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Words By
Sam Farnsworth

I’ve had brilliant Merino baselayers before and I’ve had thin mid-layers with the other features of Rab’s Merino 160 Hoody before, (hood, long cuffs and deep chest zip), but this is the first time I’ve seen the fabric and features combined and it actually makes a lot of sense!

During uphill slogs and on sweaty pitches the Merino wicks moisture away, fast. This helps keep you cool when you’re working hard, but then on long, cold belay sessions, having a dryer layer against the skin means warmth and comfort. I’m not going to pretend to understand how the 37.5 Technology treatment works, but I can attest to it keeping me more than comfortable.

The cut on the hoody is fairly long, helping to keep it neatly down under the harness while climbing. The arms are long too with extended cuffs and thumb loops to help keep your wrists and fingers warm. (They need all the help they can get sometimes!)

On a sport climbing trip in January I wore the hoody almost every day for a month, mainly because I knew the merino wouldn’t smell after days and days of constant use!

January in Spain means freezing mornings, and often warm, sunny days. The medium weight was great under a couple of layers on the cold mornings. And then, in the sun on baking belays and longer routes the hood was ideal for keeping the burning sun off my neck and shoulders. It sounds crazy but I actually love it for that even though I can’t imagine it’s what Rab had in mind when they designed it! They were doubtless thinking more of cold conditions and with the hood and zip up, your face is nicely cocooned. Most impressively, it fits under a thin beanie with space left for a helmet  over the top, making a lovely warm combination.

Then there is the deep chest zip which is brilliant for keeping your temperature regulated on uphill slogs, running, mountain biking, walking, climbing… And yes, the zipper is big enough to handle with a pair of gloves on!

The combination of having this deep chest zip as well as the thumb loop cuffs and hood make the top incredibly adaptable, and the wicking nature of the fabric makes it an ideal base layer as long as it’s under something breathable. For me, it’s the perfect combination of natural fabric with a great cut and just the right amount of design features.

Sam Farnsworth has been instructing for fifteen years. His climbing career began in native Devon, and once he'd escaped the cream teas, has taken him all over; from Yosemite, to Venezuela and throughout the UK. Sam runs North Wales-based Gaia Adventures, delivering climbing and summer mountaineering courses, as overnight portaledge adventures and sport climbing trips in Spain.