Living in Cumbria I am naturally attracted to anything that involves sheep, so I was thrilled when through the post arrived an Icebreaker bodyfit base layer made of 100% Merino wool, even more exciting was the fact that on the box was a picture of a sheep. The sheep in question was not a scrawny Herdwick or grubby Swaledale but a thick coated Merino, from New Zealand. I presented the box to a few local farmers in the village pub who all agreed they had never seen such a well-covered ewe.
Even better was the bright red base layer that came in the box, don’t worry between leaving the sheep’s back and arriving in the box the wool had clearly gone through some very nifty processes, including I assume dying it red, but you can never be sure with these overseas sheep !
The base layer is a short sleeved T shirt style and was a perfect fit straight out of the box which after much activity is still as good a fit as it was in the beginning. There can be only one stumbling block between buying a top of the range garment like the Icebreaker or not – the cost. As a fairly cautious shopper I can confirm that I would actually go out and buy one of these, it’s brilliant and well worth the extra cash, this is why:-
I have been using the base layer for four months for rock climbing, cycling, multi day Alpine hikes and Alpine rock routes. As well as all this it has been pushed into ruck sacs and generally mistreated on a daily basis. Four months later after all this activity it shows no signs of wear or tear, still retains its shape and still performs well and I would predict that it has many years more use left in it.
As a climber of some thirty odd years I have spent years using the two shirt method for a day’s climbing, this involves wearing one shirt to walk to the crag in, which inevitable gets sweaty, and then having a clean dry shirt to put on to climb in. The second shirt is now redundant, so good is the wicking system of the Icebreaker. After only a few minutes the sweaty parts start to dry out, making it great to climb in even after a long hot approach. However, the real magic is the lack of smell! I wore the base layer for a three day Alpine route and at the end three days we stumbled unwashed into the bar and people still stood next to me – this was the ultimate test and it didn’t smell.
The base layer is a classic short sleeve T-shirt (no zips) which is intended as a first layer to your clothing system. I mixed it with other thicker merino tops for extra warmth & waterproof fabrics when needed & the base layer felt great on its own or in any other combination. I particularly liked its feel on hotter days, climbing in it or walking with it on it as it never felt clammy or restrictive but it still felt warm higher in the mountains meaning that you don’t have to stop and put on more layers.
As said before everyone knows how good Merino is, the only question is would you be convinced to spend the extra money above and beyond other base layer products. If you are likely to lose it after two days don’t, otherwise I can’t fault it and would highly recommend it.