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Another request for merino wool shirt recommendations

Hi all! Husband and I are returning to Ireland again this April/May (18 days). Based on our trip in 2022, my favorite approach to layering was a merino wool shirt (I only had one t-shirt) and one of my colorful flannel shirts, which I could then layer/mix and match with a fleece vest, puffer jacket, and rain coat.

As noted, I only had 1 merino wool t-shirt in 2022 - the other shirts I brought were tech/sport shirts. They worked well enough to layer and make my top layers go longer between washing, but I found that I couldn’t really wear them more than once before washing. I’m trying to bring fewer shirts, and therefore, I’d like to go with merino wool as my base layer.

I now have 2 smart wool t-shirts. Both are comfortable and not itchy at all. I would like one long sleeved t-shirt. I received a smartwool long-sleeved shirt for Christmas, but I’m finding it itchier than my t-shirts. I’ve read before that the quality of smartwool can vary, so I’m wondering if someone who has found smartwool to be a bit itchy has found and can recommend an alternative brand that worked for you? Bonus if the shirts are not super long (I’m only 5’4”, and since I plan to layer these, something approaching a tunic length would be too long).

Sorry for the repeat topic - searching pulled up a lot of very old threads that were pretty outdated! Thank you in advance for any recommendations!

Posted by
11280 posts

My dh and I both love our Merino shirts made by Icebreaker. Wonderful to pack for trips where you travel to regions with different climates, temperatures.

Posted by
3917 posts

I just ordered merino clothing today from MerinoTech.com. They had a sale. I ordered one lightweight long sleeved t-shirt AND leggings for me and a polo shirt for my husband. They have 3 different weight fabrics depending on the Season you intend to wear them.
I will test them out AND if good purchase more. If not, I’ll try another brand.
I only paid $135.00 for all 3 pieces, free shipping.

Posted by
7504 posts

I second Suki’s Icebreaker recommendation. My shirt is a top layer, not long underwear top, but the fabric and sewing quality is exceptionally good, the warmth and breathability performance is fantastic, and no itching whatsoever. All of my Smartwool socks are also non-itchy. I wonder if it’s something about their t-shirts, that their other garments don’t do?

As with your Smartwool, wash Icebreaker wool cold, and hang dry.

Posted by
79 posts

I like Icebreakers too, but some can be itchy. The ones I genuinely love are from Ibex - but they are expensive. They also look less 'sporty' and a little more 'formal', which is a great win for me. I am short and the Ibex feel the right length to me.

Edit: I have the ones from Ibex 24- hour collection

Posted by
848 posts

Another vote for the lighter weight Icebreaker. I like the Smartwool colors but they really itch me. (I haven’t tried Ibex but will look at them now.) Try Moosejaw, REI or Amazon for lower prices. And we learned that Vermont Darn Tough socks don’t wear out like the Smartwool do. Got so tired of wearing the Smartwool for 3 months only to have the heel wear out.

Posted by
7504 posts

Darn Tough - I’ve got a few pairs. Relatively expensive for one pair, but all have a Lifetime Warranty!!!

Posted by
356 posts

Hubby and I both love our Woolx brand tops and bottoms. They're pricey but non-itchy, very comfortable, and great quality.

Posted by
197 posts

I love my wooland.com (wool&) shirts for casual wear. I'm taking two of their wool tops on an April trip to Italy. I also have Smartwool merino shirts that I wear for long hiking days, but I agree they are a little itchier.

For men, wool& sells under the Wool&Prince brand. If you like to wear dresses, I have a couple of the sleeker-cut wool& midi dresses and love them.

Posted by
34 posts

Longtime wearer of Smartwool products; long Ts, short Ts, vests, jackets & longjohns. Don't think I've ever paid retail. Many have been purchased online @ Smartwool.com. Always go to the "Last Chance" tab. Significant markdowns, free shipping & also free shipping if returning an item. https://www.smartwool.com/shop/collections-web-specials#facet=Gender:%22Male%22&beginIndex=0

First items I pack for travel 3 short & 3 long T-shirts & a vest......... all Smartwool products.

Having said all that I noticed on a visit to a local REI this past weekend, Icebreaker products were 30% off.

Posted by
2098 posts

I love my Bomba's merino wool tops. I am very short, and like that these are short. They shrink in length, which makes them perfect for me for layering, as like you say it then is not hanging out under whatever else I am wearing. These are thin, not scratchy in the least, and super soft. I am packing them again for Iceland and Amsterdam for this week. I am unsure of what other tops I am taking, but these are as basic as underwear to me, lol.

Posted by
3214 posts

I like Woolx. I have two Hannah Tees and they do not itch. They last many days without needing washing unless I spill, which I then try to spot wash. They are not itchy (and a lot of wool is itchy for me.)
For me, they have dried overnight. I have the black and charcoal. The black particularly dresses up nicely with a scarf.

They are on sale right now!

My experience with wool& is that they don't last at all, unfortunately, as I liked the styles. They develop little holes quickly from friction. So far the Woolx have held up brilliantly.

Posted by
768 posts

Barbara, you ordered from Western Australia and there was no shipping charge? Is there a US supplier?

Posted by
3917 posts

I ordered at MerinoTech.com. The shipping is through Amazon according to the e-mail I just received.

Posted by
82 posts

I have numerous Woolx tops...short sleeve, long sleeve, tunics... and a vest, jacket, and leggings...none are itchy. I also have a turtleneck and a short sleeve tunic from Wool& as well as several dresses and leggings from Wool& and none are itchy. So I would say either brand would work well. I live in merino wool year round even though summers here are hot and humid. I love the fact that I can were one dress for days with no odor...washing it is usually driven by the fact that it has stretched a bit and I want it to shrink back in shape. Merino also dries relatively fast (overnight when hung to dry). For packing light, merino wool clothing cannot be beat.

Posted by
194 posts

I am petite too (5 ft. 2 in). and wanted a warm base layer of wool that didn't itch and wasn't heavy or too long. The ones at Kora Outdoor work great for me and fit perfectly. They are a blend of 20% yak wool, 40% merino wool and 40% recycled polyester. They are relatively thin but still very warm and feel soft instead or itchy. I've taken them on several trips and on local hikes in winter. They are pricey but I bought them on sale at 60 percent off full price. https://www.koraoutdoor.com/

Posted by
1487 posts

I suggest you check Outdoor Research and Salewa. These are great brands.

Posted by
57 posts

I have a couple merino tops from Uniqlo that I like but I would categorize them as really lightweight sweater rather than shirts. I still layer them in cold weather. My question for all you ladies is whether anyone has used a merino top in the summer? I have heard they are cool and don’t hold odors but am skeptical. They are so warm that I have a hard time believing they would be good for summer! Any experience?

Posted by
104 posts

All of my regular t-shirts and my hiking t-shirts are from Icebreaker. They're made from 120-weight Merino rather than the 260-weight Merino that the turtleneck I'm currently wearing here in NH is. I don't find the t-shirts to be any hotter than my old cotton ones.

Posted by
1307 posts

Quince is an on-line only company that carries some merino wool sweaters.
I bought a merino cardigan sweater about 4 months ago and have worn it a lot this winter.
They also carry lovely light cashmere and linen and silk clothes.
Their prices are more than reasonable with free shipping and returns.
I think I've made 5 purchases from them and have been very satisfied with everything.

Posted by
79 posts

Martha, I have hiked in 90 degrees weather in my lightweight Icebreaker short-sleeve t-shirt and I was very comfortable throughout. It was not in high humidity though (in the Sierras in CA).

Also, I find that being well moisturized decreases itchiness especially with merino.

Posted by
9 posts

I have several merino shirts from Icebreaker, and especially like the long sleeve half zip for layering over wool tee shirts. I’ve recently discovered Unbound Merino and love their women’s v-neck tees. Lots of colors to choose from, and the quality and stitching is beautiful. Rarely on sale, but you can bundle three for savings. My new favorites, for sure.
https://unboundmerino.com/collections/womens-merino-wool-clothes

Posted by
1487 posts

Merino wool is an amazing material that regulates body temp. It's ok to wear thin merino wool baselayers even in summer.

Posted by
1 posts

I packed a few Duckworth brand merino wool shirts on my most recent trip to Europe. They are comfortable, look nice, and can be worn a few days without washing. I’m 5’2” and they fit well lengthwise on my torso, and they have crew neck or v-neck options. Bonus is that they are made in the USA as well.

Posted by
515 posts

The quality of the wool is measured in microns, the smaller the number, the finer the hair, thus the softer to touch. Underwear & next-to-skin layers are going to be using much finer wool, than a heavier sweater or, button-down shirt that can also be worn as an outer layer. Higher micron measurements (itchy) are found in boiled wool type garments, usually pea coats and heavy sweaters.

Virgin wool is just that, the first sheering of the sheep so, the ends will not be as sharp thus a VERY soft hand.
How thick the wool is when woven is the other half to how a garment is measured in weight, the higher the number, the thicker the textile.
Icebreaker and Smartwool are the two major sportswear brands that are focused around using Merino wool; both are owned by VF, Icebreaker is NZ based with a bit more sophistication in their styling, vs Smartwool which is more generally focused. Ibex is the third brand US based, however their assortment is limited as they are recently reemerging from bankruptcy/reorganizing. I own shirts from all three, Ive got a lot of Ibex t-shirts prior to their restructuring when they had a much bigger line. Layering with a nice Marino tee underneath is the easiest way to keep warm without looking like you just got off the trail.

Most brands have small collections built around of Merino wool items, Patagonia, Uniqlo, REI, BassPro/Cabelas, First Lite, Kuiu, etc come to mind.

Posted by
105 posts

I just have to comment on Darn Tough socks. Just sent 4 pairs back for 4 new pairs. Had them for over 10 yrs. Once you buy them you won't need any other socks. Great company

Posted by
4 posts

Long time reader/lurker, first time poster. MANY thanks to all of you for the packing tips and advice here. I've lost track of all the good things I read here that I've implemented in my travel protocol!

Last summer, I purchased a few different merino tee options for wearing at home (Colorado) and for a trip to Portugal last fall. Portugal was unseasonably hot, so my tees got more of a warm weather test than I'd planned for initially.

Merino.tech - I have the lightweight (165gsm) in short and long-sleeve and the midweight (250gsm) in long-sleeve zip front. They appear to be pure merino, both according to the tag and the feel of the material.
165 gsm - This fabric is lovely and soft, no itch. I've been wearing the long-sleeve tees nonstop this winter. It's a slim-ish fit, but not tight, and true to size. At home, I wash them either in a delicate bag or inside out in cold water and hang dry. I've had no problem with pilling or shrinkage. While traveling, I enjoyed one of these tees in the evening or first thing in the morning, but it was too warm to wear any other time of day. I didn't wash this tee while traveling, so not sure how well it washes or dries in the sink.
250 gsm - This has more of a sweater feel than a tee feel. The fabric is again really soft and buttery. No itch. However, this one has started to pill a little and shrinks mildly when washed. I have stretched it out and re-shaped it when I pull it out of the wash and it's been okay, but it doesn't seem to be as forgiving as the 165gsm tee. But did I mention the fabric? It's like a warm hug on a cold day.

The colors of Merino.tech are mostly lovely, but I did get one heathered color that I sent back because it was just a weird blend of different color threads that didn't go together at all. Zoom in closely on their pics to see what the fabric really looks like.

Smartwool - I have the Active Ultralight tee. Soft material, not itchy, but borderline see through (plan your undergarments accordingly!) This is a merino/tencel blend. It is light and comfortable for hot weather. It washes and dries in the sink beautifully. No shrinkage or pilling that I've noticed.

Icebreaker - I have the Tech Lite II tee. Icebreaker says this is 100% merino, but it is definitely less soft and more itchy than my other merino tees. The material is also a bit too much for warm weather. I find the weight and little bit of itching slightly uncomfortable, not terrible, but not ever the first tee I grab when others are available. This one also shrank a bit in the neck and armpits, so the fit is less nice than when I first got it.

Icebreaker is having a Flash Sale on past season tees right now, so it's worth checking out. I just ordered a Sphere tee, which I'm hoping will be better than the Tech Lite.

Let us know what you pick!
Amy

Posted by
15 posts

If you have a Costco membership, go stalk for Segments merino tops. They are ridiculously cheap and incredibly comfortable. I buy them every time I see them and probably have 6-7 in rotation. They hold up really well so far. I machine wash and hang dry.

Posted by
384 posts

You're probably all set for your travels now that you are so close, but I just wanted to second the Costco merino shirts. I've gotten 2 styles here in the US and different colours in Canada. I wore my first one for last fall's trip and I was hooked.

Posted by
23 posts

Maybe an out of the box suggestion, but the running brand Tracksmith makes several wool tops, and I practically live in them even when not running (also I'm 5'2", so they're petite-tested and approved). The Harrier line (long sleeve, short sleeve, tank) are all wool, and the Brighton (long sleeve and tank, there's a men's short-sleeve that I've never tried) are a whisper-thin wool blend. They're not itchy and I especially love the thinner Brighton ones for layering under Smartwool quarter-zips. The Harrier ones are pretty true to size and they Brighton ones are meant to be snug, so size up for casual wear.

Posted by
7 posts

I just saw that REI has a variety of Icebreaker merino wool products on sale right now. If you have a member reward you can use it for an even better price.

I currently have 2 long sleeve, 1 t-shirt, and 2 tank tops from Icebreaker. They always go with me when I travel and I wear them at home quite often. Top quality and no itching. And another vote here for Darn Tough socks. Worth the cost.

Thank you for all of your comments and various posts. You have helped me much over the years.

Posted by
515 posts

but the running brand Tracksmith makes several wool tops, and I practically live in them even when not running

That brings up a good point, running clothing makes for good base-layer/next-to-skin layer clothing if someone if traveling but, trying to avoid having to purchase new items. The performance synthetic materials in running apparel, is perfectly fine doing double-duty as thermal underwear whether you're playing in the snow or, traveling during cooler times.

Posted by
15 posts

Zcorsair - I’ve done that before, and I’ll be bringing one athletic t-shirt. But I find I can’t wear them more than once like I can with the wool, since it retains sweat and can get smelly faster. But if you’re not looking for multiple wearing, I think they are fine.

Posted by
113 posts

I echo the sentiments for Smartwool and Icebreaker, but my favorite merino top lately is the Abisko long sleeve from Fjallraven. It's lightweight and super soft. It also comes in short sleeve. I'd stay away from the REI brand merino tops. We bought two of these about 18 months ago and both have tiny holes from normal wear and tear starting. They aren't the most durable, though they are much cheaper than the other brands.

Posted by
1 posts

I have found SmartWool to be a bit more itchy than some other brands as well. I have a couple WoolX tops and a pair of leggings that I find super soft and comfortable. They have some tunic style long and short sleeved tops as well. I also ordered a t-shirt from Unbound Merino. I like the fit if that tshirt a bit better as I'm a bit between sizes in WoolX and with Unbound Merino one of the t-shirt styles seems to work really well for me. I also find them soft. I like the WoolX because you can wash and dry them. Unbound needs to be laid flat to dry which isn't really a problem, but being able to put them in the dryer is a nice option. I haven't had any of these very long, but so far so good.

Posted by
19 posts

Any recommendations on specific merino short or long sleeve tops that would be a good fit for a pear-shaped body? I’m looking for loose fit V-neck. Thanks!

Posted by
7 posts

I am so glad you posted this query as I returned from Holland and Belgium recently and the bike tour leader was wearing a merino wool tee he loved, but he did not mention the brand name and lived there. I'm going to read through these and take a closer look at the various websites. I'll be in Scotland in July and want to buy one or two for that trip and I would like them to work for both nature hikes and dinner gatherings. Thank you, everyone, for your comment.