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In partnership with Unbound Merino
If you’re considering purchasing some Unbound Merino apparel, then you’ve probably been hunting around the internet for some reviews of their gear. If that’s the case, then you’ll have likely noticed two common themes: first, that their merino wool clothing is apparently magical in its ability to soak up sweat, never stink, and hardly ever need washing. Second, that their clothing is great for minimalist travel – you don’t need to pack multiple shirts/pants/socks etc as you can wear the same outfit day after day.
I was a little sceptical of these lofty ‘magical fiber’ claims so, when Unbound asked if I wanted to try out a range of their clothing, I jumped at the chance. Being a cyclist, I was also keen to see how they’d perform for casual cycling trips, urban biking and a little bicycle commuting – those being my minimalist travels.
Here’s the deal, buy Unbound Merino apparel with confidence. It’s so magical that, under the microscope, you can see unicorns and fairies dancing amongst the merino fibers. And, as for using merino wool for cycling? Wow. No stink after 46 days straight wearing the exact same outfit. Nice stretch for ease-of-movement on the bike. It’s super-comfortable and looks great.
“It’s so magical that, under the microscope, you can see unicorns and fairies dancing amongst the merino fibers.”
The gals and guys at Unbound have created some awesome clothing. Let’s dive in and take a close look at the details.
The merino wool clothing I’ve tested and how it performed
When someone tells you that you should wear a non-workout outfit to a spinning class, grab a quick shower after, put the same outfit back on and head out to a fancy dinner with your wife’s parents….it’s tempting to think that they might be having a joke at your expense.
And that’s what the team at Unbound Merino said I should do.
But, I decided to take them at their word. Yes, I went spinning just before meeting up with my in-laws and, no, they haven’t advised their daughter to find herself a more suitable (and less smelly) husband. Not only that, I’ve spent the last 46 days wearing the same outfit from Unbound: Crew neck T-shirt, their Essential shorts, and the Compact Travel Hoodie. And, those 46 days have been sweaty to say the least. Apart from the spin class, I’ve also been cycling to the office during the week (a 10-mile hilly round trip), cycling around the local neighborhood at the weekend, and met up with the in-laws on more than one occasion.
My wife, who has seemingly super-human powers of smell, doesn’t recoil in horror whenever I go near her. My teenage son had a sniff of the T shirt (40 days into the test) and said that “it just smells of T shirt”. When I told him that merino wool clothing meant you could wear the same outfit day after day, hardly ever washing it, and never getting stinky…well, he was pretty excited. It’s the stuff of a teenager’s dreams.
Let’s dive in and take a look at each individual piece of clothing that I’ve been testing.
Merino T Shirt
One of the key pieces of clothing in the Unbound Merino collection, the crew neck T-shirt has got it all. It really sums up the whole ethos of Unbound – understated clothing that doesn’t have ‘shouty’ logos or branding splashed over every surface, with a cut that looks great and feels great. I tried the Navy Blue and there are a total of seven different colors available in five sizes (S-XXL). Normally I’d tend to wear a Large and this Large was the perfect size – a little clingy (in the right way and the right places), with ideal length on the bottom hem and sleeves, and a comfortable neck. For comparison, I’m 5’8” and 180lbs.
When you read the various reviews of merino wool clothing generally, you’ll see people say things like, “it had a very slight itch to begin with, nothing specific, but it went away real quick”. For me, this set alarm bells ringing because, if there’s one thing I absolutely hate with a passion, it’s itchy clothes. Ughh, makes my skin crawl just thinking about. I can’t stand ‘standard’ wool clothing and even some of my cotton gear has been shoved right to the back of the closet.
So, how did the Unbound tshirt feel on the Itch Scale? Well, I have to say, that it’s one of the softest and least-itchy items of clothing I’ve ever tried on. No itch, either to begin with, or at any other time. Just super-soft and super-comfortable. Love it.
As well as the crew neck short sleeve, Unbound also have a V-neck short sleeve, Long sleeve crew, and a Polo shirt. If you need a more formal look, then there’s a great looking button-down available in their range.
The Compact Travel Hoodie was designed by Unbound as the ideal companion for adventures in far flung places. The merino wool gives it a great warmth-to-weight ratio – it’s not a thick hoodie but it’s kept me warm on some recent cool spring evenings outdoors. And, because it’s not a thick hoodie, it’s super-light at only 1lb 1oz. Great for minimalist travel and great for cycling.
There are two side pockets (which also give two internal pockets as well) and these are roomy enough for hands, or whatever else you want to put in there. The hood fits well – which is saying something as I find that many hoodies have hoods that are too small for my head! The arms and body have a great slim fit and the body length is just right – not too short so that it won’t ride up when you’re on the bike. Take a look at the inside label and you’ll see that the hoodie is made from 97% merino wool and 3% elastane. That elastane helps the hoodie keep its shape and not stretch – it fits as well after 46 days as it did when I first took it out of the shipping box.
I got the Maroon hoodie in Large. There are two other colors available (Navy and Black) and five sizes (S-XXL). I love the maroon color on this one and it goes perfectly with the navy tshirt (and also the black shorts).
Once again: zero itch, super-soft, and no stink after 46 days. If you’re sensing a theme here, then you’d be right. Just like the tshirt, the hoodie is fantastic. I love it and wear it all the time.
I’m a huge fan of shorts and so I was probably most excited to try these out of all three items. And, I have to say, that they didn’t disappoint.
Here, I opted for the Black shorts in a 34” waist. The fit is great on me and the lower hems on the legs go down to around 2” above the knee. They’re a nice stylish cut without being too ‘on trend’, if you know what I mean? Basically, it means that I’ll be able to wear them out for many years to come, whatever the latest fashion. And I will.
The shorts have two side pockets – with plenty of space for my hands / anything else. They also have a single rear pocket over the left butt cheek and another over the right cheek – this one (pocket, not cheek) has a third hidden zippered pocket which is useful for stashing a car key or credit card.
The shorts are available in two colors (black and grey) plus eight waist sizes (28”-42”). They’re made from 48% merino, 48% cotton and 4% spandex. And, that 4% spandex is awesome in giving the shorts just the right amount of stretch. For day-to-day wear it helps them keep their shape but it’s on the bike where they really excel – giving you a comfortable fit even whilst pedaling along.
As with the tshirt and hoodie, I’m happy to confirm that the shorts pass the no-stink-after-46-days-of-continuous-wear test with flying colors. I’ve worn them to the aforementioned dinner with the in-laws and I’ve also worn them to a number of client meetings. The shorts did raise some eyebrows and a few questions at the client meetings, but they were more along the lines of, “those shorts look great, where can I get a pair?”
Merino wool for cycling – what makes it so good?
So, we know that Unbound’s merino wool clothing is, in fact, magical. But, being a cyclist, I also wanted to test out how it would work on the bike.
Well, if you’re looking for the TL;DR version, the answer is: OMG! WOW!
If you want a little more detail, and fewer acronyms, read on.
In the last 46 days, I’ve been out cycling in the Unbound Merino gear on around 25 occasions. These rides have typically been urban rides through the city with a few excursions to backcountry trails. The weather has been decidedly mixed (rain, sun, hot and cold). Hills have been steep to climb up and I’ve been chasing after faster riders more times than I’d ideally have liked.
All of which is to say that it’s been sweaty work.
And yet, because of the magical properties of the merino wool, my shorts, tee and hoodie remain stink-free. That means that I can wear them day after day. It means that I can ride into the office in them, grab a quick shower if I’ve been sweating, and then put them back on for the day. All without vain attempts to mask BO with a full-body application of anti-perspirant.
Which brings up another point in their favor – no stink means a lot less laundry. If you’re a regular bike rider, and do your fair share of the household chores, you’ll know that cycling creates mountains of dirty laundry with a stench that could knock out a buffalo with a blocked nose from half a mile away. Wearing Unbound’s merino gear for cycling means that your typical Laundry day is a whole lot less busy than normal and, in fact, probably so quiet that you’ll now have time to fit in another bike ride.
“…cycling creates mountains of dirty laundry with a stench that could knock out a buffalo with a blocked nose from half a mile away.”
The cut of the three pieces also makes them particularly suitable for casual bike riding. The tshirt is roomy enough that you get a good airflow, helping to keep you cool. Both the hoodie and tshirt have a slightly longer hem length, which means that they sit below the waistband of your shorts, even when you’re hunched over the handlebars chasing a PB. And, remember that 4% spandex in the Essential shorts? Well, that gives them all the stretch they need for hopping on and off the bike, and pedaling along.
If I have a suggestion for cycling wearing Unbound Merino it’s that you should also invest in a few pairs of their boxer briefs. Cotton briefs like I’ve been wearing under my shorts for the last 46 days are going to get pretty funky pretty quickly if you wear them for cycling and don’t change them frequently. So, do yourself and your laundry basket a favor and invest in a pair or two.
Where to buy merino wool clothing
Until 46 days ago I’d never tried on a single garment made from merino wool. After 46 days of wearing Unbound Merino, I’m a complete devotee and couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
If you want to take a closer look at the tshirt, hoodie and shorts that I’ve been wearing, then click on the links below. You won’t be disappointed.