BlackOvis NWT Merino Wool Review
By Howard Mee, Guest Contributor
Quality base layers can mean the difference between an enjoyable trip and a cold, miserable day. In this review, I’ll go over my thoughts and experiences after using the BlackOvis NWT Merino Wool Line for a season.
I recently purchased five items from the BlackOvis NWT Merino Wool line.
The idea was to buy everything from the waist up, give it a go & see what I thought. There is actually a sixth piece in their line, a 190 Crew Long Sleeve Top, but I missed it when I loaded my shopping cart.
When choosing a base layer material, we essentially have three options: synthetic, wool or a blending of the two. As a general rule, synthetics like polyester, capilene, etc. are less expensive, dry faster, breathe better & are typically more durable than wool. A merino wool fiber, however, is super fine. Being finer than a human hair means incredible “next to skin” comfort. Selective breeding programs & new manufacturing techniques continue to make the wool more and more comfortable.
The Order of Odor
Synthetic materials build up bacteria & start to stink pretty quickly. Merino wool, however, is different. It is a freak of nature. It essentially does not stink, even when you sweat.
Sarah Everts has conducted extensive research on the science of perspiration. She says,
“The problem is that bacteria living on our body like to eat some of the compounds that come out in our sweat.”
She goes on to say that our sweat doesn’t stink. As bacteria feed on the salt & fats present in sweat, it releases odor molecules. Merino wool has natural, anti-microbial properties in each fiber. The bacteria that feed on our sweat cannot adhere to the wool fibers. How amazing is that?! A naturally odor resistant material sounded unreal to me, and why I decided to put it to the test in the BlackOvis NWT Merino Wool line.
I wore my Merino shirts as often as I could. I wore it biking, hiking, and hunting. I wore it when I dropped my kids off for school. I wore it to track meets & lacrosse games. I wore it to work and I wore it church and I wore it to the gym.
I’m the kind of guy that will sweat while standing barefoot in the snow and, consequently, put these shirts through the paces. While I didn’t wear them every single day, for 45 days I wore the line as much as reasonably possible and I didn’t wash them.
On day 42, I started to smell some stink coming from the Short Sleeve Tee. In fairness, this is the garment that took the brunt of the sweat. It is also the only 50% merino wool, 50% polyester blend.
My point is this: A single shirt can endure days upon days of hunting and not betray you. As a hunter, this is huge and speaks directly to the issue of pricing (and it might be cheaper than you think.)
Consider that some rancher in New Zealand is caring for a flock of merino sheep. The harvested wool then goes to a fiber mill where it is processed into usable threads. The usable wool has to be purchased by a manufacturer and then sewn into a garment, shipped, resold, etc. While all that adds cost, remember that one piece of solid hunting gear can replace a handful of synthetic tops. A single merino shirt saves space, weight, and money in the long run.
Next, I turned my attention to the issue of durability. This was a huge red flag for Howard! Longevity and durability are pretty much always my greatest concern. I’m a neanderthal and I ruin stuff. At this point, it has been six months since I ordered these items and so far, I have had absolutely no issues with the BlackOvis NWT Merino Wool line. When they arrived in the mail, I noticed a small hole in the left forearm of the ¼ Zip Hoodie (quality control?) but since it has not grown in size, it actually complemented this test.
As is common with all wool blends, I found pilling around the armpits and along the ends of the sleeves. Throughout the 45-day period, the pilling became less & less obvious. I had actually forgotten about my initial frustration until I read over my notes to write this review.
The stitching is phenomenal. We all know how frustrating it can be to pop a seam and watch a garment unravel. I noticed that the BlackOvis NWT Merino Wool line, seams are designed to prevent the dreaded “unravel” if you snag a seam.
Another feature I like is the placement of the seams. They are oriented on the shirts in such a way as to avoid the likelihood of developing hot spots on your shoulders when wearing a pack. Very wise design.
The 190 weight shirts have a single seam that runs along the center of your shoulder, but there are no other intersecting seams that could create a hot spot under the strap of a backpack. The 230 ¼ zip hoodie is even better. It is designed so that there are no seams on the shoulders at all!
The only real “problem” I had with any of the garments was with the 230 ¼ zip hoodie. It is too small. In my opinion, they were wrongly labeled during manufacturing. I visited with BlackOvis about this issue. They are going to contact their manufacturer and get the labeling issue resolved. In the meantime, if you are buying a ¼ zip hoodie from 2018, I recommend that you order a full size larger than normal. This was a bummer because it was my favorite piece! Maybe it’s because it’s a midweight base layer and there is more merino to touch, but it feels great.
Additionally, the hood on the ¼ zip hoodie doesn’t block your field of view like most brands. The design is similar to Sitka’s Core Heavyweight Hoody. I can see this feature paying off huge while hunting in the timber. Unfortunately, because of the sizing issue, I gave the hoodie to my buddy and he has been happily wearing it ever since. If you only buy one piece, buy the 230 ¼ zip hoodie!
To end the test, I washed and dried the shirts according to the recommendations on their tags. They came out great. The BlackOvis NWT Merino Wool line is impressive. I wear them all the time and I’m glad I bought them. I look forward to using them this winter and so will you!
You can ask Howard Questions or discuss this review here.