Wool is wonderful. I, and my companions, appreciate the low stink factor and, as a frequent desert crawler, wool suits me with its ability to release heat during the hot days and keep the chill off after sunset. Lots of companies offer thin wool base layers these days. I’ve worn merino wool next-to-skin layers from SmartWool, Icebreaker and Ibex and been pleased with all of them. Patagonia’s Wool 2 fabric feels great too. This review introduces another company with comparably priced options for those choosing wool – I/O Biocompatibles.
The I/O Biocompatibles Contact Crew is very thin (fabric weight is 160 g/m2) and soft. It fits like a second skin without binding. A pre-production run shirt held in warmth in the evenings on a six-day trip along, and on, the St. Joe River in Idaho in August. A production women’s size large fit perfectly in the torso and the sleeves stayed put on my wrists round the clock during a four-day backpacking trip in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest in January and on a three-day igloo excursion in Colorado’s San Juan mountains in February. Close fitting, stretchy sleeves often pull up – my SmartWool Microweight NTS Zip-T does not keep my wrists covered – so I’m very impressed with the Contact Crew sleeves. The merino wool fabric I/O produces has superb mechanical stretch and retains its shape even after days of constant wear.
Construction is very good except for three spots on one test shirt of loose straight stitches where the collar is attached. A nice touch – the inside seam attaching the collar is covered over with fabric at the back of the neck to prevent chaffing.
I/O Biocompatibles is associated with the Michell family of Australia who has been processing and selling wool for over 130 years. I/O controls wool production throughout the supply chain from sheep to shelf. Referring to fiber diameter, a company rep writes, "the Contact Crew is 18.5 microns, but because of the proprietary method of shaping and stretching the wool that I/O uses, it feels more like a 17." The fabric feels very soft and luxurious.
I like the clothes, but the slogans are pretentious and unintelligible:
"The divide between the outside world and the world of shelter dissolves, giving rise to a new mode of cross-living or transhabitation. Inside and Outside are one. I/O."
"Organic is a Myth. Nada es Pura. Nature was never pure or simple. I/O exposes the technology at the heart of the natural."
Pieces available in this same fabric as the Contact Crew – Enigma – are men’s and women’s tights, 3/4 tights, long sleeve crew, and zip neck crew along with a short sleeve crew top for men and a cap tee for women. A variety of styles are available in other fabric weights and types.
Features and Specifications
- Manufacturer: I/O Biocompatibles
- Year/Model: 2008 Contact Long Sleeve Crew, women’s
- Material: 160 g/m2 (4.7 in/yd2), 18.5 micron merino wool
- Sizes: Women’s XS – LG, Men’s S – XL
- Weight: 4.3 oz (122 g) women’s large
- Available: Now
- MSRP: $59.95 US