While there are a lot of merino wool apparel options on the market today such as Smartwool and Icebreaker (who are arguably the big players in this space), there is always room for new and innovative companies such as Unbound Merino. Unbound differentiates itself by being a strictly online company which offers a variety of apparel options to chose from. They offer individual products as well as product bundles for convenience and their order process is simple and efficient. They keep their styles basic and timeless, avoiding the technical outdoorsy look that most Merino clothing companies seem to subscribe to. Unbound Merino was founded by three lifelong friends who had a love of travel and soon discovered that the ultimate travel hack was to pack light-n-fast and never check bags and Unbound Merino makes this possible.
In this review, we’re going to look at The Ultimate Unbound Kit which consists of two shirts, three pairs of socks, three pairs of boxers, one long sleeve T-shirt and the Travel Hoodie—all you’ll need to keep you on the road for weeks at a time.
With an upcoming three week vacation to England, Spain and Portugal I wanted to put Unbound Merino’s claim of “Pack Less - Experience More” Mantra to the test. Taking a selection of Unbound Merino apparel and a few other essentials in just my carry on would allow me to avoid any additional baggage fees and save a total of $350 on this trip alone. Not paying for baggage fees goes a long way to offset the $700 cost of the Ultimate Unbound Kit, the big question is whether or not I could live for three weeks with only three shirts, one hoody, three pairs of socks and three boxers. I did also take along one pair of pants, one pair of shorts, a bathing suit a lightweight shell to shed rain, along with toiletries. All this easily fit into my regulation 55x40x20cm carry on and weighed under the required 22lb limit. As the trip progressed I was feeling liberated to not to have to lug around heavy bags, not to mention the hassle of checking bags at the airport and waiting for them after each flight. This approach is also better for the environment, fly with less weight saves on fuel and that means less carbon produced. To see how the Unbound Merino apparel performed be sure to read the verdict at the bottom of this review.
By now we all know the virtues of merino wool—odour-resistant, temperature regulating, fast drying and wrinkle-free. These are all attributes that the world traveller needs—simple clothes that perform well, are comfortable and don’t need to be washed after every wear. What makes Unbound Merino different is their “Less is more” philosophy. Their apparel is simple, beautiful, functional, timeless and minimal in design. There are no technical features or flashy fabrics and colours, just basic designs which allow you to work out in the morning and then wear them out to dinner that night.
Unbound Merino has a small selection of long and short sleeve T-shirts in V-neck or Crew styles along with a Tank top option. They also offer Boxer Briefs, crew and ankle socks along with a Compact Travel Hoodie. The colour options for each are similarly limited, Natural White, Black, Charcoal, Navy Blue, Heather Grey and a newly released Heather Red. The understated design and colour palette allow for versatility in where and how you wear the clothes, high-intensity workout or high fashion, you choose.
As you’ll see in the fabric section below, most of the pieces are made of 100% merino wool with only the Boxer briefs and socks having additional nylon and spandex for increased stretch and durability.
Compact Travel Hoodie: 100% ultra-fine 17.5 micron, 190g/m2 Merino wool
Long Sleeve Tee: 100% ultra-fine 17.5 micron, 190g/m2 Merino wool
Crew/V-neck T-Shirt: 100% ultra-fine 17.5 micron, 190g/m2 Merino wool
Boxer Briefs: 84% Merino wool, 12% nylon and 4% spandex
All-Season Socks: 74% Merino Wool, 20% nylon and 6% spandex
Unbound Merino’s Ultimate Unbound Kit, while expensive, surprisingly provided enough clothing for my entire three-week trip abroad. Its two T-shirts and one long sleeve only needed washing after about 4 or 5 days depending on the activity output and how hot the days were. After sweating them up on hotter days in Portugal and a few hikes in Spain I decided to wash them and start fresh. This just meant a quick hand wash in the sink and hang to dry. If the weather is not too sunny and hot I could have easily gotten a full week out of each shirt but with full sunshine and 26°C, the between wash life span is reduced. The Boxer briefs, on the other hand, I washed after a few wears as I just found that it’s a little gross not to launder them even if they could have gone the distance. The All-Season Socks had moderate use over the three weeks but wicked well and resisted odour better than expected. The Compact Travel Hoodie was the one let down of the Ultimate Unbound Kit. It was far too thin to provide much warmth on colder days and more or less hung off me due to the weight of the zipper, which isn’t that flattering of a look. At $165 it’s a pricey piece and should be made of much thicker material in order to be successful in providing actual warmth. While this would only drive the price point much higher, something really needs to be done to make it more functional and worth the money.
I found the refined, simple design of the T-shirts to go with anything I paired them with and casual enough for hiking or dinner out. They were stylish and comfortable and I’d definitely order more of these. The Boxers were light enough so that your bits could breathe while the socks were thick and provided some cushion which was nice for long days of walking.
While travelling as a minimalist is not for everyone it is worth trying and quite liberating. If that’s not enough to convince you perhaps saving hundred’s of dollars on baggage fees might be. Already being a minimalist at heart myself, I found that this style of travel was not a far stretch and was pretty easy to adopt.
The biggest plus with Unbound Merino’s apparel besides their simple design has to be how easily it is to pack an entire three weeks of clothing into a single carry-on and just go! Knowing that the clothes wouldn’t stink up over multiple days of wear meant I didn’t have to take along a shirt, socks and boxers for each day. On a warm spring adventure like this one through Spain and Portugal, the two short sleeve shirts and three pairs of boxers were used repeatedly and the long sleeve occasionally when it was cooler at night. The Travel Hoodie and three pairs of socks were rarely used but still came in handy and I really didn’t need anything else besides some shorts, pants and a rain shell. Less is truly more.
Price: $722.39CAN / $495US (saves $53US off buying items individually)
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL
Colours: Natural White, Black, Charcoal, Navy Blue, Heather Grey, Heather Red
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