Gear Review – Icebreaker merino wool top

I’d been looking at an Icebreaker top for quite some time, but the concept of wearing merino wool while running is something that I couldn’t quite get my head around. I think it presents thoughts of itchiness and of being too warm, so I’d resisted buying one for quite some time. This changed however when I was due to run in the Northburn Station 100 miler back in March this year. I wanted something that would keep me warm in the colder kiwi nights, so after a little deliberation, I headed down to Trek and Travel down on Kent Street in Sydney and made my purchase. It’s here that I must admit that normally I never buy from ‘in-store’ so to speak. However, there was a need to try for size, so hence the purchase. You can, as always get these things a damn sight cheaper online 🙂

The Topline

So, the question I always pose and answer at the start of every review – would I recommend to a friend? Hell yeah! After some initial itchiness (probably more in my head), the thing was extremely comfortable to wear – so much so that I felt confident about wearing it in the Northburn race, even though I hadn’t trained in it that much. It pretty much acts as a thermal, but the good thing is that you don’t feel overly hot in it when running. I’ve worn it in both warm and cold conditions and it seems to regulate the body temperature very well – I’m yet to wear it in really hot weather though.

The Detail

The model of Icebreaker I bought was the 200 weight long sleeve version. There’s quite a few different varieties and colours you can buy, even a 100 weight short-sleeve which is effectively like a t-shirt. But there’s also 150 and 250 weight versions too.

For those not in the know about Merino wool from which the Icebreaker is made, here’s some blurb. The material is 100% natural wool, so no synthetics go into the making of an Icebreaker – tick that first box. The theory suggest that Merino wool is far more ‘breathable’ than other synthetic fabrics on the market. In hot weather, sweat is pulled from the body into the fabric and ‘dispersed and metabolised’ as moisture vapour, cooling the body through ‘cooling by evaporation’ or so the saying goes 🙂

In the cool, when moisture is absorbed from the cool air, merino fibres ‘liberate heat’ through a molecular process called ‘heat of sorption’. Sound a little complicated? Does to me too. I think what the Icebreaker team means to say, is that if it’s good enough for the sheep over in New Zealand (who deal with both hot and cold weather), then it’s sure as hell good enough for us too. Put simply, the merino wool fibres are extremely fine, so that means it breathes more as a garment – which is good enough for me.

I’ve yet to try this is top in really warm weather, indeed the highest temps I’ve been in are around 25 degrees celsius, so it would be interesting to try it in the summer months here in Sydney and see how it performs then.

There’s also a couple of other things you should know about this top. You can wear it as often as you like, sweat like a pig on heat and the thing won’t stink at all – it’s amazing. A great little gimmick (if you can call it that because it’s actually a really cool little thing), is to type in your unique BAACODE (number inside the top) on the website. From here, you can see exactly where the merino wool that made your top actually comes from.

The scores on the doors

I pretty much wear this top now in every run I do. It feels great and keep me nice and warm in the colder Sydney months. The only thing I would say is that it tends to hold quite a lot of sweat, and when you go from hot to cold i.e. running to standing still, you can start to get a little cold. But I guess you’d get that with any top to be honest. The thing I really like though is that this top is 100% natural, and Icebreaker put up a pretty convincing argument about this on their website. I guess in some respects, they’re also in the right place at the right time too. In a world where we want natural and organic goods more so than ever before, Icebreaker has a cracking product that should suit the needs for us ultra-running hippies 🙂

So how’s it looking on the mountain scale? After a touch of deliberation, we’re going to award this a 4. It’s reached the heady heights of CP3, has great potential, but there’s a few things it needs to work on to reach a place on the top of the pile. There’s a new icebreaker top with collar and zip that I’ve just taken out for a road test, so maybe that will hit the 5 we think it has potential for.

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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

3 thoughts on “Gear Review – Icebreaker merino wool top

  1. Hi , I can share my experience: I wear icebraker shirts, leggins, and underwear since 3 years for nearly all sportactivities : cross country skiing, backpacking, cycling in winter, running , and rowing in winter and summer. I must say its the most comfortable shirt I ever have worn and it des not stink. The only exception is running in very hot summers here ( italy , high umidity etc) there I use sometimes some synthetic. But still now, end of april, i wear only icebreaker shirts or later tanks for running.

  2. have you tried the Australian wool family owned brand I/O Merino…(
    I wore 2 layers in the 2011 TNF100…a long sleeve Rib (160 Grams per sq meter GSM)THE softest top ive found and a short wool T over the top….with a 260GSM jacket over the top of all that for the night section(at 3 degrees)plus wool leggings over compression tights….all worked great…cant reccommend it enough.

  3. I’ve tried Icebreaker and not sure what all the fuss is about. I find merino tops scratchy, while Icebreaker socks are great, but shrinkage is a big problem after washing. For the price, I’m more than happy with synthetic wicking tops, and wool blend socks. Way cheaper, much better value for money and minimal shrinkage.

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