This is a merino top (also wearing the bottoms) made by The Kryptek Outdoor Group. It was chilly that morning and we went 5 miles. I never added a layer until we sat down to glass.
I have been eagerly waiting to write an article about merino wool. I am a firm believer in not giving a review on something until you have used it extensively; otherwise all you’re doing is misleading your fellow outdoorsmen and separating them from their hard earned money. Between hunting season and ski season I have spent well over 40 days wearing merino wool in about every element possible. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Merino Wool it is a kind of wool pulled from a specific breed of sheep that is raised for the wool, and in some places its carcass as well. These sheep were actually introduced to Vermont in the early 1800’s. This wool is used for sport clothing and insulation layers because it can absorb moisture and still retain heat while wet. Some other good features is that it is very good at regulating body temperature, its soft, and has a good weight to warmth ratio due to the smaller fibers it is derived from.
Pic1- This is a first lite top, and probably my favorite base layer.
I used merino day in and day out, without fail, on all of my hunts in 2013. I brought 2 sets, 1 to wear all day while hunting, and another to sleep in. This may sound a little gross to some but I wore the same merino all season and only washed it once. That is the beauty with this material, its takes a long time to get smelly. I have found that after wearing the same pair of synthetic under layers for a couple days in a row they start to smell so bad you can hardly stand it. The less it smells, the less likely an animal is to smell you and this pays dividends while being in the backcountry for extended stays. If that doesn’t grab you then how about the fact you only have to wash it half as much, which extends the life of any garment. In a nutshell, wool is naturally resistive to bacterial growth which is the cause of odor.
5 of the days on my archery elk hunt all it did was rain. Staying dry on this hunt simply wasn’t an option. While synthetic layers actually dry faster they do not dry better. I noticed a big difference in the drying capabilities of the 2 materials, merino took longer to dry but I felt much warmer than any synthetic I have ever worn. At one point both pairs of my merino base layers were soaked and with temps in the high 30’s at 12,500ft, that’s not a fun place to be. By making a fire and putting a set of the layers on sticks I was able to have a dry layer to sleep in in under 20 minutes. For the day time I would just keep hiking and the merino would dry itself, it’s almost crazy how well it works. I have a few friends who head to Maine, northern VT and NH to track deer in the snowy months. If I was back there with them I would be wearing merino wool every step of the way. It’s lighter than any other material on the market and it shows its true colors in those cold conditions. How many times have you been soaked with sweat in the armpits, crotch, and middle of your back while tracking deer all day? I know for most this is a daily occurrence and when you sit down to take a break it can really get you. The fibers in merino wool are much smaller than traditional wool, which is why it is so much more comfortable while against your skin. These fibers retain about 30 percent of their weight in water where as a synthetic material will hold the moisture between the fibers. Merino wool does not hold moisture on the surface of the material so as your body temperature heats up the moisture inside the fiber starts to evaporate which in turn will cool the air between your skin and the fabric. Synthetic does something similar but not as well.
Merino wool comes in lots of colors and patterns
If you want to play, you got to pay. If someone is looking for a negative side to merino, it would be the price point. I don’t see a down side because I have always been in the mindset that you get what you pay for. Brands like Core4element, Kryptek, First Lite, Sitka, and Kuiu make some real top of the line stuff. The price varies but you will spend somewhere between 100-200 bucks on a set (top and bottom). I recommend getting on sites like www.camofire.com, or the bargain cave at Cabelas for the best deals. I have found first Lite (high end merino) in the bargain cave at Cabelas for around $130 a set, that’s a deal. A lot of companies make merino wool socks, hats, and underwear so while your browsing for your base layers give these a look as well. Darn Tough, made in VT, makes the best socks money can buy and their merino line is right up there as well. You can probably tell I highly recommend you buying a set and at least trying it out. If you decide you don’t like it, and wear a size large, then feel free to send it to me for further use!