KUIU Ultra Merino 145 ZIP-T Hoodie

Founded by Jason Hairston, KUIU is primarily a hunting brand designed to be “the lightest and highest performing Mountain Hunting clothing possible.” However, the apparel line has cross-category appeal and, whilst I don’t hunt, is well-suited to most outdoor activities. Hence, I was keen to see how their 145 ZIP-T hoodie would perform on a multi-day bikepacking adventure.

Available in a range of colors and weighing just 9.2 ounces/261 grams, the ZIP-T is a lightweight, comfortable, and durable wool shirt that’s perfect on skin or as a layering option. Designed to be moisture-wicking, itch-free, and naturally odor-resistant, the 17.5-micron merino wool keeps moisture away from your skin, thus keeping you dry and warm in cool conditions.

So, what makes this particular mid-layer so special? The ZIP-T does not incorporate conventional merino, but instead showcases Nuyarn technology (nuyarn.co.nz). In short, this spinning technique releases the natural performance characteristics of wool fibre twisted out by existing spinning methods. Nuyarn states that “traditional spinning twists the life out of wool by compressing natural air pockets, introducing tension, creating loops and restricting the natural movement of the fibres—essentially creating a rope-like structure that can be itchy next to the skin.” Alternatively, Nuyarn does not twist fibres; they draft them along a high-performance filament, resulting in two-ply yarns with more volume and aeration. This technique produces 35 percent more volume, aeration, thermal retention, and elasticity, five times faster drying, 53 percent less air permeability, 50 percent greater burst strength, 120 percent stronger seams, and more resistance to abrasion. Because Nuyarn is a mechanical technique, not a chemical process, the performance attributes do not wash out and remain for the life of the garment. Finally, the wool is only sourced from farmers practising ethical animal welfare and is Global Organic Textile/OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified.

I’ve always been a big fan of traditional merino, so I was intrigued to see how Nuyarn compared and was dubious whether the difference would be noticeable. The first key distinction is the feel; the Nuyarn is noticeably softer on the skin (specifically, less scratchy). This is further bolstered thanks to raglan sleeves, which reduce chafing, and flatlock seams, which ensure two pieces of fabric stay together and don’t irritate the skin. The second improvement is the thermal retention and the reduction in air permeability. I have a number of merino mid-layers that I use in the mountains, but I can say with confidence that none of the comparable products I’ve tested are as warm.

The ZIP-T was my mid-layer of choice during a multi-day bikepacking adventure, and it performed flawlessly. This top offers “anatomical shaping,” is true-to-size, figure-hugging (with high stretch and recovery), and hangs approximately 6 inches below the waistline to protect your lower back when stretching or bending—perfect for riding a bike.

We lose a considerable amount of heat through our heads, so the integrated snug-fitting hood is another nice inclusion, providing additional warmth and concealment. The hoodie does a great job of balancing thermal efficiency whilst also being breathable. This is achieved via strategically located eyelet knit side panels that provide excellent ventilation without compromising warmth. It’s clear KUIU obsess over the details, and you have to look closely to appreciate all the innovative features such as discreet thumb holes, half-zip design to moderate heat, a standing collar, zippered chest pocket, small zipper draft excluders, and YKK zippers, which are prized in the industry for their impressive construction and reliability. If you glance at the garment specifications, you’ll also see the ZIP-T incorporates UPF 50+ sun protection and benefits from the company’s lifetime warranty.

I’ve had the pleasure of field testing numerous merino mid-layers over the years, but the ZIP-T Hoodie is the best thus far. The design and technical features come together to create a garment that excels in hot aerobic situations whilst offering class-leading thermal retention when the temperature drops. However, it’s the inclusion of Nuyarn technology that elevates this product above the competition, positively redefining the performance of merino, drastically enhancing the user experience.

$119 | kuiu.com

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No money in the bank, but gas in the tank. Our resident Bikepacking Editor Jack Mac is an exploration photographer and writer living full-time in his 1986 Vanagon Syncro but spends most days at the garage pondering why he didn’t buy a Land Cruiser Troopy. If he’s not watching the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, he can be found mountaineering for Berghaus, sea kayaking for Prijon, or bikepacking for Surly Bikes. Jack most recently spent two years on various assignments in the Arctic Circle but is now back in the UK preparing for his upcoming expeditions—looking at Land Cruisers. Find him on his website, Instagram, or on Facebook under Bicycle Touring Apocalypse.