Minus33 is a New Hampshire-based clothing manufacturer that specializes in high performance merino wool apparel for outdoor recreation. Specializing in Merino wool base layers, the company has a fanatical following amongst customers since their products are just as good as other merino wool manufacturer’s but significantly less expensive. If you hike or play in the White Mountains, you’ll also quickly recognize that many of the company’s products are named after mountains and place names in that area, such as Isolation, Chocorua, Kancamagus, Tecumseh, Lafayette, Appalachia, reflecting the company’s deep New Hampshire roots.
Merino Wool Construction
Minus33 makes lightweight, mid-weight, and expedition weight garments with the following fabric weights:
- Lightweight: 170g/m(2), mainly used as a baselayer
- Mid-weight: 230g/m(2), good as a heavier baselayer
- Expedition: 400g/m(2), good as an outer layer
Unlike synthetic baselayers and performance wear, merino wool is highly stink-resistant making it a good choice for a multi-day trips where you need to wear the same clothes for several consecutive days. It is also itch-free, wicks well, and feels warmer against the skin, even when damp or wet.
Isolation Mid-weight 1/4 Zip
The Isolation Mid-weight 1/4 Zip pullover can be used as a heavy baselayer on cold days and is much warmer compared to a synthetic baselayer in the same weight fabric. While everyone’s physiology and body warmth level will be different, I found that I sweated profusely when wearing the Isolation on steep (4000 footer climbs) even in frigid weather, although it’s a great baselayer if you’re hiking something that’s a little less extreme. The 1/4 zip is a great vent for letting off extra body heat, but I heat up so fast, that I overwhelm it.
I’ve washed the Isolation Mid-weight 1/4 Zip many times in cold water with regular detergent and dried it with the rest of my hiking clothes on high heat. It hasn’t shrunk as all. In fact, I’m about to go to a party with my wife and just plucked the shirt of out my pack (after hiking with it 18 miles yesterday) to wear for the evening. Stylish and functional! Perfect for travel and casual wear.
Ticonderoga Lightweight Crew
The Minus33 Ticonderoga Lightweight Crew is a better baselayer for me because it’s cooler and lighter weight than the Isolation 1/4 Zip. I can still strip down to this single layer and stay warm when climbing steeply in cold weather. I don’t stay as dry as I do when I wear a synthetic baselayer like a Patagonia Capilene 2 crew, but I do stay noticeably warmer and the shirt wicks moisture very effectively to a fleece mid-layer when I layer over the Ticonderoga.
Sizing for the Ticonderoga is generous (I wear an XL) which fits me well without being too tight. The fabric is very soft, non-itchy, and there is no chafing at the seams. I don’t take any special care when washing or drying it either and it hasn’t shrunk at all.
Wool or Synthetic?
While I like both of these Minus33 garments and find them very functional and comfortable, I still prefer wearing a synthetic baselayer for all of my winter hiking and backpacking. Wool has definite advantages if you run cold, need a warmer core, and dislike body odor, but I run hot when I’m actively hiking/backpacking and would rather stay drier and cooler. I do plan on switching to a wool baselayer for sleeping however based on my experience with these garments. That’s really when being warmer and cleaner smelling is the most important to me and solves one of the weaknesses with my current backpacking clothing system.
Disclosure: Minus33 provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with sample garments for this review.