Disclaimer: The team at Unbound Merino sent me some gear to review, however all opinions are my own.
It’s not cheap, but whether you’re interested in merino wool clothing or are a minimalist packer looking to lighten the load, Unbound Merino is making some fantastic merino wools shirts worth checking out.
|The price can be a bit steep (use GROG10 at checkout!)
|Extremely versatile, can wear in multiple situations
|The sweater fits a tiny bit small but will depend on the person
|No odor after continuous use
|Sustainable materials mean a happier planet
If you are interested, I’ve partnered with Unbound Merino to give my readers a discount. For a 10% off on your next order at Unbound Merino, use the code `GROG10` at checkout!
If you’re a hardcore traveler, and I assume you are since you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably heard about merino wool. It’s had quite the moment, going from niche winter sports gear to mainstream travel essential over the past few years. However, if you haven’t heard of merino wool, it is a specific kind of wool that has some fantastic benefits for one-bag travelers.
To be honest, it’s taken me a while to get on the merino wool shirt bandwagon. Even the original version of my ultralight packing list didn’t have any merino gear on it. There wasn’t a specific reason I avoided, to be honest, I just didn’t feel the need, and it was a pretty tough sell at that price point.
But a few weeks ago, I managed to get my hands on some merino wool gear from Unbound Merino. Fortunately, I was on my way to Iceland for a two-week van life trip, so it was the perfect opportunity to test it out. Hiking? Check. Air travel? Check. Trapped in a small van with minimal access showers? Check.
If it could survive all of this, I’d call it a success.
- You’re a minimal traveler looking to lighten your load
- You’re curious about merino wool gear
- You’re looking for sustainable clothing options
Don’t buy if
- You’re a budget-conscious shopper and can’t afford to drop $70 on a t-shirt
Unbound Merino is a small indie producer on a mission to “create simple, high-performance clothing that is versatile enough for any occasion.” And clearly, they are designing their products for minimal, one bag travelers:
“Imagine if your next big trip was luggage-free. No check-in, no waiting, and no worries. You’d breeze right past the horde at the carousel.”
And they go further. The company promises that:
“Behind every simple piece we create, there are three extraordinary benefits – Simplicity, Versatility and Performance.”
Alright, so I think we get the point by now, right?
Unbound Merino sources its wool from independent farms in Australia in an attempt to ethically source its materials. All in all, the company cares about the products it makes and their place in the world, which is always a good sign when it comes to the goods we buy.
The initial presentation and unboxing couldn’t be any better. I got two merino wool t-shirts and a sweater, all of which came packaged in a clean, simple box. Upon unboxing, there was a handwritten note from the team at Unbound Merino with a phone number to contact.
The whole packaging experience just felt premium. And considering there is about $300 worth of merino wool shirts in there, rightly so. Either way, it was a nice touch that made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Right off the bat, you can feel just how soft the shirts and sweaters are. Cool to the touch, the t-shirts were medium weight, superfine (17.5 micron) wool. It’s not too thin, but not very thick either. The sweater was obviously thicker but still incredibly soft.
The way t-shirts fit can be a bit subjective. Some like longer sleeves, others shorter and more snug. For reference, I’m 6’3″ and around 190 pounds with an athletic frame. Shirt sizing can be a bit tricky, especially in the shoulders and sleeves.
I went with a large in both the t-shits and the sweater. The Unbound Merino t-shirts fit incredibly well on me in the sleeves. I maybe could’ve used the body length to be just a tiny bit longer, but it isn’t really an issue. On the other hand, the sweater is a bit short in the sleeves and the body. I might personally go for the x-large in the sweater if I had to pick again, but the large fits well enough to wear, and it doesn’t look weird at all.
So I’ve seen a few other merino wool shirt makers out there that claim you can go at least 72 hours between washes without accumulating any odor. Unbound takes it a bit further, according to their website, they put their shirts through a test that went for 46 (!) straight days without a wash. They go on to list some of the activities they did during that period:
– Worn 46 days in a row without exception
– In that 46 days worn in the gym around 6 or 7 times through heavy cardio (testing the product was the motivation for the gym more so than sheer discipline)
– Worn twice in the sauna (we meant it when we said we took this to the limits)
– Worn to bed some nights and stayed on the body right through the day
– Taken to Shanghai, Bangkok and Koh Tao, Thailand and worn daily in sweltering 40-degree weather (see our Indiegogo video). All of the above was done without a wash. It never smelled. Not even slightly. It’s important to note that whenever it was worn and heavily perspired into, it was hung up to air out and dry off before being put back on. Nobody wants to wear a wet shirt, and it does need to air out so that the moisture wicks away and bacteria isn’t formed. When alternating between 2 or 3 shirts over a trip, you can go months without a wash with ease.https://unboundmerino.com/blogs/help-center/why-doesnt-an-unbound-merino-t-shirt-smell-bad-even-if-i-wear-it-for-days-or-months-at-a-time
So, needless to say, expectations for these shirts were pretty damn high.
Though my trip was only two weeks, I figured that with all the hiking and lack of showers (#vanlife), it would be a good test for the shirt regardless. And the shirts held up pretty damn well. I hiked up volcanoes, trekked across rivers, and went out to bars, all in the same trip, without a wash.
I would alternate the shirts each day, letting the other air out as much as possible (as per their recommendations). A couple of times, I used non-merino shirts, typically after natural hot springs or while sleeping. Still, other than that, they were my sole shirts for the duration of the trip.
I didn’t wear the sweater quite as often as the t-shirts since much of the time was spent in the car, but when it was frigid outside, or the wind was brutal, I used it as an added layer.
Throughout all of this, the gear held up exceptionally well. Not once did I notice any kind of odor. And I was traveling with some friends, and I didn’t get the impression they thought I smelled like ass….but they could’ve just been nice? Either way, I’ll call it a win.
There’s a reason why hardcore minimalist travelers preach sticking to basics; they just work with everything. So I opted for a blue and black crew-neck t-shirt and a black crew neck sweater. What I love about Unbound Merino is the lack of visible branding anywhere on the shirts; branding is obnoxious and difficult to dress up than a plain black t-shirt.
It’s weird saying that a t-shirt looked premium, but they did. The way it fits, a bit snug but not overly so, makes them easy to dress up or down. Pair it with some nice jeans or pants, and you’re good to go for a night out. Or, you could probably add a blazer, if that’s your sort of thing.
It’s also worth mentioning that the shirts and sweater still looked nice, even after a few uses. Sometimes shirts tend to get a bit baggy and ratty looking after a couple uses, rendering them almost useless to dress up. But these looked AND felt nice after a few years, meaning you won’t feel uncomfortable wearing a couple day old t-shirt.
At the end of the day, we’re talking a $75 t-shirt, so they damn well better look and feel premium. Fortunately, the gear from Unbound Merino fits the bill.
The gear from Unbound Merino is fantastic. In fact, it’s got me regretting not going with merino wool shirts sooner. The price tag is worth the utility you’ll get from the shirts; two or three of these, and you can streamline your packing for any trip.
On top of the build quality and performance, it’s a natural and more sustainable fiber than any polyester shirt that might be an option. The more we can consume goods consciously, the better off all of us will be.
Whether you are a minimal, one-bag traveler or an adventure junkie looking for some performance, Unbound Merino is making high-quality products that are worth every penny.
If you are interested, I’ve partnered with Unbound Merino to give my readers a discount. For a 10% off on your next order at Unbound Merino, use the code GROG10 at checkout.
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