Every spring, I look forward to a beloved Pacific Northwestern seasonal ritual. I’m out tromping somewhere in boots, hood pulled over my head, and squint upward towards the sky. “Wait a second,” I think. “Is it sunny…and hailing? At the same time?”
Yes, warm weather will be here soon, but it’s not time to set aside those wool base layers just yet. They remain critical for those fickle spring days that start out at 70 degrees and sunny, devolve into a chilly, soggy mess by noon, and dip into the 30s at night. They’re easy to layer under a flannel shirt or light rain jacket. And like most long sleeved layers, merino wool offers light, breathable, and moisture-wicking sun protection.
I tested Ridge Merino’s Heist hoodie while running, snowboarding, and hiking, but it would work equally well on camping trips to ward off the nighttime chill. Not only does it do everything that merino wool is supposed to do—keep you warm, wick away sweat, and keep you stink-free—it looks good enough to wear around the house or going to the store.
More and more gear manufacturers are realizing that if you enjoy the outdoors, you should also take steps to protect it. Founded in 2014 by Jeff and Susan Russell and based in Mammoth Lakes, California, Ridge Merino is part of 1% For The Planet. More than 1,200 member companies in 48 countries pledge to donate at least 1 percent of annual sales go towards sustainability initiatives from nonprofits like Protect Our Winters, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center.
Their wool is also sustainably sourced. A word about merino: You don’t know stink until you’ve smelled three days’ accumulated body odor on a synthetic base layer off-gassing in a zipped-up tent. If you’ve hit puberty, you probably need a wool base layer (and if you can’t let go of your nylon, we have a few suggestions for wool-synthetic blends that are a little lighter and more durable).
The Heist Hoodie is a mid-to-heavyweight merino top. It’s incredibly soft. It has a terry weave on the inside, with comfortable flat seams and raglan construction to avoid irritating your shoulders when you’re wearing a backpack. It has a low-profile hood, which fit both over a baseball cap while I was running and under my helmet while snowboarding.
It helped keep me warm under an insulated coat in 30-degree temperatures and under a windbreaker for three- to five-mile runs in drizzly, cloudy 50-degree Pacific Northwestern “spring” weather. It was also breathable enough to be wearable for the sweaty last few miles.
The thumb loops on its sleeves are ingeniously constructed. I was two miles into my first run before I realized it even had thumb loops. Rather than just cutting a little hole in the sleeve, or sewing on an extra fabric strip, the thumb loop is hidden under a little shark fin sewn on the end of the sleeve, and they tuck away easily when you’re not using them.
This hoodie also features a zip pocket on the right side that’s big enough to fit my iPhone 8. I didn’t end up using it since my snowboard pants have pockets and I run with a running belt. But it’s always nice to have a reachable spot to stick random essentials, like lip balm or a wallet, while roaming around the ski lodge.
Smell You Later
Most importantly, it didn’t stink, even when I left it sweaty on my bedroom floor for a day or two (hey, life happens). And the hoodie is machine-washable. I threw it in the washing machine every few days and line-dried it. It’s hard to comment on durability after only a few weeks, but so far, it hasn’t stretched out, shrunken, or started to pill.
I also liked the fit. Unlike many other base layers, wool or otherwise, it’s not skin-tight. I didn’t notice any stretching or pulling. In a size small for a 5’2” woman, it still had enough room to wear another layer underneath it. With its looser fit and low-key colors, I felt comfortable wearing it in a more casual environment.
As much as I liked it in cooler climes, this hoodie is a little too heavy to use as sun protection once the mercury scoots above 60. But for high altitudes and cooler nights—or while you’re waiting under an eave for an out-of-nowhere spring rainburst to taper off—this is the perfect in-between layer. In my testing, it’s also perfect for lounging around other peoples’ backyards, waiting for them to start a fire as the sun goes down. Which, to be honest, is the best spring sport of all.