When travelling, every item needs to earn its spot in my bag. Space is limited and weight is a nuisance which is why I decided to review the products of Unbound Merino.
You see, I spent three years cycling 44,000 kilometres around the world, enduring many scouring headwinds and steep mountain passes which forced me to reflect upon and curse every item I carried. Within weeks of leaving home I’d whittled my equipment to the bare minimum – that which I couldn’t live without.
It isn’t good enough for my belongings to fulfil only a single, specific role. Instead, I value versatility – my stuff needs to adapt to the varied demands arising from a life on the road. Take clothing. I don’t want to carry separate clothes for cycling, hiking, roaming around a museum, exploring a city and partying in the evening. That’s where Unbound Merino comes in. They boldly claim they can revolutionise your travel experience by designing high-performance, great-looking clothing.
I’ll admit I was sceptical, but I wanted to investigate whether this was possible. I ordered a Crew Neck T-shirt, a Merino Polo and a Raglan Crew Sweatshirt, and set about testing them.
Could Unbound Merino’s range of clothing fulfil my varied travelling demands. Could these tops compete for a place in my travel backpack?
First Impressions of Unbound Merino
- Crew Neck T-Shirt– The Crew Neck T-Shirt forms the basis of any wardrobe and is suitable for almost any occasion.
- Merino Polo This soft and stylish polo looks great and feels comfortable.
- Raglan Crew Sweatshirt The Raglan Crew Sweatshirt looks distinguished and adds an extra layer of soft warmth.
What I Love about Unbound Merino Gear
I love merino wool. This natural product, developed over thousands of years of evolution, keeps sheep warm in temperatures as low as -10°C and cool in temperatures as high as +30°C.
This temperature regulation also works when it is transformed into clothing. Merino’s other properties – you could almost say ‘superpowers’ – include being anti-microbial so it doesn’t smell of body odour, anti-wrinkle and a good UV protector. This all makes it a great choice for clothing. I’ll elaborate further on these properties below.
The other thing I love about Unbound Merino’s clothing is their simplicity. Their clothes come in a range of basic designs and muted colours, and they brandish no logos. It is clear they’ve created something timeless, something designed to be durable and still look good several years from now.
The quality of the products impressed me immediately. They look sleek and sophisticated; they feel comfortable and lightweight; the cut is flattering, and the material appears durable.
Unbound Merino makes no attempt to compete with fast fashion. In fact, they do the opposite and slow things down by designing timeless clothing that I’m sure I’ll still be wearing in five years. Their clothes are simple, no logo or patterns, just an uncomplicated design that looks great in every situation.
Their clothes are available in a range of muted colours, including black, charcoal, navy blue, heather grey, heather red, natural white and light forest green. Again, versatility and simplicity remain at the forefront and these tops can be easily paired with other clothes.
I have coupled my Unbound Merino Crew Neck T-Shirt and Merino Polo with hiking trousers, jeans, chinos and shorts, and I have always been delighted with how it looks.
The sizing chart on the website records a variety of measurements and allowed me to choose which size would fit best. The cut of the tops is flattering and comfortable while the natural elasticity of merino wool allows it to stretch to fit your body.
When travelling, I judge the success of my clothes by their versatility. A truly versatile top is one which is appropriate in a range of social settings and physical environments. By social setting, I mean that it pairs well with other clothes in my backpack wardrobe, and that it looks good whether I’m wearing it out to dinner or on the beach, while hiking or while exploring the city.
By physical environments, I mean that I can wear it during summer in Thailand or while trekking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal.
The simplistic design, lacking logos or patterns but boasting muted colours and a casual fit, mean I have layered it beneath jackets and hoodies and worn it alongside hiking trousers, jeans, chinos and shorts. I’ve worn it for dinner, while cycling and SUP’ing and to explore a city. I was always impressed by its appearance and suitability.
The temperature-regulating properties of merino wool make Unbound Merino tops a great choice for a wide range of physical environments.
I tested my Crew Neck T-shirt while hiking on a hot day and found I didn’t sweat much or get too hot and it still smelt fresh at the end of the day. Similarly, I have worn my Raglan Crew Sweatshirt in the cold and was surprised how effectively it insulated me for such a thin and lightweight top!
Minimalists value quality over quantity. They want things that are built to last. There’s an old adage; buy cheap, buy twice.
Unbound Merino may have a more expensive price tag but from the feel of the products it is clear you are buying something which is high quality and built to last. The stitching is neat, the material is elastic, and the colour doesn’t fade when washed. Combined with the anti-wrinkle and anti-microbial properties of merino wool, my tops still look and smell new, even after many wears.
Unbound Merino offer tips on how to care for your merino wool; if followed, they are durable and should last a long time.
Prepare to become a merino wool convert. It really is a miracle material. Merino wool fibres are considerably smaller than those found in ordinary wool. (Unbound Merino only use superfine 17.5-micron Merino wool.)
This has two big benefits. Firstly, it means merino clothing is lightweight, a clear benefit when travelling. Secondly, these fibres are more flexible which gives merino a soft, comfortable feel, and ensures it won’t itch like your Gran’s knitted sweater!
Unbound Merino uses wool from Australian Merino sheep. Throughout the year these sheep face temperature extremes swinging from -10°C to +30°C. Thousands of years of evolution have developed this material which is temperature regulating, moisture wicking and highly breathable so they don’t get too hot or too cold.
This makes it great for travelling. Hop between hot and cold climes, jump from sweltering beach to cool mountains; wherever you go, the merino wool will regulate your temperature.
As if that wasn’t enough, perhaps the biggest benefit of merino wool is that it is antimicrobial. Merino wool is naturally coated with a chemical called Lanolin which helps guard the sheep against infection. This also fights odour-causing bacteria and means your shirt will smell fresh even weeks or months since its last wash.
I love this feature especially; like most travellers, I know the struggle of travelling through areas with infrequent washing opportunities and I have previously resorted to handwashing clothes in the hostel bath or with a bucket of water from a well. Hopefully with Unbound Merino such memories will be a thing of the past!
Some other properties of merino wool worth a brief mention are that it offers UV protection, doesn’t wrinkle and has a natural elasticity to ensure it doesn’t stretch.
Ethical considerations are becoming increasingly important to many consumers, myself included.
Merino wool is a natural and sustainable product, grown by sheep and carefully shorn by humans with no pain involved. It is both renewable and biodegradable. Furthermore, I was delighted my tops arrived without plastic and with minimal and recyclable cardboard packaging.
Admittedly, Unbound Merino uses wool from Australian sheep which increases the footprint of the product, but I hope the use of natural materials combined with their durability will help to offset this.
The Unbound Merino Philosophy
While cycling around the world, rather than feel constrained as you might expect, I found it liberating to live from the minimal belongings I could carry on my bicycle.
Unbound Merino, created by three self-confessed travel addicts, agree, and suggest when you pack less you experience more. Like the popular Minimalism philosophy, they believe decluttering your life offers the freedom and opportunity to live unbound and travel spontaneously.
Every product is designed with the traveller in mind and according to three criteria: Simplicity, Versatility, and Performance. Having tested the Crew Neck T-shirt, Merino Polo and Raglan Crew Sweatshirt, I would agree that all three products satisfy these measures of success.
What I don’t Love
While the website hints at a Women’s Line – subscribe to the newsletter for early bird pricing! – Unbound Merino currently only offer men’s clothing. This is a shame as it would be great to extend the travel benefits of merino clothing to women.
Unbound Merino’s philosophy of simplistic, versatile and timeless clothing is something we feel would be great for female travellers. We will keep an eye on this and hope to update the article when the Women’s Line is released.
Unbound Merino’s products are definitely on the costlier side, and particularly for travel clothing which often endures a tough and demanding lifestyle. My Crew Neck T-shirt costs £55, the Merino Polo, £81, and the Raglan Crew Sweatshirt, £99.
These are more expensive than other tops, but appear to be in line with other Merino wool products. On balance, I feel the durability of Unbound Merino’s clothing coupled with its versatility make it a valuable investment for travel.
After the initial financial outlay, I suspect you will find yourself packing these clothes into your backpack more and more often, and reaching for them in a wide array of circumstances.
I didn’t think it was possible to design a range of clothing so appropriate for the diverse mix of activities and environments that long-term, one-bag travel requires. And yet, that’s exactly what Unbound Merino appears to have achieved.
I feel equally comfortable wearing these tops in cosmopolitan capitals or remote villages, on long treks or out for dinner, on a game drive in South Africa or under the Northern Lights in Norway. And what’s more, I’m confident I’ll be wearing these tops for several years to come.
This achievement lies partly with the unique properties of Merino wool. It is a miracle material; lightweight, temperature-regulating, odour-beating, anti-wrinkle, sustainable. But in the hands of Unbound Merino this material becomes something truly brilliant.
Their philosophy of simplicity and versatility coincides with the needs of a traveller and has allowed them to design a range that is timeless, minimalist, and attractive. I love the Unbound Merino tops and am sure they’ll be in my bag for many years to come.