Base Layer Comparison – KUIU vs Sitka

The pieces I plan on comparing and giving my opinions on in this review are the following: 

Merino 185 Zip-T Shirt Size L (8 oz)
Merino 185 Bottom Size L (7 oz)
Merino 250 Zip-T Shirt Size L (10.3 oz)

Core Zip T Shirt Size L (8.6 oz)
Core Crew Shirt Size L (8.0 oz)
Merino Zip T Shirt Size L (10.1 oz)
Traverse Zip T Size L (12.5 oz)

(All above weights are from my personal scale)

KUIU Thoughts:

In warmer weather I’d wear my Merino 185 (17.5 micron wool) Zip T shirt by itself.  In cooler weather I’d layer appropriately, possibly wearing an icebreaker or Smartwool short sleeve tshirt underneath my 185 zip-t and my Merino 250 (20.5 micron wool) zip T over my 185.  I did not ever wear my 250 zip t next to skin without my 185 shirt underneath it, so I can’t really comment on next to skin comfort of the 250 weight shirt.  In more extreme cold temperatures I wore two 185 Zip T shirts and my 250 Zip T.  (I figure that was probably the equivalent to the Sitka Traverse shirt layered on top of the Sitka Merino Shirt.)
I really liked the sleeve length of the 185 and 250 shirts.  The length of the shirt tail was plenty long too for me to tuck in and stay tucked in. 

In regards to the 185 base layer bottoms, I used them when the temps dropped.  They performed well and did the job, but I don’t have much to say about them except for the fact I wouldn’t hesitate to wear the same pair multiple days in a row due to the scent ‘killing’ properties of Merino Wool.  I don’t have any Sitka Synthetic Core base layer bottoms to compare them to, but the KUIU bottoms were better than the off brand synthetic base layer bottoms I have, especially where scent was concerned after wearing the same pair for over one day.  

Sitka Thoughts:

In warmer weather I’d wear the core zip T or core crew shirt by itself.  I wore the Sitka Merino (<19 microns) shirt in cooler weather and have to say it performed very well.  I found both the KUIU and Sitka Merino Wool shirts to feel ‘cozier’ than synthetic shirts in colder temps.  The Sitka Merino wool didn’t feel as soft as the KUIU 185 Zip T shirt.  This is due to the fact it is about 19 microns and the KUIU 185 Zip T is 17.5 microns. 

The length of sleeves on the synthetic core series shirts was pretty short, leaving my watch exposed.  The sleeve length on the Merino shirts was much better, very similar to the KUIU sleeve length.  After wearing either KUIU or Sitka Merino shirts and going back to the Core synthetic shirts, I felt as though I were lacking something (sleeve length for one), and prefer the Merino shirts over the synthetic shirts.  The Sitka Merino shirt had zipper garages at the top and bottom of the chest zipper.  A nice feature, but possibly not really needed.  The coloration on the Sitka Merino shirt is more subdued than the core synthetic shirts.  It doesn’t really match the other optifade patterns.  One thing to note is that the Sitka synthetic Core shirts had a small pocket on the upper left sleeve that was handy to keep mouth calls in while chasing bugling bulls.

The 2011 season was my first year experiencing Merino Wool.  After using it for a full season, I am now sold on the benefits of Merino Wool over synthetic.  Some of these benefits include scent control, better wicking and temperature control, and a softer (non-plasticy) feel.  The downfalls of Merino wool are a slightly higher cost, higher maintenance (I try not to put my Merino Wool in the dryer, but have inadvertently with no ill effects), and possibly lower durability than synthetics.  (I’ve only had my Merino for a year or so and after putting numerous days afield in the shirts they are holding up well.  For multi-day backpacking/camping hunting trips where space/weight is limited, Merino Wool would be my primary choice for baselayers.
Even thought there isn’t a direct KUIU comparison to the Sitka Traverse shirt, I want to mention this shirt because it is my favorite cold weather shirt.  The soft lofted inside held heat in, yet the shirt breathed extremely well.  The sleeves were extended with thumbhole loops that provided just enough extra protection to keep my wrists covered in that weak link where gloves and jacket sleeves meet.  As I mentioned above, wearing 2 KUIU 185 shirts and a 250 shirt is probably the closest comparison to wearing the Sitka Merino and Traverse Zip T combination.  If I am planning on encountering very cold weather, this shirt will most likely be with me.  I’ve worn this shirt for multiple days and it isn’t until after several days of wear over another shirt that I’ve noticed any kind of stink coming from it.  If anything, this could be the Traverse Zip T’s only downfall in that it wouldn’t control odor as well as Merino Wool.

In conclusion, I’ve had good experiences with both the KUIU and Sitka base layers.  I now prefer the Merino Wool base layers over the synthetic base layers, possibly with the exception of a day hunt where air drying the Merino wouldn’t be worth the benefits of Merino since I have synthetics.  If I were to choose only one, I’d choose Merino Wool base layers, with individual camouflage preferences/availability/cost dictating if I’d buy Sitka or KUIU Merino Wool. 

Here are links to the different posts in the KUIU vs Sitka Comparison Series:
Base Layer Comparison
Pants Comparison
Jacket and Vest Comparison
Accessories Comparison


  1. I'm curious your thoughts on firstlite products. Is there a preference b/t the firstlite and the kuiu either in quality or camo pattern?

  2. I haven't personally used First Lite products, but from handling them in stores they seem very similar to KUIU, and some guys like them as well. Some of their shirts have thumb loops, I believe. You can get different camo patterns (max1) as well and I believe the Merino is sourced from the same place for First Lite and KUIU. First Lite is a little bit more expensive though unless you can get it on sale.


  3. I have worn FL for a few years and I am switching to Kuiu. For me, I am disappointed in the torso length for FL shirts which Kuiu made sure to add length. There is little more annoying than short shirts but I am 6'2" tall. The thumb holes are fine but I rarely used them. Also, I LOVE the verde camo pattern which I think is absolutely perfect where I hunt.


  4. Kevin, thanks for your thoughts on First Lite. I've been wanting to try some of FL's products, but I only need so many merino shirts! :) I'm not tall by any means, but I really like the length of the KUIU merino shirts. I don't have to worry about the torso or sleeves being too short. I have a sitka 1/4 zip shirt that feels like the sleeves are 3/4 length on me.


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