We absolutely love seeing our gear being used all over the world in the great outdoors – keeping you protected from the elements through all manner of adventures. That stuff makes us happy. Really happy. So we couldn’t help but get on board when Patrick and Nolan, high school grads from Idaho, told us about their plans to explore ‘The Land of Hobbits’, or what’s better known to the rest of us as New Zealand.

After studying for 12 years, Patrick and Nolan started planning the biggest trip of their lives. Both growing up in outdoor loving families, it seemed only natural to travel as far away from home as possible, spend six months backpacking through New Zealand and conquer mountains they’ve dreamed of their entire lives.

“I’ve grown up in an outdoor oriented family, typically with summers full of travel and river trips,” Nolan says.

“This trip was inspired, for me, by the movie ‘The Way’. While watching, I recognized a desire to take a year off of school and travel. The Te Araroa Trail is providing me with a fantastic avenue to pursue that desire”.

Patrick, his intrepid partner in adventure, felt much the same way. “I grew up under the bosom of a father who backpacked and rock climbed through Yosemite in the 80s, and a mother that taught skiing in Breckenridge. Nolan asked me what I thought about going to New Zealand when he was shaving my head last January, and since I wasn’t hell bent on studying for four years immediately after studying for 12, I signed on to the troupe”.

Their trip looked a little like this:

Boise, Idaho – Wellington, NZ – Cook Strait – Picton – Ship’s Cove – Invercargill – Auckland – Cape Reinga, Te Araroa – Wellington and finished off with a week relaxing in Fiji (we’re sure it was much needed!) before returning home to Boise mid-May. They kept their friends and family updated with their travels on their blog when they had access to Internet and there’s no question they had an amazing trip.

On day one, Patrick said, “Today was the day I saw New Zealand. And it is every bit as beautiful as they say. It was honestly the perfect first view. As the plane descended through the clouds, I kept catching glimpse of the land. Suddenly we flew into an area of clear sky, and New Zealand was played out below me before the clouds. Swallowed by the plane again. It was breathtaking”.

These guys know a thing or two about adventure gear and the importance of staying warm and comfortable, so we were flattered they wanted to take some I/O Merino with them on this trip. After touching down in New Zealand in January they well and truly experienced a bit of everything courtesy of Mother nature – from the warmer weather in middle of summer when they arrived, to some fairly bleak winter conditions. They literally went through hot, cold, even colder, wet, rain, snow, windy and any other temperature and conditions you can imagine.

So taking gear that’s not only light, but packed with performance was a must. Patrick and Nolan took I/O Merino Zodiac Boxers, AzTech Beanies, Altitude Zip Long Sleeve Tops, Highpoint Necktubes and Keystone Long Sleeve Tops. We caught up with them to find out how their gear performed, and here’s what they had to say:

The Altitude Zip Base Layer

According to Patrick, “I came through the Tararuas where a ripping southerly blew 140km/hr winds with hail, snow and rain across the ridges and the Altitude base layer I was wearing probably saved my life. It’s skintight but incredibly stretchy, giving me a complete and comfortable range of motions. The thumbholes kept my hands warm and prevented the sleeves from slipping under my hard-shell. The zip gave me control over a massive range of temperature. I’d wear this shirt from 25 degrees all the way to absolute zero. It’s a miracle that a shirt so thin and light can be so warm and comfortable in biting cold! It’s the ideal undershirt for all conditions, and it’s light enough to carry the length of New Zealand’s Te Araroa”.

Zodiac Boxers

By the end of the trip when the colder weather had well and truly hit, they were well layered up, but before that, there was plenty of time to be wearing far less layers. As you can see from the pics, they were quick to strip down and go for a swim in one of NZ’s pristine lakes. And yes, there may even have been some boxer-less swimming done! Ah yes, boys will be boys! As for the Zodiac Boxers themselves, well… 115 days is quite a long time. “If you find yourself, as I have, in a situation where you have to wear one pair of underwear for 115 consecutive days, it had better be I/O Merino’s Zodiac Boxers.” (We do hope he managed to wash them at least once of twice. In a lake perhaps?)

Highpoint Necktube

The necktubes were a big hit as well. “Most necktubes (or neck ‘gators’ as they’re called in ye olde Idaho) are thick and scratchy, making them impossible to breathe through and difficult to adjust. The I/O Merino Necktube is thin and stretchy enough to maneuver all over, and it doesn’t suffocate me when I breathe! It’s the perfect Necktube for the majority of winter conditions – from biting 140km/hr winds to a gentle snowfall”.

We’re happy to report that after the better part of six months tramping around New Zealand through all kinds of conditions, From angry cows to knee injuries, from mud to snow and ice, from rocky peaks and volcanoes to geothermal lakes and volcanic vents, these guys experienced nature at its best and worst. And as Patrick summed up after one particularly harsh storm “I thanked all the deities that I had a base layer of I/O merino to keep me warm”. We’re glad too. Well done guys and welcome home.

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