Icebreaker Merino Wool Clothing Review
About Merino Wool
Merino wool is produced from sheep that are bred for their wool and not the meat. The size of the sheep bred for wool is generally smaller than those bred for meat. Merino wool is usually used for high-end performance clothing for its warmth and ability to continue staying warm even when it is wet. The wool helps by providing enough warmth without overheating the body by removing or wicking moisture from the skin and keeping the wearer feeling dry.
The wool is soft to the skin and most will not cause any itching to the skin. Most wool sweaters can cause itchiness to the skin and some even have rashes cause by wool that are coarse type. The finest type of wool are those of merino hogget, which is the first shearing of the sheep and this is usually where the wool is softest and most unique making it quite expensive.
Icebreaker makes many quality baselayers for performance wear and most are close to the skin to help control moisture and heat. When wearing multiple layers your sweat will be transferred to the most outer layer and evaporated. Most of all Icebreaker is well known for their no-stink reputation with their line of clothing.
The Icebreaker baselayers are decent to be worn alone in fair weather. Most clothes that say you can wear alone in cold weather is probably exaggerated, that's why they say layer because it should not be worn alone as some might think. When layered together it works quite well and can really hold the warmth in during the cold and keep you cool when it gets warm.
We had been purchasing Icebreaker clothing for a while now, and most of their clothing are as expected, or better. There are times when it doesn't feel like the new one is as good as the old but after a few weeks of wearing it, the thoughts about it changes. I guess sometimes it's just psychological but because all the wool they get can't come from the same sheep all the time, it's just normal that the quality will vary as well.
The most amazing part of the Icebreakers is the no-stink part, no matter how long it's been worn or what the shirts has been through it just doesn't build up any odor. Most clothes that are synthetic usually build up odor smelling like unwashed socks after a week or so. Tested through sweat during exercises, morning walk, cooking, and washing pets (not with the Icebreaker) and still the shirt is able to resist odor. It makes it easy to go out in case someone drops by or if I forget I schedule a meeting with someone.
The layering for the Icebreaker goes by numbers, in the picture it shows as the Bodyfit 200 which is a baselayer, or layer closest to the skin. The next layer is the 260, then 300 and so on. The higher the number the more it is meant to handle colder weather. There are different layers of Icebreakers for different weathering.
Caring For Merino Wool
Washing the Icebreakers for the first time was a heartbreaker as I failed to look at the instructions and completely forgot what drying can do to wool. It didn't tear it or anything, but it shrank to a size that my kid nephew would have trouble fitting even at age four. Understanding how to clean it is important but it is not a difficult task. Either hand wash it or machine wash using warm/cold or cold/cold, nothing hot since that will cause it to shrink. No fabric softener since it is as soft as it can get. No tumble dry, just hang dry to retain shape, do not hang dry in the sun or dry clean.
Icebreaker is one of the few companies producing high end performance wear with a bit of fashion and pretty nice looking overall. The clothes do what they are said to do, but the fast drying part is questionable but it really depends on how wet the clothes are, under normal use of these clothes for hiking and camping, it does dry up fairly quick but for heavy sweaters it takes a bit longer. But it does an amazing job just wicking moisture and resisting odor which is important when you are camping with limited clothing to wear and don't want to be avoided because of offensive smell.