Backcountry.com Merino Base Layers
After successfully tackling the retail biz, this online shop is now taking on manufacturing: Backcountry.com is making its own brand of competitively priced, lightweight wool baselayer tops. Both the long sleeve crewneck and zip-T (our favorite) are made of fine merino from New Zealand, which is soft, itch-free, and naturally more odor-resistant than synthetics, which typically employ chemical treatments to fight stink. The 18-micron merino (the fabric’s quality is measured in micron size, with lower numbers indicating a finer, or softer, feel) is among the softest we’ve tested, making it an easy pick almost any day of the year. "This shirt will see me through every season: as a single layer in warm weather; solo under a shell when it’s cool and blustery; and as a wicking base under multiple layers for cold-weather workouts," said one tester. "I’ll wear it until it disintegrates." It’s preshrunk, so the fit–which is snug without being too clingy–won’t change, and after intensive use, the pilling is close to nil. Props go to the flat shoulder seams and the thumb loops, which keep sleeves from riding up when you reach overhead. On the zip-T, the 10-inch zipper offers good ventilation, and the 2.5-inch standup collar seals out neck drafts. Demerit: One of our three samples suffered a small tear near the thumb loop. $60-70; men’s S-XL; women’s XS-XL. (800) 409-4502; backcountry.com.