When you think of merino wool, brands such as Icebreaker, Ibex, and Smartwool immediately come to mind. Two relative newcomers (at least to the US) are trying to challenge theses dominant players with deep offerings that include pieces from urban apparel to standard baselayers. Over the course of the winter, I had the chance to test out some baselayers from both WoolX and Super.Natural.
Ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies in the middle of February can be summed up in one word- cold. In order to stay out all day without freezing, I wore the X-Treme Heavyweight thermals from WoolX each day. Made from 400 g/m2 fabric weight 100% Australian merino wool at a soft against the skin 18.5 micron, not even the worst Polar Vortex can send chills down the spine of this baselayer.
Not only can you throw the WoolX baselayers in the washing machine, but you can dry them without the threat of shrinkage – crucial when you are climbing for multiple days or even weeks straight. I don't think I would ever chuck these in the dryer on high heat, however.
The WoolX baselayers run true to size. I went with a size Large, as I like to buy my wool apparel a bit big, but I could probably have stuck with my normal size Medium.
Super.Natural apparel is made from a variety of merino wool and polyester combination fabrics. Similar to WoolX, all the pieces can be both washed and dried. In addition, Super.Natural is a certified Bluesign system partner, meaning the company uses the best available technology to be safe to both people and the environment.
For more vigorous winter outdoor pursuits such as skiing, snowshoeing, and running, the Base 1/4 Zip from Super.Natural has been my baselayer of choice. The piece is made from a combination 50% merino, 50% performance polyester Contact Stretch Jersey fabric. Lightweight, odor resistant yet more durable than merino, the stretch jersey fabric wicks moisture fast when you start to sweat in order to keep you dry and warm out in the cold.
WoolX gear is available from either the company website or Amazon. The X-Treme Heavyweight thermals retail for $120, but are currently on sale for $90. Keep your eye out for Super.Natural to hit US retailers in the near future.