Jan 16, 2007 at 12:50 pm #1221255
@ling_jdLocale: columbus ohio
not a sale or anything, but that's the cheapest i've seen anywhere for a long-sleeve Smartwool T-shirt. i gave up on SAC for smartwool.Jan 16, 2007 at 2:49 pm #1374587
Please enlighten me – Smartwool is 100% merino wool – right. I can get 100% merino wool tops for about $34.00 (and bottoms). So why pay so much for Smartwool? Is the brand name worth the Smartwool price.Jan 16, 2007 at 5:07 pm #1374612
Mark HurdBPL Member
@markhurdLocale: South Texas
Terry, In general I would agree that paying for a name is often not worth it. Having said that, not all Merino wool is the same. There are different grades and in particular different fiber sizes. usually the longer and smaller the fiber size the less scratchy the wool. Brand names like Smartwool, Ibex, IceBreaker, and now Patagonia and Montbell I guess are all using very fine fiber wools around 18.5 micons or less. These wool fabrics also tend to be lighter. This may not be the case with less expensive Merino wool garmets. However, bottom line is if I get something that I like and it works for me then I don't worry about the brand name anyway. A lot of us cut the labels off of everything anyway to save weight#:-)
-MarkJan 16, 2007 at 5:24 pm #1374620
Terry, were you just estimating a market price, or do you really know where to get "100% merino wool tops for about $34.00 (and bottoms)"
If so, please share. (except auction sites..)
Thanks.Jan 17, 2007 at 3:24 pm #1374710
Sure – I have three sites where you can buy merino wool for about $34.00. Tops and bottoms.
I have purchased both tops and bottoms from this first site. 100% merino wool. The merino wool is New Zealand wool. Both the tops and bottoms are excellent. Regular wool is slightly itchy to real itchy to me and this wool feels silky smooth – a real pleasure:
I have worn the tops and bottoms while hiking and was very warm and comfortable – the outside temperature was 19 deg F. I wash by hand in Woolite, but the label says that they are machine washable in anything with the "woolmark" label. I looked quickly, but couldn't find any label in the local supermarket – possible that I just missed the label in my quick search. Their prices are the same today (1/17/2007) as when I purchased last Sept. Shipping charges also.
The second site is Australian wool. I have both tops and bottoms from this site. Again 100% merino wool and both the tops and bottoms feel real silky smooth against my skin. I really like them:
Again I can personally recommend their products from personal use. You will have to search their site somewhat to find the merino wool underwear, but I just looked as I am typing this and it is still there. The price seems to have gone up very slightly, maybe $2 or $3, since I purchased from them last Sept or maybe my memory has lowered the price I paid by $2 or $3. Maybe more people are finding their site and they are raising the prices a little??? Probabl just my memory :-). They have the largest selection of the 3 sites.
I can readily recommend the merino wool from either of the above sites. Their shipping charges are reasonable and about the same as most shipping charges I have encountered from US companies – or they were when I purchased from them last Sept. 2006. The world is changing so fast, you will have to verify shipping when you purchase. I investigated a few NZ and AU companies selling merino wool, but their shipping charges were so high that it was just as cheap to buy Smartwool, Ibex or Icebreaker.
The products from both sites were shipped within 48 hrs and arrived within 7 days. Postal shipping on both.
If you want to deal with a US company then the following site has merino wool (Australian) at a reasonable price also, the same as site 2 above:
I have dealt with the last site before, but I have not purchased the merino wool underwear from them. But from the dealings I have had, I have no doubt that the merino wool is as they state. This site also sells a single piece "union suit". I have considered trying it, but haven't to date. The price for the Union suit is less than for a separate top and bottom, $64.95 as of 1-17-2007. Separate top and bottom from their site would come to $79.90, so you would be saving about $15.00, not an inconsiderable savings. From what I remember of my dealings with Union suits in the past, they were nice to wear. I liked them.
Now the first site sells "unisex" tops and bottom. The third sells both mens and womens and the second site sells, mens, womens and kids sizes.
Before I purchased from the above 2 sites, I investigated Smartwool, Ibex and Icebreaker. The prices I found were more than twice the price of the above 3. I can buy both top and bottom from the above for about the same or less than either a top OR bottom from Smartwool, Ibex or Icebreaker.
I have no doubt that Smartwool, Ibex and Icebreaker buy their wool from the same sources that the above sites do. The quality of the wool and construction of the products I purchased are top notch at a reasonable price. The wool feels incredibly smooth on my skin. I have no doubt that that Smartwool, Ibex and Icebreaker are charging what the market has gotten used to for their products. Now I am not maligning those 3. They probably put some money into researching and designing their products and then marketing them. But how much does it cost to design underwear?????? I mean my great grandfather and grandmother were wearing underwear of the same deign. I was wearing underwear of the exact same design more than 45 years back. They can claim a lot about weight per square unit etc, but I doubt seriously that the weight varies a whole lot from what the above three are selling – that comes to market hype to differentiate from the competition and to justify the very high price and profit margins. In wearing the products from 2 of the above sites, I cannot tell I am wearing the product based on total garment weight. Can you honestly tell the difference in weight between 2 different pairs of boxer shorts (not to exclude the women, but being male myself I blush easily). Now if you buy a top and bottom from one of the above and can honestly say that you can feel a difference in the total garment weight from Smartwool, Ibex or Icebreaker, then you should probably continue patronizing them. The high price is worth it to you then.
Also, I have no doubt that Smartwool, Ibex and Icebreaker can come out with a lot of words differentiating their products from the above three, but when viewed really critically, I have no doubt that it would come down to market hype to justify continuing their high prices. They are selling mainly (from what I can discern from their web sites) to a small market – people into athletic activities. The 3 sites above are selling to anybody that wants to stay warm in cold weather – a much larger market. They don't need the hype – Merino wool is already well know.Jan 17, 2007 at 3:26 pm #1374712
Nah – what you found is simply a one time sale – a closeout. The three sites I listed are selling at their prices continuously, not a one time thing.Jan 17, 2007 at 4:46 pm #1374720
Brett and Terry:
I need to curb my gear acquisition habit… and you guys are not helping! Nice finds though.Jan 17, 2007 at 10:02 pm #1374746
Thanks for the leads!; the first link, Mavlin Inc, has the merino tops in white (unlike smartwool or the other $$$ vendors). So I bought one for sunny hot days on snow or ice. Thanks for the lead.
Ben, get yours now; you know you "need" one for trips to the Sierras.. ;)
My merino has become part of my non-hiking wardrobe also. My UL bottoms keep me warm while commuting by bike, and don't overheat me indoors like capilene did.
-The less I want, the more I seem to have.. but sometimes vice-versa.Jan 18, 2007 at 5:00 am #1374759
One drawback to this "budget" merino is that it comes only in white. i would think this would be a disaster on a thru-hike- you know, drops of Gu and splashes of ramen juice all over the front of it, etc. would really stand out. also, it appears to come in just one weight.
what i really like about my icebreaker and ibex stuff is that i don't hesitate to wear it in any situation. i can wear a bodyfit l/s on the trail for a few days and not think twice about wearing it again at the bar. that stuff has not only the function of merino but the added perk of a bit of style.
look at it this way:
one white merino shirt- $35 + one tutti-frutti "going-out" shirt from the Gap- $40= $75.
one icebreaker bodyfit 260 that serves dual purposes- $70= $70.
so really, icebreaker's cheaper! plus, while i'm shredding the dance floor in my icebreaker i'm not overheating and moisture management is built in. the ladies love it! …not that i would ever be caught dead on a dance floor.Jan 18, 2007 at 9:36 am #1374781
Actually, I wear white tees when traveling, and it's a fantastic color. First, it matches every color of pants and overlayers you can think of. Indeed, it works particularly well in the early mornings when "thinking" is impaired.
Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, you can bleach the thing from time to time — and it will look brand spanking new again. With color tees, the colors usually start to fade within the year, leaving them tired-looking, even though the fabrics themselves are still robust. Some of my white tees are three or more years old and still going strong.
But no, I am NOT going to let Satan (er, I mean Brett) tempt me into buying yet more gear… No, no, no…Jan 18, 2007 at 7:43 pm #1374847
Caleb, Ben, recently I made the transition back to natural materials, wool for some clothing, down sleeping bags replacing synthetics, etc.. and I hope the white merino will allow me to wear it on the shoulders of the winter season, when darker wool might get too hot.
So far, my experience with wool long underwear pants is that they seem cooler than poly/capilene in a warm environment, maybe because they retain moisture and allow slow evaporative cooling.
Caleb, you do have a good point about 'white' clothing.. my plan at trail's end is to turn my esbit-sludge/ramen/sun-tan-lotion/coffee stained shirt inside-out, and confidently stroll up to the bar for a cold one. Then take Ben's tip and bleach the shirt.
Ben, is it conicidence that 'Satan' and 'Santa' use the same letters? I think not.. now please go check SAC.com just one more time.. "mhoo haa haa.." (best evil laugh)Jan 18, 2007 at 8:21 pm #1374852
Brett wrote: "Is it coincidence that 'Satan' and 'Santa' use the same letters?
I don't hear the mullahs calling Bush "The Great Santa"! :)Jan 18, 2007 at 8:51 pm #1374853
Ben, LOL.. they might when the reconstruction contracts and dollars start to pour in; but then I've worked my whole life in the military-industrial complex and every day is Christmas morning when you are working a fat government contract. But I digress from the discussion of merino.. sorry.Jan 28, 2007 at 9:47 pm #1376177
Well, my Mavlin merino wool top arrived today (see link above). It is totally useless. When I pulled it out of the package I could not believe it was an 'L'. The chest diameter was about 50cm (23in!) My chest is about 39 inches. It hardly stretched. I tried to squeeze into it, but I looked ridiculous, and felt way too constricted.
Not worth the cost to send back. Trashed.
I will stick with well known brands from well known retailers such as REI, Smartwool, etc..
Feb 1, 2007 at 1:40 pm #1376747
Brett, sorry to hear about your bad experience. I'm a huge fan of wool and if it could be had for less, I'm all for it. I wish it had worked out. Thanks for taking one for the team!
What follows is not directed at you, Brett, and I'm probably preaching to the choir. Sometimes you are paying for a brand, and when that brand means good customer service and consistent quality it's worth it to me. The good stuff can be had for less. I own a lot of Ibex stuff because they're always offering "Web Specials" and have great season clearances. I know what I'm getting when I order from them. I also know Ibex will cover the cost of shipping if there's a quality problem. I also own some Smartwool stuff and I'm happy with them. I have no experience with Icebreaker but I've heard good things.
Finally, all merino is not created equal. The cheap stuff never says rather it is 18.5 or 17.5 and is probably 20 and above. As the size decreases the price seems to increase exponentially. Of course the manner in which the merino is processed also matters and has an impact on durability.Feb 1, 2007 at 11:22 pm #1376821
Thanks for the comments. I donated the tiny (for a L) wool shirt to my GF as sleepwear, so it was not wasted. She looks better in it than I did.
This is the risk we take when buying online. Some of us live overseas, or in really remote areas, where we can not try on some US goods. That is why I get upset when claims on websites turn out to be wrong; the cost of returning items is really high for me. Since I forward stuff from my domestic address they won't pay for international return shipping.
This is the second off-brand "merino" product which didn't meet claims. The first was a merino blend which turned out to be 100% poly.
My experince with Smartwool, Montbell, and Icebreaker wool products have all been exemplary, with product quality top-rate, especially the heavy Icebreaker crews I gave to my GF. Im still waiting to find those in my size at low cost. Please let us know when Ibex has an online sale?Feb 1, 2007 at 11:44 pm #1376825
Yes, I agree that oftentimes, we really do get what we pay for. But there are exceptions as well. The prices of comparable quality items can vary enormously, depending on location. Take a 100% silk liner for example. You can get a Sea to Summit brand liner for $60 at REI. Or you can get an equally good one for half the price — shipping included — by ordering one from New Zealand (I got mine in about 5 days after payment). Interestingly, a Sea to Summit liner that I had examined, and the one I ordered from New Zealand — were both made in Vietnam! And how much does a good quality, 100% silk liner cost in Vietnam? Lonely Planet travelers have reported buying them for $2-$5 — depending on their bargaining skills!
But alas, we don't always have the knowledge to shop at exactly the right places halfway around the world — so yes, in the absence of such information or experience, it can be worthwhile to pay for a solid brand name, so that we can be assured of decent quality and service.Feb 2, 2007 at 12:16 pm #1376897
Brett, I check the Ibex site at least monthly so I can register to win a Shak (link at the bottom). There's a "specials" link near the top, and an "outlet" link that is a little sparse right now but should pick up when the spring/summer collection arrives. I'll post when that happens. There used to be a weekly special. I'm not sure how frequently the "specials" change now.Feb 2, 2007 at 12:31 pm #1376899
Benjamin, I hope I didn't sound too dogmatic. You are right, there are exceptions and it's sure fun when you find them. There are also brands that are simply well known and brands that convey something of true value. And of course with some products it's all about price.Feb 4, 2007 at 7:16 pm #1377140
Eric — we are in full agreement. :)
Brett — I finally caved and bought two of those REI lightweight wool l/s tees — following the link that YOU provided above. The combination of outlet price plus another 20% off was just too much to bear…Feb 5, 2007 at 1:57 am #1377161
Ben, only two merino items from REI? Didn't you see the 100% merino pimp hats at REI outlet? Water resistant, high SPF factor, eco-friendly..
You probably see this sort of thing all too often in So.Cal..
Feb 5, 2007 at 7:40 am #1377176
Merino pimp hats! :)Feb 5, 2007 at 8:00 am #1377178
@tomcat1066Locale: Southwest GA
Now THAT is what I call a hat :D
TomFeb 5, 2007 at 9:06 am #1377187
Pimpin' MontBell… Not just the hat, he's got the right color too!Feb 5, 2007 at 6:20 pm #1377256
Ben, that is too funny; I didn't even recognize it was "Montbell Green", well maybe subliminally.
We joke about me pimpin' MB, but here in Japan I have brought friends who are new to this sport to MB, and eventually they start buying there. I should get a kickback or something..
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