The guys at own-brand, high street outdoor equipment supplier Mountain Warehouse have sent me a sample of their ‘Extreme’ Shimano Merino Zip Baselayer for review. Here, I give my first impressions of the top after a week or so commuting across London. I also plan to use it in anger on the hill and this will form the basis of a later review.
Fabric – 100% Merino?
A wee bit of confusion arises from the swing ticket. This clearly states 100% merino when, in fact, the top is a mix of merino and manmade fibres in an 80/20 mix respectively. One assumes that the 100% applies to the wool element and that the merino is not mixed with other natural fibre. As I said, confusing.
There’s no mention on the ticket as to the provenance of the merino either. While other manufacturers are at pains to point out the quality of the materials used, there’s no breathless marketing here.
Perhaps more important than all this is how the fabric actually feels. It has a ribbed/knitted texture similar and is very soft to the touch and comfortable against the skin. It compared favourably with other tops I’ve tried, more comfortable than some other true ‘100%’ base layers.
It is substantial, though, feeling considerably thicker and plusher than a 100-weight top.
Mountain Warehouse sent me a large to test and this fits well in the arms (an area where tops normally come up short). However, I found the Merino Zip too big in the body, as I prefer a close fit for baselayers. A medium would probably work better for me.
The zip neck is comfortable. When secured, the collar sits high on the neck. The zip is well protected by the soft fabric on the inside so there’s no uncomfortable abrasion compared to other tops I’ve used in the past.
The high collar will be great on the hill, but I’m not such fan on the bike. However, this is a multi-use top rather than cycle-specific wear.
The zip puller has a helpful metal tab making it easy to open with gloves for venting. I found the feature essential as the first week wearing the top was characterised by unseasonably mild, double-digit temperature days.
Despite the limited scope of use so far, and no washing, the daily grind of commuting has proven to be an effective test scenario.
Conditions were unseasonably warm and yet, despite this, it became apparent rather quickly that the Merino Zip runs warm. This is not a top I would want to wear in the summer months as it is far too warm for me. I would actually use it in tandem with another lighter base, effectively replacing a fleece.
Warm it may be, but the top is not sweaty or clammy. The fabric does a good job of transporting moisture away from the skin and remains comfortable even when damp… The real appeal of wool over synthetic tops.
I’ve pretty much lived in the top outside the office. It got very sweaty at times and suffered a bit of a soaking when I got caught in a shower. So far there has been no build up of nasty odour after six days straight use, which bodes well for the antibacterial properties of the fabric.
The label suggests a 30 degree wash and that the garment be dried flat. This may prove to be bit of a faff but I’ll report back on how well it washes in a few months’ time.
The swing ticket says the Merino zip retails at £59.99. This is not excessive given the prices charged by others. However, as is its wont, Mountain Warehouse is currently selling this top at £29.99. Whatever you may think of their retailing strategy, the price makes it a tempting buy.
The low down
An attractive, no-stink, soft and comfortable top which runs a bit too warm for this reviewer. Assuming it wears and washes well, it’s good value for £30.