Is it just me or does anyone else find that this stuff itches? I have a cheap one which I felt was like wearing a hairshirt so when I had a spare bit of cash bought a lightweight 150 Icebreaker and that itches as well - thoughts please?
Sometimes I'll wear the one pair of merino wool underwear (made in NZ) continuously for a few days (2-4). It can itch for me on the sleeping pad hip contact point when I lay down to sleep if I'm sweaty. I think the zero breath-ability of the sleeping mat doesn't help. Not enough for me to care, other than to roll over and air out that hip point.
But you know, overall I find it the most comfortable against skin layer I've tried yet.
i have a set of howies merino tops (all brought as samples) and havent had problems. Know plenty of peeps who have had with others, dont know whether it is down to poor materials or some people being more sensitive to it than others (or both of the above).
Certainly dont seem to be ideal for everyone although i like mine.
In reply to fozmeister:
Whether it's merino IB or cheap stuff, any kind of wool itches for me. Don't notice it when I'm busy hiking/climbing, but a day in the office drives me mad with any kind of wool on bare skin.
I agree that it's probably a difference in sensitivity between people - we're unlucky!
Interesting. I'm normally very sensitive to woolen stuff itching, but have never had a problem with Icebreaker stuff. I've worn a 240 top as one of my main tops (around town, at work etc) for the last couple of years without noticing anything.
Same here, no itch for me from any Merino wool: Icebreaker or Smartwool.
But as others have said, that isn't universal.
The itchiness of wool that some people experience is related to fiber diameter. Finer fibers, such as pure Merino wool, give greater comfort. The comfort limit for garments worn next to the skin is 28 microns. Many people experience discomfort if more than 3 to 4 percent of the fibers are over 28 microns thick. Wool can be treated with chemicals or blended with other fibers to remove the itch factor. Some wools, such as SmartWool® are guaranteed not to itch.
In reply to fozmeister: I've got a SmartWool long sleeve and a t-shirt. At first they're way different to cotton t-shirts. After the first wash the long sleeve one got quite a lot comfier. The t-shirt one I'm only just wearing for the first time. They were both itchy but you kind of get used to it. After the long sleeve's first wash it got noticeably less itchy.
How they keep you warm but not to hot is amazing. Great for running at night. While they can be a bit annoying, while I'm running in them or climbing in them it's noticeable. The benefits of them definitely outweigh the slight itchiness.
In reply to fozmeister: Try Berghaus argentium? For the record I love merino, the icebreakers are great for a week away and if they do smell, just wash it in a pan, and wear it in the tent and presto it's dry! but the berghaus stuff is the most similar i've worn, and it looks/feels cotton to boot, win win eh!?
> Some wools, such as SmartWool® are guaranteed not to itch.
In that Smartwool may give you your money back if you find that it itches you.
The simple fact is that some people are more sensitive to wool than others.
I find that the MAPP merino used in the Blacks* own brand tops I bought a couple of years ago is usually okay (and is also used by many other firms such as Arc'teryx, Rapha, Chocolate Fish and Powderhorn), but sometimes it twinges a little in places, and needs a bit of a scratch.
I would say that's personal opinion.
I live in merino wool, it doesn't itch (me), it keeps me warm if cold yet not too hot if warm, it doesn't get stinky, it's quick drying and i have yet to wear any of it out. Much better than other "outdoors" products which are so hard to keep from smelling and may feel artificial or static.
In reply to Game of Conkers: A Jermyn Street jumper may be made from Merino wool, but it won't be the type of fabric that you'd want to wear as a base layer and the cut would probably be poor for that purpose too (the sleeves would likely be too short for a start). On top of the Cairngorms in winter with the wind gusting 80mph, you'd curse that v-neck. Different design considerations, different target market sizes.
Also and as well, you can buy purpose-designed Merino wool base layer tops and bottoms for half the price of Icebreaker eg at Trespass or Mountain Warehouse. You can also pay ten times the price of the Jermyn Street v-neck for Merino v-neck jumper with a "designer" label - but I'd still not want to wear it on the hills in winter.
Inverse gear snobbery strikes me as being a bit sad, really.
In reply to Martin W: I have nothing against expensive gear if it's a premium product
"Different design considerations" -Its a long sleeve woolen jumper,
"different target market" - well, clearly you pay more for mountain clothes (?)
I was actually trying to give some sound advice about Ice Breaker gear being overpriced. I have owned some IB tops,and seen nothing in them to suggest the price and I don't think they last. Your suggesting the design is all important. Well I don't think that a long sleeve top has much "design" to it that justifies the huge premium because the merino wool selling point is not enough to justify the price (as proven by many merino products being far cheaper that are not outdoorsy). And it appears you somewhat agree with your assertion that cheaper products can be bought at Trespass and Mountain Warehouse
And, fwiw, you can buy a merino wool jumper in Jermyn street that is not a v neck that would be 98% as effective on your Cairngorm as an IB top ;-)
In reply to Game of Conkers:the base-layer wool comes from the wool next to the sheep's own skin jumpers cardigans come from the longer wool i think it depends when the sheep are sheared this is why there is such a differences in price
In reply to fozmeister: I think as others have mentioned, it is probably a skin sensitivity issue. I have used IB for 3 winters now and also Smartwool and got the missus IB to wear at the stableyard over winter. We are both as happy as pigs in poo with them.
In reply to fozmeister:
I have a slight sensitivity to wool but can wear merino, and have had no problems with my Howies, Icebreaker, Smartwool and various other brand tops and thermals, which have done me excellent service for several years now. I also have some very fine wool fashion tops - high neck, long in the sleeve and back - that I picked up new from a charity shop for £4 each; they are great and not at all itchy, although not specifially merino. My mum on the other hand can't tolerate wool at all, not even merino.
Re: outdoors brands v other stuff, I just tend to buy whatever I see that is reasonably priced (for me that means on the sale) and looks like it will do the job. My other half had two posh label merino jumpers that he got on the sale for a tenner each from a suit hire place and he found them fine for purpose when out on the hill in cold weather. He is currently using two other fahion label merino ones I picked up for him in TK Maxx that are a suitable length in back and arm and have a handy high neck with a deep zip to vent. On the other hand my icebreaker 150 is brilliant for running in, and I haven't come across a 'fashion' brand that is its equivalent. I like the stream lined cut of sport specific gear for layering etc, but other brands can get close enough to still have the same effect for me. Whatever suits you, really!
> I'll do some more research, contact the major brands and ask why this is so.
Not definitive by any means.... wool allergy is rare and the itch, or prickle factor, isn't an allergic reaction but due to fibre diameter as stated above (and fibre length) and there is variation amongst humans as to the prickle factor threshold.
Here is a good link: www.merrill.org/alabamaalpacas/library/WoolIndustry.pdf
I got in touch with Molly at SmartWool in the US....she sent me this from her phone so excuse the typos etc..
"Some people are indeed very sensitive to wool of any fiber, however in general the lower the micron the softer the feel. A 28 micron is very large and would not typically be used for clothing. For example we would use anything from 17 micron into the low 20s for our clothing depending on the garment. Most of our socks are around the 23 micron range.
In terms of the itch factor, we do work with our wool, including a Smartwash, that helps to reduce itch. I also have very sensitive, but find our clothing, especially the midweight base layers to be incredibly comfortable. I might recommend he try something from our line... And when it comes to Merino, much like a lot of other outdoor gear, you definitely get what you pay for. We use ZQ merino which offers us and our consumers higher quality fiber which results in a higher quality end product.