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  1. #1
    Baked Alaskan
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    Wool wars - Ibex vs Smartwool vs????

    Homers,

    Been looking at making the switch from synthetics to wool for some time now and I think I'm gonna take the plunge. Most of my activewear is at least 3-4 years old and some of it goes back a bit further so its time to start replacing things.

    I'm looking at wool partly because of the stink factor - supposedly its much better than synthetics, but I've also read its great at cooling when the weather is hot and great at warming when the weather is cool - so it sounds more versatile and with Alaska weather combined with outside travels I need that.

    I've listed Ibex and Smartwool because those two look pretty good from what I've seen in person. Icebreaker stuff seems nice too, but their tops are cut shorter than the other two and at 6'2" I need longer tops. I am open to other suggestions and opinions.

    Everything will get a lot of field testing in the next month or so as we have a ton of snow here and I'm getting ready to spend 4 weeks touring Ecuador and Peru. I'll get the chance to put the stink factor to the test in a big way - I'm only taking a mid-sized backpack for all my stuff and will be taking *maybe* 3 shirts for the whole trip.

    Thanks in advance.
    The red couch has moved from Alaska to Florida...

  2. #2
    trail fairy
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    When it comes to socks I love wool, my Turner socks are wool, Ive had merino wool socks dee feet for years loved em finally gave up the ghost last year bummer wished I'd bought more of em.

    As you say cool in summer warm in winter, I've not found clothing made as well or comfortable as the socks that didn't itch or chafe except for my Nzo cruise liners and fleece pads instead of chamois unlike the socks, I wear my Turner socks and clothes almost daily!

    My shorts are just a shell!

    When ever I wear a short with a sewn in chamoisit feel like a nappy, dam weird and uncomfortable and breathable and my nutz shrivel up, just not natural, not for a bloke!

    So I agree wool is good mixture maybe the best, don't think I'd DH in wool somehow but then never say never

    Um something to think about though my stuff usually wear well maybe because I rotate it regularly, have a few sets of stuff that work!
    Last edited by trailadvent; 12-02-2008 at 02:51 PM.
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  3. #3
    MK_
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    Icebreaker is my favorite. In terms of fit, performance and looks. Smartwool looks so so, I'm not crazy about the fit. Ibex seems the priciest, but most heralded. Never tried the latter.

    I'm 6'1 but with long appendages and shorter torso. Icebreaker in large is my ticket.

    _MK
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  4. #4
    Moosehead
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    alot of stinky mountain sports folks have switched over to merino/ibex/smarwool/etc here in the co rockies. +1 to the warmer when wet (if body temp is warm), cooler in hot, less stink, better wind block characteristics. only potential downsides seem to be (1) no dryers, gentle machine wash or hand wash only, and (2) after 2+ hours of athletics, sweat can build even in the microwools, so then a cool down and start up again in cold weather can be a little chilly. some report "itchyness" of wool, but that's a non-issue for the above materials. suggest army/navy or thrift stores to save some $ given ur going backcountry. the ibex stuff counts as killer formal wear in colorado, but it's expensive.

    normally wouldn't go to this level of nerdiness on clothing, but hoping you'll post shots of the andes/patagonia, eh? mountaineering, skiing, biking?

  5. #5
    trail fairy
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    Quote Originally Posted by MK_
    Icebreaker is my favorite.

    _MK
    Good Christchurch company, darn good stuff I do get a bit hot in that though ,never tried MTB in an ice breaker though, snowboard yup, had a couple of IB stuff for over 10years oldschool

    Good call MK
    Just riding a muddy trail. . ..

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  6. #6
    MTB aficionado
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    As a fellow Alaskan, Merino wool is the way to go. I've made the switch over a couple years....

    I have many pieces from different companies... and I've spent a lot of money, but it's been worth every penny.

    I like patagonia's ultra-lite long underware and top... this is great 4-season ware.

    I have a medium weight long underware and top from Smart-wool. I use this mostly in winter when I'm backcountry skiing. This is good stuff for aerobic activity in cold weather.

    I have two Icebreaker sweaters and one thick pull over for the really cold days or when I go to the ski resort.

    I have the Ibex Clima-wool guidepants that I use for both Back country skiing and winter riding. This is the best winter activity pant I've ever used.... period.

    I have Ibex arm and leg warmers.... use mostly in spring and fall riding seasons.

    I have two Smart-wool short-sleeve shirts that get used all summer long... riding, hiking, boating.... whatever.

    When it's cold and damp..... wool is the way to go.

    Regards,

    EndUser
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  7. #7
    Just roll it......
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    So, it's still a synthetic (I believe). A buddy who lives in anchorage and does a lot of multi day backcountry trips during winter has been preaching the virtues of Schoeller for it's lightness, breathability, warmth, drying capacity, etc. for many years. They make both outer and under layers with the fabric.....often a blend of sorts.

    I've still got a bunch of caprilene stuff that is perfectly fine, so it's hard to make the switch. Got a few pair of merlino blend socks that I like very much. Think those are made by wig wam and smartwool.

    Cheers,
    EB

  8. #8
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    I made the switch over to wool a couple years ago; knickers, jerseys, arm warmers and shoft shell pants and coat. I do still wear synthetic stuff but the wool goodies are what I grab first. Ibex has been the only company I've tried and I've been very happy with the fit and thier customer service. I had a problem with a pair of the Ibex knickers and they replaced them, no questions asked. Last winter I tried the Ibex soft shell pants and coat for backcountry skiing and have been very happy with them.

    My wife also loves the womens Ibex wool long underwear.
    I only ride bikes to fill the time when I'm not skiing.

  9. #9
    fried stuff with cheese
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    I do almost every ride under 50 degrees in a long sleeve Icebreaker. I really like the way it regulates my body temp. When it was new it stunk like a wet dog for the first couple of rides. Since it's first wash it's been fine in that regard. I've accidentally thrown it in the dryer a few times and no harm has come to it.

    I also have a smartwool short sleeve but I don't like it as much. I find that if it's hot enough to work up a sweat the wool gets really wet and doesn't dry as fast as a normal synthetic jersey would. It sticks to your body more too...just feels weird.

    Smartwool for socks for me too. DeFeet blazes work well also.
    Egg

  10. #10
    MTB aficionado
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebxtreme
    So, it's still a synthetic (I believe). A buddy who lives in anchorage and does a lot of multi day backcountry trips during winter has been preaching the virtues of Schoeller for it's lightness, breathability, warmth, drying capacity, etc. for many years. They make both outer and under layers with the fabric.....often a blend of sorts.

    I've still got a bunch of caprilene stuff that is perfectly fine, so it's hard to make the switch. Got a few pair of merlino blend socks that I like very much. Think those are made by wig wam and smartwool.

    Cheers,
    EB
    Yes, the Ibex products are a combination of Scholler and merino wool. Ibex products rule. The guide pant makes for a great winter cycling pant. I used to use the PI amphib stuff, but now prefer the wool scholler combo.

    Like most I used synthetics for years, until I got a merino wool sweater as a gift. I was stunned how it wicked mositure from my skin to the surface of the sweater and kept the cold and clamyness at bay. If layered correctly, I will stay more dry.... not completely dry.... and will not get chilled when not moving. Combine the wool with scholler soft shell and I can be outside all day and not get cold and clammy. In my Synthetic days, I'd bring extra layers in my pack and switch them out when I got too cold or wet.... I don't have to do this with wool.

    Regards,

    EndUser
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  11. #11
    Baked Alaskan
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    Thanks.

    Great info guys, thanks again. I decided on a couple Ibex t's, an Ibex midweight long sleeve and a couple Smartwool t's for now. I picked up some Smartwool socks at the REI sale over the weekend. I will report back in a month.

    Moosehead - gonna bike a volcano and hike Macchu Picchu and to a place called the Cloud forest, but mostly I'll just see the sights on foot - here's a quick summary:

    Flying into Quito for a couple days, going to the Galapagos for a week, back to Quito then off for a few days down the Amazon, then on to Lima, Macchu Picchu, the Cloud Forest, New Years somewhere else in Peru, then back to Ecuador for a day before heading home.

    There's more, that's just a snapshot. But I'm packing light, 2 pairs of hiker pants, 3 or 4 shirts, 4 pairs of socks, 3 pairs of travel undies, a rain jacket, sandals, light hiking shoes, a hat, sunglasses, some camp soap, a toof brush and paste, lotion, a digital still camera, a small HD video camera, 8 mini DV tapes, a charger for each camera, a book, a few misc. small items and some small munchies. I'm shooting for a sub 20 pound pack. Since I'll be wearing some of what's listed above I should be fast and light.
    The red couch has moved from Alaska to Florida...

  12. #12
    Moosehead
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    incredible lifetime outing. MP, amazon, and cloud forest just sound way cool. sometime later in life, i agreed to take the wife to galapagos, if she'll let me go with the boys to ski the andes and/or patagonia.

    since you asked us to geek out on men's underwear, we're politely requiring you to start a new trip thread upon return. and you got extra charged batteries for the digicams right? safe travels.

  13. #13
    yelgatgab
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    I got some Nau wool Ts this summer on clearance. Stuff is well made, great fit, comfy and has held up so far.

    Wool is definitely where it's at.

  14. #14
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    Kucharik

    Kucharik in Gardena Ca (and in the component/accessories links section) Makes some awsome wool gear in house including short and long sleeve jerseys, caps, leg and arm warmers, tights, shorts, bibs and jackets from marino wool.
    I made the switch after trying the Fox marino wool jerseys from a couple years ago, they felt great but didn't hold up. When I went to Kucharik I found out why. The Fox jerseys were made from a cheesecloth like fabric while the Kucharik stoff is made of an obviously superior fabric which at first glance feels like it would be too warm for my socal riding, but it isn't, it works in a much wider temp range that synthetics, indeed dosn't stink after one ride and is better when wet than cotton or synthetics. Check them out.

  15. #15
    bicycle rider
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    Yes, Kucharik is super good, I love their jerseys. I have a Smartwool base layer and it's good. Don't know anything about Ibex.

    Vintagevelos sells the Woolistic stuff. It's expensive but really good. I love their Sputnik hat, the base layers are super good and the retro jerseys are cool. I have an embarrassingly large stash of them.

    I recently got some wool base layers meant for xc skiing but perfect for under a jersey for riding, one sleeveless and one sleeve-full, and they were really cheap. Look to xc skiing for deals, bike clothes can be overpriced.

    And you know what works great and is cheap? Pendleton wool shirts from your local thrift store.

    I also have the Swobo Fenster knickers, which are pricey but perfect for winter / night rides. They ride kinda low in the butt crack area, but not too low, and the crotch area can feel kinda loose, but otherwise their positive qualities more than make up for all of that. I can't say I'm a fan of the modern Swobo wool jerseys; too much lycra, pill too easily, too fragile, too pricey.

    I have lots of wool socks, mostly sockguy, including three pairs of Turner wool socks. (Thanks again Turner!)

    I wear my Kucharik long sleeve jersey more than any other wool item, on mtn bike rides. It simply rocks.

    My wife really likes the Sheila Moon wool stuff, which also uses lots of lycra. She can fit a lot of the smaller vintage wool jerseys I find for sale, so I sometimes get her something flash from the 1970s, and she looks good in it.

    If you wear wool, learn to pay attention to water temp in your washer, pay attention when you put stuff in the dryer and always drip-dry your wool stuff (except socks) and use Ivory Snow Liquid or something similar. (Woolmark approved) Don't rely on your mom / significant other / kids to wash your bike clothes, because sooner or later they'll shrink your favorite jersey. Or train them well.

    The wool trainers (sweaters) are good as a outer layer for night rides, especially when you stop in the middle of the ride for good cheer.

    Morgan, woolly mammoth

  16. #16
    Powered by ice cream.
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    I got tops from Ibex, Smartwool and Icebreaker for commuting mainly (no stink). They are all nice, but I found that I preferred the Ibex stuff overall.

    Good choice.
    Quote Originally Posted by buddhak
    And I thought I had a bike obsession. You are at once tragic and awesome.

  17. #17
    Bite Me.
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    Portland Cycle Wear (www.portlandcyclewear.com) has some really nice Merino wool jerseys for very reasonable prices - retro styling, but you can get some nifty custom lettering added for cheap if you want. I've been on the Smartwool socks for a couple years now and will never go back to synthetics for riding - cool in even the worst heat and warm in the cold. It's great stuff and feels nice on your feet. I still use a lot of synthetics for the outer layers when skiing, but have switched to wool for base layers.
    When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race. ~H.G. Wells

  18. #18
    Baked Alaskan
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    Quote Originally Posted by moosehead
    incredible lifetime outing. MP, amazon, and cloud forest just sound way cool. sometime later in life, i agreed to take the wife to galapagos, if she'll let me go with the boys to ski the andes and/or patagonia.

    since you asked us to geek out on men's underwear, we're politely requiring you to start a new trip thread upon return. and you got extra charged batteries for the digicams right? safe travels.

    Will do, if I get the chance I'll update along the way, otherwise I'll do a mammoth thread once I'm back in the office.
    The red couch has moved from Alaska to Florida...

  19. #19
    Dream Design Dig Repeat
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    Quote Originally Posted by morganfletcher
    If you wear wool, learn to pay attention to water temp in your washer, pay attention when you put stuff in the dryer and always drip-dry your wool stuff (except socks) and use Ivory Snow Liquid or something similar. (Woolmark approved) Don't rely on your mom / significant other / kids to wash your bike clothes, because sooner or later they'll shrink your favorite jersey. Or train them well.
    I always wash and dry my smartwool, with normal detergent, and without paying any attention. Granted my enviro tendencies mean I use cold water and dry on low, but occassionally I'll bump it up to regular. 4 years later, everything is still fine and dandy.

    I only use light smartwool base layers. I'll never go back to poly for the base - it's not even close. Wool is three kajillion times better. On top of that I find cheap-ass stuff from the Nike Outlet store works just fine, and is more abrasion resistant for my occassional bails, frequent tree-checks, and trail building abuse.

  20. #20
    Oh, So Interesting!
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    Search ebay for "extra fine merino wool sweater" and choose a sweater, usually for under $10. Much cheaper than the name brands and quality can be really good. I have one CK merino sweater than is softer than any smartwool I've seen for under $20 inc. shipping.

    For baselayers its worth going with the pricey brands because its preshrunk and made for its intended purpose, and can be machine washed and dried. For mid-layers the name brands are a waste of money.
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  21. #21
    try driving your car less
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    Quote Originally Posted by davec113
    Search ebay for "extra fine merino wool sweater" and choose a sweater, usually for under $10. Much cheaper than the name brands and quality can be really good. I have one CK merino sweater than is softer than any smartwool I've seen for under $20 inc. shipping.

    For baselayers its worth going with the pricey brands because its preshrunk and made for its intended purpose, and can be machine washed and dried. For mid-layers the name brands are a waste of money.
    I have gone the thrift store route and it can be hit or miss, mostly on the fit. but for midlayers they do work fine. try a thrift store rather than ebay so you can try it on. I bought about 6 $10 merino sweaters on ebay and maybe 2 are OK for running and riding due to fit issues (too short in torso, rides up when riding).

    Otherwise, all brands like ibex are great, I just get what is on sale. Note that the icebreaker stuff is very tight 'bodyfit' or something, so you want something over it unless you want to be muscleman. I run almost everyday, and do not wash my wool but twice a month. But I do let it dry. I just wish it wasnt so damn expensive. I got the ibex stuff at a tent sale they set up at the VT50. wore it for the race.

  22. #22
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    Go with the Ibex

  23. #23
    Baked Alaskan
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    Everything I bought from Ibex was in the closeout section of their website. It was still spendy, but everything was marked down so it made it a *little* easier to swallow. I have to say their stuff looks well made and the fabric is very comfy - I'll be putting it to the test starting Sunday night when I fly out. As far as fit goes, I like the way their L is cut, long enough for a 6'2" person with a chest much larger than his waist and doesn't have the girth to require an XL.
    The red couch has moved from Alaska to Florida...

  24. #24
    Oh, So Interesting!
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    New company, prices look good:

    http://minus33.com/index.htm
    .




    Strava: turn off your dork logger when you're not on sanctioned trails.

  25. #25
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    Better late than never, but it's only a matter of time before a man sees the appeal of all things wool .

    I've been wearing Smartwool medium weight base layers for everything for the last few years. In the autumn/winter I have one on almost every day as they are superbly comfortable and regulate body temperature fantastically. Spendy, but they wear and wash well.

    Oh, and when it comes to wool - make love, not war.

    Good luck Chris, have a great trip
    Last edited by Tidybeard; 12-20-2008 at 02:58 PM.

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