Smelly socks turned us onto wool. Our kids were still quite little, not even close to being teenagers. But after a day of skiing, when their boots came off, the stench rising from the back seat of our car rivaled a middle school gym.
Never mind that it might be only 10 degrees outside, “Roll down the windows,” my husband would yell, “Something died back there!”
When skiing, our little boys’ feet were warm. All those synthetic fibers did a great job of wicking moisture away and keeping their tootsies toasty, but apres ski, no thank you. Those same petroleum-based socks collected and condensed every nasty smell. Luckily, we knew what to do. We had to go retro, we had to go wool.
Wool is, of course, a natural fiber, one that has been used for centuries. The wool from Merino sheep is fine and soft and makes great socks and baselayers. Why? Because the keratin in wool is naturally water-repellent and wicking. If wool gets wet, it will still retain warmth. But best of all, the lanolin in wool is naturally antibacterial. Goodbye, smelly feet.
Icebreaker For Kids
Searching for kids’ socks, we found not only boy-size socks, but a wealth of items for adults: Baselayers, midlayers, bike jerseys, running shirts. Everything an adult might want. But for kids, not so much.
Then, this fall, Icebreaker contacted me.They were looking for kids to test their kids’ clothing line, made from New Zealand Merino wool. My 12 year-old son, who has suffered through years of hand-me-down polypro baselayers, was game. Here’s what he says about his new woolie duds.
Icebreaker 200 Oasis Crewe and Leggings: “These are quality baselayers. They are soft and warm.”
Ski Socks: “I like these socks. They are warm.” (Okay, so he’s a 12 year-old boy, totally into function).
Kids Pocket Hat (Beanie): “I like the look of this beanie, but it fits too small. It’s a yarmulke on my head.”
Real Fleece Camper Hoody: “This hoody feels really soft, but it is not quite thick enough to keep me warm as a coat. It would be better in the mountains during the summer. I don’t think I’ll wear it for skiing because of the hood.” (Despite these comments, on his first ski day this season, he wore it for skiing and found it good.)
Here’s what Mom thinks. The first thing I noticed was….soft. While wool has a reputation for being itchy, the baselayers felt almost velvety smooth. The shirt and leggings are also tightly knit, so you can’t see through them. In addition, I really like that the crewe has raglan seams, so his arms can move without any binding. The ski socks were also super soft, with a terry knit. I love the fact that the Pocket beanie is reversible, but it was small. A kid could definitely fit it into a pocket, but order big if you want it to fit on a head.
As for the Real Fleece Camper Hoody, here’s a story. A couple of days after the fleece arrived, my son was home sick. He reached for the Camper Hoody. Why? Because it is warm and cuddly. With a flat knit on the outside, the Real Fleece Hoody has a fuzzy texture on the inside. The hoody isn’t thick like as sweatshirt. Its lightweight and makes a great layer over a t-shirt. And, as my son found out, it does work for skiing.
Real Fleece All Around
The rest of the family also wears Real Fleece. One of the things I like best about the Real Fleece line for adults it that it is street ready. I’ve got the Cascade Full Zip, which I wear everywhere. Literally. Out for a run (it’s got an arm pocket for my iPod!), cross-country skiing, out to a casual dinner, in place of my old polar fleece when I walk the dog around the neighborhood. It looks great, especially with the GT 200 Pace Crewe underneath. Yep, I’m wearing my long underwear as a shirt, in public, where it can be seen (Icebreaker makes this very easy. Although it’s supposed to be a ski sweater, the Cornice Zip sweater made its début at a fundraiser with a skirt and boots). My husband has worn his Real Fleece Sierra Half Zip out to dinner too, although he’s not sold on the baselayer as everyday layer, like I am.
Made to Move
After we made the switch to wool socks, we decided to replace our baselayers. We’re bargain hunters, so we often buy what is on sale. This led to a collection of serviceable, yet thin and misshapen long underwear.
Comparing these baselayers to those from Icebreaker, there really is no comparison. For example the Men’s Sprint Leggings, made of Icebreaker’s GT Technical fabric, have seams above the knee and across the thigh, so that they move with you and don’t stretch out of shape. Like the kids’ version, they are soft and densely knit.
Icebreaker costs more, but they are very well made. They are also 100% machine washable. They don’t require any special care, which is good because even if they don’t smell, if you’re using them, you’re going to be washing them (line dry only). Merino wool is also naturally fire resistant and sunsafe — with a UPF of 50+.
Knowing exactly where the wool in your long underwear comes from isn’t really essential, but it is fun, especially for kids. All of the baselayers came with a “BaaCode” on a green label. Type in the code at the Icebreaker website and learn where your wool came from. Read about the actual sheep stations, see them on a map, and meet the farmers. We discovered that some of the wool in my son’s leggings came from a station on the South Island of New Zealand, where a family of three boys help their dad. Together they raise 10,000 Merino sheep who just keep growing wool. Talk about a renewable resource!
And while these sheep probably don’t smell too good themselves, their merino wool has banished smelly feet (and bodies) from our car forever. We owe you one, sheep.
Itch No More?
While our family really likes wool, I know it isn’t for everyone. You either love it, or you hate it. Your reaction to wool depends upon the type of wool and your tolerance for itchy. I am not going to claim that if you switch to merino wool, you won’t feel the itch. As soft as Icebreaker baselayers are, when I first put them on, I notice a slight prickle. But I don’t mind and it goes away. If you are concerned about wool and how you’ll react, start with socks. See how your feet like them and decide from there.
Kids’ Baselayers Giveaway
Icebreaker is offering a set of Kids’ Baselayers as a giveaway. One winner will receive either the Girls’ or the Boys’ Bodyfit 200 Oasis Crewe top. The bottoms will coordinate for a nice, warm, toasty set (pink for girls, dark grey for boys). The baselayers come in sizes 6-14 and Icebreaker will work with the winner to choose the right size. And, when you get them, don’t forget to check the BaaCode!
To enter, leave a comment. For a second entry, like Icebreaker on Facebook (and tell me you did). If you sign up on Facebook you’ll also get a discount on your first order and they’ll plant a tree for you through Trees for the Future.
One winner will be chosen in a random drawing on Tuesday, December 13 at 8:00 a.m. MST. Good luck!
To facilitate this post, Icebreaker provided me and my family with Icebreaker baselayers, socks, Real Fleece, and other products mentioned in this post. As always, all opinions expressed are my own and are exactly what I would tell my family and friends.
This giveaway is closed. Congratulations to Trish!
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