Royal Robbins Merinolux Flannel Long Sleeve Shirt
The Royal Robbins Merinolux Flannel Long Sleeve Shirt is a decent option for cool to cold weather hiking. People who like the look of a flannel shirt and want to avoid cotton will approve. So will hikers who crave high durability. Relatively low amounts of merino wool limit the shirt's temperature range: it's 46% Sorona polyester, 43% polyester, and 11% merino wool. Claims that the shirt has "superior softness" aren't accurate.
- Adds some warmth
- Odor resistant
- Quick drying
- Zippered pocket
- Fabric comfort
- Limited stretch
- Limited temperature range
Royal Robbins claims that its Merinolux Flannel Long Sleeve shirt is a winter weight shirt with a soft hand and added durability. The company also claims the shirt has the odor resistant and temperature regulating qualities of merino wool, and that the shirt is machine washable. Finally, Royal Robbins claims the fabric has mechanical stretch that allows for greater comfort while in motion. The shirt is made of 46% sorona (an "eco-efficient" fiber from DuPont), 43% polyester, and 11% merino wool yarn.
As you will see, I found some of these claims were accurate while others were not.
FIT AND FEATURES
The shirt fits true to size. I wear a size 46 jacket, Royal Robbins' size chart says XL is size 46-48, and this shirt fits me with room for a light base layer underneath, with good range of motion for my arms and shoulders. The shirt has nice-feeling metal buttons and a robust loop below the collar if you want to hang it on a hook. It's a great length that will stay tucked in, and it looks very nice.
A plus for a flannel hiking shirt is the zippered chest pocket. Things won't fall out, and it's fairly roomy. If you don't mind a bit of a bulge, you can put your mobile phone and a couple of energy bars in the pocket.
Let's start with a strength. This is a relatively tightly-woven shirt that isn't likely to snag or tear. The buttons will probably never break. The hang loop is thicker than most. It has easily stood up to laundering, and after a couple of months of hiking with backpacks on, zero pilling.
I treated this the same as I would any wool blend—machine wash, tumble dry for maybe 10 minutes, then pulled the damp shirt from the dryer and let it dry the rest of the way on a hanger. Repeated laundering did not appreciably soften the fabric, but it also didn't cause any wear that I could see.
SOFTNESS AND MECHANICAL STRETCH
Softness is relative, so it's worth providing some perspective. This shirt is softer than an old-style scratchy wool shirt. It's about as soft as a wool/polyester blend that's mostly poly. It's not nearly as soft as any cotton flannel shirt or most synthetic or merino wool base layers or more technical shirts. For example, Patagonia's Capilene Air is half merino, half synthetic and is far softer than this shirt.
That relatively middling softness reflects how I wore the shirt. At first, I wore it for cool weather hikes without a layer underneath, and I found it too coarse to wear on its own. After that, I wore a short or long sleeved merino or synthetic base layer underneath. Overall, I thought the softness and comfort level of the Merinolux shirt fabric is average—not distinguishable for other merino/synthetic blends.
I'm not sure what "mechanical stretch" means, but this shirt has virtually no stretchiness. It doesn't compare to most base or mid layers in that regard. It's fine to wear while hiking because it's a somewhat roomy shirt, but that's not because the fabric has any meaningful 'give' to it.
WARMTH AND TEMPERATURE RANGE
The fabric of this Merinolux shirt is sufficiently warm that it's good for cool to cold weather hiking. Worn with a wool short sleeved base layer, I comfortably hiked several local trails, some of them fairly steep, in temperatures in the 20s and 30s Fahrenheit. Like most woven shirts, this doesn't stop much if any wind, so I occasionally put on a shell or wind shirt this winter over the shirt, and on a few really cold hikes, I pulled on a down sweater if I stopped for more than a minute. That's pretty typical performance for a shirt like this, in my opinion.
What this shirt does not do particularly well is insulate under a shell. It's a relatively low-volume fabric that's mostly synthetic, with only a limited percentage of wool. It doesn't impart as much warmth as any merino wool base layer I own or a thick wool shirt (eg an old-style Pendleton wool shirt). I would probably choose most base or fleece layers over this for colder weather.
WICKING AND DRYING
This shirt absorbs very little moisture, and with a good base layer underneath, I didn't feel damp in this shirt despite some very hard and sweaty uphills this winter. It performs more like a synthetic base layer than a wool layer in terms of wicking, which I consider a plus. It also dries out quickly for a flannel shirt. On one hike, for example, I spent half the day out, then had to stop at a grocery store for some things on the way home. By the time I got back in the car, after walking around inside for 20 minutes at most, the shirt was basically dry.
ODOR (OR LACK OF IT)
To test odor-fighting qualities, I didn't wash the shirt every time I wore it. On one stretch, I hiked four times in it and just hung it up to air out. I didn't detect any odor throughout the testing period. In fact, even when I hiked with it in the rain and got kind of wet, there wasn't much of the wooly odor I normally get from a merino T or base layer.
The Merinolux flannel retails for $99. Considering some of the outdoors-friendly features, I think somewhere between $50 and $100 makes sense, but I would try to acquire this on sale. On the plus side, it should be good for years of wear. It's a very high quality, well put-together shirt.
I tend to reach for clothes that feel good when I'm going to be out in cold weather. For me, except for shells and insulated jackets, that means fabrics that feel comfortable next to the skin and fabrics that "give" a fair bit when you move. Because this shirt didn't satisfy me much in either of these categories, it's a shirt I'm more likely to reach for as a casual shirt for social occasions or traveling in cool weather, when the zippered pocket would be particularly desirable. I also think it's probably a better option if you do at least some bushwhacking, where branches and shrubs might snag a looser-knit base layer—this shirt would readily stand up better to abuse than many competing options.
It's a very nice shirt, and a great looking shirt. I really like it for casual wear in cool to cold weather and for those occasions where you might transition from hike to apres-hike fun and want to look good. For pure hiking, it wasn't my favorite.
I live in the mid-Atlantic and hiked in this shirt more than a dozen times. I used it on day hikes (no overnights) by the Potomac River, in local parklands, and on a few of the small mountains in the DC metro area. I wore da packs of various sizes with it....because I'm often a solo hiker these days who really tries to stow the smart phone when I'm in the woods, I had to drop the packs to take the photos. We had an alternately cold and wet winter, pretty good conditions for testing a wool blend shirt.
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
(Sample for review and testing provided by BioLiteample for testing and review provided by Royal Robbins)
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