Icebreaker breaks their
clothing down into three categories: Skin Layer, Mid Layer, and Outer
Layer. The Skin layer is the soft, breathable, next to skin layer,
whereas the other two layers provide varying additional layers of
warmth. Each layer is broken down into tops and bottoms of various
styles. This report series is for two items from the
Skin Layer. These items are the Skin 200 Lightweight Merino Underwear
Oasis Crewe and the Bodyfit 260 Tech Top.
200 Lightweight Merino Underwear Oasis Crewe
top is 100% pure merino, and based on my experiences with wool I never
would have guessed it. The shirt is packaged in a box that provides all
kinds of useful information about the advantages of wool, presumably
compared to the synthetic competitors: no stink, breathes better, warms
better, and feels better. I often have my doubts about the 'feels
better' claim. I usually find wool to be itchier and less durable than
synthetics, but one touch of this top changed my mind. It is incredibly
soft - softer than any tops I have, both synthetic or wool, other than
a fresh new fleece. Only time (and testing) will tell how durable it
top is a typical crew shape - long sleeved, regular neck, and no
pockets or zippers. This size small shirt fits snugly, even tightly,
next to my skin but doesn't feel too small. According to how the shirt
fits on the model on the website, I expected it to be a tight fit. The
size guide on the Icebreaker website only provided a bust and height
measurement as a guideline, and I fall right on the size Small
measurement for the bust (35 in). The arms are a little bit long, and
the shirt extends below the waist. I like shirts that fit this way -
the extra length in the arms and torso keep them from rising up on me
when carrying a pack.
a next to skin layer, the material is light weight and thin. I have
experienced 100% wool tops of this weight wearing through at the hips
and shoulders, so I am curious to see if this holds up to my regular
use and abuse! The photo below is of my ceiling
light shining through the taut fabric of the Skin200 top.
260 Tech Top
The Bodyfit 260 Tech Top is also a 100% merino wool top within the Skin
Layer line, but it is a heavier weight fabric than the Skin200. It has
some nice additional features as well. The zip-up collar is
configurable to three different positions, and there are also thumb
loops so as to extend the arms over the palms of the hand.
top fits looser than the Skin200 top, even though it is also a size
small. Like the Skin200, the arms and torso are a bit long, which is a
design I like. It is still a fitted shape and there isn't room for much
underneath it, but I could easily fit another silk weight or lightweight
top as a base layer beneath it. I will test it in both configurations -
next to skin and layered over a base layer.
The Skin200 top contains two Icebreaker labels - on the cuff of the
left arm there is a 'Skin200' tag, and on the right side there is an
Icebreaker tag sticking out. On the Bodyfit260, the same Icebreaker tag
sticks out of the right side panel, and there is also an Icebreaker
logo stitched over the left breast. It is of the same color as the
shirt however, so it is barely noticeable. I do not mind labels on the
gear I use since they can show a sense of pride and confidence by the
manufacturer, but I do not like it when it is too big, bright and
flashy. The Icebreaker labels are fine for my tastes.
Both tops have very simple, average machine washing instructions. Other
than a separate wash the first time, these tops can be tossed in with
all of my other clothes. They shouldn't be put in the dryer, however.
on My Test Plan
In all of the Icebreaker documentation (tags, packaging, and website),
there are two features that they seem to emphasize the most. The first
is that their tops will not stink, even after two weeks of heavy use,
and the other is that the Icebreaker merino wool is fantastically soft.
So, in addition to my regular test practices of testing fit,
durability, comfort, and so-on, I will specifically focus on the feel
and the stink of the shirts after a long period of wear. I've already
begun to wear the Skin200 top running every day without washing it.
When the Field Report is posted, I'll be able to say how it smelled
after two weeks! In addition, I'll regularly be wearing these tops as
my next to skin layer, both with and without layers, so if there is any
chance of them being itchy, I'll notice it!
concludes my Initial Report. Please check back in approximately two
months to read about further testing of the Icebreaker tops!
Report: April 10, 2007
Wearing the Icebreaker tops over the past two months has been a very
positive experience. I have had them out in a
variety of conditions, although due to an unforeseen light winter I
have not been able to wear them in temperatures as low as I would have
first trip with the Icebreaker tops was in early February in El Dorado
National Forest. I did an easy dayhike on snowshoes where the
temperatures were warm and the sun was shining. It was 55 F
(12.5 C) when I started off on the hike and climbed over 60 F (15.5 C)
as the day progressed. I wore the Skin200 with a fleece vest
and was warm and comfortable. The black was sometimes a bit
intense with the bright sun and reflective snow, but overall I was very
comfortable and when I found myself sweating on short uphill climbs I
dried off quickly. At camp that night I decided to keep the
Skin200 top on for sleeping, and I also wore it through the next day's
light dayhiking. After 36 hours of wear the shirt had no
noticeable odor to it. I usually keep a stash of clean
clothes in the car to change into if I want fresh
clothes for the drive home, but in this case I didn't feel the
need to change since the top still seemed fresh. I
did not feel uncomfortable wearing it into a restaurant where
we stopped for lunch on our drive home.
than wash the Skin200 when I got home, I draped it over the back of a
chair and saved it for an overnighter the following weekend.
The shirt had no obvious smell, so I wanted to see if it would start to
smell the next weekend if I did not wash it between uses. The
following weekend was a snow camping trip in Lassen National
Forest. The first day of the trip was incredibly warm and
sunny for a snow trip, with sunny blue skies and the temperature
hovering around 60 F (16 C). Overnight a cold front moved through and
the second day was overcast and chillier, around 40 F (4 C).
On the first day's snowshoe in to camp I again wore the Skin200 top
with a fleece vest. I sweat quite a lot on the hike since the
sun was very warm and I was moving uphill with a pack on my
back. I kept the top on as a base layer for the full two
days, and once again it was odorless at the end of the
use of the tops has been in the San Francisco Bay Area. I wore the
Bodyfit 260 Tech top on an overnight backpack in Point Reyes National
Seashore along the Northern California coast. The
temperature was approximately 70 F (21C) during the day,
dropping to the mid 40s F (7 C) at night. Coastal weather is
always difficult to predict - if the fog doesn't blow out it can be
cold and damp, but if the fog clears it can be beautiful. I
had expected a foggy day so I wore the heavier of the two tops, the
Bodyfit 260. I was incredibly warm on the hike into camp, but
since it was just a short stroll I didn't bother changing into a
lighter top. Once at camp I wore a tank
top, but the Bodyfit 260 was a perfect layer to add for warmth as the
tops were also used on several dayhikes in the Bay Area.
The Bodyfit260 top was worn on a dayhike to Montara Mountain,
peak on the coast just south of San Francisco. The day was
in the middle 40s to lower 50s F, (7-10 C) and foggy, and the heavier
top was perfect when paired with a lightweight fleece. The
following week both tops were used on an overnight car camping trip to
Big Basin State Park. This was over a nice spring weekend
the sun shining and temperatures in the lower 70s F (21 C). Although
they were worn on dayhikes, again I was most impressed by their
inability to hold an odor. When I got home all of my gear and
clothing smelled like campfire except for the two Icebreaker wool tops.
They simply didn't smell like anything - body odor or
I also wore the Skin200 on a long peak bagging hike on the
just north of Big Sur. I had prepared for typical coastal
conditions - cold and foggy - but it ended up being hot and sunny.
The Skin200, although lightweight, was far too warm given its
black color under the sun. The following weekend I planned a
inland hike and chose not to wear either of the Icebreaker tops since I
knew they would be too warm under the sun.
I am incredibly pleased with the performance of the Icebreaker
If I had
anything to complain
about with the tops, it would be the color. Admittedly, the
color choice was mine, and I expected to encounter much colder
temperatures this winter than I actually did. The tops,
the perfect weights for many of my hikes during the Field Test Period,
were frequently too hot on the trail due to the blazing sun on the
black material. If I had a choice again I would choose a
color so that the tops would be more useful during all four seasons.
comfort and fit, which go hand-in-hand, are perfect; the material is
soft and never itchy, the seams, even on the zippered neck of the
Bodyfit260, are unnoticeable, and the tops are fitted to the perfect
length so that they do not 'ride-up' behind a pack.
wash very well - I put them in with my regular laundry and
pull them out to air dry before throwing the rest of the load in the
dryer. They air dry quickly and perfectly back to
their original shape. On one occasion I accidentally threw
the Bodyfit 260 into the dryer with the rest of the wash.
Expecting it to come out shrunken and/or damaged, I was very pleased to
see that it came out just fine. It didn't shrink or
tops have not stretched or become 'saggy' over time and they still fit
as if new every time I put one of them on.
are the first outdoor sport tops I have used, including other wool
tops, that do not retain any kind of body odor.
thumb loops in the
Bodyfit260 provide some nice additional warmth when doing things in
camp where gloves are difficult to use, such as lighting and fine
tuning the flame on a stove. I also discovered another perk
these - when using trekking poles sometimes I get hot spots on my hands
where the straps rub. The thumb loops on the Bodyfit260
my hands from these straps.
the course of
dayhiking and geocaching I went off trail from time to time and managed
to catch both tops on bushes and trees. Neither top has a
any kind of damage from these off trail adventures.
few weeks ago I found
myself accidentally walking through a patch of poison oak. I
nylon hiking pants on along with the Bodyfit260 top. The
oak touched me from shoulder level down to my feet. My legs
broken out in a very uncomfortable poison oak rash, but there is no
sign of it on my upper body. I do not know if the top had
anything to do with it, but I do know that I was equally exposed on the
top of my body as I was the bottom of my body. With no
evidence to back me up, my theory is that the poison oak oils had an
easier time permeating the synthetic pant material than the wool top.
This concludes my Field Report. Please check back in two
months for my Long Term Report.
Term Report: June 12, 2007
During the Long Term Test period I have used the tops on a backpack
trip along the cool Northern California Lost Coast, while dayhiking and
car camping on the hot eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and
while backpacking near snow line in Desolation Wilderness next to Lake
Tahoe. Although the Long Term test period has covered the warm
late spring and early summer, I found myself using the heavier
Bodyfit260 much more frequently than the Skin200. This is
because the Skin200, although lighter in weight than the Bodyfit260, is
a tight, next-to-skin layer that functions much better as a base layer
in cold weather. The Bodyfit260, while heaver, is a looser
fitting shirt that allows for a comfortable middle or outer layer on
summer mornings and evenings.
With the rainy and cloudy winter season over in California, wearing a
long sleeve black top for daytime hiking has become unnecessary and
dangerously warm. The Skin200, with its close-to-skin fit and
comfortable stretch, made a wonderfully comfortable base layer when
paired with other layers in the snow and winter cold. However,
once the sun came out and temperatures rose, such a layer became
uncomfortable and impractical. Even though it is a lightweight
shirt, the long sleeves and black color made it simply too warm to wear
for hiking activities. I cannot wear the Skin200 over anything
due to its fit, so it doesn't work as an additional layer over a
lighter weight short sleeve base. Had the shirt been a different
color, I may have been able to wear it on some of my sunny but cooler
hikes - but unfortunately the black made it too warm for even those
conditions. I did use it for sleeping and for hanging around camp
on cool nights, and I can confirm my observations in my field report -
it is wonderfully soft and comfortable next to my skin and I plan on
using it extensively once the snow flies again next fall and winter.
The Bodyfit260 was used heavily during the Long Term Test period as a
middle and outer layer, usually paired with a base layer sport tank
top. Compared to several other shirts I own within the same
weight range (all synthetic and zip-tops that weigh within an ounce of
the Bodyfit260), the Icebreaker top provides much more insulation.
It has the best warmth to weight ratio of any shirt in my
backpacking arsenal. Since I used it primarily in the morning and
evening and under jackets, I can't attribute the extra warmth to the
The Bodyfit260 was my warmth layer of choice for every hike
(backpacking and dayhiking) during the Long Term Test period, suffering
all the abuses that this entails. It was regularly shoved into a
pack, removed from the pack and put on, shoved back in the pack,
squished into compression sacks, tied around my waist, sleeves pulled
up and down, zipped and unzipped, and soaked with sweat. After
each adventure it would be thrown in the laundry with no special care -
it would simply be tossed in with all of my other dusty, trail-grimed
One feature of the Bodyfit260 that I found to be unexpectedly useful
are the thumb loops. I hike with trekking poles, and my trekking
poles often get grimy and dirty my hands up quite a bit. I also
don't like how the hand straps rub on the inner part of my hand,
between the thumb and palm. When I wrap the thumb loops around my
hand, they protect this part of my hand from the rubbing and they also
keep my hands much cleaner. There is no sign of wear on these
thumb loops from the trekking pole straps, which is more than I can say
about my hands!
Long Term Observations
These tops have survived remarkably well. The Bodyfit260, which
has especially been significantly used and abused over the past couple
of months, has done especially well. In addition to the outdoor abuses,
I've accidentally sent both through wrong wash cycles and thrown them
into the dryer on a high temperature. Looking at the two tops
laying before me right now, I would think they had just been pulled off
a store rack, they are in such great condition. There is no
degradation of quality or material thickness, and they look amazingly
fresh and new. I don't know if a lighter color would show more
wear, but if they are permanently stained or dirty the black does an
excellent job of hiding it. There is no fading to the black color
- I've noticed that over time, some black dyes will get a bit grey and
faded, but both Icebreaker tops are still as 'vibrant' as black can be.
There is no sign of wear from pack straps or belts on either top,
even though they were both worn with packs on several occasions.
The most important thing about the Icebreaker tops, however, is the
comfort. They are exceptionally comfortable and soft. The
only other wool I've been able to wear next-to-skin is a designer 100%
cashmere wool sweater, and these 100% merino wool Icebreaker tops
actually feel softer than the cashmere!
Prior to this test, I
had been impressed by Icebreaker clothing but had
the impression that it was overpriced. I now see that these tops
are intended to last a long, long time, and I do not see a need to
replace them after a season of use, like I might with some of my lesser
quality athletic clothing. I expect these tops to have long life
and to be using them for many
seasons to come. I want to thank Icebreaker for testing with
BackpackGearTest and for making this test a joy to complete thanks to
the high quality of the tops.