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Smartwool top for packing light

I just received a new Smartwool top I ordered from REI, as part of my quest for a certain shade of blue.

Some may remember my earlier post on the “packing light” benefits very lightweight fabrics. This one definitely qualifies—-it is very finely spun, lightweight merino, but not a loosely knit, or transparent. The neckline is a sort of rounded Vee, so it is dressier than a basic crew neckline. And the indigo-dye shade of blue is exactly what I have been searching for. I never knew what to call it, other than “yoga ball blue”, as the large rubber balls at our fitness center are exactly the shade I want. Now I know it is true indigo.

https://www.rei.com/product/111627/smartwool-classic-all-season-merino-base-layer-long-sleeve-top-womens

This one is going to Italy in February!

It comes in other colors than blue if you prefer.

Posted by
1532 posts

Thank you for your suggestion. Merino wool is great. I haVe MW socks and they are very warm.

I don't have MW tops: do they need to dry flat?

Posted by
3961 posts

Thanks Lola. Love the gorgeous colors, especially the indigo blue. I like the look of the rounded vee as well. I have been very happy with my Smartwool socks that I picked up at the November sale. So nice to have warm socks during our current “winter blast.” Your new top will be perfect for February in Italy.

Posted by
956 posts

I don't have MW tops: do they need to dry flat?

I mostly wear merino tops when I travel and take a couple of padded clothes hangers to dry them on. They dry overnight after hand washing in hotel sinks.

Posted by
1259 posts

Power shopping the deep discount rack and garage sales at REI has inexpensively outfitted my travel wardrobe with terrific name brand Merino pieces.

FYI: The Merino sheep has been bred for decades to produce a super soft fleece. SmartWool is just one of dozens of clothing makers specializing in Merino and Merino blends.Merino is easy-care, light, comfortable, and insulates well in all weather, making pieces ideal for traveling in all seasons and sink/shower laundry. While not indestructible, a well made piece of Merino will outlast most other garments by a decade but machine washing will dramamtically reduce the lifespan. Not everyone can wear wool, not even Merino, and might consider alpaca, cashmere, silk, and synthetic fleeces because those are all hydrophobic.

https://www.woolmark.com/fibre/what-is-merino-wool/
https://www.smartwool.com/discover/what-is-merino-wool.html
https://wolk-antwerp.com/pages/merino-wool

Posted by
4535 posts

I'm also firmly on the wool train! I've had mixed luck with Smartwool (love the socks, have two pairs of a fantastic legging). Another brand I like is Icebreaker. Look for their sale pieces on REI for sure.
You have to read carefully if you want 100% wool versus a blend. I can't wear alpaca, mohair, or angora (also I discovered possum make me itch), but I do fine with wool.
I air dry my shirts on hangars.

Posted by
16643 posts

I’ll bet some people are scratching their heads in puzzlement about that mention of “possum” in clothing. But it is popular in New Zealand to mix with merino in a 50-50 blend. Possums are considered an eco-pest there, and trapping them for their fur is encouraged. It is very soft.

https://www.ecowool.com/product/possum-merino-classic-crew-cardigan/?aelia_cs_currency=USD&s_utm=1%3Futm_source%3Dgoogle&utm_medium=surfaces&utm_campaign=shopping%20feed&utm_content=free%20google%20shopping%20clicks&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzO7Fm4uL_AIVag6tBh2U6ABTEAQYBCABEgIQmfD_BwE

Posted by
3188 posts

I wash my Merino wool clothing in the washer on a very short cold cycle.
I then "fluff" it in a cool cycle in the dryer for 8-10 minutes, then hang it to dry.
Works fine.

Posted by
4535 posts

Exactly lola! My husband went to NZ for work and all I got was a possum scarf--just kidding. He brought me two lovely wool scarves. And because his mother is a huge fan of possums (don't ask), he picked up a few possum scarves also. His made his neck break out in hives. I just find those wispy fibers irritating, but I love the concept (using the material and dealing with invasive species).

Posted by
16643 posts

I am sure they clean the fur well before adding the hairs to yarn.

Note that the possum in NZ is not the same animal as our North American opossum, although both are marsupials.

https://www.thekiwicrossing.com/australian-possum-vs-north-american-opossum/

The NZ possum is native to Australia but was somehow introduced to New Zealand, where it has no natural predators, and it has become a serious pest. When we walked part of the Abel Tasman track we saw a possum trap about every 50 yards, all numbered in sequence. Fortunately none held a prisoner at midday. I believe if you do see one in a trap you are supposed to report the number so the wildlife managers can come and “retrieve” it.

Posted by
6778 posts

Aimee, I agree that there are companies who sell products with dubious reputations, but I have seen nothing that would lead me to believe that the merino wool tops from Costco are from such a company. They are produced by a Canadian company (C&O Apparel) located in British Columbia and I could find nothing online that was negative about them.

It's well known that Costco sells some low priced items in order to bring shoppers in, and I see nothing wrong with taking advantage of that. The top that Lola mentions is a very nice top but if I paid $85 or more for clothing items, I would never be able to afford travel. 😊 The merino wool tops at Costco are well made, nice looking and very durable. I stopped buying Smartwool socks because they wore out faster than other brands, so I appreciate durability.

Posted by
7377 posts

Is anyone else allergic to wool? Have you found any favorite comparables - fabric & brand? I can tolerate a few brands of wool socks during the winter, but I wash them separately from my other clothes. I couldn’t wear a wool shirt. Would love to have another solution.

Posted by
8582 posts

Has anyone else had a problem with longevity of merino wool products? I have had several t-shirts, underwear, and socks from the various name brands. They seem to me to develop small holes, sometimes at the seams, much more quickly than the non-wool products. Possibly from silverfish, but not likely. Undeniably comfortable and quick-drying, but I might be giving up on them because of this and the expense.

Posted by
16643 posts

Thank you for your informed explantation, AMann. I never heard of mulesing until now. Having read about it, I will make sure that merino I buy comes from New Zealand, or other country where the practice is not allowed. Australia does allow it.

And I agree that cheap labor (underpaid workers) is but one of several ways a company can keep prices low. A few years back, Planet Money die a long piece on the making of a cotton T-shirt, from the cotton fields (they chose USA cotton) to the spinning mills where the cotton is spun into yarn ( I believe they chose Indonesia rather than India or China which spin most of the world’s cotton yarn), to the knitting mill somewhere else, then to the country where the knitted fabric is cut and sewn into T-Shirts. They chose a South American country for the women’s T-shirts—maybe Ecuador?—-rather than Cambodia, as factory in South America paid the workers (all women) better and provided on-site daycare for their children.

After this came shipping the finished product to warehouses in the US, where it is packaged, labeled, and sent out to the retailers. If I recall correctly, the cost of shipping was the single largest component of the price paid by the consumer.

Back to merino—-Stan, the small holes could have been silverfish, but more likely were caused by moths. You will almost never see them. I have been buying and wearing merino for 12 years now, and only one shirt has developed holes—-during a ski trip where I unpacked my clothing into a wooden drawer. I discovered the small round holes, lots of them, the next morning—-those larvae work fast! And I never saw one.

Since then I have kept most of my sweaters and merino tops in zippered bags, or in those plastic boxes that salad comes in. And I distribute little moth-repellent bags of peppermint around in the cupboard where I keep the sweaters and tees. I actually don’t think we have any clothes moths here in Seattle, but the peppermint gives a pleasant aroma to the cupboard!

Jean, if you have had allergic reactions to merino, it could be the dye or other fabric finish, or it could be the wool itself. You could try other forms of “wool” which comes from animals other than sheep, in case the allergy is species-specific. Cashmere is from a goat, alpaca is from . . . an alpaca. Mohair is also a goat, but I think it is scratchy no matter what. I do have friends who are allergic to wool but happily wear alpaca—-but unfortunately it is even more expensive than merino.

Or try a blend—-Icebreaker makes a fabric they call Sphere, which is a blend of Tencel lyocell (60%) and New Zealand merino (40%). The merino meets the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS)

https://textileexchange.org/responsible-wool-standard/

REI sells a womens’ longsleeve Sphere tee, and one color (aqua) is on sale for $41 right now.

https://www.rei.com/product/203075/icebreaker-sphere-ii-long-sleeve-t-shirt-womens?CAWELAID=120217890014973006&CAGPSPN=pla&CAAGID=110572153436&CATCI=pla-970891157185&cm_mmc=PLA_Google%7C21700000001700551_2030750023%7C92700057666111100%7CNB%7C71700000066692717&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIv9ay1vCN_AIVVgWtBh1eTgXqEAQYAyABEgLBkPD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

I have also found other Sphere products on sale on Amazon.

Posted by
3188 posts

A little to the side of the original topic, but if you find any type of wool at all to be itchy on you, try thermal tops and long john bottoms from the company Uniqlo.

https://www.uniqlo.com/us/en/contents/feature/heattech/women/
They have men's as well.
Their HeatTech range keeps you quite warm and is the thinnest thermal wear I've ever found.
It's very fine, like silk.
Weighs nothing, so great for travel.
I don't think there is any wool in it, and as a "cold" person, it keeps me very warm as base layers.