Wonder of Wool
Earlier in the summer I had the opportunity to head over to Ibex headquarters in White River Junction, Vermont and get a lesson on wool. Wool growing up I always thought about as that itchy material that sweater your grandmother gave you was made out of. Wool seemed low-tech and old fashioned. Recently, however wool seems to be back in vogue.
For years now I have been on the wool train for my socks. It started with my ski socks then as I got more into running I turned to wearing wool socks for running, even in the summer. Why wool? Wool pulls the moisture away from your body when you sweat, or swim in a pond during a race. I say all of this but really at least in my socks the real draw was the stink factor, merino wool doesn’t retain smell! It also has an insulation factor when it is cold, thus me using wool for winter sports. It was not until this summer that I started to wear wool in the summer.
The first thing to note is this is not your parents wool. The wool in the Ibex clothing I have been wearing is Merino Wool from New Zealand and is washed and tightly spun into a fabric. All the garments are then made in the USA. When I was at the factory I had a chance to talk with the sales team and they were all buzzing about the factor starting next year some of their Merino Wool will actually come from Montana. Also today’s wool is machine washable in cold water, I hate anything you have to specially dry-clean so the fact I can pop it in the washer is wonderful! The one thing about wool is you know what you are wearing and as an eco-concious person I know if my Ibex products wear out they will breakdown in the earth and return to a natural state.
TESTING OUT WOOL IN THE SUMMER
I was a little skeptical going into wearing wool in the summer. Everyone at the factory and on the team there talked about the wonders of it. So I have spent the last month and a half introducing wool into my life. I walked out of their headquarters with the Echo Sport T, Echo Sprint Long Sleeve, Synergy Skort, Synergy Racerback, Hooded Indie, and Balance Sports Bra. Enough clothing to really give this whole wool thing a try.
Well, all I can say is I do really love wool. As soon as I got home I worked out for seven days straight in the Echo Sport T and am happy to say at the end of seven days I could have worn it into a restaurant and not scared away other customers. Wool does not retrain our body odor. The Echo Sprint Long Sleeve and Hooded Indie I wear just about everyday now. They are the perfect summer pullover and stylish. The skort and racerback tank I pulled on after the Tuxedo Spartan Sprint and was happy to have to warmth of the wool but at the same time the breathability. I also find myself slipping on the short to go out and run errands around town. Most importantly the sports bra, I have sensitive skin and it wasn’t itchy. Overall, I have put Ibex to the test of my life and it has passed. It was not until the Death Race that I really was sold however.
THE DEATH RACE & WOOL
The Death Race is one of the most grueling endurance races in the world. What better place to test out Ibex than under these extreme conditions. I had been told by the sales team that a group had raced a recent Tough Mudder in the Echo Sport T and it had held up for me on my own seven day challenge so I decided to really test it out. The temperatures ranged from almost 80 to nearly 50 degrees while I was racing. The shirt kept me cool under the hot sun of the day and warm as the temps dropped at night. What I was most impressed with was the wicking properties. After the swim on Saturday morning, I was by the fire and drying myself with the Echo Sport T (I thought I had another shirt packed). As I dug through my bag I found no other shirt and had two options no shirt or put back on the wet Echo Sport T. Being it was only in the 60’s the shirt was the best option. I was surprised at how well this wet wool kept me warm in the crisp morning. I found it dried quickly as I carried buckets of road pack and insulated me from the elements. The Echo Sport T definitely passed the extreme test!
I can’t lie on this the price point of Ibex and wool is high as is with many quality products. For years I saw their clothing and was put off by the price. It was not until I got to the headquarters and talked with the team their I got an understanding for wool vs. something you might get at a Dicks or other sporting good store. The first thing to realize is this comes from an animal and is labor intensive. Each piece of clothing has a story, it came from somewhere, not engineered. With that in mind the farmer needs to raise and feed the sheep, the sheep are then sheared, then the wool is washed, then spun into threads, the thread is made into fabric, then the fabric into the garments. Basically, it’s a long supply chain before it gets to you so that price you see takes into account all the steps along the way.
Also there is a comfort knowing where your clothing came from. It’s rewarding to know that when you wear wool you are actually wearing the hard work of many people. Finally, it’s ultra durable and will stand up to the test of time. As I have gotten older I now look for durable athletic wear more than price point many times. I would rather have a few really good pieces of clothing than lots of cheap stuff! My advice when looking into getting great training equipment (yes your clothing is equipment) get one piece at a time and replace the old stuff slowly. In a couple years you will have cycled out all the old stuff and be left with some solid pieces that will last a lifetime. When racing for over 24 hours good equipment does make a difference!
After experiencing Ibex at everything from the family 4th of July to the Death Race I can say they make a great product and wool is definitely not only for the winter. It has taken a beating in some of the most extreme conditions over the past month and a half and it all still looks and feels as it did when I got it from Ibex. I personally love the styling and the two long sleeve pullovers are a staple in my wardrobe today. I hope to add more pieces into my collection as time goes on. Maybe a special Dirt In Your Skirt wool item or two might show up as well.