Merino Wool Abrasion & GORUCK Bags

One of the big criticisms of merino shirts for general wearing is whether or not they can hold up to abrasion. Typically the concern is less about wearing a hole in the shirt and more about the shirt pilling when doing normal things (like wearing a backpack s of particular worry to those who like to travel in merino wool shirts — as most bags are heavy when traveling and abrasion can be really high. I am ling at this throughe lens of wearing this type of clothing while commuting and traveling — not while hiking and doing more outdoors oriented stuff.

The Test

In order to test what’s real and what is paranoia, I wore the same Smartwool 100% merino t-shirt while I rucked (working out by walking with a really heavy backpack on) for for weeks straight. A total of bout 60 miles of wear with a 30 lb GORUCK bag on my back. GORUCK’s bags are among the most abrasive bags on the market, and the added weight with the sweat from the workout makes it among the most adverse tests you can put these shirts through. During the course of the testing I only washed the shirt once per week and hung it to dry.

This should simulate the amount of travel the average person does in a year, or a partial commute with backpacks. Most people won’t travel with a backpack this heavy, but this should accelerate any issues with pilling.

The Result

In the first week I noticed pilling where the bottom of the bagand straps sat on the shirt. By the end of the test there was only minimal pilling on the back but it seemed to disappear on the shoulders. No holes or any otherwise noticeable problems with the shirt. After each wash, most of the pilling seemed to disappear as well.

Thoughts

Cotton shirts also pill in these areas as well, so a large part of the talk around this pilling seems to be paranoia as it will tend to happen to most shirts. However, it does give me pause when wearing a GORUCK bag and something like Outlier’s Ultrafine Merino T-shirt. Having said that, I don’t think there’s a ton to worry about, and I still don’t hesitate to travel with my GORUCK and merino clothing.

Yes, with a lot of use with an extremely abrasive bag, you’ll see some pilling, but certainly not enough to otherwise ruin a shirt. This isn’t the nature of 100% merino wool.

For instance, compare this photo of my Outdoor Research Sequence shirt which is a merino wool blend:

The pilling is far worse on this shirt, not just in the areas where my backpack wears during rucking, but in any spot where there’s friction. It’s a shirt prone to pilling. I have no doubt that some shirts pill more than others, but I have seen no evidence that 100% merino wool shirts are more prone to pilling, or less durable, than any other natural fiber shirts.

Merino Wool Abrasion & GORUCK Bags

Roundup #2

Interesting/New Products

Packing Lite wrote a review of the Wilderness Wear MerinoFusion Light 160 Long Sleeve Tee. The shirt is a very interesting blend of 50% merino, 50% Schoeller polypropylene. We haven’t seen anything like this before (and Schoeller fabric is what’s used in performance clothing like Outlier).

Sales

Pistol Lake is having a sale on some items through next Tuesday. Look for the products made with Eudae (while not included in the sale, the Minimalist Performance Tee we reviewed is made with their Lightweight Eudae).

CIVIC is offering 20% off through the end of the week (the discount will show in the cart).

A potentially interesting and inexpensive merino cardigan has shown up on Massdrop. However, note the low retail price — this means it is probably fairly rough wool.

Roundup #2

Workout Shirt Odor Resistance Comparison

If you’ve been around the performance clothing world, you should be well versed in the odor resistant properties of merino wool. While many tout the “magical” properties, we have not seen many head-to-head tests of merino vs. other fabrics for odor resistance.

The Test

I picked out three of my workout tees for this test — standard 100% polyester (Nike Dri-FIT), Olivers Convoy Tee (100% merino, our review), and Pistol Lake Minimalist Performance Tee (Lightweight Eudae, our review). I wore each shirt for my standard workouts (kettlebell or rowing), hanging to dry overnight, until each started to smell. The tests were repeated two times each.

100% Polyester

This shirt smelled after just one workout. The smell was bad enough that even if I were in the woods, I wouldn’t have wanted to give it a second wear. When dry, especially in winter, polyester gets terrible static cling. When wet or sweaty, polyester clings to your body in the worst way possible.

Eudae

Eudae is a 76% polyester, 19% Tencel, and 5% spandex blend. I was able to get a respectable four workouts out of this shirt. If I were hiking I could have probably pushed it another day or two. Eudae is my favorite lightweight material — it is amazingly soft and comfortable, with just the right amount of stretch to get out of your way at the gym. It looks and drapes just like cotton, and does a great job wicking sweat without getting that damp clingy feeling.

Merino

100% merino turned out to be the champ. I was able to get eight-plus workouts out of this shirt. And really, when I decided to wash, it was because it was getting a little dirty looking. Merino is on par with Eudae on sweat wicking, however is not as good looking or comfortable. In the looks department, merino tends to have a slight shine and doesn’t quite drape like cotton (it almost has a “heavy” look). As for comfort, 100% merino has a decent amount of stretch for exercise, but it can sometimes be slightly scratchy when compared to other materials (this depends on the grade of merino).

Conclusion

If you want the best odor resistance, nothing beats 100% merino. If durability is important, you can find merino/nylon blends, but expect the odor resistance to decrease with increasing nylon content. For comfort and looks with respectable odor resistance, go with the Eudae. And the polyester — just forget it.

These performance tees can also become part of your regular wardrobe. With the extended wear you can get from them, it becomes easy to justify the higher prices (all while slimming down your wardrobe).

Workout Shirt Odor Resistance Comparison

Outlier NYCO Oxfords

My standard everyday attire is to wear a button down shirt, so I’ve been trying to find something more durable and perhaps — hopefully — something which still looks traditional. I picked up both the oxford blue and ligh gray versions of Outlier’s NYCO Oxford to test out. They are heavy, and certainly only for weather 70-75 °F and below.

Fabric

Outlier makes this shirt out of a 162 gsm 74% cotton, 24% nylon blend, thick, and feels like a indestructible version of a cotton oxford. The material is entirely treated with DWR, and that actually works quite well in a light rain. However, I’ve been less than impressed with stain resistance as I’ve noticed some light spatters of sauce when I cook with the shirts on — though a quick dab with a wet cloth typically pulls the stains right out.

The shirt is far more rigid feeling than a standard oxford, while maintaining a soft feel and look to the fabric.

Wrinkle & Smell Resistance

The biggest thing with this this shirt is the nearly 75% cotton make up of the fabric. Typically this means wrinkles and smell absorption. On the issue of wrinkles, this shirt does surprisingly well at resisting them. The shirt will tend to show some rumples, not wrinkles, in the inner-elbow and other areas where the shirt sees a lot of movement. And while it won’t resist all wrinkles — I’ve yet to need to iron or steam these shirts, even after washing. I’m impressed.

However, on the issue of smell resistance, it’s a normal shirt. If you can get away with a few wears in your normal cotton shirts, this will perform the same. On this issue, it’s very disappointing, but predictable for something with this high of a cotton count.

Fit

I love the fit of this shirt, it’s heavy and comfortable. It fits a bit smaller than other Outlier shirts, with shorter sleeves and tails. It’s not easy to tuck in for me, as the body is right on the edge of what will stay tucked into a pair of pants. However, the pivot sleeve construction is excellent, giving great freedom of movement for a shirt with no built-in stretch

Overall

What’s compelling about this shirt is that it is a baby step in the direction of much better clothing. It’s $98 and for that you get a better designed shirt, which is far more durable (DWR and NYCO) than most oxfords you find — all the while it looks nearly identical to standard oxford. It doesn’t have the s powers of merino wool, but it also doesn’t have the drawbacks: differing hand feel, special washing, and a general more delicate nature. You could wear this shirt doing anything — and I have — and it’ll hold up great.

I really like this shirt.

Outlier NYCO Oxfords

Roundup #1

Interesting/New Products

We ran across Oros recently. They make outerwear with a NASA inspired aerogel (what they use for insulation in space suits) they call SolarCore. Looks like a neat new insulation technology at a compelling price (their parka is currently on sale for $250 with a regular price of $325).

Outlier dropped some new shirts including the S140 Pivot (merino, almost flannel button-up) with one pocket or a hidden pocket and the Freecotton Button-Up in white.

Wool & Prince launched their Heavy Crew Neck in their merino/nylon blend.

We noticed an interesting fabric, Polartec Delta, in a clearance Outdoor Research tee.

We saw an advertorial about the Lee Extreme Motion jeans. It’s unclear if the author actually tried the jeans, but definitely something that could be interesting at the price point.

Sales

Filson is having their winter sale. One interesting piece is the Alaskan Heavyweight Zip Top, made from merino wool.

Bluffworks is having a holiday sale with up to 20% off. They make some of our favorite synthetic business apparel, including the Gramercy Blazer.

QOR has an extra 20% off sale with coupon EXTRA20. We haven’t tried any of their stuff, but they do have both merino and technical options. They have a few pieces either insulated with Polartec Alpha or made of various Schoeller fabrics.

Other

Abe of Outlier discussed why their Shelter from the Storm rain shell was made in China.

Roundup #1

Bluffworks Chinos

These pants were provided by Bluffworks for review.

The Bluffworks Chinos are billed as a better travel pant. Bluffworks sent me a pair of Navy Blue Tailored Fit 36×32 pants The Chinos themselves, upon first touching them evoke two responses: oddly softand incredibly lighteight. These pants weigh less (in actual weight) than any other pair of pants I own.

Fabric

The fabric is simply listed as 100% polyester, which always causes me hesitation as you never know what you are going to get. These are a completely different fabric from the Gramercy Blazer, or the Meridian Dress Shirt, I’ve reviewed here — hey feel the most synthetic of the lot. While at the same time, it’s hard not to point outhat they weigh nothingwhile not being cold to wear.

The face of the fabric is soft to the touch, but not smooth — it has a bit f texture. I’ve found that the pants don’t quite pass for cotton when you are only a few eet away,but at the same time I’ve had chinos with a similar sheen to them. It’s hard to place your finger on it, but you’ll notice they aren’t “normal” pants.

Stretch

The fabric has built in stretch, and Bluffworks bills it as comfortable stretch which I think is accurate. It is not enough stretch where you will feel free to climb a mountain, but it is enough stretch that you will be comfortable in the pants.

Comfort

All of the above leads to the biggest question I always ask: how are they to wear all day. found them to be comfortable, but not the most comfortable. I would get the regular fit over the tailored fit if I did it again as I felt the pant legs were too narrow for me through the calf area.

Not accounting for the fit of this cut of the pants, I found them to be plenty comfortable throughout the day, but not enough that I wanted to lounge with them in the evening.

Extra Pockets

These chinos have travel pockets, with each front pocket having an inner zippered pocket, as well as the there being extra pockets on the seat of the pants. I used none of them, and while they might be handy for some when traveling, I think they would make for better peace of mind that stuff won’t fall out when on a plane. I didn’t find these pocket earth shattering, but they weren’t a detracting factor of the pants.

The biggest note on these pockets are the zippers: I wish they were wer profile you didn’t feel them as much when your hands were in the pockets.

Sound

The biggest issue with these pants is that they make a bit of a sound when you walk. In a perfectly quiet house, I found them to be too loud. However, when out and about I never once noticed them — thus I think so long as you leave your home, this is likely a non-issue. I will also note that after washing them, they quieted down a bit, and I wonder how much more they might quiet down over time. This was enough to bother me at first, but not enough to keep bothering me.

Overall

These chinos (at the time of publishing) are on sale for $99, and at that price they are hard to beat for a good entry level pair of travel pants. You’ll pay much more to remove just minor annoyances. Not accounting for price, they aren’t my favorite pair of pants ever, but when taking in the whole picture it’s hard not to be happy with them.

Lastly, the overall look of them is very nice. I found them to be cut well nd pair nicely with a button up. You could easily got to a business meeting in these — stepping right of the plane and not look worse for wear. They truly don’t wrinkle up and they’ll be comfortable. Not bad at all.

Bluffworks Chinos

Pistol Lake Minimalist Performance Tee

This shirt was provided by Pistol Lake for the purpose of review.

The Minimalist Performance Tee is Pistol Lake’s core product and is made out of their unique Lightweight Eudae fabric. The fabric is custom knit and the shirts are assembled in the US. Since developing this fabric, Pistol Lake has also developed a Midweight Eudae and an Eclon (their heaviest synthetic fabric). Their focus is on performance apparel that is at home on the road or in the woods as it is in the gym.

Fabric


The Eudae fabric is 76% polyester, 19% Tencel, and 5% spandex. If you aren’t familiar with Tencel, it is a brand of lyocell fiber. This means it is derived from wood pulp. The Tencel brand is also know for its ecofriendly production process.

While the care instructions allow for machine drying, I’ve only machine washed and air dried the shirt. I have not seen any pilling or fading. This could be a nice benefit over merino for those who like to use a dryer.

Performance

This tee performs very well. From my experience, it is on par with merino in every category but odor resistance. While I can get 5+ workouts with merino, I can only get about 4 out of the Eudae. Keep in mind, however, I choose to wash my shirts when they start to get a little smell rather than let them get as bad as a standard polyester shirt is after one wear.

Fit and Finish


The fabric has great drape, looks like cotton, and doesn’t get staticky like many other synthetic fabrics. It is great to have a workout shirt that is very thin (but not sheer or see-thru) and breathable, yet still looks like a standard T-shirt. The fabric is completely matte and doesn’t have that “polyester sheen”, or even the slight sheen that some merino has.

I also find the fit to be perfectly athletic and slim while not tight or constricting of any movement. Unlike many of my other workout shirts, the length is perfect (I usually end up with shirts that feel a little short).

Overall

The Minimalist Performance Tee has taken the top spot in my workout wardrobe. Once the warm weather comes around, I expect it to become part of my non-workout rotation on the warmest days. If you are in the market for something that can hold its own against merino, Eudae is up to that challenge.

Ben’s Thoughts

I’ve been very impressed with the hand feel of this fabric. You’d not be alone in thinking that this was a standard cotton shirt, perhaps with some stretch in it. I really like it, it’s been a little too cold to wear it for me right now, but it’s going to be fantastic when the weather warms up. This is one of my favorite shirts yet, and it’s hard to believe it performs as well as it does.

Pistol Lake Minimalist Performance Tee

Bluffworks Meridian Dress Shirt

This shirt was provided to me by Bluffworks for the purpose of review.

When I first got the Meridian dress shirt from Bluffworks, I was shocked by two things: it looks like a “normal” dress shirt and the material doesn’t suck. It’s quite hard to find a synthetic dress shirt which both looks normal and doesn’t feel like plastic. Bluffworks has succeeded on both accounts, so let’s dive into this shirt more.

Material

As I mentioned above, I love the material of this shirt. It looks natural and is nice and thin as a dress shirt should be. It drapes nicely, breathes well, stays clean, and wrinkle free. But more than any of that, it doesn’t make any noise, a common issue with synthetic dress shirts.

The Meridian is not a loud shirt. It’s smooth, it’s synthetic, but it doesn’t sound or feel like most synthetics. It’s the best of both worlds: looks good, yet it doesn’t have the trade off of feeling bad or sounding loud.

Comfort

This shirt is somewhere between a standard dress shirt and something with insane 4-way stretch. It’s far more comfortable than your standard shirt — more comfortable than most merino wool dress shirts — but not as comfortable as some of the dress shirts advertising full 4-way stretch.

The shirt moves fine, better than a standard cotton shirt. It breathes well and dries fast. All of this makes it very comfortable, but it won’t feel like a loose fitting spandex shirt — which in this case is good.

Looks

You could get away with this shirt in almost any office setting, and it could be paired with a suit as well. It’s a smart shirt with a sharp collar. Most won’t think twice about it, which is exactly what you want from a performance dress shirt. It’s there to make you look good, not to stand out on its own.

Wrinkles, Smell, And Dirt

This shirt stays pretty wrinkle free. When you pull it out from your bag, it’ll be fine. You might notice some creases form where it was tucked in, but that’s par for the course and hardly worth worrying about. Overall, it’s great at resisting wrinkles.

This biggest downside of synthetics is odor resistance, and the Meridian isn’t a magic solution there. It resists odors better than most non-wool shirts, but it will still smell after a while. The advantage is that you could wash it, hang it, and have it dry the next morning to wear. I would say you could get a couple wears out of this without issue.

When it comes to resisting dirt, I’ve been impressed. I loaded a car full of gear for a weekend away, then unloaded it. I’ve flown on planes where I eat messy snacks. I’ve held babies. None of that has phased this shirt. It’s a great performer for staying clean looking.

Overall

Moving into 2018, I’ve been thinking a lot about my button down and dress shirts — about how I might revamp that lineup, and the Meridian is absolutely going to be at the top of the list. They fit great, feel great, and perform well. But more than any of that, they look great. If you are a business traveler, do yourself a favor and get a couple of these.

Bluffworks Meridian Dress Shirt

Olivers Convoy Tee

The Convoy Tee is Olivers Apparel’s merino wool athletic t-shirt. I’ve been giving it a workout for the past few months, and I’m impressed. As part of what is becoming a crowded market (performance athletic t-shirts), the Convoy Tee can certainly hold its own.

Fabric

The fabric is 18.5 micron (which seems to be the standard), 100% merino wool with a 165 gsm weight. This means the shirt is perfect for workouts, warm weather, and layering. I’ve sensed little scratchiness, and have been very impressed with how it has held up to workouts. I have yet to find any areas of pilling nor has the shirt become stretched out with repeated wears between washes.

Fit, Finish, and Performance

The fit of the Convoy Tee is athletic. I chose my size from the measurements on the website (I’m always a L or XL and ended up with an XL here), and the shirt fits very tight. The fit seems to be geared more towards a slim, rather than muscular build. It works well for exercise, but is too tight for me to wear for other purposes. If you are planning to wear this shirt for more relaxed, casual wear, you might want to consider sizing up one from where you land on the sizing chart (I could not do this as XL is their largest size). The shirt also seems to me to run a little short (at least for someone tall like me — I’m 6’ 2”), again OK for exercise, but not for everyday wear.

Note: I reached out to Olvers to discuss the fit and they indicated that the batch of shirts currently on the site turned out smaller than they had hoped. They’ve updated the size chart with a note to size up for a relaxed fit. They are working on updating their sizing chart with garment measurements.

The finish on this shirt is excellent. The fabric lays nicely and the seams are all comfortably sewn. My favorite aspect of this shirt is how the sleeves and shoulders are constructed (Olivers calls it a “reverse raglan sleeve”). I find this sleeve style gives excellent range of motion — I don’t get the constriction and bunching that sometimes comes with standard sleeves.

I’ve been extremely impressed with the odor resistance of the Convoy Tee — I’ve worn it for at least 5 sweaty workouts before washing every time. Hanging it up to dry and air out seems to work magic along with the 100% merino composition of the fabric.

Overall

I purchased this the Convoy Tee with the intention of having it as a multipurpose (casual and exercise) shirt, however due to the fit it has become an exercise only shirt. The fabric and construction are excellent, and I’d imagine I would love it even more if I could size up.

Olivers Convoy Tee

Outlier Doublefine Merino Pullover

There’s no shortage of merino wool sweaters, and while I have a few, I didn’t have one I loved. So when I picked up the Outlier Doublefine Merino Pullover, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought it may be more like a sweatshirt, but it is a sweater. Dressier than any sweatshirt, and just as comfortable as a sweatshirt.

It’s Nice

My first impressions of the pullover immediately focused on how smooth and soft it feels while also being substantial. It is something you could wear to dress up any outfit, but still not be out of place in more casual settings.

Like all merino goods, it’s very comfortable to wear throughout the day, and I found it to err more on the side of not being warm enough than being too warm. Paired with a warmer t-shirt, or even a button down, you’ll be able to withstand weather nicely.

The cut is well tuned to wearing as a layer for your wardrobe. The sleeves and body have enough room to fit another shirt under it, though there will be a few dress shirts which may not work if the sleeves are not narrow enough at the armpit. Also, the collars of most my button downs don’t work well that’s the only hang up I have with it — it’s hard to wear a button down under this as a layer.

It Shrinks

One note about the pullover is that it will shrink the first time you wash it (even if you hang dry, even if you wash it in cold water), the pullover will shrink in the length of the body. Mine fit perfectly new, but after washing it, I find it to be barely long enough for me. Hopefully it won’t shrink any further, because I do like it.

This is something to keep in mind, if like me you have a longer torso — you might not be able to make this work. It’s on the cusp for me.

The Sizing is Weird

Speaking of the length, the sizing on this garment is odd. The sleeves and body length are shorter than you would expect from other Outlier goods. Your Ultrafine Tee will stick out well past the bottom. I’m sure there’s good reason for this, but I wish it was about an inch longer, as I find it harder to figure out what to wear under it.

Verdict

At nearly $200, this is not an inexpensive merino pullover. It is though, the nicest I’ve come across — which is about what I expect from Outlier’s Doublefine lineup. This will get substantial rotation this fall and winter. It’s very nice, but you pay the price for that — and luckily the return policy is solid enough to mitigate the odd sizing.

Outlier Doublefine Merino Pullover