In 2005 I stumbled upon Wigwam’s merino wool sock. I’ve worn merino socks everyday since then. Eventually I found Smart Wool underwear, and then Icebreaker athletic apparel. For what we as hunters do, there is no material out there that is more important than Merino Wool. It is naturally odor resistant (let’s be real, carbon and silver infused sythetics are a marketing gimmick designed to empty your pockets) and comfortable. Keeps us warm when temperatures are cool. And continues to insulate when wet. I do not go into the field without wearing a merino wool base layer. And if it were durable enough to last in the desert environment, would wear it as outerwear too.
My love of merino was one reason I was excited to test a newcomer to the merino industry… Red Ram.
I call them a newcomer, but in truth, Red Ram is a brand subsidiary of Icebreaker, New Zealand’s top manufacturer of merino garments. It differs from Icebreaker in that its a ribbed weave instead of a jersey knit, and as such, is considerably more affordable that Icebreaker, and even Smart Wool.
I was fortunate to have been given a set of black undergarments to test and write about. Though the product was given to me, I was in no way compensated for, nor influenced in what I write here.
My first impression when taking the garments out of the box was that wool was as soft as I expected Merino to be. And after a week of wearing them on a January backcountry archery deer hunt, my only complaint is that the bottoms held on to my legs and inhibited my steps (this is not a Red Ram problem, this occurs with any long underwear, and the only way to eliminate it, is to wear 3/4 length bottoms).
Red Ram thermals come in a light 200g version. They proved plenty warm for mornings which approached, but never reached freezing. For super cold mornings, I think I’d still rather be in my 250g Smart Wools. But when those mild mornings turn into beautiful afternoons, the Rad Ram weight proves perfect.
In the field, the ribbed knit does factor. The ribbing tends to lose it’s hold slightly, so the thermals become loose. Much more so than a jersey knit. And this is my big, and only complaint.
My conclusions are this, if you have the money, buy Smart Wool (or even better, Ibex, which is manufactured in the United States). Smart Wool is better over longer periods of time, but also is more expensive. If you’re on a budget, and just need merino wool, by all mean,s you’ll be happy with Red Ram.