Icebreaker Merino Wool Base Layer Long-Term Review

This was meant to be a long term review of a pair of Icebreakers 200 weight long sleeve crewnecks and has somehow come out as somewhat of an ode to the merino wool base layer. What we gauchos and gnome hunters call the sheep. Merino wool base layers are the unsung hero of every cool to cold weather ride, hike, snowshoe, ski, board or sled. So here’s to the sheep – may they keep us warm, odor-free and dry(-ish).

I might have mentioned that I live in wool base layers for 9 months a year. As I write this, I’m wearing a 45NRTH Merino short-sleeved t-shirt and a Surly Merino long-sleeve Jersey that’s too big. I have plans to shrink it down to size. (I’ll let you know how that turns out).

I’ve worn wool base layers for about a dozen or so years. Before that, I wore polypropylene long underwear in the winter. I still have a Patagonia Capilene t-neck and a couple of Craft ribbed polypro base layers in my arsenal of cold season clothing. I don’t know why I keep them around, because merino wool simply works better than synthetic material for me. Merino keeps me feeling dryer and warmer than polypro and wool is far superior when it comes to what I like to call the Funk Factor. Polypro long underwear can develop a rather unpleasant odor that doesn’t seem to be completely removed during the normal laundry cycle. #stankyfunk

I’ve worn merino wool base layers from Woolx, Swobo, Ibex, Smartwool, 45NRTH, and Icebreakers. Merino base layers generally come in three weights. 100 – All-Season, 200 – Mid-Weight, and 300/350 – Expedition-Weight. Over the years, I’ve worn all three grades and settled in on the mid-weight as my go-to winter next-to-the-skin layer. The two workhorses in my merino wool base layer drawer are two Icebreakers 200-weight long-sleeve crew-necks that are in their third year of service and still going strong.

When you pay over a hundred bucks for a t-shirt it makes perfect sense that you’d like them to last. My theory is that most of the wear that occurs on this sort of garment occurs in the washing machine. It took me a while to come up with a system to successfully launder wool garments without mistakenly allowing one of my precious wool t-shirts to jump in the dryer and shrink down to my wife’s size. (She still wears a Swobo merino short-sleeved t-shirt that I shrunk. Every time that I see her wear it, it reminds me how much I miss that shirt.) So after a few years of practice, I’ve got a wool laundry process that works pretty well for me. I machine wash my wool and cycling shorts together in cold water on the delicate setting. Then I line dry them on a drying rack. The hardest part is keeping my pre-worn pieces separated from the freshly laundered pieces on the rack. It’s not an urban myth that merino wool pieces can be worn multiple times without creating a stink. I’ve been told that nobody can stink up a shirt faster than yours truly and I get two or three wearings out of my wool base layers (YMMV).

The thing that made me realize that I should write a sonnet for my two Icebreaker’s wool base layers was when I looked at how worn the (tagless) printed label had become over time (photo above). The silkscreened imprint is nearly worn off and yet, the baselayers, themselves are 100% functional and going strong. So there you have it…the Icebreaker merino wool base layers win the gnome-proof seal of approval!

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About Gomez 2576 Articles
Just an old cat that rides bikes, herds pixels, ropes gnomes and sometimes writes stories. I love a good story.

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