Wool in summer? Yes, please: I’ve been convinced of merino’s year-round merits for quite a few seasons now, thanks to the magic designers have worked with ultrafine fibers that feel soft against the skin and make for lightweight shirts that breathe exceptionally well. So I welcomed the chance to test this wool-blend tee from Ibex. So far, my opinion has only improved. On a strenuous hike gaining 1,000 feet in about a mile on exposed Pengelly Ridge near my home in Missoula, Montana, the 75°F, sunny weather had me sweating—but the Journey Short Sleeve Crew wicked the moisture away as well as any synthetic, keeping me comfortable and moving forward. That held true even when I upped the exertion on a trail run up the local Barmeyer Trail at 80°F.
How does it work? Merino wool fibers—especially in a lightweight shirt like the the Journey—have tiny pores that allow sweat vapor to escape quickly, before you even start feeling sticky. And when you do sweat, wool wicks moisture into its core but leaves the surface feeling dry against your skin.
The other major benefit of merino is that it’s naturally stink resistant—an especially nice feature as this summer’s heat waves have made all my outings especially sweaty. After three tough workouts without a wash, this top still smells fine.
The Journey is formfitting but not supertight, with a slight drape that allows for unrestricted movement. My biggest question is durability, as one place synthetics beat merino is toughness and longevity, and this particular shirt is very thin: I haven’t tested this with a pack yet, and I’m a little concerned about shortening its lifespan with rubbing under the straps, especially given its luxurious price tag. But this top is 89 percent merino and 11 percent nylon; the merino fibers are wrapped around a nylon core, a construction which should boost the shirt’s staying power longterm.