I/O Merino Wool Baselayer Test

// November 13th, 2012 // Climbing, Gear, Skiing

What do you wear when the warm weather has wandered away ? That warmth you wish to retain may be worn from clothes of a critter sheared and shorn.

Wool could well be the answer.

Wearing wool often conjures up memories of big and heavy itchy and scratchy rag wool sweaters and socks. Well, thankfully those days are gone (for smart shoppers anyway) and recent developments in the weaving of fine merino wool have made this a very comfortable and functional option for active outdoor enthusiasts.

I/O Merino, a new company out of Australia, recently sent me a few pieces from their line to use and review. Now having put them to the test trail running, cycling, and even the most rigorous of all tests – the sleep test, I have something to report.

From Alaska to Argentina, Everest to Australia I have been using both synthetic and wool clothing for some years and the one thing I must say is that no matter what, I like my clothes to disappear – from my mind at least. There is nothing like being on a climb, or ski tour with layers that bind, run short, lack breathability and are slow to dry. Before long these qualities will command your attention and possibly ruin a trip. At times my life can depend on the clothes I wear so I am very selective and discriminating.

I/O Merino Contact Euro T – Large: My first thought was that this shirt was nice and light, good looking, subdued but colorful. Then I slipped it on and found that the athletic fit would work well alone or under other layers. I wore it all day and even slept in it that night. This is definitely when you will discover if a wool garment is well made or not – if it itches or not. I am pleased to say that there was no itch and that I forgot all about the shirt and long johns as I slept. The only gripe I have of the shirt is that the collar hit me just a tad high, but since it was not overly tight this was not a problem.

I/O Merino Contact full Tight 160 wt – Medium: At nearly 6’2″ with a 33″ waist I always struggle with sizing. Either baggy and long or a good fit but too short. This base layer fit and was just long enough – a pleasant surprise indeed. With a bit of stretch and a nice weight I was comfortable with these on many trail runs especially the other morning when the temp was a meager 3 degrees f. Alone or combined under other layers these bottoms offer the flexibility to go light or layer up, and will be great for ski tours, snowshoeing and skate skiing. With such flexibility, comfort, odor resistance and the ability to maintain loft and warmth when wet, wool has become my base layer of choice especially from the waist down. The downfall of some lesser quality wool products may be itch, and the downfall of synthetics can be that sticky, clammy feeling when wet, however with these there is neither.

I/O Merino Contact Boxer Brief Med: of the three pieces these are my favorite. I know what you’re thinking “you’d wear wool there?!” Absolutely. It’s soft, dries quickly and fights odor. They fit and function well and are not what I am thinking about when my climbing harness is holding me high above the ground. For a multi-day ski tour, hut trip or backpack these are the undies of choice.

Lastly all of these garments survived a machine wash and dry. I always try my best to keep wool out of the dryer, but when my wife accidentally ran them through I was pleased to find no shrinkage.
They are all natural and will please your “Eco conscience”.
Overall I can say that I highly recommend these base layers and will be wearing the tights against my skin next week as I head to the arctic to run a marathon in 85% humidity and single digit temps.

To check out the entire line go to www.io-merino.com they have many other great items.


2 Responses to “I/O Merino Wool Baselayer Test”

  1. Eric – the merino used in the Stoic crew is spun from a 17.5 micron (superfine) wool fiber. There is no itch in this fine a quality of merino. This merino will definitely inhibit lingering effects of funk, but will also retain a fair amount of moisture during high-aerobic activities. I wore recently on a hike in very hot, humid Hong Kong and was comfortable, although my merino crew did not dry as quickly as some of my companions’ lightweight synthetic layers.Weight of the fabric is around 150gsm (grams/square meter).

  2. The term merino is widely used in the textile industries, but it cannot be taken to mean the fabric in question is actually 100% merino wool from a Merino strain bred specifically for its wool. The wool of any Merino sheep, whether reared in Spain or elsewhere, is “merino wool”. However, not all merino sheep produce wool suitable for clothing, and especially for clothing worn next to the skin. This depends on the particular strain of the breed. Merino sheep bred for meat do not produce a fleece with a fine enough staple for this purpose.

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