Feb 11, 2005 at 9:31 pm #1215891
I’m a newcomer to the site, and I must say it’s a pleasure to see all the gear freaks congregated in one place! My current conundrum is making the plunge from all-synthetic baselayers to all-wool. I’ve been cruising the sites of Ibex, Icebreaker, and Smartwool, trying to get weights and performance information. Could someone give me an idea of the relative durability and performance of, say 200g thickness wool as a lightweight and base layer. Mainly thinking of how the Smartwool LW zip tee stacks up against the Ibex woolies zip tee and the Icebreaker mondo zip. And how does Smartwool versalite fare in the breathability and liveability category (most things I’ve seen on it have been positive)? And finally, how do the wool t-shirts from these respective companies really perform in the wicking/dry-time category? I must say it would have to be significantly better than my old standby Duotherm hydroduct t-shirt, especially at those prices! I know this is a long post, but any feedback would be appreciated, especially when I’m thinking about laying down that kind of money.Feb 13, 2005 at 10:31 pm #1335701
my absolute favorite piece of clothes on hiking trips is definetely the Icebreaker Superfine 190g. In my case I just love the “U-turn” long sleeve shirt. it is extremely comfortable to wear.Even in summer I’m wearing it and although I’m sweating very fast I never felt uncomfortable.I can only recommend it.For me all heavier Icebreaker shirts are too warm in summer, but excellent in colder conditions.
RolandFeb 13, 2005 at 11:17 pm #1335702
Can’t offer much in the way of comparisons, but…
I have a Smartwool Microweight zip-t that performs like a champ. I recently wore it 3 days in a row under only a montane windshirt in extremely damp subfreezing conditions–even after hiking at full tilt for over an hour, never got chilled when I stopped, and was still dry enough each night. The crew version might be better for warmer conditions, but I seldom backpack in temps above 80. I’d recommend smartwool microweight over versalite, which is heavier, slower drying (only b/c it absorbs more in the first place), and might only be better for extreme cold. However, the microweight zip + a Possum fur / merino vest has provided me the ideal winter baselayer. The only other products I would consider are the superfine icebreakers like Roland’s, which do look sweet.
Glad to hear you’re enjoying the site, Dave. Cheers.Feb 14, 2005 at 8:34 pm #1335721
Can anyone recommend an equivalent to the Smartwool Aero Zip-T from a couple of years ago? This was a long sleeve, turtle-neck, very thin shirt with a very deep zipper. Mine is starting to get holes in it, and I want something as similar as possible.Feb 20, 2005 at 5:01 pm #1335830
The smartwool zip-t I talk about above is pretty close to the aero in thickness. See it at
Not sure why SW stopped making the aero shirts almost a year before releasing the lightweight/microweight models. ? Seemed like a mistake to me. Anyway, SW offers little technical info on the thicknesses of their various wools, so tough to compare w/ Icebreakers.Feb 20, 2005 at 8:23 pm #1335833
I have two of the IBEX Zepher zip T necks and love them. They have performed well and have held up. They are currently on sale at Ibexwear.com for $55. And, they are made in the US.Mar 1, 2005 at 2:43 pm #1335949
I believe that the washing instructions for Ibex and Icebreaker are to machine wash and hang dry, while Smartwool’s instructions allow machine drying. This was the deciding factor for me in choosing Smartwool’s lightweight zip-T, and microweight boxers and T-shirt. I’d like to see Smartwool make a long sleeve top in the microweight material, which dries quicker than the lightweight material and is more suitable for year round use.Mar 1, 2005 at 3:52 pm #1335950
There is nothing unique about Smartwool wool that makes it somehow immune to the damage caused by the heat of an automatic dryer. Smartwool uses the same Merino wool as Ibex and Icebreaker. The special physical and chemical properties that make wool such a wonderful fiber will indeed be degraded if repeatedly dryed in an automatic dryer. I’ve looked at many slides of wool fibers with electron microscope and there is no doubt whatsover that substantial degradation occurs. Air dry it—it dries plenty fast for me.Mar 1, 2005 at 6:04 pm #1335952
@strider518Locale: Whatcom County
My favorite pair of wool ski socks became my son’s ski socks after a trip through the dryer. I salvaged an England made balaclava by stretching it over my head. Keep wool out of the dryer!Mar 1, 2005 at 6:15 pm #1335953
@skaarupLocale: Cold, wet and windy Scandinavia
Wool don´t stink like poly. :-)Mar 1, 2005 at 9:30 pm #1335955
@ryanLocale: Northern Rockies
Smartwool Aero and Lightweight are in the same fabric weight class. Smartwool rebranded their line last year from Aero/Trad to Light/Mid (Aero = Lightweight, Trad = Midweight) to be more consistent with industry nomenclature for base layers.Mar 13, 2005 at 2:12 pm #1336121
Thanks for the info. I was thinking maybe Smartwool used some extra processing/treatment (like SUPERWASH) to make their garments less suceptible to shrinkage and other degradation from machine drying.Sep 18, 2005 at 5:33 pm #1341767
I’ve been shopping for lightweight wool and was told by an salesperson that there is an important difference between Ibex, Smartwool and Icebreaker: Icebreaker is the only one that does not ‘preshrink’ their wool. So, says the salesperson, one should buy Icebreaker a size larger if it’s going to find it’s way into a dryer. Also that the preshrinking process removes natural oils and renders the garment less resillient or able to recover from stretching.
This is all second hand, so any corrections/verification of degree or fact by those in the know would be great.Sep 18, 2005 at 7:54 pm #1341774
@andrew_browneLocale: Mornington Peninsula AUSTRALIA
The label states “Warm or cool machine wash, close all zips before washing, wash colours seperately, line dry or dry flat in shade, warm iron, do not tumble dry, drycleanable, up to 5% shrinkage”
my wife follows the above with my 3 Icebreaker tops and I have experienced no shrinkage at all…..in fact one of the tops is a little too large and I’ve been hoping it would shrink a little..but none after 6 months…Am considering placing it in the clothes dryer to get some shrinkage!Sep 19, 2005 at 2:33 am #1341779
@pjLocale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
have used wool garments for years. pre-shrinking should NOT remove natural oils. washing in a detergent (at the very least soap+surfactant = detergent) will remove natural oils. in my experience, it is the drying process (like even on low heat in a dryer) that causes the vast majority of the shrinkage. as far as resilience and recovery, don’t know for sure, but it sounds logical and makes sense as long as one means that it won’t stretch quite as far as before shrinking without breaking fibers.
tried this once (i.e. drying on low heat) with an inexpensive merino (or so it claimed) wool sweater from a big name retailer. overall, it was a very nice sweater. just a tad itchy which makes me question the quality of the merino wool & the garments manufacturing (merino wool like that used in Poss’mDown is the only wool i can wear and not feel “lousey” (sic) and be scratching prit’ near continuously).
dried it on low heat for maybe 40min – dryer used a humidity sensor to determine “drying time”, so i’m not sure how long it was actually subjected to the “low” heat. garment shrunk to small kid sized – so gave it away to some younger friends from our local church who have a couple of boys.
my advice to you, if you feel that you really want to do this, is to check it every 5 minutes. try it on each time to check the fit. then proceed appropriately.Sep 24, 2005 at 5:35 am #1341930
icebreaker longsleeve 190g is 10oz in Large…I’ve used this in 50-70 deg temps/and for sleeping. It’s very comfortable, and great at regulating heat. Doesn’t stink even after 3 days of my heavy sweat…p.s. there is no top stitching going over the shoulder, so it’s meant to be comfortable w/ a pack–
I also bought a stack of icebreaker crew short sleeve’s and smartwool short sleeve t’s. smartwool is a better deal on the crew t’s but–icebreaker has more style (2-tone)-so up to you..
the crew t’s come in at about 7oz-capilene clothing is about 2oz lighter, but after 10 years–I’m going to have to say the new OLD school of wool products is much better — stink factor and comfort (think soft cotton t) wins it..
I’ve found the icebreaker 190g/200g and smartwool shirts are comfortable in cool and hot georgia weather…I think the heavier knit products would be for mountaineering, skiing, cold weather prospects.
My wife has a whole set of wool tops–her favorite phrase, “don’t be jealous of my icebreakers.” then i found a sale at high country– 40%off..she’s the jealous one now…
–our layering system includes– one smartwool shortsleeve crew, one icebreaker long-sleeve crew, capilene bottoms, patagonia houdini windtop and windpants, pata micropuff vest, pata specter WP pullover, golite umbrella.Sep 24, 2005 at 9:03 am #1341936
@pjLocale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
great layering system! now, i’m the jealous one!!!
looks like you’ve designed a very versatile system – perfect for whatever nature throws your way.
agree with you on “the new OLD school of wool products”, as you termed it – good description. my experience, as far as upper body layering is concerned, is limited to Smartwool Zip-T’s and Poss’mDown Sweaters & Vests (all very nice garments).
good post. thanks. i’m going to look into the Icebreaker garments. thanks for sharing your experiences.Sep 24, 2005 at 11:10 am #1341942
@don-1-2-2Locale: Koyukuk River, Alaska
Hi all –
Good discussion. Most of us at BPL concur that wool performs very well, even in hot weather – so we will take a closer look at garments, performance, fabrics, etc in 2006. Expect an overview and analysis of base layers, including synthetics.
BPL Clothing Section EditorSep 24, 2005 at 12:47 pm #1341948
Thank you Paul…I’ve really enjoyed being able to shop all this great equipment w/o too much concern for price. However, I have to admit some icebreaker shirts are hella expensive @ $60-$70, but I’ve found some web sales and in-store deals that brought them down to about $30-$40 a top.
I wear them as part of my regular wardrobe, so I went out and spent about $200 to buy 5 new shirts…
Yes the shirts shrink by about 10-20%, however, I think you’ll notice that a Large at the store will fit you like an XL, but after you wash it–it’s just right.
The main thing to avoid with wool garments-is washing in really hot water and/or drying in really high heat…
I have a feeling that–silver impregnated poly’s, and capilene poly–are in for some tuff competition. Wish I could buy stock..Sep 24, 2005 at 1:00 pm #1341951
If anyone still knows where to find Icebreaker tops on discount, please pass that info along! I’ve been wanting a short sleeve model, but at $70, ‘hella expensive’ is right.
-JDec 29, 2006 at 10:10 am #1372321
I have a smartwool light weight T-shirt which I have had for 3 years now and used moderately. It like it, it is more comfortable than synthetic (i.e. Patagonia capilene) because it does not have that slight "sticky" feel on skin that has dried sweat on it. It is also less smelly. I cant say it is any different warmth wise. However, in my opinion a major drawback of these "new" wool garments is durability. Whereas my 15 year old capilene has hardly a hole in it my 3 year old Smartwool shirt already has a number of small holes and some larger ones that are starting to rip. I have to be super carefull pulling the shirt off when I am sweaty and it is sticking to me. I doubt I will get more than one more season out of it. Combined with the higher initial cost this is an important consideration when purchasing these garments. I should add that I do machine wash the shirt and I do use the drier on a warm setting so maybe this has weakened it (although I consider not being able to machine dry to be a major drawback for any garment).
DavidDec 29, 2006 at 12:37 pm #1372333
i have a lot of ice breaker tops—-i work outdoors and wear them autumn to spring —-always wash in machine—40 centrigrade
tumble dry warm— they do not shrink—i am sure tumble drying is not good for any garment —-the lint produced was part of my expensive top—-durability?—-only last about 3 years–i never buy the thinnest 190? grade as i can thin them down myself
happy new yearDec 29, 2006 at 1:28 pm #1372336
>The label states "Warm or cool machine wash, close all zips before washing, wash colours seperately, line dry or dry flat in shade, warm iron, do not tumble dry, drycleanable, up to 5% shrinkage"
my wife follows the above with my 3 Icebreaker tops and I have experienced no shrinkage at all…..in fact one of the tops is a little too large and I've been hoping it would shrink a little..but none after 6 months…Am considering placing it in the clothes dryer to get some shrinkage
!don't do it! it will shrink in torso length only and then you will have a billowy short shirt. i'm speaking from experience, having tried the "DIY shrink" myself. you're better off having it slightly large than having some sort of wierd "shkirt". there's nothing worse than having a $70 shirt that looks like a mumu.
in my experience the icebreaker 190 and bodyfit 260 do not shrink much at all, even in a low-heat dryer. the 320 weight (like the rock zip) seems more succeptable to shrinkage.
ibex' 19 micron weight seems to shrink in the torso area if you are not careful. i'm not sure if this has to do with the extremely light weave.Feb 19, 2010 at 4:42 am #1575763
Has anyone used the Patagonia 4? Curious to know how it compares with the Icebreaker or Smartwool products – seems to be rather thick for a baselayer.
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