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Kit review: Icebreaker Merino baselayers

Written by Fiona August 26 2011

* See 10% discount code for Icebreaker at the end of the post.

Everyone raves about Merino wool. But until you have tried a Merino wool baselayer for yourself you can never truly appreciate the quality. Am I being paid by someone to say this? Well, the Nature Shop did send me a lovely Icebreaker Merino wool Olympic Crewe baselayer to try – but I am free to say exactly what I think about it. And I happen to be very impressed.

Icebreaker Merino Olympia crewe for women

First things, it looks good on. I like baselayers to fit snugly but not in a suffocating way and the Women’s Small is a perfect fit on my size 10 torso. I was even delighted to find that the thumb loops on the sleeves (to offer some hand cover) are long enough for my extra-long arms. The Java/Cranberry colour scheme is pretty, too. (There are lots of other colour combos, too.)

The test of this kind of top is in the wearing. One major claim of Merino is its “no stink” qualities.

The Icebreaker Merino baselayer Olympic Crewe Bodyfit 260 also claims to be:

* The warmest and most breathable baselayer performance baselayer in the world.

* Ideal for cold to very cold conditions.

* Soft touch and natural.

In addition the packaging says: “The icebreaker responds to the climate t keep you at an even temperature. Millions of Merino fibres lock in body heat in the cold (insulation), but are highly breathable so you don’t over heat – like a natural thermostat. The Bodyfit 260 feels silky soft, won’t stink like synthetics, is machine washable and dries quickly. It’s like a second skin.”

These are big claims, indeed, and so I have given the baselayer a thorough testing. I have worn it on cold and wet days in the mountains, on long, cool-ish hill runs, cycling many miles on my bike, while sleeping in a tent in my sleeping bag and on cool evenings while working at my desk.

Top of the list is that it really doesn’t smell. It is amazing! While most of my other baselayers can whiff a bit after just one training session, and pong a great deal if I wear them twice, the Icebreaker baselayer just stays smelling really quite nice indeed. I can’t say it’s sweet smelling as the baselayer is made of wool, but it certainly doesn’t pong of sweat.

The Icebreaker baselayer is also very good at keeping my core body temperature even. I hate to be too hot when I’m slogging up a mountain or running and I’ve found that wearing only this top on cool-ish days has kept me at just the right temperature. There were a couple of occasions when I ended up soaked through while Munro bagging and even then I didn’t feel that usual chill that comes with wet baselayers. I am a person who gets cold very quickly and so I’m impressed to find a top that does do what it says on the label. Like most tops, however, once you stop exercising and your body heat decreases, a wet Merino needs to be replaced with a dry one, in my experience.

The Icebreaker seems to come in almost limitless styles and to suit all kinds of sports and pursuits. They are not the cheapest products. Mine comes in at £48 on the Nature Shop website (RRP £69) but they still represent great value for money because they are sure to last. I have had to throw out a number of synthetic baselayers because even after coming out of the washing machine they smell within 20 mins of wearing them.

Icebreaker Merino wool Slalom Zip

The G-Force was sent his own Icebreaker Merino wool Slalom Zip Baselayer. All the magical claims are the same and after thorough testing on many Munro bagging outings – as well as a particularly sweaty cycle outing – the G-Force confirms that “it’s a very nice baselayer”. He added: “It feels nice and soft against my skin and it keeps me warm. I haven’t noticed any whiff either. The zip is a nice addition because sometimes I like to have an open neck and other times I like it zipped right up when, say, the wind and rain picks up. I can see me wearing this for skiing, too.”

The Nature Shop is based in New Zealand – and it’s the biggest retailer of Icebreaker porducts in that country – but they also operate an on-line store in the UK. The savings seem pretty generous.

Even better still for my readers is a 10% discount voucher

Log on to Nature Shop. Choose a product from the new Icebreaker range 2011. Enter the code: NATUREFI11 at the checkout and gain 10% discount until 30/9/11 only. Enter the code in discount box during check out, then the discount will be refunded within 72hours.

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