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Reviews > Clothing > Underwear > MontBell Merino Mid-weight Base Layers > Test Report by James E. Triplett
Merino Wool Base Layers
Reported by James E. Triplett
Initial Report - January 5, 2010
Field Report - March 16, 2010
Long Term Report - May 18, 2010
Personal Biographical Information:
I am an
experienced hiker, backpacker, and camper, and am gaining more
experience with winter camping every year. I hike every day,
backpack when possible, which leads to many weekends backpacking and
camping each year. I try to take at least one annual
backpacking trip in addition to many one to three-night weekend
trips. My style can best be described as
not at the cost of giving up too much comfort. I generally
in a tent, and seem to be collecting quite a few of them to choose from.
Additional Product Information From the mont-bell website:
January 5, 2010
I've used various tights and long-johns for staying warm on the trail in the winter in the past. They have ranged from thin silk, to cotton, to spandex tights, to heavy wool tights. Enter the mont-bell Super Merino Wool tights and Round Neck shirt. These tights are closest in weight to the silk layers I've used, although slightly heavier. mont-bell calls them middle-weight, but from a fabric thickness standpoint I'd say they are more light-weight. Testing will tell if they are middle-weight from a warmth perspective.
Besides the weight of the fabric, the first thing I noticed about these two garments is that I received XL tights despite requesting a size Large. The shirt is an XL, which is what I requested, and fits quite well, although the sleeves would benefit from being a tad longer. The length of the sleeves (for me) will leave a gap between the shirts and my winter hiking gloves. The tights fit okay in the waist, are plenty long, and a little baggy in the seat. The fit is acceptable and I decided to go ahead and use them as received.
The two articles of clothing seem well made, with nicely sewn flat seams, and a soft touch to the wool fabric. There is an interesting Slant-Tec Cuff on both the shirt and tights, which is basically a rather large hem with the seam stitched at an angle.
The mont-bell tights have a fly, which wasn't described anywhere as a "feature" on the website, but may be faintly visible in the picture there. That was really the only surprise there. The High Neck shirt has a half-zip front which I rather like. From the test call I wasn't aware that we were receiving the zippered shirt, but it is indeed as described on the mont-bell website.
I like the zippered front of the shirt. I actually prefer all my winter layers to have zippers as I tend to "layer-up" with many layers, and the zipper at each layer allows for effective venting during a hike. The collar is a little higher than a T-shirt, and fits well although could be slightly smaller in order to hug my neck. The length of the body of the shirt is quite long, and at least initially can be pulled down to hug my butt, but the sleeves seem barely long enough. The fabric is soft, slightly stretchy, and comfortable.
The tights have the same material which is also soft, slightly stretchy, and comfortable. The leg-length is more than adequate, which is desirable in my opinion. The over all fit is looser than I would like, but should be fine. The fly is not something I would request, but I shall see how I like it.
The garment labels recommend machine washing in cold water, preferably delicate cycle, and to air dry in the shade.
My plans evaluating the mont-bell tights and High Neck shirt for fit and comfort, warmth and durability, and the features from the mont-bell website listed above. I will be using the items on all my day hikes and weekend trips when tights are appropriate for the weather. This will primarily be in Iowa, which has been bitterly cold the past few weeks, and the apparel is sure to be used on many snowshoeing outings. The average temperature and precipitation data for Eastern Iowa is in the table below. The elevations here range from around 480 feet (145 meters) near the Mississippi River, to around 800 feet (245 meters) around my house.
The mont-bell tights and High Neck shirt seem to be well made and the Merino wool feels warm and soft and I am looking forward to putting these items through a good workout in the coming weeks and months. The only surprises are the fly in the tights, and the zipper on the shirt. I will be reporting on these (and other) features in the Field Report and Long Term Report which shall be added below once those stages have been completed.
March 16, 2010
I have worn the mont-bell mid-weight shirt and tights on a daily basis for morning hikes during the week, and longer day hikes on the weekends. This is in addition to two overnight car-camping trips to Pinicon Ridge County Park in Eastern Iowa, and lots of snowshoeing. Since I started wearing the mont-bell layers last December I estimate that I have worn them for approximately 100 hours and roughly 100 miles (161 km) of hiking and snowshoeing.
Until last week when we had a nice spring thaw, there has been snow on the ground for the entire field report test period. Temperatures have ranged from around -20 F (-29 C) to near 50 F (10 C).
Fit and Comfort:
As described in the Initial Report section, the mont-bell mid-weight shirt and tights fabric is stretchy and also soft and comfortable. The fit of the tights around my waist and rear-end is a little big, but the length is perfect for my 34 inch (86 cm) inseam. The shirt fits quite well and the sleeve length I reported on as being a little shorter than I prefer hasn't proven to be an issue. The zipper on the shirt works well and hasn't irritated my skin even when worn under many additional layers.
When hiking in temperatures around -20 F (-4 C) I have worn the shirt under as many as four additional layers. These layers consisted of two additional (synthetic) half-zip shirts, a mid weight wool pull-over, and a fairly light weight jacket. I have worn the tights under a single layer of pants regardless of the temperature, although when it seemed really cold I added some boxers. (The exception was on two different day-hikes when I wore them under rain pants for additional wind-blocking protection.) Additional warmth adjustments came in the form of extra socks, warmer hats, and heavier gloves. As the temperature has increased I have reduced the layers on my top half, and this morning when it was 40 F (4.5 C) I covered the shirt with only the light jacket.
Heat regulation seems reasonable, especially with the zipper in the shirt. When wearing several layers I typically unzip one top layer at a time as my body temperature increases. When all layers have been unzipped, including the mont-bell shirt, my next step is to untuck the shirt from my pants. I then move on to removing my gloves and then loosening or removing my hat. This has kept me from overheating, although perspiration has not been avoided.
The shirt and tights have remained comfortable while hiking, around camp, and while sleeping. As I mentioned above, the zipper has not caused any problems in the comfort of the shirt. I have discovered that the fly in the tights tends to let cold air in, and (how do I say this delicately?), parts of my anatomy out, voluntarily, while hiking down a trail. Twisting the waist band so that the fly is off center seems to help this issue somewhat, but I would like to see bigger overlap in the fly design, or maybe just simply eliminate that feature.
Care and Cleaning:
Due mostly to lots of heavy exertion when snowshoeing, I have perspired heavily in the mont-bell garments, and washed them seven or eight times. I washed them per the manufacturer's recommendations, except I must admit that on two occasions I put the tights in the dryer. This resulted in some slight shrinkage which has made the extra-large tights fit a little more to my liking. In all honesty I was hoping they'd shrink a little more, but they fit reasonably well. Both the shirt and tights have responded well to washing. They clean up nicely and have remained soft and comfortable without any loose threads or any other signs of wear.
I find the mont-bell mid-weight shirt and tights to be comfortable and very much to my liking for my hiking in the woods and on the trails in Eastern Iowa. Based on my experience with other garments of this type I would classify them as more of a light-weight design than their advertised "mid-weight" status. That being said, the Merino Wool is deceivingly warm for its weight, and I have felt sufficiently warm when wearing these two items along with appropriate layering. I like these products as they are, but if I had to make any suggestions I would eliminate the fly from the tights, and consider lengthening the sleeves of the shirt and adding thumb holes. That's just one of my personal preferences for a good way to keep the sleeves inside my gloves. Over all I am satisfied with these soft, warm, and cozy base layers.
Long Term Report
May 17, 2010
I have continued to wear the mont-bell mid-weight shirt and tights on a daily basis. Every morning for hikes of 2 to 4 miles (3 to 6 km) in the woods near my home, and three 1-night backpacking outings, all to Pinicon Ridge Park near Central City, Iowa. Somewhat surprisingly I have been able to wear the shirt and tights into May, as we have had some cool weather in the past few weeks. I have worn the shirt as recently as this morning.
In total, this has probably amounted to more than 120 hours of wear (including three nearly 24 hour stretches) for the long term testing period. For the entire test period the temperature has ranged from -20 F (-29 C) last winter to around 60 F (15.5 C) more recently.
Fit and Comfort:
The shirt and tights continue to fit nicely. The tights are just a little baggy in the rear-end area, but in general they are long enough, fit properly around the waist, and have provided a comfortable fit throughout the test period. The shirt fits quite well, and both garments continue to be comfortable. The Merino Wool is soft to the touch and has held up well after another six washings. The sleeves of the shirt could stand to be just a little longer, as can been seen in the picture below where I am reaching out. When my hands are by my sides (second picture) the sleeve length is adequate.
The mont-bell shirt and tights have been my go-to base layers since receiving them last January. I have worn the tights under a pair of hiking pants throughout the test period, except for three occasions when I wore them under rain pants. As reported earlier, I have worn the shirt under as many as four additional layers during cold winter months. As spring has arrived I have been wearing only a light jacket, or my field vest, over the shirt. When temperatures have been between 40 and 55 F (4.5 to 13 C) I have been quite comfortable with just the wool shirt and a vest, sometimes using light gloves at the lower end of the temperature range. Above about 40 F (4.5 C) I have discovered that the tights are just too warm to wear. Above about 55 F (13 C) the shirt gets warm with anything over it, although I have continued to wear it anyway. Untucking it and zipping down the zipper allows for some much appreciated ventilation.
Care and Durability:
I have washed the shirt and tights six more times per the manufacturer's directions. I find that I actually have a lot of black layers, as well has black hats and gloves, so I simply run a black load of clothes through the wash every so often. Ordinarily I would expect a little bit of pilling on this type of thin, stretchy clothing, but that hasn't been the case. I am very happy at how well these articles have held up to lots of wear, and lots of washings. The black wool has faded slightly, but the shirt and tights have retained their original shape and still look quite nice.
The mont-bell shirt and tights are billed as mid-weight layers, although I would say they are on the light side of that claim. That being said, they are surprisingly warm and were a pleasure to wear this past cold, Iowa winter. The Merino Wool has been soft and comfortable throughout all my testing, and the fabric has held up extremely well, even with lots of washings.
This concludes my reporting on the mont-bell mid-weight shirt and tights.
Thank you to mont-bell and Backpackgeartest.org for this testing opportunity.
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