Gear Review: Ibex W2 Sport Tank and Hooded Indie

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Why Buy?

In June of 2015, I started testing my first merino wool products in preparation for my 60+ mile backpacking trip on the High Sierra Trail (HST). During this time, I began to realize that merino wool is an amazing material. After finishing my trip, I was convinced of merino’s antibacterial (odor preventing) and wicking properties. I continued to test various products from several manufacturers through the end of 2015 and into the winter and spring of 2016. I wore merino on cold snowy mountains with sub-zero wind chills, as well as in the hot and dry climate of Southern California. I was continually impressed with how well merino regulated my body temperature and was especially impressed with how many times merino could be worn between washes. For those not familiar with merino wool, Wikipedia has a good summary:

Several properties contribute to merino’s popularity for exercise clothing, compared to wool in general and to other types of fabric:

  • Merino is excellent at regulating body temperature, especially when worn against the skin. The wool provides some warmth, without overheating the wearer. It draws moisture (sweat) away from the skin, a phenomenon known as wicking. The fabric is slightly moisture repellent (keratin fibers are hydrophobic at one end and hydrophilic at the other), allowing the user to avoid the feeling of wetness.[8]
  • Like cotton, wool absorbs water (up to 1/3 its weight), but, unlike cotton, wool retains warmth when wet,[9] thus helping wearers avoid hypothermia after sweating from strenuous exercise or getting rained on when outside.[8]
  • Like most wools, merino contains lanolin, which has antibacterial properties.[10]
  • Merino is one of the softest types of wool available, due to finer fibers and smaller scales.[9]
  • Merino has an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio compared to other wools, in part because the smaller fibers have microscopic cortices of dead air, trapping body heat similar to the way a sleeping bag warms its occupant.[11]

source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merino

While I was very impressed with the merino products I used over the 11 months of testing, I’m always on the search to see if there’s something better out there. In the discussions following my previous reviews, a common question was, “How does this brand compare to brand x merino wool?” In many cases, brand x was Ibex. Looking at Ibex’s website, two products caught my eye, the W2 SPORT TANK and HOODED INDIE :

  • W2 SPORT TANK – Prior to using merino products, I always hiked and worked out in singlets or tank tops. I run hot and I prefer sleeveless shirts, but there aren’t many options for sleeveless merino shirts.
  • HOODED INDIE – Many backpackers have started using backpacking quilts instead of traditional sleeping bags. One complaint regarding quilts is they tend to be more drafty than sleeping bags particularly in the head and neck area. I have noticed that using a light hoodie can eliminate this. Based on prior experience, I also believed that the versatility of the Indie Hoody would also make it a great shirt for early morning hiking or hanging around camp at night.

After a few email exchanges with Ibex, I had an Indie Hoody and W2 Sport Tank in my possession. Here are some unboxing photos:

 


My Observations

The observations below include notes from my hikes between May and September 2016, as well as use during home workouts and while working outside.

W2 SPORT TANK

  • The Good
    • Designed with flat seams throughout. The placement of these seams was deliberate and and thought out. I did not experience any chaffing when wearing this tank top. 
    • The antibacterial and odor resistant qualities of this shirt are amazing. Over the duration of the testing period, I wore the shirt an average of 6 times between washes. For many of these workouts/hikes, the shirt was drenched with sweat.  
    • No itchiness.
    • Ibex has found a good mix of merino (87%) and nylon (13%, for durability I would guess) with this piece. I’ve found that some companies get this mix wrong and you lose some of the benefits of merino.
    • The fabric appears to be very durable and has held up as well as any of the merino shirts I own. I have noticed no piling to date (piling can be expected with merino products that are worn with a backpack).
  • The Bad
    • A bit larger than expected. Not a huge deal, but something to keep in mind if you order one.
    • More expensive than a synthetic tank, but competitively priced with merino t-shirts from other companies.
  • The Bottom Line
    • I’ve very impressed with this shirt. If you’re most comfortable training or backpacking in a tank top and want the benefits of merino, this shirt is worth the investment.

HOODED INDIE

  • The Good
    • Has an athletic cut and looks good. The hidden/discrete thumbholes are a nice touch if you plan to wear this shirt when you’re not working out or on the trail.
    • Extremely soft and very comfortable with no itchiness. Most people I’ve shown it to are surprised that it is made from wool.
    • The fabric appears to be very durable and has held up as well as any of the 100% merino shirts I own. I have noticed limited piling to date (piling can be expected with merino products that are worn with a backpack).
  • The Bad
    • More expensive than a synthetic, lightweight hoody, but competitively priced with merino gear from other companies.
  • The Bottom Line
    • Expensive, but a worthwhile investment if you’re a backpacker and in need of a lightweight merino hoody. This is one of my favorite pieces of gear.

Final (& somewhat random) Thoughts

  • I’m impressed with the overall quality of my Ibex products. They have held up better than some of the other brand name merino gear that I’ve used. I would not hesitate to recommend Ibex to others.
  • I moved from CA to NH in March of 2016 and prior to my move, I did not have much experience using merino in hot, humid weather, especially where I need to be concerned about ticks and mosquitoes. After my testing over the last few months, the W2 Tank and Hooded Indie have become my go-to torso layers for summer hiking in New England or the Sierra during mosquito season. When treated with permethrin (a discussion for another time), the Indie offers adequate protection from mosquitoes and ticks and the W2 tank offers a layer of protection from the permethrin treated fabric, without causing me to overheat. I carried the Indie on nearly all of my hikes and whenever I was outside this summer, with the expectation of wearing it if the mosquitoes were bad. Please note that untreated lightweight merino wool on it’s own does not provide significant protection from mosquitoes; they can bite through it.
  • While my big backpacking plans for 2016 were derailed (details will be posted later), I had planned on using my Ibex product as a key part of my layering system for a 7-10 day section hike on the AT. There is a small possibility that I may still be able to pull off a modified version of these plans this fall and details will be posted at a later date. Here is what I had planned for the Ibex gear:
    • I hoped to bring two W2 tanks and use them as my principle layers for hiking. I would alternate days wearing these tops, possibly washing one top each morning and allowing them to dry throughout the day. If it was not convenient to wash them, I would be fine wearing one of these tops for 3 or 4 days of strenuous hiking between washes.
    • The Hooded Indie would have been used when ticks and mosquitoes were a concern and during cool mornings and evenings. While sleeping, the hoody would have been used to keep the cold off of my head and neck area if needed (I use a quilt instead of a sleeping bag).
  • These items will be used on my next backpacking trip, whether that happens this fall or next spring. This post will be updated with relevant information once that happens.
  • Some thoughts regarding merino wool in general:
    • In my 15 months of testing merino, I’ve found that the key to extended usage between washes is airing merino out at night, whether you’re on the trail and just taking them out of your gym bag overnight.
    • If machine washing mernio wool, I recommend putting them in a mesh wash bag, using the delicate cycle and using a detergent made for wool.
    • One bonus of using merino wool on a daily basis is less laundry. If you’re conscious of water usage, or just hate doing laundry, it may be something to consider for everyday use.
    • If money were no object, I would replace my gym shirts and the majority of my everyday t-shirts with merino.
    • While I would consider merino wool an expensive option for everyday use, it is a very important part of my layering system for backpacking, hiking and snowshoeing.

 

Disclaimer: The products reviewed in this entry were provided to HikingGeek.com by Ibex.