Icebreaker Merino Wool clothing – Spring/Summer 2016

An increasing number of runners, hikers and active travellers are using merino wool while exercising and when you first use this clothing it’s easy to see why. Devotees appreciate its warmth-to-weight ratio, soft feel and environmental sustainability, however it’s worth noting that not all merino is sourced ethically, with some still utilising the barbaric practice of ‘Mulesing’ - “where farmers painfully carve or clip chunks of flesh from lambs’ backsides.” Seriously, don’t Google the term to find out more as some of the photos I came across while researching ‘merino wool’ left me feeling physically and emotionally sick, and it’s inconceivable that companies still practice these methods in the 21st century!

Thankfully, Icebreaker are one of the good guys and they go into great detail on their website about how they strive to maintain an ethical stance around their relationship with nature, the land, and of course the sheep who supply the merino wool used in their products (visit their ethics pages for more information: http://uk.icebreaker.com/en/icebreaker-ethics/how-we-treat-animals.html). For this reason we’re proud to work with them and to encourage people to try their products. Here’s how we got on with some of their running kit over the 2016 spring/early summer season…

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Aero Short Sleeve Crewe – RRP £55 

They Say - The Men’s Aero SS crew is made from our lightest weight merino jersey, making it ideal for all warm weather sports. Whether you have a weekend full of active sports, hike a volcano or just want a great looking running shirt that you can wear day after day, the Aero’s flatlock seams and natural odour protection feel great and keep you fresh, no matter how hard you play.

  • Fabric weight:    120 Featherweight
  • Fabric:    90% Merino wool, 10% Nylon
  • Product Weight:    Medium = 135 g / 4.76 oz
  • Fit:    Regular
  • Layer:  First Layers
  • Best for:   Running & Fitness, Yoga & Studio, Outdoor & Hiking
  • Benefits:    Lightweight, Breathable, Quick Drying
  • Features:    Crewe neck, set-in sleeves, flatlock seams prevent chafing, contrast inner back neck tape and stitching
  • Care:   Machine wash. Dries fast in the shade, but do not tumble dry. Exact instructions on the care label.

Short sleeve crew

We Say - Icebreaker’s rating of ‘featherweight’ means they suggest this shirt is ideal for ‘warm to hot conditions’ however I’d add the caveat that if you wear this for a long distance run then you’re likely to end up looking like you’ve fallen into a lake en route, as was the case when I wore this top while competing in a local Half Marathon…

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Admittedly I’d overexerted myself chasing a personal best (which I achieved!) and I do tend to overheat when running fast, however I’d recommend this course for cool days if running long-distance or exercising strenuously, and only for warm days if you’re walking or running short distances. I wore the shirt again for a 5km race where I was pacing a friend at a much slower pace and although it didn’t quite have the moisture wicking credentials of a polyester t-shirt, it was much more comfortable and seemed to encourage airflow which kept me cool.

In fact, along with the Quantum jacket this shirt has become one of my favourite items of clothing for travelling as not only is it incredibly lightweight and comfortable, but it also seems to suit all climate conditions – especially when stepping onto a plane in cold Britain, spending hours battered by airline air conditioning, then emerging into a hot climate at the other end as was the case when I travelled for both the Rome Marathon in April and the Challenge Denmark triathlon in June.

It’s also worth pointing out that unlike most woollen products, this shirt will survive going through the washing machine (although admittedly I’ve opted for low heat with reduced spin out of fear) and although I’ve generally made an effort to air-dry the shirt, it has survived the odd occasion when my partner has tumble-dried it by accident. Overall this is a great, comfortable, multi-purpose t-shirt which I feel is ideal for an active traveller.

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Cool-Lite Strike 5 Inch Shorts – RRP £65 

They Say - Elevate your comfort during high performance activities with the Strike 5″ Short. Purpose built for maximum mobility and comfort with minimal weight, Strike uses a super lightweight recycled Polyester shell and Icebreaker’s Cool-Lite™ ultra breathable fabric liner. Cool-Liteâ„¢ combines merino with TENCEL® and Nylon to ensure maximum breathability and comfort in hot conditions. For even better ventilation, we’ve cut laser holes along the side seam of the shell, and then we added pockets for gels on the back of the hips for access on the move. A zipped key pocket is ideal for a car key, credit card or a few bucks in case you need it, and the elastic waistband has a smooth, comfortable interior so you stay chaffe free, mile after mile. Reflective branding adds just enough visibility to help out those night-time workouts.

  • Fabric weight:    160 Ultralight
  • Inseam:    34 = 12.7cm, 5″
  • Fabric:    100% recycled Polyester shell, 61% merino/19% TENCEL®/14% Nylon/6% LYCRA® liner
  • Product Weight:    Medium = 130 g / 4.59oz
  • Fit:    Regular
  • Layer:  First Layers
  • Best for:   Running & Fitness, Outdoor & Hiking
  • Benefits:    Lightweight, Breathable
  • Features:    Secure zippered back stash pocket, mesh gel pocket, elastic waistband with interior draw cord for adjustability, laser cut ventilation holes, Icebreaker Cool-Liteâ„¢ fabric liner
  • Care:   Machine wash. Dries fast in the shade, but do not tumble dry. Exact instructions on the care label.

Cool shorts

We Say - The ‘ultralight’ weight indicated means these shorts are recommended for ‘all season performance’ and as someone who tends to run in shorts in all seasons I’d have to agree. Unlike most of Icebreaker’s merino wool range, these shorts use ‘Cool-Lite’ fabric which means the liner consists of a blend of merino wool, nylon, Lycra and ‘Tencel’ – a fibre made from sustainably-produced wool – and while I’m not an expert on fabric manufacturing methods, I can confirm they are incredibly comfortable compared to standard polyester running shorts.

The design is subtle with just a small logo on the front left corner, and although the rear zipped pocket is too small for most mobile phones (instead designed for keys, money or a bank card), an additional mesh pocket is offset to the rear right-hand side for energy gels. Initially I worried my gels would be able to escape this pocket when racing, however they seemed to stay in place and if anything the location meant gels were easier to reach, although admittedly I didn’t feel I’d be confident with any more than 3 gels held here.

I also tested these shorts while swimming and the blend of merino/Tencel wool in the lining meant they were also comfortable when worn without underwear (also ideal if you prefer going commando while running!), although in this situation I would have to complain about the elasticated waistband as it’s so stretchy I didn’t feel I was able to tighten this enough, and as a result I didn’t feel confident fast swimming wouldn’t lead to me being banned from my gym for indecent exposure…

Quantum Long Sleeve Zip Hood – RRP £160 

They Say - The first time you wear the men’s Quantum Long Sleeve Zip Hoodie, you’ll be amazed by its combination of lightweight, warmth, and softness. If you wear it during a hike, ski touring, or running in cold weather, you’ll be struck by how well it breathes as you warm up. The mid-weight 260gm merino terry fabric helps draw moisture away from your body, and remains comfortable in a huge temperature range, with eyelet mesh panels on the sides to maximize breathability. And the more you move, the more you’ll appreciate the way the Quantum Long Sleeve Zip Hood is engineered, with raglan sleeves, flatlock seams and a fitted hood. It’s so comfortable, so easy to move in, you’ll want to wear it for every cool weather activity. And because it resists odour naturally, you can.

  • Fabric weight:    260 Midweight
  • Fabric:    Main: 98% Merino wool, 2% LYCRA®, Mesh eyelet: 98% Merino wool, 2% LYCRA®
  • Product Weight:    Medium = 540 g / 19.05 oz
  • Fit:    Slim
  • Layer:  Mid Layers
  • Best for:   Running & Fitness,  Snow Sports
  • Benefits:    Warm, versatile, Breathable, odor-resistant
  • Features:    Mesh underarm for maximum breathability, reflective center zip, shaped hood for warmth and protection, secure zippered chest pocket with media cord port, secure zippered front hand pockets, drop tail hem for added coverage
  • Care:   Machine wash. Dries fast in the shade, but do not tumble dry. Exact instructions on the care label.

Quantum hooded jacket

We Say - I absolutely love this jacket!! Admittedly I do love a good hoodie and have worked my way through a number of variants over the years with most losing shape, fading or just generally looking crap after a few months of constant use, however this jacket has been worn multiple times and taken a beating when carrying backpacks and shoulder bags, yet it still looks as good as the day it arrived (although admittedly at £160 it is quite expensive, so it’s a given you’d expect it to last longer than your typical hoodie!). This time around ‘midweight’ means the jacket is ‘best suited for colder conditions’ and although the jacket’s material is thin compared to most hoodies, the merino wool does a great job of locking in heat while still allowing your body to breathe keeping you cool while exercising.

As with the Aero short-sleeve shirt, the high merino wool content means this jacket is comfortable enough to be worn as a single layer if required, and also lightweight making it ideal to carry around as an emergency jacket – useful when the weather is as unpredictable as it has been in England this spring! The jacket also features a surprisingly roomy pocket on the left side of your chest (easily large enough to fit a phone with a 6 inch screen), zipped pockets, and thumb holes – a feature which may seem unimportant to some, but one which stops the sleeves from creeping up while exercising (making it ideal for those cold winter runs), and also makes layering much easier by removing that annoying ‘bunching up’ which can occur when adding one fabric layer on top of another.

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It’s worth pointing out that this jacket lives up to its claim of slim fit so if you don’t enjoy close fitting clothing then it may be worth opting for something else in Icebreaker’s range, however as a travelling jacket, post-sport layer, emergency jacket or for any other occasion where you want a lightweight but warm layer then this piece of kit is ideal and well recommended.

To find out more about Icebreaker’s range of merino wool sports clothing, visit: http://uk.icebreaker.com/en/home

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