As a consumer of content myself I occasionally find myself wondering how a contributor truly tested the gear they are reviewing. When it comes to clothing especially and the expectation of turnaround for reviews I often wonder the varying degrees of the elements things were exposed to. I can assure you that as we take a look at the 5.11 Range Ready Merino Wool Long Sleeve that this top has been put to the test. Sitting at my computer with the Range Ready top on underneath my sweater, it is currently a “feels like” temperature of -36 degrees outside. In the few weeks I have been wearing this Merino wool top it has seen everywhere from 40 degrees to the temperature as of this writing (it is continuing to drop). Is Spotter Up sending contributors to remote locations to get the best review of products now? No, I simply live in the Chicagoland area. That said, the delivery of this new layer option from 5.11 could not have come at a better time.
Fit and Appearance
The Range Ready Merino Wool Long Sleeve was ordered using my normal shirt sizing. The fit was true to size and with wider shoulders and longer arms sleeve length is occasionally an issue, but this long sleeve fit was comfortable in the shoulders and the sleeve cuffs fell right at my wrist. Upon trying it on it was immediately clear that this was going to be a comfortable top. With a preference towards a more loose fit this top does well to provide a secure fit as a layering garment without being a tight fit. The cuffs allow the sleeves to stay in place when layered and the length of the garment makes it easily tuck-able without bunching up at the waistband. The collar comes up along the neckline and is loose enough to not feel restrictive around the neck but is high enough and sits firmly enough to be used as a uniform undershirt.
5.11 markets this top as being a “Merino wool with super-tough nylon and flexible elastane to create a fit that feels soft yet strong”. I will certainly attest to the validity of the claim that it feels soft. When I put it on and was wearing it around the house it had the feel of more of a lounge garment than a functional garment and I was honestly slightly apprehensive on how it would actually do in the warmth department (spoiler alert, it did quite well). Worn as a stand alone garment the fit was as expected of a long sleeve top and when layered it remained in place as a base garment and I had no issues with it riding up or becoming displaced when in layers and armor.
The look of the Range Ready series is where the garment steps away from just being another cold weather undershirt. While this top is certainly ready for the range I would say that it was ready to go to the store before the range and go grab some lunch after the range. It’s outward appearance doesn’t make it look like you are wearing traditional long johns and maintains a casual appearance when worn on it’s own.
The 5.11 logo heat transfer on the upper shoulder brand at the top as 5.11’s but doesn’t scream “I’M WEARING 5.11 TACTICAL!”. This lets you walk around the store avoiding the appearance of a tactical timmy while having a logo visible on the garment to separate you from the guy who just got out of bed and decided to go to the store. The upper shoulder logo also gives the Range Ready top the ability to be worn while on duty as there are no logos visible at the center-line of the collar. The seams while somewhat visible run in stitched rows to make them aesthetically pleasing and not simply a straight thread seam. This seam stitching plays a role in the functional application of the Range Ready long sleeve.
Being a “range ready” branded garment it was an obvious conclusion that I would don this top and head to the range. With an outdoor range accessible and mid 30 degree weather it was the perfect opportunity to see what the Merino Wool Long Sleeve could do. Being a Midwesterner my entire life cold is not a new experience and I wanted to see how long I could function on the range in just the Range Ready Merino Wool top before it became too cold. Realizing that this garment was certainly not designed to be a stand-alone top in this sort of weather I again underestimated what the Merino wool could do. I was able to run pistol and rifle drills comfortably in just the 5.11 top for approximately 20 minutes. This was my first realization that this Merino wool blend is indeed, the real deal. With its soft feel on the skin I was not prepared for the amount of warmth that it would provide. I was able to move freely with the cut of the top and the “no-itch” nature of the garment proved to be accurate.
Before I got too cold I wanted to see if the flexibility and comfort would remain when I put on my plate carrier. Upon donning my plate carrier, the featured flatlock seams became an important detail in the tops design. There was no seam digging into my skin even with the pressure of my shoulder straps, the seams laid flat and I felt no additional pressure from the top itself. I was able to move and shoulder my rifle without any issues. The flatlock seams were clearly designed with attention to detail and considerations for movement and armor. The seams themselves do not run directly over the shoulders but are forward and read of the shoulder line so there is no direct contact bearing down on a seam into the skin. This proved to be comfortable both standing on the range and during movement.
I then layered a fleece ¼ zip top over the Range Ready top and spent the rest of my range trip comfortably performing the drills of the day. The Merino wool blend does a great job of managing heat and moisture as I never felt too hot and there was never that feeling of heated moisture inside the garment that some get. That feeling of a sauna under your top and wet skin when you remove your top is likely one of my biggest complaints about layered garments. The Range Ready Merino Wool Long Sleeve does not fall into that category, quite the opposite. I have yet to take the top off and have moisture trapped underneath it despite having some sweat marks evident and knowing that I was likely sweating from movement under my layers.
This is the part after mentioning sweat marks that I say that the claim of being odor-resistant was found to be accurate. I was able to utilize this top with varying layers to include a warrant service where it was the base layer of a four-layer system that included full body armor and there was no odor that would normally be associated with a piece of clothing that was put through that sort of bodily abuse.
Putting the Range Ready top to use on duty it has immediately become a staple of my wardrobe. As a patrol officer I do not life to wear a jacket at work so I find myself in a base layer and a sweater with my external body armor carrier. The fit of the Merino Wool Long Sleeve under my sweater was quite comfortable. The soft material was not rough on my skin during a twelve-hour shift and the top truly is a “no-itch” garment. One of the things I found most beneficial and almost mystical was the Merino wool’s ability to not overheat my body when inside. When layered in the winter I often find myself overheated when indoors and the Range Ready top did a good job of allowing my body to regulate its temperature when indoors. I attribute this partially to its fit, the loose nature of the top allows airflow that keeps me cool when indoors.
With that in mind as soon as I step outdoors it is a solid base layer that has allowed me to function within the temperature range that I would expect of a base layer. With a single degree temperature morning search warrant the layering started with the Range Ready Merino Long Sleeve and continued for 2 more layers then my full body armor and a shell outer. Again the details of the seams became a functionally important piece as the offset seams of the shoulder panels insured that layers of seams were not stacking upon each other and I was able to conduct the mornings tasks in comfort and warmth.
Whether worn as a primary layer in cool weather or a base layer in cold weather the Range Ready Merino Wool Long Sleeve is a good fit for what you need. If your desire function is range wear, this is the top for you. For duty use as a base layer in cold weather, this is what you want. So basically, if you are a human being, and you face the possibility of cold weather of any degree, this is a piece you’re going to want in your wardrobe. With its ability to keep you warm but not retain moisture while also not accumulating an odor through use it is a top that can be used in a wide range of environments.
My only regret with this review is that I did not also get the bottoms to accompany the top, a misstep that I most certainly will be rectifying as I can imagine the Merino wool bottoms will prove to be as good as the top. Also, in case you were wondering, it now feels like -42 degrees out.
I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer via Spotter Up so I could test it and give my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.
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