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Patagonia Merino 1 Silkweight Crew

Norway’s wet and windy spring has been a great testing ground for Patagonia’s new Merino 1 Silkweight Crew base layer. It's kept me warm and dry while running, skiing, ice climbing, and sitting on the couch watching movies about running, skiing, and ice climbing.

This lightweight long-sleeved top breathes well and has a soft, itch-free, luxurious hand that makes me want to play hard and then relax even harder.

Patagonia’s Merino 1 Silkweight crew performs well in a variety of activities, but I’ve doing most of my testing while running. Here in coastal Norway I haven’t seen the sun for three weeks, and my daily runs often occur in rain or snow. Because I’m often clad in a soft shell jacket, having a base layer that wicks moisture off my skin is critical. It’s easy to overheat and get clammy, and I need performance clothing that moves water vapor toward my shell so it can do its work too. The Merino 1 does its job admirably.

I’ve gone back and forth for years, trying to determine if I like merino or synthetic layering best. There’s really no best fabric for all conditions, but I do like the stink resistance of wool. I have run in the Patagonia Merino 1 Silkweight crew for days and it didn't smell, which makes it a perfect base layer for multi-day trips into the woods. On the other hand, I think synthetics tend to wick moisture better when I sweat profusely, which makes them best for highly aerobic activities. I think the Patagonia Merino 1 Silkweight crew combines the best of both worlds with its 64/35 wool/synthetic blend. It wicks great and smells great; it's a very versatile top. Best of all, it’s easier to care for than some 100% wool garments: machine wash and tumble dry.

In addition to its top-notch performance, Patagonia’s Merino 1 Silkweight Crew is smartly designed. Not only do the seams lay flat, but the shoulder stitching is offset toward the chest (raglan-sleeve style), so there’s nothing to chafe beneath my pack straps.

Patagonia’s Merino 1 Silkweight crew comes in sizes XS to XXL for men in gray, black, olive and blue, and in XS to XL for women in aqua, light olive, maroon and pink. Patagonia also sells a short sleeve T-shirt in the same silkweight for both men and women.

Bottom Line: A must have base layer that combines the best of wool and synthetic to keep me warm and dry – N.W. (April 2012).

BUY ONLINE: $65, shop at Backcountry.

Manufacturer's Site: www.patagonia.com

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When hiking or camping, always carry the "10 Essentials":

Extra clothing, extra food and water, lighter or water-proof matches and fire starter, map in waterproof envelope, compass, pocket knife, sunscreen and sunglasses, flashlight or headlamp, first aid kit, emergency shelter.

Source: Seattle Mountain Rescue and Seattle Mountaineers.