Archive for April 13th, 2008

So what’s all this hype about merino wool? In my outdoor pursuits (cycling, backpacking, general use) I’ve been wearing synthetics for years now. I perspire heavily, and I find cotton to be very uncomfortable, especially in the summer. I’ve been wearing synthetic underwear and shirts as I really like the wicking properties and comfort factor. The downside to synthetics is that they can be the cause of strong odor after heavy exertion. I find this to be true even of the high end products that are supposed to prevent this.

The one exception to my synthetic wardrobe are wool socks. I’ve been wearing merino wool socks from Smartwool since I was in high school with great success. Not only do they resist odor (more on this) but they are incredibly durable and last a good long while even under heavy use. I would estimate their lifespan is 5-10 times that of a comparable cotton product. Rachel has had a similar experience with her wear of wool socks. With this in mind, we decided to find a product made of merino wool that we could carry. After much research, we settled on Ibex Merino Wool clothing.

For product evaluation purposes, I decided to try out an Echo-T from Ibex. This is a basic t-shirt made with retro styling. The Echo-T comes in a choice of base colors with accents on the neck, sleeves and back in a contrasting color. The one I chose is Coconut Shell/Burnt Red.

The fit is very nice on me. While it is not a fitted garment, it is certainly not overly baggy. It has enough length to reach below the waist, and the quality of manufacturing is excellent.

Of course the highlight of the shirt is the material from which it is made. It is made in the USA from 100% New Zealand Merino wool. The weave is very tight, and the fabric has a pleasant natural stretchiness to it when worn. Like synthetics, it wicks perspiration away from the body. It also has very nice temperature regulating properties. So far I have found it comfortable in all temperature ranges I have worn it in (50 F – 75 F). It insulates in the cooler temperatures but breathes very well at the same time for wear in hotter temperatures. Being only April, I have not tried it anywhere very hot yet. I will update when I do, but I expect the same results. The shirt also has all of the anti-odor properties as advertised. Even after heavy perspiration and wear, there is no detectable odor. This fact was verified by family members (lucky volunteers) who happened to be close at hand after a long cycling session. The material wicks very well, but it does take a little longer to dry than a synthetic fabric. However, the thermal properties are unchanged when wet (unlike cotton).

My final opinion is that this is a really well made t-shirt that is comfortable, stylish and attractive for many different settings. Also, I expect that this shirt will last far longer than a comparable garment made of cotton or a synthetic material. The price is higher than you would pay for a regular t-shirt, but not much different from a high end synthetic made by Patagonia, Marmot or any other top end manufacturer. It is a nice way to try Merino wool clothing without the extra expense of the Ibex Qu-T.

Finally, this is a nice sustainable product. Merino wool is harvested from the same sheep year after year. Ibex certifies its suppliers as providing a quality product that also comes from sustainable, environmentally friendly and humane production methods. Synthetics can be made from recycled material, but the majority come from new production of fabric with fossil fuels (crude oil) as the base source.

Check out the Echo-T, I think you will be very satisfied.


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