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Reviews > Clothing > Base Layers and Undies > Icebreaker CoolLite Sphere Crewe > Test Report by Robb Pratt

August 25, 2019



NAME: Robb Pratt
EMAIL: unicornv007 AT
AGE: 48
LOCATION: Canton, Michigan, USA
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)

I backpacked sporadically growing up and rediscovered it back in 2011. Since then, I've taken several weekend trips a year. I also car camp with my family roughly a dozen nights a year when we use tents unless I can convince them I might snore and it would be better for all for me to use my hammock rig. I prefer a light pack (weight without food or water under 20 pounds / 9 kg). My backpacking stomping ground is northern Michigan that has small hills and I typically camp late spring, summer and early fall months.



Manufacturer: Icebreaker
Year of Manufacture: 2019
Manufacturer's Website:
Measured Weight: 4.7 oz (133 g)
Other details: Icebreaker's Cool-Lite line is made by combining two natural fibers - Merino Wool and Tencel. After a little digging, I found out that Tencel is derived from the wood pulp of eucalyptus trees. Between the two fibers, moisture is contained in the fibers' cores, keeping the fabric dry to the touch. Icebreaker notes that the Crewe Cool-Lite Sphere shirt is designed to encourage evaporation (for staying cool and dry), provide comfort in warm to hot conditions, be non-itch, dry fast and naturally resist odors. This shirt also has offset shoulder seams to prevent pack rubbing when hiking. The shirt comes in five different sizes (I received a large) and four different colors (I received the Poseidon Heather). For the large size, the center back length is noted to be 29.5 inches (75 cm) in length. Lastly, the shirt is listed a featherweight, specifically 130 grams/sqm.

Icebreaker SS Cool-Lite Crew Shirt


The shirt arrived in a clean, see-thru package where the shirt was folded nicely and the label clearly visible, explaining the shirt details. I could not feel the fabric without opening it up but at the same time, I felt this was an acceptable trade-off to prevent any stains or material damage.
Shirt in Package


Removing the shirt from the plastic packaging, I inspected it closely. The seams were all very well done and tight. I only found a few loose threads up near the inside neck where the final joints were made. None of them were longer than half the length of my fingernail so I did not bother clipping them. The seams were also straight at all locations (arm holes, bottom, neck and sleeves). To the touch, the fabric felt soft and appealing. Visually, the color was a merge of green and gray with what looked like occasional white sparkle mixed in. I was surprised with the sparkles, but they actually looked really nice, especially as they were not overwhelming but just added a tough of eye-grabbing attention.


The main packaging label that has plastic string holding it in place is easily removed. It does not include much detail though, other than the three main advantages of the shirt: feels cooler, wicks faster and resists odor. Scanning through this label does not reveal too much else.

There is a small label permanently attached to inside of the shirt at the back of the neck. I am never a fan of these as they can be very itchy. The label on this has the size of the garment and the company name.

Shirt Tag Label

I had to check a second time to find the material breakdown and washing instructions. These were printed on a third and fourth label that were sewn together on the inside of the shirt near the left side of the torso close to the waist.
* Material: 52% wool, 35% lyocell, 13% Nylon. They also listed out these details in six other languages.
* Washing: The label had 11 pictures from the cleaning standards. I recognized several of them but I did not have to look up the others as they spelled out all of the details further below the pictures (also in additional languages). To summarize the instructions were:
- Machine wash warm / Wash with like colors
- Do not use softeners
- Fasten all closures to wash and dry
- Do not bleach
- Do not tumble dry
- Line dry in shade
- Warm iron
- Dry cleanable

To me, these sounded like standard cleaning instructions that they put on other garments. After all, this shirt does not have any closures that needed to be fastened. Either way though, having owned wool garments before, I was definitely going to follow the instructions and they are pretty straight-forward unless I wanted to turn my shirt into a postage stamp.
Shirt Inside Lower Torso Labels


Thankfully, having learned how to put a shirt on correctly when I was a toddler, I had no problem putting this on right the first time. The label at the back of the neck also made it clear which side of the shirt was the front. The sizing was comfortable for me and the neck hole stretched easily for my head to pass through while at the same time, feeling snug around my neck after the shirt settled in place. This is a short-sleeve shirt and the arm length was perfect for me with the material stopping middle of the bicep. The shirt length had this resting comfortable at the bottom of my hips, just past the crotch.

Trying the shirt on, it felt a little itchy to me but I have not yet washed it. The inside neck label was a little "prickly" while my torso felt some scratchiness. That might have been a mind over matter thing for me as I was really trying to focus on how I felt about the shirt as it is advertised as being non-itch. After an hour though, I forgot I was even wearing it. I did not feel any irritation from the material nor when I removed it later that night, did my body have any signs of reacting to the material.


Overall, this is a beautiful shirt. I really like the color and feel of the material. Furthermore, it fits me perfectly and looks quite stylish. My only real complaint is that the neck label is still a little itchy. For now, I am going to leave the label in place but long term, I may remove it.

This concludes my initial report. The field report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.

Lastly, I want to thank both and Icebreaker for letting me take part in this test.



Over the last two months, I have taken three trips. Temperature has ranged from 48 to 80 F (8.9 to 26.7 C) with some rain conditions overnight on two of the three trips. The first two trips consisted of base-camping with physical activities planned during the daytime. The third trip was a backpacking trip in one of the local state parks.


* Trip #1: Brighton Recreational Area - Brighton, Michigan USA - May 17-19, 2019. Temperature ranged from 48 to 70 F (8.9 to 21.1 C). There was 0.1 inches (0.25 cm) of rainfall on the first evening. While there was no backpacking, I did close to 20 miles (32.2 km) Mountain Biking.

* Trip #2: Private Property - Lake, Michigan, USA - May 24-26, 2019. Temperature ranged from 52 to 70 F (11.1 to 21.1 C). There was a massive thunderstorm the first night that dumped an estimated 0.23 inches (0.58 cm) of rainfall. During the day I went kayaking around a lake for several hours.

* Trip #3: Waterloo-Pinckney Recreational Area - Pinkney, Michigan USA - June 7-9, 2019. Temperature ranged from 57 to 80 F (13.9 to 26.7 C). There was no rainfall. Terrain was mostly dirt with gentle rolling hills. My backpack was 25.6 lbs (11.6 kg) and I hiked 15 miles (24.1 km) in 3 days.


Over the last two months, I have been able to put the Icebreaker Sphere SS Crewe Cool-Lite Shirt to good use. While I am not normally this active, the scouts and my family have kept me very busy. I have gone kayaking, mountain biking and backpacking.

From a comfort and fit standpoint, it continues to be a great shirt. It fits me very well and covers my arms at the right length. During activities such as kayaking where my arms move significantly, I did not notice any restrictions in movement. I also found it worked well for mountain biking, though I admit most of the time I was too busy trying not slam into trees than worry about my shirt's fit. There is something mildly terrifying about screaming around a corner at high speed, trying to stay ahead of teenagers who feel they are invincible while at the same time keeping up with the other adults in front of me so I don't get lost. This was only the second time I had been on a mountain bike on trails and the first time was more than 5 years ago.


The shirt also got very wet while I was kayaking (I lift my arms a bit too much) and while the shirt soaked up the water, it dried quickly and never caused me any discomfort. During mountain biking, I generated a reasonable amount of sweat. At least I thought I might have but it's tough to remember with the occasional screaming and wondering when I might get off the mountain bike and rest my tired and sore bottom. Twenty Miles (32.2 km) bouncing along on a crappy seat will do that to me. When I was backpacking, the weather also felt very hot due to unseasonably warm temperature combined with high humidity. In addition, my pack does not do a great job of providing air ventilation on my back. The result was the entire back of my shirt was soaking wet from sweat. I did not have any other sweaty areas and the shirt did a great job dispersing the heat and moisture from my body everywhere else. The Cool-Like shirt dried in less time than it took me to setup my camp (I am estimating under 30 minutes).

For the first two trips, I wore the Cool-Lite shirt the entire weekend that included all day and sleeping in it at night. As a sleep shirt, it worked very well and was very comfortable. For the third trip, I only wore it hiking during the daytime and used a different shirt to sleep in out of habit of not sleeping in the same shirt I backpacked in. I probably should have done that with the other two trips but I really wanted to test how it worked as a sleep shirt while camping in my hammock. During this time, I never noticed any offensive odors from the shirt.

After the third trip, I sent the Cool-Lite shirt through the washing machine on a normal, cold-water cycle with the rest of my backpacking cloths. Upon completion, I hung it up to dry on a line. The water coming out of the washer was dark brown so I know the shirt (and the rest of my cloths) absorbed significant amounts of dirt but the shirt still looked fantastic both before and after washing. I did not record the amount of time it took for the shirt to fully dry but it was no more than a couple of hours hanging on a line inside our house. I believe this time would have been shorter if I had hung it out to dry in the wind. After drying, I inspected it closely and found no signs of holes, tears, pilling or other durability concerns. It also fit the same way as before, indicating to me it did not shrink at all. Then again, I wouldn't expect any shrinkage as I washed it in cold water and line-dried it. I'm not about to send merino wool through the dryer.


The initial thoughts I had about it being a little scratchy are completely unfounded other than perhaps my mind working overtime and looking for a problem. Once I got into my first trip, I forgot about that concern entirely until I looked back at my initial report and remembered saw my notes.



1. Moisture dispersion - Did a great job of making the traditional areas not feel hot, sweaty or wet.

2. Odor Resistance - I've tried to make this shirt smell from sweat, from mountain biking, kayaking and backpacking. Never had it even detectable to my noise.

3. Color / Style and Fit - basically, I look *good* in this shirt. Well, as good as a 48-year-old dad who sits at a desk most days and only gets to weekend warrior occasionally out in the wilderness can look.


1. Label locations / amounts - although after time I forgot about the scratchiness of the labels, in an effort to reduce weight, I prefer if important label information is imprinted on the inside of the shirt material. I will likely remove the labels later and hope I don't forget it's a merino wool shirt (and shrink it by mistake).

This concludes my Field Report. Thank you to both and Icebreaker for allowing me to test the Men's Sphere SS Crewe Cool-Lite Shirt. The Long-Term Report should be completed within 2 months. Please check back then for further information



* Trek #1: Cole Canoe Base - Alger, Michigan USA - June 22-23, 2019. Temperatures ranged from 52 to 75F (11 to 24 C). The ground is mostly dirt and camp is very flat with few hills. There is significant tree and brush coverage. I did base camping here only for the night.

* Trek #2: Denali National Park - McKinley Park, Alaska - USA - July 9, 2019. Temperature was between 80 to 85 F (27 to 29 C). I completed Triple Lakes Hiking Trail that is 9.5 miles (15 km) with a backpack weighing roughly 15 lb (6.8 kg). Elevation changes roughly 1000 feet (305 meters) over the course of the trail, which was made up of mostly dirt with minor tree coverage.

* Trek #3: Manistee Trail Loop - Mesick, Michigan USA - July 17-19 2019. Temperature ranged from 70 to 95 F (21 to 35 C). There was 0.35 inches (0.9 cm) of rainfall during a brief thunderstorm one night. The high humidity resulted in a heat weather index (real feel temperature) of 105 F (41 C) during the long hike out on the last day. Terrain was dirt and sand with minor elevation changes. My backpack was 28 lb (12.7 kg) and I hiked 25 miles (40 km) in 3 days.


Over the last two months, I have used the Icebreaker shirt for several different camping and backpacking adventures. I have also gotten the pleasure of using it for a day hike up onto a glacier and another day hike through one of the iconic national parks in Alaska. The weather has been nearly perfect for testing the Sphere SS Crewe Cool-Lite, which means it has been ridiculously hot, even in Alaska.

The shirt performed exceptionally well in spite of the heat. Although I did sweat excessively, the shirt manages to keep me more comfortable than if I was wearing a normal dry-fit shirt like I have in the past.
Hot backpacking with 105F (41C) heat index

Hiking in Alaska - Sweat on back of shirt from pack

The dampness also acted to help keep me cooler when gusts of wind blew up along the trails. The shirt never felt cold or clammy and it dried quickly. I was not measuring the amount of time, but I estimate less than thirty minutes of dry time. For comparison's sake, the friend that I took on my backpacking trip was actually wringing out his headband and shirt. I never had to wring my shirt out and only felt dampness.

I also wore the shirt for multiple non-camping/backpacking events when we were in Alaska including climbing glaciers and walking around towns. This was because when we researched going to Alaska, we were led to believe it might be colder there, but instead they had a heat wave that brought record high temperatures. My wife and I only packed a few short-sleeved shirts for our two week trip. As such, I loaned her a couple of my shirts and instead I just reused the Icebreaker shirt for a good chunk of the trip. Thankfully, it performed great in the heat, not only keeping me cool but also never developing any noticeable odor.
Canoeing on Mendenhall Lake in route to glacier


I have worn the shirt I am estimating now for 25 (obviously non-continuous) days - some with high activities (camping, biking, gym workout, hiking, backpacking) and other normal daytime use. While it has not developed any offensive odors, I have chosen to wash it 5 times now. I have not found any signs of degradation in the material, holes or even pilling.


Looking back at my initial thoughts concerning itchiness, I can say they were unfounded. I have not experienced any negative feelings - either from the label or from the material. The shirt is very stylish, comfortable to wear and feels good against my skin. My wife has especially been eyeing it and I've so far managed to keep her from swiping it. I especially love the way merino wool pulls the sweat from my body but does not contain it in the material, nor does it collect any odors. I will definitely be keeping this shirt in my regular backpacking and camping rotation. The only reason I would not put it into my daily use rotation is I am not sure I can be disciplined enough to prevent it from going through the dryer which may cause it to shrink.

This concludes my long term report. I want to thank both and Icebreaker for letting me test this great shirt.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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