In early summer 2019 we were contacted by the British company Isobaa which specializes in Merino wool clothing. They offered us some products to test in return for unbiased reviews. As I consider myself a bit of a Merino wool geek (see the gear tests section), I of course didn’t want to miss the opportunity to test new Merino apparel from a quality brand. I checked out the Isobaa website and decided that I want to test their Zip Neck Hoodie. Why the Zip Neck Hoodie? Well, I have never had a base layer with a hood, and I wanted to discover the advantages and disadvantages of hooded base layers. I of course also thoroughly tested the base layer on various hiking trails focusing on quality, breathability and the other characteristics that a base layer for hiking should have.
I received the Isobaa Merino 200 Zip Neck Hoodie in late summer which was perfect. The base layer is best for moderate and cold weather because it is made of relatively thick fabric, has long sleeves and a hood. By late summer the temperatures in Denmark had indeed dropped enough that the testing conditions were suitable. Below is what I learned about the Isobaa Merino 200 Zip Neck Hoodie.
The Isobaa Merino 200 Zip Neck Hoodie is suitable for:
The Isobaa Merino 200 Zip Neck Hoodie is made of a 100% Merino wool fabric which has a density of 200 g/m2. When I unwrapped it, I was impressed over the softness of the fabric. It is one of the softest and smoothest Merino base layers I have ever encountered. A smooth and soft fabric typically indicates that the garment is made of high-quality Merino wool. This is indeed true for Isobaa Hoodie. According to Isobaa, it’s made of 18.5-micron Merino wool which is the second finest grade of Merino wool. Now, when I test base layers I typically focus on breathability, drying time, odor resistance and moisture-wicking properties. These are in my opinion the most important characteristics when it comes to base layers for hiking, mountaineering, backpacking and other outdoorsy activities.
I wore the Isobaa Zip Neck Hoodie for the first time on a short hike in Denmark and the first thing I noticed was that it provides very good warmth because the material is relatively thick. Now, thick base layers tend to be less breathable, but I really can’t complain over the breathability of the Isobaa Zip Neck Hoodie. The fabric is very porous and thus also very air permeable. The porosity is clearly seen if you hold the fabric up against the light. However, the thick fabric does increase the drying time. Especially in the neck area, where the Isobaa base layer features two layers of fabric for extra warmth, it doesn’t dry as fast as my other base layers. Nevertheless, I didn’t find this a problem because Merino base layers retain more heat when they are wet than their synthetic counterparts. You can read more about this in my Comparison of Base Layer Materials.
Throughout the testing period I was also very satisfied with the moisture-wicking properties of the Isobaa base layer. During intensive activities I indeed felt that the moisture is being pulled from my skin. As for the odor resistance, I have never had bad experience with Merino base layers, and the Zip Neck Hoodie is no exception. You can sweat in it for days without washing it and it won’t become smelly.
Comfort, fit and sizing
I find the Isobaa base layer very comfortable to wear. It fits tightly to the body without compressing it. The fabric is stretchy and therefore the base layer provides good freedom of movement. I haven’t worn it for climbing yet, but I do believe the freedom of movement is more than adequate for such activities as well. I was positively surprised that the base layer has flatlock seams because flatlock seams are not a given feature on Merino base layers. All logos and labels are printed for increased comfort and during the testing period I didn’t encounter any chafing or skin irritation. I got the base layer in size L and it fits me great. My chest diameter is 98 cm (38.5 in.) and I’m 180 cm tall (5 ft. 11 in.). However, if you have a narrower chest or you are shorter, I do recommend that you go with the size M as the Isobaa shirts in general seem to have quite long torsos.
As the name suggests, the Isobaa Zip Neck Hoodie has a hood. This is my first hooded base layer and at first, I was a bit skeptical about how useful a hood is on a base layer. A hood will add extra weight to a garment, and while this is fine for casual wear, hiking clothing should only have (weighty) features which add to the performance of the garment. Nevertheless, during the testing period I figured out that the hood is actually pretty useful. I used the hood instead of my Woolx hat on windy days and it worked well even when I was wearing a mid-layer over the Zip Neck Hoodie. It is also great to wear the hood up when wearing a hooded shell layer over. Merino fabric is much more comfortable to wear next to the skin than the hood of a shell layer.
The only complaint I have is that the hood doesn’t fit snugly enough around my head. I think the hood could be slightly smaller. Hooded garments typically don’t insulate as good in the neck area as their non-hooded counterparts. I did notice that this also applies to the Isobaa Zip Neck Hoodie. If the hood is down, the base layer doesn’t fit snugly around the neck. The half-zip at the collar seems high-quality and comes in handy for temperature regulation. It is padded on the inside and I haven’t experienced any chafing.
Another useful feature of the Isobaa base layer are the thumb holes which prevent the sleeves from riding up. I found this very practical, especially when I was hiking with trekking poles. The hoodie also has a droptail hem which increases the coverage of your lower back.
Washing and drying
The Isobaa Zip Neck Hoodie can be machine washed cold (at 30C or less) and should not be tumble-dried. I’m usually very cautious washing Merino garments because Merino wool is more delicate than many other materials (nylon, polyester etc.). But the Isobaa hoodie is made of quite thick fabric and thus the durability should not be an issue. Nevertheless, as Merino wool is naturally antimicrobial, the Isobaa base layer doesn’t need to be washed as frequently as its synthetic counterparts.
All in all, I’m very satisfied with the Isobaa Zip Neck Hoodie. Due to its breathability, odor-resistance and moisture-wicking properties it’s perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities. The quality is good and the base layer features useful details such as ½ zipper, thumb holes, droptail hem and printed labels for extra comfort. It even comes in super fancy ecological packaging. The only complaint I have is that the hood could be a bit smaller for a tighter fit. Nevertheless, the Isobaa Zip Neck Hoodie has become my base layer of choice for hiking in cold and moderate conditions.
If you have any questions about this product, drop me a line in the comments below.