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Howies Men's Classic Merino Base Layer



Very decent relaxed fit baselayer that doubles up as a really good cycling long-sleeve T-shirt

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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Ignore the full title, Howies' Men's Classic Merino Base Layer is a very versatile top that works well next to skin or even as a summer outer.

  • Pros: Warm, relaxed fit, very versatile, well made
  • Cons: Not cheap, just a tad scratchy next to skin

I know baselayers have come on in leaps and bounds aesthetically and no longer look like the string-vest monstrosities favoured by Rab C Nesbitt, but the idea of prancing around with your underwear on show is really only appropriate if you've got tickets for the Rocky Horror Show. Howies, though, might have ignored such thoughts in the case of the Classic Merino Base Layer, which seems equally effective either working underneath other layers or on display.

> Buy this online here

The Classic Merino Base Layer is made from 180g merino wool and seems a little more substantial than synthetic alternatives, although it's certainly not thick (if you look at the 'on bike' photo below, you'll see the belt loop of my jeans reflecting through the material). Because it's made of wool, it feels just slightly scratchier next to the skin compared to fleece-backed non-natural options. That's also not a problem but it is noticeable in back-to-back tests.

Howies Merino Classic BL on bike.jpg

Build quality is excellent. Seams are overlocked for durability and there's a general feeling of simple ruggedness about the whole garment. It's not chunky by any means but it feels just a step sturdier than some more delicate base layers.

Howies Merino Classic BL neck.jpg

In the role for which the Classic was designed – as a baselayer – everything works a treat. Firstly, it's warm and acts as a great barrier to the cold in inclement times. It's also very effective at wicking sweat and keeps you dry even up to fairly intense workouts.

Best of all, it has all those wonderful merino traits, such as being naturally antibacterial, which in turns means wearer-induced ponginess is kept to a minimum. Howies says it's great for everyday wear. As long as you're not getting it really sweat-soggy, that's just about right.

> Buyer's Guide: 16 of the best cycling baselayers

Thoughts about fit, though, might be a little more dependent on individual expectations. Personally, I appreciated its relaxed, much more 'T-shirty' nature rather than it being cling-film close. But I also wouldn't recommend it for wearing under tight jerseys where an under layer's fabric could end up rucking in unfortunate places. Length is good, though, with long enough sleeves and body to keep you well covered.

Howies Merino Classic BL back.jpg

In fact, because of that more forgiving fit, I think this layer doesn't have to be confined to just base duties. With its long-sleeve design, it actually makes for a decent outer layer with a short sleeve base for extra warmth or wicking, or on its own completely on warmer days. You certainly won't get any funny looks and it's available in four colours to match your ensemble.

Value and conclusion

In terms of other long-sleeve merino offerings that we've tested, there's the Pactimo High Grade Wool Base Layer, which has a far more performance-orientated nature but costs a whopping £70. Meanwhile, in non-wool options, I've just tested the crazy-coloured £40 Cycology 8 Days, which is also more like a typical athletically tight baselayer but not so sartorially versatile. As long as you understand that the Howies isn't your typical road rider's performance garb but a more relaxed option, £55 seems a fair price for a merino product.

> Buyer's Guide: The best casual cycling kit for commuting

With that in mind, I really like the Howies Classic Merino Base Layer, although I think there's an argument to say it should be classed as a technical T-shirt rather than baselayer. It boasts all the magic of merino for keeping you warm and dealing with sweat, but the fit is too baggy for high-speed mile-rackers. For commuters and serious leisure riders, it's nigh-on perfect.


Very decent relaxed fit baselayer that doubles up as a really good cycling long-sleeve T-shirt

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Make and model: Howies Men's Classic Merino Base Layer

Size tested: XXL

Tell us what the product is for

It's a merino wool baselayer for cycling or pretty much anything.

Howies says: "Made from Merino wool. For every day life and sport. Naturally brilliant."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Howies lists:

180g Merino wool

Fits just like a regular T-shirt

Regulates body temperature

Highly breathable

Wicks moisture

Naturally antibacterial

Odour resistant

Overlocked seams

Great for every day

Made in China

Rate the product for quality of construction:

Very simple but very sturdy. Well made.

Rate the product for performance:

Very good for maintaining warmth and wicking sweat. Breathability is good, too.

Rate the product for durability:

Has stood up to everything so far.

Rate the product for fit:

I really like the fit – being non-skin-tight it's a little different to typical baselayers. It won't suit serious road riders, though.

Rate the product for sizing:

As expected.

Rate the product for weight:

Not an ultra-lightweight product.

Rate the product for comfort:

Although the merino wool is a little scratchier than fleece-backed alternatives, its overall roominess means it's pretty comfy.

Rate the product for value:

Initially, I thought it seemed expensive, but compared to other products it's not actually that bad.

How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

Simple. Machine wash at 30, don't tumble.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

As a baselayer it performed as expected, albeit with that slightly untypical fit. It also performed well as an outer layer or even as a sole layer.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The relaxed fit.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Nothing much. Maybe the price.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on

There's the Pactimo High Grade Wool Base Layer, which has a far more performance-orientated nature but costs a whopping £70. Meanwhile, in non-wool options, the crazy-coloured £40 Cycology 8 Days is also more like a typical athletically tight baselayer but not so sartorially versatile.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

Howies' Classic Merino Base Layer is really good multi-purpose bit of kit. It's not perfect as a high-performance baselayer, but for day-to-day rides and general use, it makes for a nicely casual option.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 39  Height: 6'0  Weight: 16 stone

I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29  My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking, leisure

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