This 100% merino wool base layer provides loads of natural warmth and it's environmentally sound too.
The Jethro is made from 215g Zque (see below) merino which is a fairly heavyweight for a base layer. To give that some context, Howies' NBL Classic base layer is 190g while the NBL Light that we reviewed recently is 150g.
The ribbed weave is very stretchy across-ways meaning that, although it's a slim fit, it's perfectly comfortable. The wool is really fine and it feels super-soft even several washes down the line, and all the seams are flat-stitched so you certainly won't be bothered by them.
The Jethro provides a lot of insulation – noticeably more than lighter weight merino base layers. I found it a little odd to have that much warmth on my body but none on my shoulders and arms, or around the neck for that matter –– the round neck isn't particularly high so draughts can get in when you have your head down. When it was cold enough for me to want this much body warmth, it was cold enough for me to want a long-sleeve base layer, or at least a short-sleeve one. We all have different preferences though; you might be perfectly happy with a sleeveless base all year round. That's going to come down to the individual.
The wool wicks sweat away from your body effectively; that's one of the features for which merino is famous. The one downside I'd mention on that front is this: because it's quite a heavyweight wool, it can hold on to a lot of moisture compared to other bases, so I've avoided using this on high-intensity training rides.
The wool is certainly resistant to the build up of odours. Some manmade-fibre base layers start to pong as soon as you're within a mile of a hill; the Jethro doesn't and it comes out of the washing machine smelling as good as new.
Briefly going back to the Zque thing: Zque is a Smartwool accreditation programme designed to ensure the environmental, economic and social sustainability of the merino. It also emphasizes animal welfare. For all the details go to www.discoverzque.com.
Warm and comfortable slim-fit base layer with sound environmental credentials
Make and model: Howies Jethro Vest
Size tested: Ebony, Large
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Howies say, "A slim fit merino rib vest. Can be worn for running or simply as a base layer.
It's not cycling specific and the neck is quite low which isn't ideal when you need to keep cold air out.
215g Zque Merino wool
Made in Fiji | Wash 40°"
So, it's not cycle specific, although the generous length means there are no problems with fit.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Merino is good at wicking sweat away from your body and bacteria find it hard to grow on the fibres making it naturally resistant to odours. The individual fibres are very fine so they're not at all prickly on your skin
Rate the product for quality of construction:
It's pretty straightforward. You can't feel the flat-stitched seams when you're wearing this base layer.
Rate the product for performance:
Rate the product for durability:
Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
Rate the product for value:
Endura's BaaBaa Merino sleeveless base is £37.99. Zque merino isn't cheap, but this isn't ridiculously expensive either.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The close but non-restrictive fit and the softness of the wool.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I'd have preferred sleeves, short or long, and a higher neck.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? I would if it had sleeves
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Overall rating: 7/10
Age: 40 Height: 190cm Weight: 74kg
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding,
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Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.