Aussies are typically pretty bad at preparing for cold weather. Our houses leak heat like colanders, thongs are year-round attire, and what the hell is a cloakroom?
But a few of us do know a low-fuss way to keep toasty in the colder months. It’s a cheeky little fibre called merino wool, known for its insulation from the cold, warmth when wet, and inability to take on the funky smell of a rogue Explorer.
As cold fronts start to sweep the country, we reckon it’s time for Aussies to take a leaf out of New Zealand’s book and whack on some merino baselayers. We turned to Icebreaker to hook us up with the goods, they’ve been on the forefront of merino layering since the 90s, so they knew what we’d need.
And what did we need? Well, we’d tasked four Explorers to take on the winter chills while doing what they loved most outdoors – all while kitted out in merino gear. As usual, their adventures were pretty wild! Read on.
Autumn Swells On The Great Ocean Road – Ash Kehoe-Sporton
As the burning Autumn leaves start falling, the waves along the Victorian coastline begin to hit their best. We get up at the crack of dawn on one particularly cold morning, the light winds and winter swells promising an epic day ahead. It’s the sort of frosty dawn that requires extra warmth, so we chuck on our merino thermals and layer up. Excitement mounts as we high-tail it out of the city, en route to the West coast of Vicco.
Nothing makes you feel as alive as a clear, fresh morning and as we zig zag our way along the Great Ocean Road the excitement (and slight apprehension) of entering the icy water builds. We arrive at our destination, greeted by a classic Autumn swell with perfect clean waves peeling in towards Point Impossible.
Paddling out in the crisp water takes our breath away, and we have a fun session surfing uncrowded waves. As our fingers and toes slowly start to go numb, it becomes time to head in. There’s no better feeling than slipping out of a cold wetty and into warm clothes; with the baselayer against my skin, I feel my limbs coming back to life.
Explore the area: Photographing The Great Ocean Road (VIC)
Snow Astrophotography On The Main Range – Jon Harris
An overpowering urge for some epic astrophotography, coupled with some inspo from a recent hike along the Main Range, led to my first ever snow camping microadventure with fellow Explorer Mattie.
We knew this trip needed some proper planning in the gear department. For me, standing in the snow at night, for several hours of shooting, called for natural fabrics for optimal comfort and snugness.
Despite the cold conditions, the hike in is hot work – I’m carrying enough gear to have two cameras running at once, plus camping gear. We work up a serious sweat, but the merino baselayer wicks it away and dries off in a flash, leaving us super toasty once we stop moving and cool down.
As the mercury falls, we bust out another long baselayer and socks to keep the core temperature up. A wicked dinner of hot, spicy beans helps stoke the internal fire, and incidentally keep me as warm as a fart in a sleeping bag – literally!
With night upon us on the roof of Aus, the isolated moonlit snowscape has a beauty of its own. After a few hours of shooting in the snowy alpine climate at night, we’re still epically toasty, but the best part is keeping the long baselayer on when we crawl into our sleeping bags.
We’d come for the astro, but sunrise was a bonus. Pink and orange skies have us dashing around like madmen at dawn, racing the light.
A very welcome coffee and porridge precedes the hike back to the car. Despite spending 24 hours in the one set of (sometimes sweaty) clothes, I still feel (and smell) as fresh as a daisy.
The versatility of merino is pretty amazing – kudos to Icebreaker, they’ve done a wicked job in creating seriously good quality gear for the varied conditions that adventures throw at you.
Explore the area: The Mountains Are Calling // An Explorer’s Guide To Thredbo (NSW)
A Mid-Year Canyon In The Blue Mountains – Dan Slater
Maybe it’s because we’re usually spoiled with lovely warm weather, but most Australians consider canyoning to be a summer pastime, like golf, or dodging venomous snakes. Indeed, the idea of plunging one’s whole body into frigid water, or having it pummel you relentlessly as you struggle down a wet rope, does make one pause for thought.
However, I don’t see why water temperatures of 5-10°C should stop my microadventures, so come early May some friends and I met up to explore Fortress, a short but wet slot canyon in the Blue Mountains.
This is no reckless endeavour; under my usual 3mm shorty wetsuit is a set of Icebreaker 260 BodyFitZone merino thermals – leggings and a long-sleeved top. Apart from being the most stylish guy in the canyon, I’m hoping these all-natural layers will keep me from losing any essential extremities!
My initial step into the water confirms my suspicions – it’s bloody cold! – but I don’t have long to worry about that before the first compulsory jump, a fully submersible manoeuvre which brings forth splutters of disbelief. The subsequent swim makes me feel like an ice cube in a Negroni, but during the walking sections that follow I don’t actually feel that cold – even while soaked the merino manages to trap heat close to my skin.
Well, except for those lumps below my ankles. It’s hard to find secure placement on slippery rocks when you can’t feel your feet.
Several more swims, an abseil and one duck-under leaves me feeling like I’ve experienced a sheep dip, but finally we’re looking out over the spectacular Grose Valley, happy and still alive (just). With shivering and blue lips among my companions we quickly start the hike out, staying in our thermals and wetties so that by the time we reach the car we’re fully warmed up and ready for pizza o’clock!
Explore the area: A Secret World Of Green // Grand Canyon Track (NSW)
Packrafts & Swamp-Stomping In Wilsons Promontory – Pat Corden
Wilsons Promontory is better known for its beautiful beaches and stunning biodiversity. But start poking around the northern end of the park and you can find some pretty remote terrain and gnarly walks. Just our cup of tea!
Days one and two of our three-day walk on the wild side are pretty stock-standard. But it’s day three where the fun really kicks in.
Normally, you cap off the walk with a 20-kilometre bush-bash and swamp-stomp. But we planned to take a shortcut by paddling our packrafts across Corner inlet, skipping all that hard work and visiting a few little islands along the way.
However, we’re a few hours into the 15km paddle when the wind does a switcheroo we get blasted by some freezing rain. Progress slows to zilch, heck, I reckon I’m going backwards! We battle the wind for a while, but realise we’ve got Buckley’s chance of making it via raft.
That leaves us with the only option of retreating back to shore and strapping up for one hell of a swampy bush-bash. The exact one we were hoping to avoid… At times the bush is so dense, you can’t see your feet below the scrub.
Getting back to the car, we’re absolutely pooped, but still nice and cosy in our Icebreaker merino baselayer. The regulating and anti-stink properties of the merino meant we’d slipped them on Saturday morning and I’m still wearing them when we get home on Monday night. They saw us through the rain, sea spray, screaming winds and swamp-stomping, and kept us warm while we were at it.
It’s safe to say that our little weekend adventure didn’t exactly go as planned, but I guess that’s what Icebreaker is made for. The Prom’s northern end spanked us seven ways to Sunday and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Explore the area: The Big Drift // Wilsons Promontory (VIC)
Searching for the stoke, whatever the weather…