Wool insulation has been around for a long time. It’s been used in the building and acoustics industries, and even pre-dates synthetics in diving drysuits. A few years ago, several Outdoor Gear manufacturers picked up on the idea of combining wool into jacket insulation in a quest for a more natural alternative to synthetics and to improve upon some of the weaker properties of Down. The Icebreaker® MerinoLOFT™ Collection of jackets was born out of this concept, along with a view towards a more sustainable approach to making apparel, by using offcuts and recycled fabrics.
Icebreaker’s MerinoLOFT Collection is a cross between sleek, tailored styling and technological performance. The line includes everything from vests to ¾ length jackets, and puffer jacket paneling to smoother finishes. There’s a lot of attention to detail around the cuffs, zips, pockets, stretchy side panels and collars, with separate men’s and women’s tailoring. Ultimately, though, it’s the fabric that makes the jackets technologically different.
MerinoLOFT is a 3 layer fabric and insulating fill combination that gives a superior warmth to weight ratio than many lightweight jackets in its class. The outside layer is a made from 100% recycled Polyester, coated with a durable water repellent (DRW) that bonds with the fibres to aid in keeping you dry. On the inside is a 100% merino wool layer, often heathered (interwoven yarns of mixed colours) to give it a slightly speckled look. It comes with all the properties, such as moisture-wicking, anti-bacterial, temperature control and breathability you expect from Merino. Wool also retains its thermal qualities even when wet.
The insulation inside the two other layers is the real guts of the fabric, made of a mix of Merino wool (44%), strong wool (44%) and a synthetic (12%). The strong wool and synthetic are included to make the insulation more durable and help the wool fibres stay bonded together. It also makes the garment machine washable. The synthetic is actually Polyactide, a biodegradable bio-plastic made from renewable sources, primarily corn starch, in keeping with Icebreaker’s commitment to sustainability. And about 10% of the wool also comes from factory offcuts to help reduce waste in the production process.
One important thing to note is the Icebreaker MerinoLOFT Collection is an extensive range of jackets depending on the thermal properties you are looking for. The Helix and Ellipse lines generally use a lighter 70 gm MerinoLOFT insulation, good for cooler days where you may want lighter weight and minimal bulk. At the more technical end, the Scout, for example, goes up to 180 gm for full insulation on the coldest winter days. Other lines, such as the Helena and Stratus, will have a thicker insulating membrane for the torso, but less for the sleeves, good for cold mornings around the campsite. It’s versatile enough to wear hiking, skiing or any other colder climate activity, and as an outer layer on its own or as a mid-layer under a shell. The idea is to match the MerinoLOFT Collection to your more specific purposes.
The Icebreaker MerinoLOFT Collection can be found at most major Outdoor retailers and online. Prices start at around A$230 for the vests, up to A$600 for the more technical jackets.
Featured Photos: Icebreaker Media Images