Icebreaker Layering System
Sheep do it and so does Icebreaker with their Icebreaker layering system. In the hot summer months of New Zealand’s Southern Alphs, Merino sheep have a light, fine, ultra-breathable coat that keeps them cool. When the cold blasts of winter set in, the sheep have prepared themselves by growning an extra layer of wool, that when combined with their base layer, keeps them warm and comfortable.
This then is the basis of the Icebreaker Layering System. Combining different layers of Merino wool material to achieve the ultimate in layering. Icebreaker garments are designed in such a way, that when combined, trap air between each layer to improve and boost the overall warmth of each piece.
Their first layer or base layer is designed to be worn next-to-skin for warmer weather conditions, then additional layers are used to increase overall warmth.
Unlike traditional wool your parents and grand parents probably used, Icebreaker’s merino fibres are ultra fine so that they don’t irritate your hair follicles and cause itching.
In the summer time, the Icebreaker merino wool keeps your skin cool by wicking sweat and vapor away from the body to help with evaporation management. Another bonus is merino breathes, helping the bodies cooling process.
In the winter the merino fabric uses moisture absorbed from the environment to generate heat (a process called “heat of sorption”).
For those that hate washing, Icebreaker merino resists odor naturally, and can be worn for days — even weeks — without washing. Now of course we don’t recommend this, but I can certainly attest to the fact that the sink factor isn’t anywhere near that of synthetic cloths. One thing of note. I recommend that when washing Icebreaker merino apparel, don’t use a dryer (Just drip dry).
I have several pieces of Icebreaker clothing and absolutely love every one of them. For me, Icebreaker excels in cool to cold weather layering. When you purchase Icebreaker you will notice different numbers on the garments. These numbers represent different weight values and are a good indication of how effective the material against cold. The higher the number the warmer the material is.
Icebreaker has five weights:
- Ultralite (150 g/m²)
- Lightweight (200 g/m²)
- Midweight (260 g/m²)
- Midlayer (320 g/m²)
- Outerlayer (380 g/m²).
From my experience the Ultralite and Lightweight tend to be the best during the summer months and a combination of the Ultralight/Lightweight with the Midweight/Midlayer/Outerlayer for cooler to really cold weather.
I tend to like synthetics during the hot months and totally switch to wool during the winter. While merino is good, I find that for me my sweat rate is so high that having lighter weight materials are better and don’t hold as much sweat.
When it’s cool I like to typically wear a base layer (150 or 200 weight) + a 2nd layer (200-320 weight). I also like to wear a vest that has wind block on it. Last night I went for a run with an Icebreaker lightweight (200) Quest long sleeve and a Rapha vest. One of the real benefits to wool in the winter is even when wet, due to sweating, the material can stay warm and keep you warmer than many synthetics.
To really get the entire scope of the Icebreaker layering system, check out their website.
Also check out our article on layering for cyclin