Overlooked markets for Superfine Merino; assessed by a minimalist backpacker
Recently, while backpacking and volunteering throughout Central Australia and SE Asia, I found myself in some sticky and sweaty circumstances with lots of opportunity and little gear. If you travel minimalist as I do, then versatility of each item in ones’ pack is the name of the game. With this in mind I purchased several pieces of Superfine Merino (SfM) from Ice Breaker for my limited travel wardrobe knowing the obvious pros: light weight, comfortable, breathable, quick drying, no-stink, etc. Through some unpredictable events during my travels, I discovered several unconventional uses for my SfM.
One such situation occurred, when, at the last moment, I was invited to join a snorkeling expedition on the island of Ko Tao in Thailand. Though a rash vest would have been ideal for sun protection and as a barrier between skin and abrasive surfaces. I gave it a go in my SfM Crush Long Sleeve Hoody. Merino proved to be a viable solution when there wasn’t time to locate or funds to purchase ideal gear. Although natural fibers (in this case wool) aren’t quite as durable as closed cell synthetic materials (rash vests are generally made of neoprene), I found the wool held up well for a novice rarely making contact with rock and coral. Needless to say, the 50 UPF rating provided great skin protection against sun exposure. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that SfM, when submerged in water, feels just as comfortable on the skin as when sweating on land. Because the fibers don’t absorb water, the garment tends to move freely in the water and doesn’t weigh the user down.
In a limited wardrobe, having garments which are comfortable when wet or dry also proved to be an advantage while acting as a volunteer pool lifeguard in an Indigenous community out bush. Because conservative dress is of the utmost importance and the job demands frequently getting in and out of the pool, fabrics which dry quickly and are comfortable when wet are important. Garments which move well in water were also desirable while organizing and participating in competitions with children ages 2-14 years. Over long hours in the conditions described, a rash guard can be cumbersome, restricting, and unflattering. I found the Dart Shorts (150 ultralight) and the Zest short Sleeve Crew (150 ultralight) performed remarkably.
When traveling with limited gear, time and again, Icebreaker SfM proved to be a solution to my toughest backpacking predicaments and funds. Weather exposing my SfM garments to extreme ultra-violet rays, salt water, or chlorine in public pools, over the last 6 months these products have demonstrated superior performance in unconventional circumstances. Not to mention there durability; not fading or stretching after 6 months, and coming out cleaner as a result of the adventure at hand. I look forward to seeing how SfM will come through for me on future travel opportunities.