We went bike riding for a week straight, but in these Ibex merino wool shirts, we felt comfy and smelled good.
Earlier this month I took my wife on a cycling trip in Portugal with Bike Tours Direct and rode along mostly empty roads in the Alentejo region. It’s a farming area full of vineyards and olive groves, wineries and cork trees. We rode on hybrid bikes because usually it was paved roads, but sometimes dirt paths.
Ibex Giro Full Zip
I brought a few different shirts along, some just synthetic workout shirts, but the one I wore the most was this Giro Full Zip Jersey. Made in the USA from New Zealand merino wool, it kept me cozy on cool mornings and wicked the sweat away to keep me nice and comfortable when the sun hit high noon. It fits snug but is stretchy, a zipper with a locking tab running the length of it.
I didn’t use all three pockets on the back, but the divider did make it easy to find the phone I stashed there when the Portuguese tour operator called to make sure everything was going fine. I could stash my sunglasses back there too when going inside to get something to drink. Like most cycling jerseys it’s longer in the back than in the front, useful even when you’re not hunched over like a road racer.
In the end I wore this Giro FZ jersey through three days of hard cycling in the sun and it still didn’t smell like it needed a wash. That’s a big advantage when you’re away from home and don’t have a lot of time to mess with figuring out laundry. When it is time to wash it though, you don’t have to treat this shirt with kid gloves: toss it in the washer and then hang it up to dry.
The shirt comes in three color choices on the Ibex Wool site and lists for $140. You may find it for a bit less at Amazon.
Women’s Indie Freeride
My biking companion for the week wore another one from Ibex, the women’s Indie Freeride with a half zip.
This was the first time she’d ever worn something made of merino wool and her first time in something from Ibex. She was really impressed by the feel of the fabric and how uncannily it worked for temperature regulation. “I never got chilly and I never got sweaty.”
She also liked the fit of it and how the zipper is so well concealed in the design. You can’t see where the zipper stops and the regular seam begins. This model doesn’t have the full cycling pocket set-up across the back, but it does have one zippered stash pocket if you want to use it for running or other active pursuits.
Nothing in the Ibex line is cheap, but nothing ever feels cheap either. Plus I can attest they’ll stick to the promise that comes on their tags: “Exchange or get a refund for your garment for any reason.” That’s not something you see very often.
This model comes in three colors with a design on the back on the Ibex Wool site, listing for $120. The one my wife wore was red with a design on the front though and that’s the one still showing up on Amazon for slightly less.
The latest line of shirts from Mountain Khakis is out now, with an array of good-looking and practical choices for travelers.
We’re big fans of the look and the attitude of Mountain Khakis products, and it’s not just because they hand out shots of whiskey and have mechanical bull riding contests at the Outdoor Retailer show. They make shirts and pants built to stand up to repeated use in the real outdoors—not just look outdoorsy for a fashion spread.
I’ve been trying out a range of different shirts from their new spring and summer line and realized on one trip they were about all I’d brought along. It’s a versatile bunch!
This Fairway Polo shirt looks and feels like a regular cotton polo shirt you’d buy at any department store, but you can’t always trust your senses. It’s soft and supple, but is actually made from recycled PET bottles. As in the kind travelers keep drinking water out of and chucking into the trash. (Not you of course, those other people.) Depending on size, each of this polo shirts has kept up to 14 bottles out of a landfill.
I’ve worn and washed mine about 20 times now and it still looks new. It’s comfortable, has snaps instead of buttons in the front, and the way the shoulders are stitched this is a good shirt to wear when you’re carrying a backpack. When you shed the pack though, you’re looking good.
With a name like Equatorial, this long-sleeve but lightweight blended fabric shirt has to be ready to travel. It’s especially ready to travel to Portland or Brooklyn as all the bearded hipsters seem to be wearing this retro style now. (Oh, if only I’d held onto my shirts from high school…)
This is a bit modernized though, with softer color patterns that have some depth. It’s also somewhat ec0-friendly, with 70% cotton and 30% of a material derived from cellulose fiber, using an organic process. It’s not as wrinkle-resistant as your average synthetic travel shirt, but not too shabby the times I’ve had it in a suitcase for days The fabric is thin enough that the shirt dries overnight when sink washed. The two front pockets are secured with a button, but also have a side stash pocket behind that for sticking in your sunglasses or something else you need to get to.
The Granite Creek model isn’t new. That name is to Mountain Khakis what Air Strip Lite is to ExOfficio – the foundation for the travel line. Amy has reviewed some Granite Creek women’s wear in the past and I checked out the short sleeve shirt last year.
I’ve been wearing a long sleeve version for the first time however and have mostly been happy with it. There’s DWR baked in to make it stain resistant. It wicks moisture, dries fast, and is vented in the back. I like the 2-section pockets (one zippered each side) and the loop on the collar for hanging it on a hook.
What I don’t like is that my seamstress making this shirt seemed to have downed a few too many Tsing Taos the night before: I had to get out a sewing kit to secure two of the buttons that were coming loose the first time I wore it. Not something you expect to do with a shirt listing for $90. Hopefully mine was an anomaly, but if you ever experience something like this after buying a Mountain Khakis product, you’ve got a one-year warranty against defects.
We review a lot of travel shoes on this blog and more than a few of them break the $100 barrier. As a working stiff who’s got to watch the budget, I realize it can be a wrenching decision to plop down that kind of cash for one pair of shoes, even if the pair will last you a few years. When you’re buying for an offspring with growing feet, however, you really have to think twice.
So I was happy to discover Northside, a company using its China manufacturing to actually give us lower prices instead of just fatter margins. Most of their shoes are in the $40 to $60 range, some of them coming in for less than that at retail.
My tween daughter went tromping around Tennessee on her spring break vacation with the Northside Kiona hiking shoes for women in March, including a couple miles in the woods over roots and stones. She’ll be taking these with her on another trip coming up too and despite the reasonable $50 price, they look like they’ll be around until she outgrows them.
She likes the look of these Kiona shoes, which is key, but they offer great support and a breathable upper. They’re lightweight but have a good tread system, so they grip well on rock surfaces. They also come in all-recyclable packing—a nice touch. You can find them at retail stores like Bob Wards, or online at Amazon.
Northside’s sandals are an especially good deal. The Northside Burke ones pictured above get high marks from users and will only set you back $40 at most. Everything is synthetic of course, but that’s a good thing if you’ll be using them to walk through streams or go paddleboarding. They have a good enough tread to carry a kayak through the woods afterwards and work well for general summer travel. Look for them in stores or at Amazon.
Northwise makes a whole range of hiking shoes, winter boots, rain boots, and more, all at prices that won’t make you sweat. See more at NorthwiseUSA.com.
I can’t promise you’ll be able to walk across the ceiling like a gecko with these GoLite shoes, but they will help you run across a mountain well.
The Mountain Gecko shoes are the kind of shoes we end up reviewing a lot here: not necessarily aimed at travelers, but good enough in multiple conditions—and light enough—to quality for that precious space in your carry-0n bag or backpack.
These shoes are designed for trail running or light hiking, with the extra-grippy sole meant to cling tightly on steep trails and slick rocks. That makes them good for a lot of surfaces you’ll encounter in your travels too, like wet cobblestones and flagstones.
The Gecko 270 outsole is meant to allow for flex in all directions, plus the company’s “Rock Absorber” technology provides a stable platform under the foot with soft shock-absorbing foams close to the ground. Basically the soft part is touching the ground on multiple contact points instead of just being a tire tread under a midsole. This supposedly makes them 30% more stable compared to conventional footwear.
You do still get a lightweight EVA midsole of course, plus a lightweight mesh upper that breathes well.
I complain a lot about footwear being sized for one foot shape only (a narrow D) and everyone else being out of luck unless they buy New Balance, but GoLite has created a nice workaround in some models that helps a lot. When you buy a pair of shoes like these Mountain Gecko ones, you get a PreciseFit insole that can be worn alone for wider feet or, by adding attachments with Velcro, increasing the thickness of it at the front for regular and narrow feet. Simple, but effective.
I’ve taken these Mountain Gecko shoes from GoLite on two trips that involved some light hiking and I’ve worn them around town a lot running errands and walking. The claims hold up in real world situations and I’ll be using them more in the future.
I’m currently on a self-guided cycling tour in Portugal with Bike Tours Direct, riding from village to village on two wheels, so these Rev Shorts from Pearl Izumi are getting a workout. The best part is, I don’t look like a complete dork when I leave my helmet and walk into a strange cafe, my Portuguese phrase book in hand.
I bike a few days a week at home too, but that doesn’t mean I have to wear spandex from my knees to my shoulders. I’m not into the “Je suis un cycliste” look. For years my main pair of cycling shorts has been some baggy ones from Hoss that I’ve about worn out after using them for oh, six years now.
I expect these Pearl Izumi Rev ones to be my go-to pair for even longer. They’re well-made and are from a company known for producing cycling and running gear for demanding athletes.
These don’t look like biking shorts, which is kind of the point, but they do have the built-in padding to keep your butt from getting bruised. Plus they’ve got a vented mesh section on each leg to let the air flow out when you heat up.
The synthetic fabric wicks well and dries quickly. You could probably go on a week-long cycling tour with just this one pair of shorts and wash them in a sink when necessary. They would dry by morning.
I like the way these fit on the outside, with ample give to them and an adjustable waistband. I would prefer a bit more room in the crotch area as it’s more constricted than it needs to be in my opinion. The padded liner is connected to the back of the pants but not the front though, which does make it easier when it’s time to go to the bathroom. That and the fact there’s a normal zipper and a snap on the top like regular shorts.
The Rev Short from Pearl Izumi is one of several in their bike shorts line that allows you to look more like a surfer than a Tour de France contestant when it’s time to step off the bike and grab a beer. See all of them here. I wish a 13-inch inseam wasn’t considered so normal these days, making every pair of shorts come down to a guy’s knees, but looking at the racks of shorts and swimsuits in stores, we’re stuck with this length for a while it seems.
The technical Rev Biking Shorts come in this color or solid black and list for a hundred bucks even. You may find them for a bit less at your local bike shop or at Amazon. There’s also a women’s version that is naturally not so long.