Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.Rachel Zoe
Merino is a type of wool harvested from a special breed of sheep most often raised in New Zealand and Australia. This is not your grandmother’s wool, but rather soft and breathable, and has become the gold standard for hiking attire.
- THERMOREGULATING: Merino sheep live through cold winters with temperatures below zero (Fahrenheit) and hot summers with temperatures close to 100, all while wearing the same coat! The fibers, in turn, react to changes in our body temperatures.
- BREATHABLE: The individual fibers are naturally “crimped” and can absorb around 30% of their weight in water, wicking it away from the body. This means you say cool and dry even when sweating.
- ODOR RESIST: Because merino manages moisture, odor-causing bacteria are held at bay. This may be the number one reason for choosing wool since you’ll likely wear the same shirt for days on end before washing. My Ibex simply did not stink!
- COMFORT: Merino fibers are fine and never itch, snag or poke and are fantastic for people like me who have sensitivities to most wool products.
- DURABILTY: Merino fibers are elastic and flexible. They contain keratin just like our nails, hair and skin, and, like a spring, can be bent and flexed 30,000 times before tearing.
- UV PROTECTION: Did you know you can get a sunburn through many fabrics even if your’e completely covered? Not with merino which has a UPF rating ranging from 25-50.
- LIGHTWEIGHT AND QUICK DRYING: Merino packs to nothing and air dries quickly.
So, how did it go?
I wore one Ibex top – the Woolies Tech Long Sleeve Crew (the high collar style is no longer available) – through most of the Pacific Crest Trail plus on of the Te Araraoa. I found it lived up to the promise of being comfortable, moisture wicking and nearly completely odor free even after many days between washings.
That being said, in Oregon, I picked up a men’s dress shirt for a dollar because the mosquitos were able to bite me through the merino! However, that shirt had no UV protection and my skin burned, so I went right back to Merino when I hit the Sierra.
Ibex sells its product online only and this keeps the prices very reasonable. They make it their mission to treat everyone through the supply chain, from animal to person, ethically and ensure a fair, safe, non-discriminatory and empowering workplace.
And besides, if backpacking is not your thing, Ibex merino products mix fashion with comfort and you’ll love how you feel wearing their clothing.
- I stayed warm through many days of icy rain in the North Cascades and cool while hiking in blazing sun above tree line in California.
- Sweat wicked very well, and the shirt always felt soft and dry against my skin.
- I had my family do the smell-test when I walked right off the trail in Campo, California and into a sushi restaurant. No one could believe I hadn’t bathed in four days.
- Even after cramming my shirt into my pack, it looked clean and pressed once I pulled it out to wear. Not that thru-hiking is about looking good, but it does help when trying to hitchhike!
- Mosquitos can bite you right through merino, especially on your shoulders.
- Merino is durable up to a point. I was surprised the backpack didn’t wear away the fabric nearly as much as expected, though I developed holes in my under arms.
- Merino is very expensive. Plan to spend at least $100 if not more. That being said, its benefits make merino – especially extremely well-made and reasonably priced Ibex – a fantastic purchase.
Ibex merino tops are some of the most comfortable I’ve worn and this is likely because they add the smallest amount of nylon and elastane to give the shirt even more flexibility, durability and softness. I will continue to wear merino when I backpack and highly recommend Ibex!
Specs at a glance
- 81% merino wool
- 12% nylon
- 7% elastane
- Raglan Sleeve
- Flatlock Seams
- machine washable
alison young was given shirts to test by Ibex