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Minus33 Wool Baselayers: Isolation Midweight 1/4 Zip and Ticonderoga Lightweight Crew

Minus33 Isolation Mid-weight 1/4 Zip and the Ticonderoga Lightweight Crew

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 manufacturers’ 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 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 base layer on cold days and is much warmer compared to a synthetic baselayer in the same weight fabric. While everyone’s 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 base layer 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.

Minus 33 Isolation 1/4 Zip Pullover (in cold mist)
Minus 33 Isolation 1/4 Zip Pullover (in cold mist)

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) because it doesn’t smell. Stylish and functional! Perfect for travel and casual wear.

Ticonderoga Lightweight Crew

The Minus33 Ticonderoga Lightweight Crew is a better base layer 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 base layer 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 the author garments for this review.

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  1. I agree – I hike hot. To the point that even at 30 degrees and in a baselayer I’m sweating. So even though I love merino wool it is just not conducive as it does not wick or dry as fast as synthetics. And like you stated, I prefer to hike dry.

  2. I still wear synthetics on the trail during the day and my mid weight smart wool top goes with me every sub 32 trip as a camp shirt, sleep shirt and backup in case of soaking conditions. Many times I’ve been drenched and pre hypothermic at the end of the day and while setting up camp and changed into a wool base for fast relief from the cold.

  3. I was just researching this company a week or so ago in my quest for reasonable priced and well made Long Underwear for Backpacking and was impressed with what I read about until I got to the average price for a top and bottom and that was a major disappointment. So back to my Military issued Polatec for now… I also Hike “Hot” and only put on another layer over a Man made Fiber T-Shirt, long or short sleeve depending on the season, and use it to keep from getting chilled along with a either a Shell or a Wool Sweater… Want a nice handmade Sweater…Check out the “Fair Island” handmade Sweaters.. Handknitted on Fair Island which is off the coast of and part of Scotland….

  4. I love the idea, but I have not found Minus 33 to be durable, and surprisingly less durable than other merino brands at that.

    • I suspect that’s because you they use 100% wool in their garments. You’re probably buying a blend of wool and synthetic from other wool manufacturers which would improve their durability.

  5. I found the Isolation 1/4 zip to be too heavy to hike in. Too warm and takes too long to dry, but it is wicked comfortable to wear around the house with the heat turned down. Probably be good for a car camping trip with cooler nights, too. They are pretty heavy-weight. Never tried the Ticonderoga crew. I found the Icebreaker lightweight to be sufficient for my needs.

  6. They also make excellent long john’s for men. Very warm. Called Kancamagus. I got mine thru their discount program.

  7. I was wondering if they carry them I tall sizes.

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