I/O Merino is an Australian brand fast gaining recognition for the versatility, quality and comfort of its merino apparel. It all starts with the wool. The founder of I/O Merino, David Michell, is part of the 6th generation of Michell Wool, one of Australia’s most famous wool families with over 140 years worth of knowledge and experience in the industry. The quality of their wool fibres and the fabrics they produce, combined with an attention to detail in their active apparel, sets I/O Merino apart.
I/O Merino were confident enough in their products to send us three pieces to test – two long sleeve base/mid-layers called the Altitude (Men’s and Women’s versions), and a baselayer called Vital. For the last couple months, we’ve worn these out in a broad range of conditions. I wore the Men’s tops cycling in the hills outside of Melbourne, as well as hiking and Spring skiing during a recent trip to Hakuba, Japan. Demelza Clay, gear tester and contributing writer, wore the Women’s version on early morning Trail Runs around Byron Bay. The garments performed beautifully in every situation.
The apparel’s performance begins with the 18.5 micron superfine merino wool fibres used in I/O Merino fabrics. The process is quality controlled by their own Michell Wool, meaning you get consistency in the superfine fibres instead of a mix of coarse and fine fibres that may cause itching. The wool is also scoured to remove the lanolin, the sticky oil that can interfere in the natural wicking, temperature regulation, anti-microbial properties and durability of the fibres. Ultimately, though, the weave determines the warmth, not necessarily the fibres on their own, and this is where I/O Merino excels, allowing lightweight 155-160 gsm fabrics to remain warm, yet durable. In addition, the construct and design elements of the garments add to their comfort and versatility.
The Altitude, for example, includes I/O Merino’s Enigma fabric, 96% merino and 4% elastin, to create a snug, yet stretchy fit. It has flat lock stitching and raglan sleeves to minimise chafing while wearing a backpack, and other useful features, such as thumb loops and a longer hem to keep your back covered when bending and twisting. It was also lightweight enough to wrap around Demelza’s waist when it got too warm in the semi-tropical weather she was running in.
In addition, the Altitude Zip version has a quarter zip with a locking feature that allows you to lock the zip in place when the pull-tab is pointed down, but loose when the pull-tab is pointed up. This proved handy while cycling when a single tug at the collar opens up the top for extra temperature control.
The Vital was even more interesting. The top is designed with a ribbed texture, using I/O Merino’s 100% merino Kryptos fabric. While skiing, I layered the Altitude and Vital. The ribbed fabric of the Vital would trap air next to the skin and between the layers, keeping me warm in the mornings. And when the afternoon sun started beating down, the added surface area of the ribbing also helped absorb and evaporate more sweat. I could work harder on the slopes and still stay dry. I also wore the Vital casually on the trip back home, so it’s not just a technical piece. It simply looks good, as well.
There were very few downsides to the gear. I was able to stretch the collar of the Vital after two days straight of Spring skiing, but it bounced back in the wash. I was also able to pull through the zip stop on the Altitude after enough tugs, but it was easy to restore. And I did notice some pilling and broken stitching around the wrists after some hard wear. This was primarily due, though, to Velcro on my ski jacket and ski gloves as opposed to the design of the garment.
I/O Merino is available through the I/O Merino website for both domestic and international orders. Of the gear we tested, the Men’s Altitude Zip Baselayer retails for A$ 94.50, the Women’s Altitude Crew Neck Baselayer for A$ 79.50, and the Men’s Vital for A$ 89.50. The range, of course, is far bigger, including a broad assortment of Tops and Bottoms, Jackets, Hoodies, T-Shirts, Tanks, Underwear, Beanies, Neck Tubes, Scarves, and Socks.
Don Jurries and Demelza Clay
Featured Photos: I/O Merino Media Images