I’m always willing to try out new gear, but to be honest, most of the time, I know exactly what I’m going to pack for a given trip. I have a few tried-and-true staples that have never let me down, and more often than not, I throw them in my backpack without thinking twice. I’ve spent most of my adult life working in the outdoors and spending most of my free time there, too, so I think I’ve earned the right to be picky about what I wear in the field. It’s rare that a new piece of gear makes its way into the fold.
As I packed my bags for a recent trip to Mexico to climb Pico de Orizaba, I tossed my brand-new Ibex Indie Hoody onto the pile. Full disclosure: I’ve long been a fan of lightweight, inexpensive synthetic base layers, but I figured anyone stuck in a tent with me would appreciate that Merino wool doesn’t stink like synthetics. (In fact, lucky for my tentmates, this held true throughout the trip.) My favorite features: Merino wool is really soft. I have pretty sensitive skin (and accompanying miserable memories of itchy rashes caused by the wool layers of my childhood!), but this layer was super comfortable next to my skin, even when I wore (and sweated in) it four days in a row. It also didn’t chafe on my shoulders or hips under the weight of a super-heavy mountaineering pack—no uncomfortable rashes or weird imprints on my skin. The hood actually fits under a helmet! Hoods are so often too bulky to fit under a climbing helmet, but not quite big enough to wear over. The Indie hood is snug enough to fit comfortably under a helmet and keep my ears warm without uncomfortable seams or tags.
It really did help me regulate temperature. Weather at high altitude is notoriously finicky; we often experienced fog and graupel, followed by glaring sun and a spike in temperature, all within the span of ten or fifteen minutes. But I didn’t have to keep adjusting my layers. Even when sweaty, my Indie kept me reasonably warm, and when the sun came out, it wasn’t blisteringly hot. Thumb holes and the 9.5-inch zipper also make it easy to make this baselayer warmer or cooler as needed. The smell factor—I can’t emphasize this enough. Since we live in base layers for days or sometimes even weeks between washings, they can get pretty ripe. I’m not saying my Indie still smelled like roses when I got home to do laundry, but I found it had significantly less odor than my base layers typically do. Also, unlike most of my synthetic base layers, it didn’t retain a trace of the smell after washing.
The weekend after I got back from climbing Orizaba, I headed to Moab for a weekend of mountain biking with some friends. Springtime in the desert means warm days and chilly nights, so the Indie was a no-brainer. I wore it to keep the sun off my arms on a 65-degree day in the sun, and four hours of hard biking later, I was still perfectly comfortable. It literally performed as well in the desert as it did on a glacier at nearly 18,500 feet. The Indie Hoody has made its way to the top of my packing list, regardless of the destination.