Merino wool clothing is in our opinion the best type of base layers for all but the warmest of summer days. British Isobaa makes soft and durable Merino apparel, which we have already been so fortunate to test before. I was, however, exactly looking for a zip neck base layer as I’m a big fan of the ventilation that the zipper offers and thus I was more than eager to test the brand’s zip neck base layer with a density of 200 g/m2 in return for an unbiased review. I received it in fall 2020, and have thus tested it long enough for both hiking and everyday life to confirm that the Isobaa Merino 200 Zip Neck is suitable for:
- Everyday life
The Isobaa Merino 200 zip neck base layer is, as the name indicates, made of 100% Merino wool with a fabric density of 200 g/m2, making it a mid-weight base layer. I have previously reviewed the long-sleeved Isobaa Merino 180 crew neck base layer and the short-sleeved Isobaa Merino 150 t-shirt, and it was quite interesting to compare the feeling and weight of the different fabric densities. In terms of softness, all three base layers are of course of the same Superfine Merino wool (meaning that the fibers are just 18.5 micron in diameter), but they have been in use for very different periods of time. I have used the “oldest”, the 180 crew neck quite frequently (almost weekly) for more than 1½ year and honestly, it still feels and looks as good as the almost new Isobaa Merino 200 zip neck – which is a great indicator that Isobaa products are made to last.
The “felt” weight/density of the three different fabrics is, however, surprisingly similar; it really doesn’t feel much different or warmer to wear the zip neck compared to the short-sleeved t-shirt, although the latter is made of a 25% lighter fabric. I consider the comparable sensation to be a result of Merino wool’s temperature-regulating qualities, as it keeps you cool when it’s warm and reversely. I would thus recommend all three base layers for use in all seasons, except the warmest of summer days. Isobaa Merino 200 zip neck is, nevertheless, even more suitable for colder weather than the other two shirts as the high neck (when zipped up) helps to keep the neck warm, not least because it is made of a double layer of the Merino fabric – as are the cuffs. The zipper is from YKK and can be used for ventilation once you get your pulse up.
Sizing and Fit
As with the other base layers, I also asked for a size M this time since it fits me perfectly – almost tailored to my silhouette. The Isobaa Merino 200 zip neck base layer is, like the 180 crew neck, quite long in the torso and sleeves. Both are like 5-8 cm (2’’-3’’) longer than my other base layer tops – as well as the short-sleeved Isobaa t-shirt. Being relatively tall (1.73 m/ 5’8’’) for a woman, I do appreciate the extra length in the torso but the sleeves could be one or two inches shorter for my sake. It is, however, less of a problem with the zip neck base layer as the cute embroidered sheep head logo on the right sleeve is placed higher up, which means it doesn’t get hidden when you roll up the sleeves a bit. Since the Isobaa zip neck has double-layer cuffs, it also looks sleeker when you roll up the sleeves as you are not exposing the backside of the fabric with unsightly seams etc.
Comfort and Functionality
Unlike the two previously tested base layers, the Isobaa Merino 200 zip neck does not have set in sleeves with underarm gussets to improve the freedom of movement. Instead it has raglan sleeves, meaning that they are joined to the body of the shirt with a diagonal seam that extends from underarm to the bottom of the neck collar. Such sleeves provide good freedom of movement on their own, and underarm gussets are thus redundant. Another good thing about raglan sleeves is that there are no seams in the area where the straps from a backpack are weighing down on your shoulders, and thus you avoid the possibility of chafing when carrying a backpack. As I’m now ALWAYS carrying a backpack on our hikes because Blaz is carrying the little one in the Poco child carrier, I appreciate this feature more and more!
You also avoid chafing from washing labels and logo tags in the neck, as the washing instructions are printed on the inside of the base layer, and there is only a small logo stitched onto the left side of bottom hem (plus the embroidered sheep head logo on the sleeve). The zipper both has a chin guard and wind flap on the inside, so you avoid the cold sensation of the metal zipper on your skin as well as any accidental snagging into the skin if you are zipping it up fast and absentminded. The chin guard also works as a “zipper garage”, which prevents the zipper from slowly unzipping on its own (don’t you hate when that happens to your pants?!).
Washing and drying
Isobaa has a page dedicated to describing how to best care for their apparel but basically you should go by the usual Merino wool guide lines, which are: Wash on the cold cycle (or by hand at 30⁰C or less) with a suitable wool detergent, and leave to air-dry. Don’t use fabric softener, bleach, or a tumble-dryer for your Merino apparel as these things will mess with its good qualities and shorten its lifespan. The zip neck base layer is available in a range of stylish solid colors with contrasting zippers, as well as three cool styles where the sleeves are striped (unfortunately not available when I picked my base layer, but I link to one of them below ;- )
Like the other Isobaa base layers, I predict that the Isobaa Merino 200 zip neck will become a staple in my wardrobe as it is comfortable, functional and stylish. The midweight wool fabric is perfect for all but the warmest weather, and as the brand seemingly only makes long-lasting apparel I think I will use it for many years to come.
If you have any questions about this product, drop me a line in the comments below.