I love a good technical shirt. They’re built for hard use riding, running and backpacking and they’re comfortable doing that. But that’s also the problem, they look, and smell, technical.
One run or stressful travel day in a polyester shirt and it smells. And it seams to smell right out of the wash from then on too. Nikwax even has an entire product just for cleaning synthetic base layers.
Sheep have the answer.
What is Merino wool?
The wool of the Merino sheep has somehow evolved to be the perfect material for us to travel, run, ride and hike in.
The wool is covered in a wax-like coating Lanolin which helps wick moisture away from our skin keeping your skin dry on hot, sweaty days (or plane rides). The lanolin also prevents the stink-inducing bacteria from sticking around. They can’t hold on to the wool fibres so no stink.
Who is Unbound Merino?
Three life-long friends from Toronto loved to travel but got fed up with lugging all the clothes around. They were taking clothes that needed to be washed after one wear because they wrinkled or stunk. They wanted something that could be worn a bunch before they had to wash it. Taking less clothes meant they could just ditch the suitcase traveling and go light.
Merino didn’t wrinkle or smell and looked great so they’ve been making Merino shirts, hoodies, socks, boxers and pants over the last few years that are great for travel. Those t-shirts are also my favorite for hiking and running.
A nice side effect of looking for the perfect travel shirts, meant they could travel all day, go for a hike, then go for dinner, all in the same t-shirt.
I wrote more about who Unbound Merino is in the Kanga Hoodie review.
How does the Crew Neck fit?
The Unbound Merino Crew Neck t-shirt fits like a regular t-shirt. It’s not tight but it’s not baggy. I wear medium for pretty much everything and it was right on for size. I’m a stocky 5’7″ 180 pounds and it fits well. The 6′ 170 pound model on the website shows a medium too.
The medium Crew Neck t-shirt is 70cm (27.5in) from hem to collar and 51.5cm (20.25in) wide. It fits well on a 39-40 inch chest with a 31-32 inch waist.
How long can you wear the Crew Neck t-shirt before it smells?
For an early crowdfunding video, the co-founder Dan Demsky wore Unbound Merino socks, boxers and shirt for 46 days. That’s over 6 weeks if you’re counting. Not bad.
Recently I wore the Crew Neck for 2 weeks straight. I worked in it, played with the kids, and ran outside. I needed the shirt for some photos and found at the bottom of some wet laundry. After running out to the photo location, it had aired out and smelled great.
Of course, if you spill something on the Merino or it’s just plain dirty then it might need a wash but it’s easy to go 3 or 4 times as long with a Merino shirt compared to a cotton or polyester one. Throw in some sweaty days and that can get even longer.
Why is Merino wool expensive?
Merino is rare in the fabric world. Anything made with Merino wool is going to be a bit more expensive.
Merino wool is harvested from the Merino sheep in Australia and New Zealand. Merino sheep are still fairly rare compared to other materials like cotton or petroleum-based polyester. Merino only grow their fleece out once per year so it takes a while.
The animals are well cared-for and live in comfortable conditions. The happier the sheep the better the wool. It would ruin the wool to cram all the sheep into tiny, awful living conditions so they can’t work that way.
Until there are more farms around the world and it’s easier to get Merino wool, the clothes made from it will be a bit more expensive than cotton or polyester.
The benefit to Merino is that it can take the place of multiple other shirts in your closet or suitcase. I can wear a merino shirt for a week easy without washing. If I do laundry once a week, that’s 7 other shirts I’ve just replaced.
The Crew Neck Details
- 100% Merino wool jersey
- ultra-fine 17.5 micron wool
- 190 g/m2 thickness
- $96 CAD ($75 USD)
Merino wool has a lot of upsides and it’s my first choice for anything outdoors or travel but it’s not perfect.
Not as smooth as cotton
Ultra-fine merino is very close to being as smooth as cotton but it’s not quite the same. It’s light-years ahead of the old, scratchy wool sweaters. I can’t even imagine wearing one of those for anything. The Merino is so fine and smooth these days that it’s easy not to notice when it’s on. But at the end of the day though, it’s not quite smooth as cotton is on your skin.
Like I said above, the price for anything made from Merino wool will be a bit more expensive. There just aren’t as many places producing Merino clothing and not as many sheep as there are cotton fields and polyester factories. Like silk, Merino wool just costs more to make right now.
Unbound Merino Crew Neck T-Shirt: Highly Recommended
If you are hiking, travelling, running, riding, going out for dinner or watching TV at home, an Unbound Merino Crew Neck t-shirt is going to be a good choice. I wear mine doing everything. Lay out it each night to air out and it’s good to go in the morning. After a couple of weeks of just airing out each night I’ll give it a wash and hang to dry.
I’d never want to wear a tech fabric shirt for weeks or sweat in it and go out for dinner but that’s easy to do with an Unbound Merino t-shirt.