Buy something that matters: Ibex's ethics and quality make these items the gifts to give (and receive)!
This gear review may be a little unorthodox but frankly I'm sure, by this point, you're tired of reading blogs titled "The top 10 gifts this holiday season" and "5 things to get that special someone who has everything".
So I debated whether this was really a gear review or a general opinion of mine and I came to the conclusion... it's a little of both. Anyways, so yeah... this is the time of year we go out and buy things for other people... sometimes ourselves... but it's the season of giving right? If you're looking for cheap clothing you can find a dozen places that'll give you deals out your eyeballs. Five t-shirts and a pair of socks for $10... sure why not? Doorbuster sales... say no more! These plain cotton shirts were made in Asia by people being paid pennies, possibly working in a building that could be at risk of collapsing because it hasn't been inspected in a decade and is in violation of at least a half dozen codes. Unfortunately 2013 will include this story: Report on Deadly Factory Collapse in Bangladesh Finds Widespread Blame. Our quest for consumerism and more stuff can come at a price and often times the people caught in the cross fire and left holding the bill are those who have the least.
Still, it's not fair for me to paint a picture of "look how awful we all are" because I honestly believe things are being done and conversations are being had to help improve the working situations in other countries for people who make garments, gadgets, doohickies and whatsits for us westerners to consume. Stories like this one are definitely signs of progress being made: Retailers Agree On Safety Standards for Bangladesh Factories. However not all of America's clothing brands are cut from the same cloth. All over the country their are companies using responsible techniques and materials to make high quality products for their customers. Ibex is one of those brands. Instead of Asia, their garments are made in the USA and Canada. The source of their wool is New Zealand and the ranchers who raise the sheep know where their product is going.
If you've ever put on one of Ibex's Woolies - made with 18.5 micron New Zealand Merino Wool - you instantly know you've got a shirt that's going to be around for awhile. Every wool garment Ibex makes is crafted with the same attention to detail and skill, quality that you don't see a lot of anymore when it comes to clothing.
The Woolies 150 is my go to base layer for pretty much anything I'm doing outside. Hiking, rock climbing, working on a video shoot in 20 degree temps it's a soft, warm garment that hugs my body and feels like skin after only wearing it for a short while. I'll say my favorite thing about this shirt is how it seems to get softer with every washing. Ibex's Woolies definitely don't have that scratchy wool feeling that you would expect to find from a base layer made of 100% wool.
Add to a Woolies with a Shak Spire Hoody or a Hooded Indie and you've got the makings of an awesome, all natural layering system that'll keep you toasty without the need to keep throwing more and more layers on. I own both the Shak Spire and the Indie and I really have a hard time deciding which I like more. Traditionally I've reached for my Indie for high exertion activities like my backpacking trips. It's an absolute must have for me when I'm in the backcountry on a crisp night after the sun sets. The warmth to weight ratio for this garment is worth it. When you're not wearing your Indie (I'm almost always wearing mine on hikes in early Spring, Fall and Winter) it can be crammed into just about any pocket on your pack. The Shak Spire Hoody has become my piece for around town and when I'm out on a commercial video production. The Shak feels a lot heavier to me and wouldn't be a piece I'd necessarily bring along when I'm counting ounces on the trail. However this is a great piece to throw on if you're just going out for coffee or something casual like that. I think it looks great and I love the chest pocket! I don't realize how often I use that pocket until I'm wearing a sweater that doesn't have one and then I'm missing my Shak Hoody. This full zip hoody can almost be a stand alone jacket by itself on cool days. With a solid base layer you're set for even temps down in the 30's in my opinion.
Lastly, for those days that the wind chill is brutal and you need to pull out all the shots to keep warm I've relied on the Ibex Wool Aire Hoody and haven't been let down yet. Puffy jackets seem to have become the token clothing piece of the outdoors in winter. There's a battle going on between outdoor brands to produce lighter, warmer, water resistant puffy jackets. Ibex is ahead of the curve and has taken their all natural wool approach and applied it to tech garment. I'm sort of addicted to jackets... eh... ok I've probably got a clinically diagnosable obsession with jackets so I've owned more than a few over my adult life time. The Wool Aire is by far my favorite... by far. My struggle has always been finding the balance between warmth and bulk. I want a puffy jacket that'll keep me warm no matter what I come up against... but without looking like the Staypuff Marshmallow Man (there's your 80's reference). This jacket combines both of these things, taking a different approach, filling the compartments with merino wool instead of goose or duck down like most jackets in this line. The 100 g/m2 fill fits nicely in the recycled nylon shell and this jacket is just the right blend of technical yet traditional.
So, I can be a frugal person. I don't like spending money. However there's a difference between being careful with your money and being cheap. I'm done buying cheap clothes that'll fall apart after a couple wears. I want something that's going to last me a lifetime and hold up when I put it through the ringer. I want something that I feel good wearing... not just because it's comfortable (although that matters a lot) but because I know where the materials are coming from and that it was made someplace where people are paid a living wage and are proud and stand behind the product they build. I've never had an Ibex product I didn't like and I've purchased several pieces of clothing from them and never regretted a single one. Do yourself a favor, do your family, friends and anyone you're wrapping up a present for this year, buy something that makes a difference... buy something that matters.