Ibex Nomad 1/2 Snap: A throwback to when men wore sweaters.
In my closet I have two 1/2 zip 100% wool sweaters. They are nice, probably were gifts when I was in high school or college and would look appropriate for a dinner party. I would not, however, wear them into the woods on a backpacking trip (or day hike for that matter). Styles change, advances in technical gear continue to be made and slowly the woolen wonders have been replaced with brightly colored fleeces and down sweaters.
During the adolescent years of what would be considered modern day alpinism and even at the turn of the 20th century when exploration of the west was in full swing thick, heavy all wool sweaters were the last line of defense in the battle against the elements. You don't see many black & white photographs with grizzled men sporting The North Face puffies or First Ascent fleece pullovers. Names like L.L. Bean and Eddie Bauer were probably more common but lets be honest many of these guys weren't all that concerned about what brand was on their layers, but rather if these items would keep them from freezing to death in subzero wind chills. These were the same explorers who considered protection to be a hemp rope tied around their waste and a pebble stuffed in a crack with a leather strap as a sling. These were the same explorers who trekked through the wilderness without the support of GPS or even a map, in a lot of cases, because it was up to them to draw that map.
I don't want to bash on technical gear. I own my fair share of down apparel and wear it quite frequently when out in the elements. However, there is something to be said about going back to the way it was and designing garments with the same style and durability as they were made almost a century ago. I don't know if that was Ibex's goal when making the Nomad 1/2 Snap, but I imagine myself in post WWII America when I put this piece on. Its build and look give it a unique sense of place and style not often seen in the woods or the mountains anymore.
So lets dive into a couple features of the Nomad 1/2 Snap that make it a uniquely great piece.
1) Snaps: One of the first features you notice when pulling this pullover out of the package is the distinctive six button design that gives it the half snap name. Just about every pullover I own... correction... every pullover I own besides this one has a zip design. Zippers replaced buttons helping to eliminate drafts and to keep garments sealed. The upside is snaps don't get jammed or break as easily. Even the left breast pocket is secured by a snap. This is just a cool feature that immediately catch people's attention and if layered properly the draft issue becomes a non-issue. I wore a Woolies 220 under my Nomad on a recent trip and was quite warm despite day-time highs only in the mid 40's and gusty winds coming off the Atlantic Ocean... and those two layers were all I had on.
2) Brushed wool lining: We all love fleece because they're ridiculously soft... right? That's one challenge wool has always had; how do you take a material that's naturally coarse and make it soft? That's where Ibex's Nomad fabric becomes the star. The brushed inside of this garment gives is a very soft, fleece feel while the outside still maintains a very durable, water absorbing, wool finish. This feels like a 100% polyester fleece when you put it on but it has none of the qualities of polyester.
3) Beefy, tough design: Going back to the ruggedness of early sweaters; the Nomad 1/2 Snap could hold its own. It's a thick garment. While I wouldn't classify it as ultra-light gear it's still light compared to other Ibex garments. The Nomad weighs in at 14.08 ounces compared to the Shak line of garments which weigh between 15-19 ounces, depending on which piece you're checking out. Really though, that's splitting hairs as they're all relatively light compared to expedition weight sweaters. Another nice build element are the extremely robust seams. Great craftsmanship that's not going to come unraveled easily.
Overall, this is a fantastic garment and it's going to translate well no matter what endeavor you're pursuing. I wear this fleece out around town probably more than I do in the woods. At a price point of $160 it's an investment but honestly if you're in the market for a high quality fleece you're going to pay upwards of $100 elsewhere and you're probably looking at a polyester blend instead of 100% merino wool. I encourage you to shop around, but at the end of the day there are only a handful of textile companies that are putting high quality garments out there where it's all about the design, durability and longevity.