At Shasta Base Camp, an outdoor store in Mt. Shasta City, California (70 miles north of Redding), I recently purchased my first non-polypropylene under layer for lighweight backpacking.
I suspect I am behind the times because Icebreaker, the New Zealand manufacturer of 100% pure merino wool clothes, has apparently been turning out their product line for a couple of years.
Better late than never. I tried on and immediately purchased the Men’s Oasis Crewe SKIN200, lightweight thermal top. Not only does it fit great, but it’s real wool so it stays warm in cold weather, cool in hot weather and keeps you warm if it gets wet. According to Ben, one of the new owners of Shasta Base Camp, it also (this is big) doesn’t smell — ever, no matter how long you’ve worn it. He said the company test was on a guy who wore it for 190 days straight–so long that his chest hair was growing into the material.
I guess you could call it “retro” since wool was the original clothing material of choice. In the old days, however, wool was big, bulky and weighed a ton. Now it is ultralight and extremely comfortable.
One more thing I like: the company’s marketing department has a sense of humor:
“Each year we procure the best merino wool in the world, directly from the best growers in the world, up high in the very pure Southern Alps of New Zealand (not the inferior wool of lowland sheep). If the fibre didn’t work, the animals would die every time it snowed. But it does, and they don’t … we have built a platform to prove that nature is cool, and not everything has to be made of plastic.”
Be safe. Be light. Be one with the pack.