Last year in December, I received the Isobaa Merino wool insulated jacket for testing. I’m a big fan of Merino wool and my closet is filled with Merino base layers. However, this is my first Merino insulated jacket. Merino wool insulated jackets are a relatively new concept and not many brands have them in their product line. The concept is simple: Merino wool is sandwiched as insulation between the synthetic lining and the outer layer of the jacket. Thus, the garment also provides protection against the elements in addition to warmth. I was super excited to test the Isobaa jacket and discover the advantages and disadvantages of a jacket insulated with Merino wool. For the last month I have been wearing the Isobaa jacket almost every day. I wore it for work, hiking, walks and other activities. Below is what I learned about it.
The Isobaa Merino wool insulate jacket is suitable for:
- Everyday use
- Low intensity hiking
The Isobaa insulated jacket is made of eco-friendly materials. It utilizes Merino wool insulation from the British company HD Wool. The insulation is made from recovered wool fibers collected during yarn production which would otherwise go to waste. When I tried on the jacket, I was pleasantly surprised over the wool insulation. It provides better loft than I expected, allowing it to retain good warmth. I also immediately noticed the very sturdy outer layer which is made of recycled nylon ripstop fabric. The lining is also made of synthetic fabric. I don’t particularly like the feel of the lining, but that’s not a major problem as one rarely wears an insulated jacket directly on the skin. Nevertheless, it could a bit softer to the touch.
Now, it’s a known fact that wool doesn’t provide as good warmth for its weight as synthetic or down insulation. Hence, I expected that the jacket would be heavier than my other insulated jackets. It weighs 760 grams, but to be honest it’s warmer than I expected. In terms of warmth, I find it slightly warmer than my CimAlp Primaloft jacket which weighs 400 grams and utilizes top-quality PrimaLoft synthetic insulation.
The jacket performed really well for everyday use and I found it suitable for temperatures down to 3° C in dry weather, when wearing it over a long-sleeved base layer. Had I layered up a bit, I think the jacket would also be suitable for temperatures below 0. It’s indeed loose enough to be worn over a thicker sweater or a hoody. I also wore the jacket for hiking, although Isobaa designed it primarily for everyday use. The jacket performed okay on easier hikes but on more demanding hikes I did notice that the jacket doesn’t provide as good breathability as other hiking jackets I have. It’s also not as stretchy which is not a problem for everyday use but might be during technical activities such as mountaineering.
The Isobaa Merino wool insulated jacket is also treated with DWR, so it repels the rain. I wore the jacket several times in light rain and the jacket didn’t get soaked. Nevertheless, insulated jackets are typically not waterproof and the Isobaa jacket is no exception.
The Isobaa Merino wool insulated jacket has two zippered hand pockets and a zippered chest pocket. The hand pockets are very spacious, but I wish they would be placed a bit higher. They come all the way down to the drawcord hem and thus items stored in the pockets often get in the way when you bend down, for example to tie your shoes. The pockets’ zippers are high-quality, and I haven’t encountered any issues so far.
Besides the drawcord hem, the jacket also has elastic cuffs and an insulated adjustable hood. I was very satisfied with the hood because it’s very warm and provides good fit. I found it especially useful in windy conditions and during rest phases on hikes. The hood can be adjusted fast by pulling the straps just above the collar (see image). Hooded jackets typically don’t insulate as good in the neck area as non-hooded jackets. However, I was positively surprised how well the collar of the Isobaa jacket fits around the neck. The jacket kept my neck warm throughout the testing period, whether the hood was up or down.
In general, I prefer elastic cuffs to Velcro cuffs. However, the elastic Isobaa cuffs are quite tight. This hasn’t been a problem in terms of comfort as the diameter of the cuff is wide enough, but I noticed that it’s a bit hard to pull the cuff over my Suunto watch, especially while wearing gloves.
The drawcord adjustment toggle is located on the inside of the jacket, so there are no dangling straps. It can be adjusted with only one hand which is very convenient while on the go.
Sizing and Fit
I got the jacket in size L and it fits me great – snugly around the chest, but not too tight. My chest diameter is 98 cm and I’m 180 cm high. The jacket is a couple of centimeters longer than other jackets I have and thus covers a bit more of my back. If you are shorter than me, I do recommend going for size M. The material is not very stretchy, but I find the jacket comfortable to wear, nevertheless.
Washing and Drying
I was very surprised when I saw the “dry clean only” label on the jacket, but then I started thinking “how often do I really wash my insulated jackets in general?”. As a matter of fact, I haven’t yet washed my CimAlp PrimaLoft jacket, which I have had for about a year now. I also haven’t washed my Carinthia HIG jacket which I have worn regularly for the last three years. These jackets have not become smelly and thus I have seen no reason to expose the delicate insulation materials to washing. I do, however, clean my jackets with a wet cloth after intensive activities. So, for me the “dry clean only” is not really a downside. The Isobaa jacket utilizes Merino wool insulation which is naturally odor-resistant and thus won’t become smelly anytime soon, while the synthetic outer layer and the lining can be simply cleaned with a wet cloth like my other jackets.
The Isobaa Merino wool insulated jacket is a very interesting garment which is not only functional, but also environmentally friendly. I find it very appealing that Isobaa utilizes recycled nylon for the outer layer and leftovers of wool for the insulation. The jacket looks great and is surprisingly warm. It is best for everyday use because it’s a bit heavier than jackets designed for hiking and not as breathable. Nevertheless, the jacket is perfectly suitable for walks and easy hikes. I really like the adjustable insulated hood and I’m very satisfied with the fit. The only things that I would change are the hand pockets and the cuffs. The pockets are positioned too low and the elastics in the cuffs are slightly too tight. Nevertheless, I’m overall more than content with the jacket, its performance and the eco-friendly idea behind it.
If you have any questions about this product, drop me a line in the comments below.