Check your merino wool trivia facts and take a sneak peek at Icebreaker's range, straight from the largest Icebreaker stock in Europe...
Has anyone been puzzling over the increasing popularity of merino wool recently? Want to know what all the fuss is about? We went along to the new Icebreaker touch lab in Covent Garden last week to find out what makes Merino so special, and came back with these fascinating facts:
- You can bend merino wool 30,000 times before it breaks (and we pity the poor person who worked out that stat).
- Most synthetic fibres breathe through the gaps in the fibre, but merino also breathes through the fibres of the fabric itself.
- Merino won't burn, so it's a good choice of garment for summers like 2006, when the moors are all in danger of going up in a big blaze:-)
- Merino is made from Carnitine. We aren't scientific to know exactly what that is, but basically it's the same substance as skin and hair, so merino garments shouldn't itch.
- If you do find your merino baselayer itching a bit, this is probably a consequence of slight pilling when you last washed it. Try adding a pair of jeans to the wash load next time around and they should scrape off the pilling. The result? An itch-free day's walk. So say the experts.
- When you buy a merino garment you'll see a number along with the name eg. 200, 320 etc. This denotes the number of grams per square metre weighed by the wool. The higher the number, the thicker and warmer it is.
- Icebreaker is one of several merino garment producing companies. Their range in Snow and Rock at Covent Garden is now the largest in Europe.
- There are no unisex Icebreaker garments. They're all gender-specific, to ensure a good fit.
- Icebreaker's promotional material is, um, 'eyecatching' (see below). We're told the summer version is even more graphic:-)
The Icebreaker Touch Lab
So, what is the Icebreaker touch lab? Well, it's a bit like a normal sales area except that it's specifically dedicated to Icebreaker merino products. There are a couple of true and original Kiwis on hand to give you advice about the fabric, the clothes, and probably not the half-shorn bloke with the horns up above:-) On the educational side, balls of unspun merino crop up from time to time, so you can stroke them and discover how just how soft merino is. And just to seal that impression, there's even a nice comfy carpet for your trail shoe clad toes to sink into while you're browsing the rails, in case you'd forgotten that merino is all about comfort.
How Merino Works
An increasing number of people are choosing merino base layers and finding them pretty comfy, but there are some common misconceptions out there about why merino works so well. The most prevalent is the belief that the fabric wicks well. This isn't true: merino's an effective outdoor fabric because it can absorb a large amount of moisture without losing its warmth or comfort, rather than because it gets rid of moisture quickly. It also has natural anti-pong properties. So you can wear it for quite a while before you find yourself friendless - always important if you're off on a multi-day trip. The other advantage is that it doesn't itch, because the fibres are much finer than those of normal wool.
The Icebreaker Range
Merino is most commonly associated with baselayers, but you can also build up a merino layering system. The fabric isn't wind or waterproof so full on outer layers aren't an option, but it can serve as a mid layer, or a summer outer layer if conditions are being kind. Some of Icebreaker's newest products fall on the outer layer side of the equation, including the Pureplus, which comes in a Luna version, shown below...
If you want a wind-proof outer, rather than just the wind-resistant Pureplus, there's a lined merino option available (below), made with half an eye on the fashion conscious.
To see Icebreaker's full range, you can find more information on their website.
News from Snow and Rock
Apart from their spangly new 'touch lab', Snow and Rock have announced the full re-opening of their Birmingham and Brighton stores, for those in the Midlands or South. They're also going to be opening their largest UK store in October 2007 at The Cold Factor in Manchester. We'll keep you posted.
Also look out for reviews of Icebreaker gear coming up, and another merino-producing Kiwi company whose products will be sold in the UK for the first time this year, Silkbody.