Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

We wouldn’t pull wool over your eyes

Stephen Regenold Special to Outdoors

In a world of Lycra, nylon, Spandex and polypropylene, a fabric as age-old as wool can seem obsolete. But sheep fuzz is making a comeback as outdoor circles re-appreciate its natural characteristics.

Ibex Outdoor Clothing, a Woodstock, Vt.-based company that’s been making wool-based products since 1997, is a leader in new-school wool clothing for the outdoors. The company has a line of wool products, ranging from men’s boxer shorts and long johns to heavy-duty winter pants and jackets.

I recently put a wardrobe of Ibex products to the test in Wyoming’s Teton Mountain Range, including long underwear, sweater, ski pants, gloves and jacket. First, none of the clothing felt itchy or coarse. The company uses a high-quality Merino wool that has a much finer grain than the wool many of us grew up with scratching and hating.

The Woolies Zip T-Neck ($59), for example, is a svelte base-layer top that fit well and was extraordinarily warm for its feathery weight. The matching Woolies Rib Bottom ($54) was also comfortable, toasty and light. The wool wicked moisture as well or better than the polypropylene base layers I tested in the mountains alongside the Ibex stock.

One layer up from the skin, I wore the company’s Shak Jersey ($125). Ibex calls this piece a performance midlayer, but to me it felt like a nice sweater that could do double duty outside on the ski slopes and in the lodge. I did just that, wearing the top all day at a ski resort and then keeping the good-looking piece on that evening at the slopeside bar.

On top of the Shak Jersey and base layers, the Ibex Backcountry Pant ($235) and Neve Jacket ($260) kept the wind, snow and cold out in temps as low as minus-five degrees Fahrenheit. Ibex uses a wool/nylon/Spandex mix with its outerwear, creating a unique soft-shell fabric that breathes and stretches while repelling moisture.

Unlike shelled clothing, some wool outerwear is so breathable you can feel air moving through the fabric, though warmth remains. Such breathability might be disconcerting to some, but I’m a big fan.