Merino, the wonder fabric. You’ve heard of merino before so I’m not going to go into too much detail on the basics. It doesn’t smell after wearing it for days, regulates your temperature better than synthetic, is warm when wet and is 100% sustainable to grow. All it takes is a sheep haircut and you have more.The downsides of wool are that compared to synthetic usually it’s more expensive, more work to care for and doesn’t last as long. Let’s look at these below.
Minus33 – the company
Founded in 1916, L.W. Packard was one of the leading merino wool manufacturers. When the company shut down in 2001, some of the family took over and started Minus33. Some of the original mill buildings in their Ashland, New Hampshire location are over 100 years old. Pulling some of the old secrets from L.W. Packard, they’ve got textile manufacturing knowledge from over 100 years.They now make over 60 different merino wool items for outdoorsy folk like us. Most of their merino comes from Australia.
Minus33 Chocorua Merino Wool Crew
Now on to the review. The Minus33 Chocorua Merino Wool Crew is a midweight long sleeve crew merino wool shirt from Minus33. It’s a heavier weight than other brands midweight like Icebreaker or WoolPro whose midweight fabrics are around 195 or 200 g/m². Minus33 midweight is 230 g/m² (their expedition weight is 400 g/m²!).Wool fibre thickness: 18.5 micronsWeight: 230 g/m² fabric, 9.6 oz for largeFeatures: TEC, Flat lock seams, 50+ UPFPrice: $65.99 US – $86.00 CADCare: Machine wash cold, tumble dry low. Wash inside out. No fabric softener or bleach. Store in airtight container.
The first thing you notice handling the shirt is how thick and soft it is. It’s super comfortable to wear. That said, I don’t think I can wear it as a base layer right against my skin because the wool is a little scratchier but over a t-shirt or other finer base layer is fantastic. At 230 g/m² it’s basically a heavyweight thickness anyways.
Merino – smell, temperature regulation, 100% renewable
Merino is my favourite thing to wear outside. You can wear it for days and it doesn’t smell. It regulates your temperature better than synthetic materials. It isn’t made out of plastic so you just give a sheep another haircut and you have more. Forever. I’ll be wearing merino for a long time.
Cost is usually the downside to merino, it’s expensive. Merino t-shirts can be over $100 and sweaters and hoodies over $200.Relative to other merino, Minus33 is a really good price. The Chocorua is only $86 (CAD). Comparable long sleeve midweight layers from other brands cost you more. An Icebreaker heavyweight tech top at 260 g/m² is $135 or more.Another thing to note is that at 230 g/m², you are getting more wool than most brands give you. Icebreaker midweight is more expensive and only 200 g/m².
The Chocoura’s style is pretty basic, it’s a plain long sleeve crew. I like how it looks though. Black is never a great colour for photos in the woods but it turned out well with this one. There aren’t any extra design details like pockets or thumb loops but it keeps things simple and costs down.
Total Easy Care
Total Easy Care (TEC) is a treatment applied to the merino when the shirt is being made. It helps keep the colour, shape and size of the shirt longer. The main part for me is that you get to tumble dry the shirt on low because of the TEC treatment. This makes caring for merino so much easier. Merino clothes, shirts especially, are prone to shrinking a lot in the dryer at warm temperatures. But looks like we don’t have to worry about that any more with TEC. It does say to wash in cold water, though, which throws a wrench into my processes. I did mine on warm the first time and it seems to be ok, possibly shrinking slightly.
A bit saggy when wet
This is more a complaint about merino wool although it depends on what it’s blended with in the fabric. When it gets very damp like hiking in the rain or just really wet brush, the shirt gets a bit saggy. It’s not a big problem and it might only be an issue for me because the minus33 medium fit is a bit large.
The Chocorua fits a bit large. Compared to other shirts from WoolPro or Icebreaker, the Chocorua gives you a little extra room. I usually wear a medium which fits snug in most merino brands, it fits a bit loose in Minus33.Also, the cuffs could be a little bit stretchier. This is common in merino shirts where they don’t have any elastane or spandex in them. Having a nice snug, stretchy fit around the cuffs keeps the shirt in place and keeps the drafts out. This would be a nice addition to the shirt.
Feel could be finer
This is another issue across brands is using thicker, rougher wool in the heavier shirts. This makes them more durable and I’m assuming less expensive but the feel of it prevents me from wearing it against my skin. The shirt can easily be worn on top of another finer, softer base layer but it would be nice to have the option to wear the long sleeves against your skin on cold trips. I’m a bit more sensitive to the minor itch thicker merino pieces have. It may not bother you. At 230 g/m², the Chocorua is almost a heavyweight piece anyways.
The Minus33 Chocorua gets a Recommended rating from us. The great price for a heavy midweight long sleeve with a good fit is always nice. It’s easy to wear on long trips, on anything cold and even to the office as a casual crew with good temperature regulation.Add in Total Easy Care to the mix and Minus33 have a solid product. You don’t have to be so careful washing and drying your merino which makes owning more even easier. I will never say no to more merino.
A few more photos from one of the Chocorua testing adventures
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the Minus33 Chocorua for free from Minus33 as coordinated by Deep Creek PR, an Outdoor Industry Public Relations Company, in consideration for review publication.In other words, I get gear from companies to test and review so I can beat the crap out of them and recommend the good ones to you guys. The more free ones I get, the more testing I can do. The feedback goes back to the companies as well to help them make better products.