wondering how it would do. It did not bind at all and I slept great.
The Prime is still in good shape. It has been washed numerous times and does not appear to have shrunk any and the color is still about the same. One thing that may have helped was getting a front load washer recently and the shirt never say a top load washer. I always air dried the shirt, sometimes inside and sometimes outside. I did notice the drying time was about twice as fast as a cotton tee but about twice as long as a synthetic but what really got my attention was the smell of this shirt after washing. I won't say it was a bad smell but this shirt definitely has an odor when wet, even right out of the washing machine. Once dry the odor mysteriously disappears.
Like as said at the beginning, I like this shirt a lot and wish I had several. It just feels so good worn next to my skin and even when wet it does not cling a lot. I say this because I checked while doing pushups on a guard rail on the side of the road. I had to suck in my gut slightly to check because without doing so it is skin tight regardless of what I am doing.
The Prime is not really all that warm but it is so thin I would not expect it to be. On the other hand, in hot weather it felt great whether I was taking it easy (not sweating much) or doing something like hiking or riding uphill (sweating like a pig).
If I could change one thing it would be to make the XL a little bigger. If I were trying it on in a store I might have passed thinking it would be too small. The fact that it worked even though tight fitting makes me think a slightly looser shirt would be even better. OK, make that two things, Even though the tags (back of the neck and the one on the side) never bothered me, I would prefer not to see them.
This concludes my Field Report for the Prime Merino Crew. Pleas stay tuned for the Long Term Report in a couple of months. I would again like to thank Backcountry.com and BackpackGearTest.org for letting me test this shirt. I hope my findings are beneficial to all who read the report.
Long Term Report: July 27, 2009
Testing the wicking ability of the Prime
Testing Locations and Conditions
All testing was done on local trails, waterways and roads here in northeast Alabama. These outings consisted of several dayhikes, several kayaking and one canoeing trip on Guntersville Lake plus kayaking the Flint and Paint Rock river. I also rode my recumbent on three long rides and several shorter ones on local roads and bike paths. Normally, June and July weather can be summed up in two words; hot and hotter. However, June was one of the hottest on record and July is going down as the coolest on record. That said, it has never been really cool except for a couple of July mornings which registered in the mid 50s F (around 13 C). The hottest weather encountered was 96 F (36 C) back in mid June. It rained several times during testing but try as I might I was only out in a couple of light sprinkles while dayhiking, mainly because 3 of the biggest rains fell on Sunday morning while I was at church.
Long Term Test Results
I don't have a lot to add in the performance department as the Prime has continued to work well but no different than what I experienced during the Field Report stage of testing. However, with several more outing and subsequent washings, I can say that the durability of the shirt is good. It has also held its shape and color very nicely. I have gotten the shirt muddy on a couple of occasions but it always comes out of the washer nice and clean.
Wicking and Quick Drying Ability
If you look closely at the photo at the beginning of this section you will notice the Prime is pretty wet. The photo was taken right at sundown near the end of a hot 4 mile (6.4 km) June afternoon hike. I had just topped the trail up the mountain when I had my friend take the picture. We still had about a mile (1.6 km) of hiking on fairly level trails and the shirt never did dry out much but this may have been due to the high humidity at the time. On the dayhikes I usually wore my Mountainsmith Day pack with about 10 lb (4.5 kg) of gear and water onboard.
I went kayaking with the shirt several times and while I didn't sweat as much as when hiking, I did get the short very wet. In fact, on one trip my friend and I decided to find out how easy his kayak would be to re-enter if flipped in deep water. We both spent half an hour each flipping, then trying to get back in his kayak. We were unsuccessful but on the plus side, he ended up going and getting a Sit On Top like mine which proved to be a breeze to re-enter. As for the Prime, it stayed wet for the remainder of the paddle which lasted about another hour. On one trip on the Flint River I was out a total of 5 hours. We ended up floating about 3 miles (5 km) downriver and then paddling hard back to the put-in. On the return trip I spent a lot of time in the water helping pull other kayaks and the one canoe back upstream. I would often just lay down in the fast moving water as it felt so nice and cool. The photo below was taken just after we launched.
Wearing the Prime while Kayaking on the Flint River
I wore the Prime on several more recumbent rides and I got the shirt plenty wet climbing hills. However, due to the speed cruising along on flattish sections of the road it dried out much faster than when hiking. Three of these rides covered around 22 miles (35 km) and lasted about 2 hours each while several more were around 10 mile (16 km) and lasted just over an hour each. However, the shorter rides were the ones off the mountain and back up and were basically as hard or harder then the long rides which were on much flatter roads.
I still find the shirt has a slight odor when wet, even right out of the washing machine, but strangely, I could take it off and let it air out overnight and the next day it would have very little odor. I will say that the Prime smells much better after a long hot hike than my full synthetic shirts and much much better after airing out.
The Prime Merino Crew is a great summer time shirt and is one of the most comfortable shirts I have ever worn. The thinness of the shirt did seem to help it dry quicker than my regular cotton tees but I would not say it dries as fast as full synthetic shirts. My observations, while not scientific suggest that it dries (while being worn or while hanging outside to dry) about halfway between the two. The tight fit and thinness of the shirt also made it less than ideal for wearing at social gatherings as it showed my tummy off a little more than I would have liked. However, since the beginning of this test in early March I have managed too lose about 14 lb (6 kg) and the fit is much better. I plan to continue wearing it and hopefully it will fit even better after a few more months.
This concludes my testing of the Backcountry.com Prime Merino Crew. I would again like to thank Backcountry.com and BackpackGearTest.org for letting me test this shirt. I hope my findings are beneficial to all who read the report.
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