Ibex is one of the Big Three in merino wool hiking and outdoor gear (Smartwool and Icebreaker being the other two). The difference is that Vermont-based Ibex produces shorts, pants and shirts in the US and Canada out of wool that’s ethically sourced from New Zealand and Australia. Their Shak Lite hoodies and jackets are even made from Rambouillet sheep wool that’s produced domestically in Billings, MT as part of Ibex’s Field to Factory project. According to a company bio in their hometown Burlington Free Press, “about 70 percent of Ibex’s clothing is made in the United States, mostly in Bay Area garment factories spawned by the likes of Levis, Patagonia, and North Face, who long ago moved on to outsourcing their cutting and sewing to foreign shores. Ibex moved into the vacuum left behind.” I’ve put about 150 miles into a W2 Sport T and a pair of Pulse Runner Shorts over the past few weeks, and some minor personal preferences aside, I’d absolutely recommend them both.
“W2” refers to Ibex’s “Weightless Wool” blend, which is a 145gsm mix of 87% Australian merino wool and 13% nylon core fibers. It’s lightweight and washable, and a serious improvement over 100% merino for running gear (I’d still take pure wool for insulating baselayers). In the moderate heat and humidity of early summer running, the fabric wicked sweat well and kept me cool.
I reached out to Julie at Ibex for a little guidance on their shirt sizes, since I’m 6’2” and 180, which typically puts me somewhere between a medium and a large. She described the W2 Sport T as “true to size” but offered to ship me both so I could try them on and see what worked best. Straight out of the box, unwashed, the large measured 22” across the chest, 18” across the shoulders, 9” down the sleeve, and 28.25” in length (including the collar). The medium measured 21” across the chest, 17” across the shoulders, 8.75” down the sleeve, and 27” in length. Multiple trips through the laundry (cold wash, hung to dry) didn’t change the measurements an iota, which I can’t express enough appreciation for. Overall, I can run comfortably in both sizes but the medium is a better fit for me, although I’d prefer another two inches of length. A medium-tall option would be ideal.
The shirt’s hangtag notes “We’re committed to uncompromising craftsmanship – and to your satisfaction. Exchange, repair, or get a refund for your garment for any reason.” Exchange or refund – no surprises there – but I wanted to find out more about the repair option, so I reached out to Ibex. The response was that wear and tear don’t fall under warranty coverage, but they understand that snags, rips and tears are a regular part of being out in the woods, so they work with a local seamstress to do repairs and get customers’ gear back in action. I always love supporting companies with this sort of ethos, so bravo to Ibex for making it such an up-front part of the purchase.
The Pulse Runner shorts are workhorses, and if they made any other colors, I’d have already ordered a second pair. What struck me right out of the box was the obvious thoughtfulness that went into the mix of materials. The main exterior fabric is 87% recycled poly and 13% spandex with breathable merino/poly panels on the outside legs and top of the waist, while the liner is 96% higher-quality ZQ merino with 4% spandex for stretch.
Like the W2 Sport T, I found the wool breathable, cool, and great at wicking sweat, even in humidity and moderately warm temps. Wool is touted as odor-resistant, and I can’t imagine a better test of that than a skin-tight shorts liner. But, sure enough, these definitely smelled far less vigorously rank than the nylon or poly-blend liners in any of my other shorts.
I have no criticisms of the Pulse Runners, just personal preferences that may or may not line up with anyone else’s personal preferences. On the fit, for example, mediums fit well around the waist and the 4.5” inseam is a nice compromise length, but I did find the overall cut around the hip and legs to be more generous and billowy than I typically like. Similarly, the Pulse Runners have a boxer-brief style liner. Personally, I prefer traditional brief liners, but at the risk of oversharing, I’ve always found boxer briefs less comfortable than traditional briefs, so again, personal preference. That said, the Pulse Runner’s liner didn’t ride up noticeably or bunch around my upper thighs, which has been my problem with other full coverage shorts liners.
Overall, I was dubious about wool as a warm-weather material, but 150+ miles in this gear over the past few weeks, including some humid 80+ days, made a believer out of me. Some poly-blend shirts feel lightweight but seem to trap moisture once they’re soaked. Ibex’s “Weightless Wool” shirts and shorts liner not only keep wicking, they also dry crazy fast. I don’t think that’s a blanket endorsement for running in wool (maybe leave your J.Press shaggy-dog at home), but Ibex is absolutely doing something right here.
Jason Brozek is an ultramarathon runner, lapsed Ironman triathlete, and professor at a small liberal arts college, where he teaches courses on sustainability and international politics.