Archive for September, 2013

I/O Merino Base Layers

// September 9th, 2013 // Comments Off // Gear

IOMerinoWhile on the subject of base layers I would like to complete my Base-Layer Review with some thoughts on the two other base-layers I received from I/O Merino.

I tested these long underwear hoping they could handle the rough stuff.  From a marathon in the arctic circle, to Andean summits, to sweaty summer hikes I wanted to know if these woolies could keep up and perform.  I would like to comment on the six major attributes that underwear should possess: layering, warmth, breathability, fit, durability, and feel.  With the cold season about to begin in the northern hemisphere you may want to read this to see if I/O Merino wool base-layers would work for you.

Warmth:
Layering works because of its versatility.  Fabric matters because of its performance and its ability to keep one warm while maintaining a level of comfort and style.

The lightweight T was actually a good fit for adventure travel as it could be worn alone on hot treks, or layered under another shirt for a night out at a restaurant.  Beyond that it worked well in a sleeping bag and could stay on under all the other layers for forays out of the tent.  Obviously a t-shirt is not the warmest, but due to the fabric this was warm when temps were cool and cool when temps were warm.  I have always preferred a zip neck on expeditions because of their ability to vent.  With this shirt I never felt venting was necessary.  For a light t this gets a thumbs up for warmth.

Breathability/ Drying Speed:
The tights are among my favorites due to their lightweight and with that their ability to breathe.  I never felt clammy or sticky as with some other fabrics.  The light weight also allows them to dry more quickly than heavier wool layers putting these on par with synthetics for drying speed.  Even if they did not dry as fast as they do wool keeps you warm when wet without the clammy feeling, but it does smell a little like, well, wet wool.20121113-150105.jpg

Durability:
It has been one year of solid use – running, hiking, backpacking, ice climbing, skiing, washing and drying and I must admit that I am surprised that these lightweights have held up.  When I first received them I felt they may be too light to go the distance.  No holes, loose threads, pilling, fading or shrinkage.  They are holding up well.
Layering Ability:
These are the first layer, the first line of defense against the cold and they work great for this purpose under other garments – even heavy windproof running tights.  They fit close to the body and are light so they layer very well allowing for other layers to glide on over them, but don’t try to get anything underneath them.
Feel:
I have very sensitive skin.  I have always preferred cottony soft t-shirts or flannel against the skin.  Some synthetics are brushed and have a cozy softness to them and work well against the skin.  I have worn wool from five different manufacturers all claiming to have the softest feel.  The truth for me is that under heavy pack straps it can at times feel like wool.  Never a problem under a harness, or on the legs and wool is 100% my choice as a base-layer for the lower half, 75% for the upper.  People with less sensitive skin probably won’t notice, but for me I need to scratch once in awhile.  Somedays I notice, somedays I don’t but the qualities of the shirt keep me coming back to it most days.

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Fit:
The fit is athletic and true to size, non-restrictive.  At 6’2″ tall with a 33″ waist I found the fit of these both to be spot on. (Large top, medium bottoms)
If you are body conscience you might find these to be a little form fitting when worn alone, but this is what makes them great as a bas-layer.  My only gripe at all is with the t that it comes across the front of the neck a little high and can feel a bit constricting at times.  Having long limbs I can’t comment on sleeve length from this brand yet, but the tights were adequate in length for me with a 34″ inseam.
The Bottom Line:
I/O Merino is a young company that is off to a good start.  The products I have been able to sample work well, are durable, nice looking, fit as they should and offer great versatility.
Definitely worth your consideration for your next adventure.

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