Review: Minus 33 midweight merino wool layers

For socks, thermal layers, liner gloves and other items I wear out (with the exception of shoes) I tend to buy budget items.

I do not get out as often as I’d like, but I do use my gear and clothing on a regular basis.

My favorite fleece is faded from the sun, I go through a few pairs of liner gloves a year and all the socks will get holes in them at some point.

The exception for budget items the past few years has been merino base layers for winter.

aae
At the Arestua Hutt in 2010. The first shirt. Still have the same wool pants… Found this over caffeinated, sugary drink at the hut. Score!

I tried them for the first time about eight years ago. I loved the breathability, how well they adapted to different temperature ranges and they were just comfortable. I ended up buying the Minus 33 brand out of New Hampshire. Partially because they were from my old neck of the woods; partially because they were not as expensive as other  brands. And they are sold on Amazon. (Looking back on my purchase history, I started using my first pair in January 2008).

My initial impressions were that they looked nice, fit well and was good quality. And made with 100% superfine wool, they were luxury items for the outdoors.

A few short seasons later, the top layer started to get a little thin in the shoulders. The bottom layer became thin inside the thigh area and was starting to develop holes.

I thought “Well, I do use it..to be expected”.

So, I used an Amazon gift card (Thanks, Dad!) and bought myself another set of thermals.

Here I am, three or four seasons later.

The top has holes in them under the armpits. The shoulders are abraded.

And only after deep winter use mind you.

20160203_225217
Top #2 this evening. If you look above the stitching on the sleeve, a large hole is visible.

Another set would be ~$120 on Amazon. And the Minus 33 is among the less expensive brands! 

This review is not so much to complain about Minus 33 (which, again, is good quality) but rather an “AH HA!” moment I had when it comes to merino wool layers.

As comfortable as these wool layers may be, they just aren’t worth the price for me. I need clothing I can depend on. Not something that falls apart after a few seasons of hard but short use at a premium price.

(And, apparently I am not the only one that thinks this way. Patagonia’s merino layers are a wool-poly 80/20 mix. But, I am not going to spend that much for underwear for three-four months of use).

For three-season+ use, I had made good use of synthetic layers.  And they are what I *used* to use for winter.

My GoLite thermal top, which cost $15 at a warehouse sale ten years ago, is still going strong.

The Terramar bottoms I bought from Sierra Trading Post? About the same vintage as the GoLite top, similar price and though it is pilled quite a bit, still works effectively.

In the High Unitas with the GoLite top and Terrmar bottom. Sept 2013. PCO Mark T.

I used both these layers in winter when the wool layers were in the wash and for shoulder seasons as well.

In other words, these humble synthetic layers get used a lot.

The synthetic layers don’t breathe quite as well…but, in the end, there is not much difference, really.

The merino wool layers ARE superior, but not that much in my opinion. At least for me.

In the end, I value the durability of my simple and inexpensive synthetics.  As for breathability, I’ve heard good things about the Polartec based, military issue, midweight gridfleece-style layers (EBay affiliate link) that are inexpensive but good quality. And, I assume, will last a while, too. Maybe when I finally wear out my current synthetic layers…or when the wool layers are truly kaput.

In the meantime, I’ll probably call the merino wool layers good after this season.

And put the $120 towards something more useful rather than buy yet more expensive, but fragile, underwear.

That’s a lot of burgers and beers for post-ski noshes after all…

Packs well for DURING the trip, too.

Disclosure: All Minus 33 layers were purchased with my funds.

Share

10 thoughts on “Review: Minus 33 midweight merino wool layers

  1. I’ve got one of the military grid fleece bottoms, but I’ve only worn it once, so I can’t say much. It’s in my kit for this weekend, but the weather may be too warm for it. OTOH, I’ve got several pieces of Terramar grid fleece that I bought on closeout sales and they have been very warm and comfortable. My everyday base layer is the military LWCWUS, which is inexpensive and durable.

  2. got some Icebreaker wool layers for an elk hunt one year, they were much better than any synthetic. Since then I’ve been a bit obsessive about trying to find more on sale but no luck – on sale they go from $99 to $59 for a top, which is still too much for me.
    So the wool is hoarded for hunting trips, five to seven days of winter camping – up before dawn and out until after dark, no time to fuss with food or gear, the wool stays comfortable in a wide range of conditions.

    I’ll probably darn them when the time comes 😉
    http://www.zerowastehome.com/2013/02/how-to-darning.html

    • I easily use my midweight layers 25+ days a season. Can’t say I have been impressed with the longevity versus less expensive options. Cool link…but I don’t think darning would work on there particular holes on these fine and fragile layers.

  3. Hey Paul,

    I have to agree with you on all the above. I really like Minus 33 as I have a Tshirt and Midweight top and bottom, however like you find that they are great pieces but not durable enough (just like the rest of the industry). I have kept mine nice by relegating them for less abrasive activities and more sitting/standing in cold weather activities.

    I also have the military grid fleece which I have been using more and more. They are fantastically warm and affordable. I use mine to create a pseudo soft shell layer for pants under a cool creek columbia pant especially in winter.

    I don know if you have seen the thinner Paradox synthetic/wool blend thermals from Costco. If you haven’t I highly recommend you check them out since they work pretty good and aren’t super thick. At around 20-25 dollars it is quite the bargain.

    PS. Love your page and all your thoughts on bargain gear.

    • Carlos, thanks for the nice words! I actually have, and use, the Paradox brand for three season. Good stuff. I just came back from Costco (oddly enough) on my lunch break. They are on clearance right now so even more of an already good bargain!

  4. I don’t have the tops but it is similar to R1 from patagonia sans hood. However my bottoms in medium weigh 9.5 ounces which is pretty good for the warmth the provide. I got two paid for about 22 dollars I believe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Subscribe without commenting