Altura Merino 50 base layer review – lightweight and versatile base layer

Altura has underlined its new Adventure range with this lightweight merino mix base layer and it’s loaded with nice details at a great price

Altura Merino 50 base layer
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

BikePerfect Verdict

If you want a really lightweight base layer that’s eco, ethical, heat efficient and economical without stinking or taking ages to dry then Altura’s Merino 50 is one of the best I’ve used.

Pros

  • +

    Versatile 50/50 merino/synthetic mix

  • +

    Eco, ewe and nose-friendly

  • +

    Flatlocked seams

  • +

    Fast drying and wicking for wool

  • +

    Long lengths and thumb loops

  • +

    Well priced

Cons

  • -

    Thin for using on its own

  • -

    Still slightly slower drying than pure synthetic

Why trust BikePerfect Our cycling experts have decades of testing experience. We'll always share our unbiased opinions on bikes and gear. Find out more about how we test.

When it comes to mountain bike jerseys and base layers, merino is great for multi-day riding as it naturally fights off the bacteria that make synthetic fabrics stink up in short order. It can be slow to wick or dry though and not all merino is created ethically equal. Altura has created a 50 percent wool mix that delivers most of the sheep-based gains while dodging the downsides, being both ewe and user-friendly. It’s eco packaged and a cracking price too.

Design and Performance

Rather than a pure merino mix that can cause slow drying and shrinking/misshaping issues if you’re not on top of your laundry game, Altura has spliced it 50/50 with synthetic fibers. That removes most of the washing machine woes but still means it won’t have to be chucked in there as often as a purely synthetic base. It’s a really thin, semi-opaque weave too so there’s tons of stretch in the slim fit. Minimal weight and bulk is ideal for packing away and speeding up the wicking/drying process. Obviously that means it’s not as single layer warm as a thicker base but it’s a lot more versatile in terms of when you can use it and being able to stuff it in a spare pocket just in case you need it. Plus, it’s priced well enough you could always get two and run them together.

Altura Merino 50 base layer

The top is cut long in the body and an extra panel under the armpits stops bunching in a riding position (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

The cut is generously long in the body to tuck into your shorts without fear of ‘builder's crack’ and the long sleeves have thumb loops to keep them snug over your hands if you want. An extra panel under the armpits stops bunching in a riding position (it looks a bit wrinkly stood up but that’s not the point) and all the seams are flatlocked for comfort.

The merino is ‘non mulesed’ (look it up on Google but not before a meal) for animal welfare and all Altura’s kit now comes in a biodegradable bag with a bio moisture-collecting sachet, rather than a silicone one, so environmental impact is a lot lower than usual. 

Verdict

Getting the Merino 50 at the end of summer has probably been the best time to show how versatile this blended garment is. I’ve taken it in a pocket just in case, tucked it under a short sleeve shirt and now I'm sticking it under shells and long sleeve jerseys as an extra wicking/warmth layer for several days on the trot. The one thing it doesn’t really do is work as a layer on its own in intermediate conditions as it’s very thin, but in summer in the woods (or anywhere else you don’t mind showing off your nipples) it’s a cool and nose-friendly top. Oh and I reckon it’s more gray than navy like Altura says too, but that doesn’t affect performance.

Tech specs: Altura Merino 50 base layer

  • Price: $64.00 / £50.00/  €45.00
  • Sizes: XS/S, M/L XL/2XL
  • Color: Navy
Guy Kesteven
Technical-Editor-at-Large

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect since launch in 2019. He started writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.

Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg