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Runners have a habit of first noticing all the things that don’t work in a garment. Like: these shorts ride up on the waist, that zipper tends to jab at my throat, the e-tip on those gloves is unreliable, there isn’t enough depth in this catch-all pocket. And so on.
Unless you’re talking about energy-returning shoes or GPS watches, good running gear is less about what it does to help you run faster and more about how good it is at getting out of your way. The best gear doesn’t just thermoregulate or eliminate chafing or look cool — it helps you forget you’re wearing anything at all.
That’s precisely how I feel about the Wool Aire Hoodie from Ibex, which I’ve been running in for over a month now. The Vermont-based brand released the puffer late last year, and until a recent restock, has had trouble keeping it on shelves. I’m not particularly surprised. I’ve logged a lot of long, lonely miles the last few winters, and this jacket is easily the best companion I’ve had for any of them.
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What’s so great about it? Merino wool strikes again. The “barely there” feel can mostly be attributed to the magical material, which insulates the puffer, offers full range of motion and keeps the jacket extremely light. You’d expect a puffer to have a little heft to it, but the Wool Aire weighs only 10 ounces (that’s 0.625 pounds), and is filled with just 80 grams (less than 0.2 pounds) of insulation. It’s lighter than the majority of crew sweatshirts I run in during the shoulder months.
And yet — this jacket wasn’t designed with mild weather in mind. It’s supposed to hold up in rain, sleet and snow (Ibex is even marketing it as a shell for hiking and skiing), and it does so with aplomb. I’ve worn it out on days where no one was dumb enough to be out, and came home no worse for wear than when I left. That’s because the nylon face fabric is resistant to wind and water, and the cut is adept at keeping the elements out. Once you ensconce yourself within the elasticized hem, cuffs, and scuba hood, you’re going to stay dry.
Other benefits? It’s PFC-free (the outer shell wasn’t coated with man-made chemicals), it feels surprisingly natural against bare skin (in case you don’t feel like layering under there) and the pockets are fantastic (especially the chest pocket). Plus, you can run 50 miles in it over the course of the week and the thing’s never going to smell. One reviewer, Ashton W., credits this with saving his marriage: “The wool means I’m way less stinky at the end of the day and my wife let’s me back in the house.”
If there’s anything here that might give you pause, it’s the pricetag, at $285. But keep in mind, Nike’s top-line winter running jackets are similarly expensive (hanging out around $200 or more), and they’re usually filled with down or synthetic material. The merino wool is the real win here, and once you start running around in it, you’ll see exactly why. As for colors, you can choose between four. I’ve been wearing the Oxy Fire (it’s orange), which has likely come in handy while running on roads in low winter light.
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