Keela Merino Long Sleeve Top Review
Long sleeve baselayer top made with Merino wool
I only discovered Merino baselayers a few years ago when I picked up a long sleeved tee in the sales. I wore it so much that Christmas resulted in a second slightly heavier weight long sleeved tee ended up in my wardrobe. These two have served me well and given me a real love for merino wool which has stretched to my feet also. When the opportunity arose to invest in a Keela Merino long sleeve top, nothing could stand in my way.
The Keela reputation for quality gear had reached my ears, I had colleagues who sung the praises of their waterproof jackets (watch this space…) With the Merino I was not disappointed – it is made from 200gsm Merino, this feels somewhere in between my current two tops which is a happy coincidence! For those of you who have somehow missed the wave of enthusiasm for Merino wool, it is wool from the merino sheep which is known to be the softest and finest from any sheep, ideal for wearing next to the skin, especially in sensitive areas. It is ideal for use as a base layer due to it’s breathable nature, insulation offered and antibacterial properties.
The Keela Merino L/S Top is available in both mens and womens, in a limited selection of colourways and the usual selection of sizes. It is made out of 200gsm Merino wool which has been blended with Polyester at a ratio of 80% Merino and 20% Polyester. It has flatlock seams, a ¼ length zip and is cut to a slim fit. The sizing is true with a decent body and sleeve length to prevent cold midriffs and wrists, teamed with a close fit to prevent draughts. Merino is known for it’s soft feel, breathable insulation, UV protection and antibacterial qualities which prevent odour even after wearing for multiple hardworking days. Even when wet with sweat or water, Merino will keep you warm thanks to proteins in the fibres which warm up when they become wet and are able to regulate body temperature wherever you find yourself. The fibres are able to soak up 30% of their weight in moisture and still feel dry to touch. The zips are YKK, known for reliability and in this case teamed with a baffle and chin (/beard if you’re a lumberjack) protector, ideal for keeping out more icy winds and preventing catching skin or hair in the zip!
There aren’t a great many additional features to discuss; pockets etc aren’t really of much use on a base layer as they would mainly be inaccessible and could also create hot spots through rubbing of the additional seams or items being stored. The women’s version is available in grey with purple stitching and black with black stitching. The men’s is available in black and was previously available in olive, but this is apparently shortly changing to an ‘SF Tan’ option (as can be seen in the partner brand – Keela Tactical Solutions).
First impressions were along the lines of “oooo, soft…I like the purple….it fits so well!!”, so far all of these comments still ring true. The fabric is good quality, and hasn’t yet shown signs of wear despite being top of the pile most days. I’ve been impressed with the fit as I’m quite tall (5’10”) and often find that sleeves are on the shorter side of ideal, but this isn’t the case with the Keela Merino. They also fit well under the thin, fitted gloves I often wear for dog walking – meaning no cold wrists. I’ve also suffered in the past from the waistbands of stretchy fitted tops riding up to subject bare skin to the outside world – very unwelcome when halfway up a bouldering route on a frosty morning, or having your first stretch of the day after leaving the tent! This isn’t a problem with the Keela Merino Long Sleeve tops which provides effective coverage, even of long bodied people. I also appreciate that labels have been kept to a minimum with only one present with washing instructions on the left side – a scratchy label on the neck is never welcomed.
In the warmth of a heated building it works well on it’s own or layered over a vest top with the ¼ length zip offering ventilation if needed. For more extreme temperatures it is a perfect non-bulky base layer, the close fitting and high neck also offers seamless warmth when teamed with tubular neckwear. The fitted cut of this top, with it’s raglan sleeves, is perfect for keeping in warmth without hindering movement and the stretchy nature enables the sleeves to be pushed up out of the way if needed. I’ve been wearing it regularly around the house, whilst Christmas shopping, in a cold office, for dog walks, splitting logs and doing other work around the place. When feeling a bit too warm with a coat on there isn’t the sudden chilling effect when de-layering which often occurs with synthetic base layers.
I also really like the look of this top, it’s flattering as it is softly fitted rather than cutting in. It looks reasonably smart for that post hike/climb pub meal, even if meeting up with friends who might have spent the day in town. The antibacterial properties must have been acting well over the past couple of months as, despite much wear, I haven’t needed to wash mine yet as the antibac properties mean that good quality merino products are odour resistant.
I think that it’s safe to say, from my point of view, this top can do no wrong. It offers me everything that I want from a Merino base layer, it is warm, comfortable against the skin, easy to care for, will take abuse and is low profile – perfect for layering. The sizing is good with decent length on sleeves and body for the size reviewed (size 12, 5’ 10” reviewer) The fabric quality feels top notch and the stitching all looks very secure – personally I like the contrast colour to the stitching and zip as well in the grey colourway, although this is purely aesthetic. The one feature which could help this top would be to have thumb holes in the cuffs which already have a deep enough hem to take one. This would give a bit of extra warmth to hands, as well as making it easier to layer up when out in the mountains without suffering from the faff of trying to tug an errant sleeve through under a particularly ‘sticky’ fleece.
I am looking forward to wearing this for years to come.