By JASON MAGNESS
Readers of GearJunkie know our longtime passion for apparel made of merino wool. We wear it almost every day, and the miracle material has been on our backs through most all of the toughest races and expeditions we’ve done. Of the merino brands (and there are many good ones!), Vermont-based Ibex Outdoor Clothing has been among our favorites. This week, in the sleepy town of White River Junction, Vt., we visited Ibex’s headquarters to meet the men and women (and dogs!) behind the merino products we have worn for years.
The Ibex offices and the warehouse are in an old car dealership in White River Junction, complete with huge display windows and massive roll-up garage doors. Walking in, I immediately discovered a few reasons to love the place — there were dogs roaming free all around the space (we counted eight!), and there was a motion-activated M&M dispenser in the building freely giving handfuls of the multi-colored chocolate treat. As a bonus, where the cars used to be displayed, Ibex now racks its latest clothes, mostly 2012 samples on our visit, the bulk of which are yet to reach the retail public.
We got a peek at those prototypes in White River Junction, spending an afternoon meeting with Ibex designers, giving feedback on the products we’d tested over the years, and eating M&Ms. Below is a look at the company’s 2012 wares, which, as true merino geeks, we were psyched to see.
Nomad Hoody. This is a 100-percent pure merino fleece with the same feel and fuzziness of your old-school polyester fleece on the inside and a flat, finished face on the outside. The women’s version has an asymmetrical zipper. Great weight-to-warmth ratio for both. The Women’s Momentum Jacket is based on the success of the Momentum Jacket for men (Team GearJunkie/YogaSlackers are happy to have them as core uniform pieces). Ibex will be launching the women’s version, complete with a hood, next year.
A comeback is planned for the company’s Balance Boxer Shorts. These close-fitting merino boxers were discontinued for some reason last year, even though we named them among our “Top 10 Best of the Year” for 2010. We are thrilled to announce that the boxers will reappear as part of the 2012 lineup.
Biking tights will be a big new thing next year. Ibex will add to its line of cycling shorts and bibs with full-length tights, which include a wool chamois pad. I’ve been lucky enough to have a pair of the demo shorts with the same wool chamois for the last year, and I look forward to the tights version.
Finally, we looked at some of the forthcoming casual pieces, including new dresses, a yoga skirt, and button-up shirts for men. My wife, Chelsey, was excited by the fashion side of things while I patiently indulged, petting dogs and planning ways to make a trip back by the M&M machine.
We ended the visit with a day of training, sampling the local mountain biking, trail running, and rope-swinging that the White Junction area has to offer. As the sun set, we rigged a long slackline over an Ibex employee’s backyard pond, walking the line, and, at times, falling in and taking the plunge.
—Jason Magness is a founder of the YogaSlackers. He is a contributing editor at GearJunkie.com and a member of the GearJunkie/YogaSlackers adventure racing team.