Under Review: Minus33 Merino Wool – Kodiak Expedition Full Zip Hoody & Day Hiker Socks

Why Buy?

Merino wool is an amazing material. After using it throughout the spring and summer, I was convinced of it’s antibacterial (odor preventing) and wicking properties. Testing mostly socks and shirts in temperatures ranging from the 30s to 90s, I was continually impressed how well merino regulated my body temperature and was especially impressed with how much merino could be worn between washes. For those not familiar with merino wool, Wikipedia has a good summary:

Several properties contribute to merino’s popularity for exercise clothing, compared to wool in general and to other types of fabric:

  • Merino is excellent at regulating body temperature, especially when worn against the skin. The wool provides some warmth, without overheating the wearer. It draws moisture (sweat) away from the skin, a phenomenon known as wicking. The fabric is slightly moisture repellent (keratin fibers are hydrophobic at one end and hydrophilic at the other), allowing the user to avoid the feeling of wetness.[8]
  • Like cotton, wool absorbs water (up to 1/3 its weight), but, unlike cotton, wool retains warmth when wet,[9] thus helping wearers avoid hypothermia after sweating from strenuous exercise or getting rained on when outside.[8]
  • Like most wools, merino contains lanolin, which has antibacterial properties.[10]
  • Merino is one of the softest types of wool available, due to finer fibers and smaller scales.[9]
  • Merino has an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio compared to other wools, in part because the smaller fibers have microscopic cortices of dead air, trapping body heat similar to the way a sleeping bag warms its occupant.[11]

source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merino

When snowshoeing and winter hiking, the quality of your gear and gear selection is extremely important. A simple mistake can be deadly. Over the last few years, I’ve used/tested many different combinations of base, mid, insulating, and outer layers trying to figure out what will work for me. Despite being heavier than down, I have become interested in the possibility of using merino wool as my primary insulation layer for two reasons: it still insulates when wet and sweat does not degrade it. After talking with Minus33 a few times about their products, I ended up with a Merino Wool Kodiak Expedition Full Zip Hoody and a set of their Merino Wool Day Hiker Socks. Here are some specs on these items.

Kodiak Expedition Full Zip Hoody Specifications (source: Minus33.com):

  • 100% Merino Wool = Warmth, Style, Comfort
  • Machine washable and machine dryable
  • 18.5 Micron fibers for superior comfort with no itch
  • Wool fleeced interior for extra warmth
  • 400 g/m2 Interlock knit construction
  • Flat lock seams to prevent chafing
  • Weight of Garment Size Large = 1 lb. 14 oz. (865 grams)
  • Rib Knit Cuffs with thumb holes
  • UPF Rating: 50+

Day Hiker Socks Specifications (source: Minus33.com):

  • Our # 1 Selling Sock – “It’s just so comfortable!”
  • Full plush lambs wool cushioning throughout arch support
  • Flat toe seam stretches fibers from toe to toe for snug fit
  • Impact areas reinforced with double nylon for durability
  • Guaranteed comfort
  • Machine washable and machine dryable
  • 85% Merino wool, 13% Stretch Nylon, 2% Spandex
  • Weight of Sock Size Large = 3.2 oz. (91 grams)

My Observations

I’ve been using my Minus33 gear since the end of November, on the trail and off. For the last seven weeks, the Kodiak Expedition Full Zip Hoody has been worn nearly every day. The Day Hiker Socks have been worn 2-3 days per week. Both items have been used on several hikes.

Kodiak Expedition Full Zip Hoody

  • The Good
    • It is super-comfortable and has served me well over a wide range of temperatures. With a t-shirt, I’ve comfortably worn it around the house or at work in temperatures up to 60. Hiking, I’ve worn it with a light wicking longsleeve down to 3 degrees.
    • Everything about this hoody says quality; the material, stitching, and zipper, even the zipper pull are top notch.
    • It is well designed with cold-weather use in mind. The sleeves have thumbholes and an overlapping zipper design to keep out the wind and cold.
    • They hoody has proven to be durable, showing very minimal signs of wear.
    • The hood itself is large and comfortably fits over my climbing helmet.
    • To the test the anti-microbial qualities of the merino, I’ve intentionally worn this hoodie when I knew it would be too warm on a training hike, as well as at the gym. No stink so far!
    • Machine washable and dryable.
  • The Bad 
    • Merino wool products are pricey, so being a heavyweight item made from 100% merino wool, it is expensive.
    • The hoody is on the heavy side (nearly 2 lbs) if pack weight is a big concern for you.
  • The Bottom Line 
    • Great product that should last for years. If you’re looking for a heavyweight merino wool layer, I highly recommend this hoody.

Day Hiker Socks

  • The Good
    • Extremely soft and comfortable. I really enjoy wearing them around the house.
    • The antibacterial and odor resistant qualities of these socks is great. On average, I’ve been able to wear them for 1 warm weather hike and for a couple of days to work between washes. If I lived in a cooler climate, I could wear them longer. They seem to be warmer than some of the other merino wool hiking socks I’ve used.
    • So far I’ve used them down to 20 degrees with non-insulated boots and they have kept my feet warm. In cold weather, I believe I could wear them 4+ times between washes.
    • MSRP is significantly lower than the other full cushion merino wool socks I’ve tested.
    • Machine washable and dryable.
  • The Bad
    • The socks quickly showed some pilling after the first couple of weeks, but it hasn’t increased since. I need to see how they hold up long term.
  • The Bottom Line
    • Considering the price and comfort, these socks are a good buy. If you haven’t used merino before and are curious if it will work for you, this is a good place to start.

Final (& somewhat random) Thoughts

  • The hoody is high quality and one of my favorite pieces of clothing. Since November, my layering system for winter hiking has consisted of a synthetic or merino long sleeve base layer, quick drying t-shirt (optional), the Kodiak Expedition Full Zip Hoody, and a light jacket (waterproof and breathable). I plan to use this for the rest of the winter, and may use the same items for summer backpacking trips in the Sierra and White Mountains of NH. Once I’ve tested the hoody in a wider variety of weather, I’ll update this post.
  • I like the socks. They’re comfortable and the most budget friendly of the merino wool hiking socks I’ve tested. I want to further test their durability (pilling issue above), as well as see how they perform in cooler temperatures. For most snowshoeing and winter hiking in SoCal, I believe they’re warm enough to allow me to hike in 3-season boots (not insulated).
  • While I would consider merino wool an expensive option for everyday use, all of my hiking and backpacking socks have been replaced with merino wool.
  • One bonus of using merino wool on a daily basis is less laundry. If you’re conscious of water usage (as most residents of California should be), or just hate doing laundry, it may be something to consider for everyday use.

Disclaimer: The products reviewed in this entry were provided to HikingGeek.com by Minus33.