The first time I heard about Icebreaker was about 5 or 6 years ago when together with my Adventure Tourism students I went for a short “gear talk” to our local outdoor shop. The sales guy told us that they had some t-shirts that were “really cool” because you could wear them for a long time and they wouldn’t ‘stink’. So they are probably the best T-Shirt for hiking.
What he said made me really interested so I decided to have a look at them, but was immediately taken back by the price. “What? 60 Euro? I never…” I said to myself and moved on to other things.
But you know what they say – “never say never”, and indeed, after a while, I bought one Icebreaker t-shirt and was immediately sold. And now, I am a happy owner and user of a rather large ‘collection’ of various Icebreaker items (ranging from t-shirts to sweaters and from gloves to underwear) and I still cannot seem to have enough of them still. And here is the countdown of the five most important reasons why I would buy Icebreaker T-Shirts.
Wearing my icebreaker while packrafting in Poland this spring
Reason 5: Icebreaker t-shirts look nice
I like the cut (in most cases they make me look rather slim and trim) and I love the colors and color combinations. Recently, Icebreaker has also started to produce t-shirts with prints. And they are good. What I understood from their brochures, they sometimes work with famous artists on the design and when you buy a t-shirt like that, it almost feels like you also buy a piece of art.
And talking about the prints, right now I have two Icebreaker t-shirts like that. One of them is with a print of a mountain range across the chest, and the other with a bike and a canoe attached to it. Yes, it is about bikerafting - a very suitable shirt for my kind of sport. Of course, having a packraft on it would be even better, but I think it is still a bit too early to ask for it. Or can I?
And you know what? The designs are so nice that I feel very comfortable to wear them at work (I am a lecturer) and I have got a number of very positive comments from my colleagues and students about the way they looked on me. And not all of those people are even into the outdoors. So, in a way, it is possible to say that those t-shirts acted as conversational icebreakers.
A ‘bikerafting’ print on my Icebreaker t-shirt (on the left) and fitting in with my colleagues at work (on the right)
Reason 4: Icebreaker t-shirts feel soft
For me wool was always something very warm and very itchy. Actually wool and itchy were almost synonymous. And indeed, what can you expect if most of the wool in my childhood was either regular sheep’s wool, or, in some rare cases, lamb’s or camel’s wool (I have a very warm and very itchy blanket that caused many a sleepless night). Cashmere was probably the only soft wool that I knew, but it was very expensive and very delicate (I remember my mother washed a cashmere sweater at a higher temperature than allowed and… well, let say it was very very slimming after that…).
Otherwise, all wool in my life was rather coarse and itchy. I even remember that we had a joke about woolen underwear – it was something that no one wanted to have because the last thing you want is to have wool next to your, hmmmm, tender parts. The Big Bang Theory played on these properties of wool as well, when Sheldon forced Leonard to wear a woolen sweater to make him uncomfortable so that the latter would understand what it was to be Sheldon.
And this is why I like merino and Icebreaker garments in particular – they don’t itch. At least I do not have any problems with them. I really find them very soft. Especially when they are relatively new. Because, indeed, after washing them for a while, they become less soft (if you think that I am doing something wrong, please let me know – I will be a very happy man). But even then, the material is still far from being anything like itchy… I even have some Icebreaker underwear and, unlike my childhood fears, I love them.
‘Swamp-tramping’ in Poland this spring
Reason 3: Icebreaker t-shirts are very warm
Yes, they are. Well, exactly how warm they are would, of course, depend on the thickness of the material usually represented by a number, which stands for the fabric’s weight in grams per square meter. And there are two most common types used by Icebreaker for t-shirts. These are 150 (or ultralight) and 200 (or lightweight). The former is meant to be rather versatile and could be used in all seasons, whereas the latter is more for moderate to cool conditions.
And it is very true – I have a few Icebreaker t-shirts in 150 and a few in 200. And the ones in 150 are great on their own in summer, but I also wear them in combination with other items throughout the year. Often, on hiking and packrafting trips I use them as a base layer or nightwear (and sometimes even both).
However, if it is really hot, even ultralight t-shirts might be too much. That is why they also have something even lighter than ultralight (yes, it seems to be possible) and they call it featherweight. The name, regardless how suggestive it might be, does not actually presuppose that you have to put on feathers.
What it simply means is that the weight of the fabric is between 120 and 135 grams (‘as light as a feather’ I guess) and, because of that, such garments are better suited for warm to hot conditions. And indeed I have one t-shirt like that, which I used last summer in Japan.
And even though it felt a bit strange to wear something woolen when the temperatures are in the upper 30s (and I am talking about Celsius here and not Fahrenheit), it actually was very pleasant. Especially when I made it wet, which helped me to stay cool.
Wearing my ‘featherweight’ icebreaker during our trip to Japan last year
Reason 2: Icebreaker t-shirts are durable
Well, nothing is forever, but the Icebreaker garments, similarly to their namesakes, can take a lot of abuse. I have a number of t-shirts (and other items) and I have used them extensively throughout the last several years. And because they are so versatile, I tend to wear them more than any other t-shirts that I have.
And I don’t mean just in the outdoors, but also in my everyday life (see Reasons 4 and 5). I will not be able to say exactly how long an icebreaker t-shirt would last as that would depend on a number of parameters (including the weight of the material), but I can say for sure that it takes a good couple of years before they start to give up.
And even then, you can still manage to carry on for a while: the first sign of the icebreaker getting old is the appearance of tiny holes, which can still be patched. But once these holes appear, there is no turning back. Sooner or later you will need to decommission it.
However, you will still have some time to save money as it takes a while before you cannot wear it any more. So far, I have only one t-shirt, my first icebreaker, that is beyond repair. The rest are still doing fine.
Reason 1: Icebreaker t-shirts don’t smell
And the number one reason why I like them is … (drumroll, please) … they don’t stink. The sales person was absolutely right - even after a week of non-stop wearing it is still ok. And when I say ‘non-stop’ I really mean it. I had weeks when I was literally living in one, that icebreaker being an extension of me. Of course if you wear them for so long, they do not smell fresh any more, but that is not a problem because they do not smell bad either.
Moreover, even if they start ‘smelling a bit’, you can always do one of two things. The first option is to wash it and let it quickly dry. As the material is rather thin (especially the 150 ones), you can do it within one night easily.
If it is still wet or you do not have that much time, you can still dry it on the go. The wool, even when it is wet, keeps you rather warm (the most dreadful moment is when you put it on, but very quickly it feels fine again) and, in some cases, like when I did it in Japan last year, it can actually be rather refreshing. The other option is to expose it to some wind and cold.
I have heard from my grandmother that in the past, one way to ‘refresh’ woolen thing was to put them into a freeze (which in my part of Russia in winter time was just outside). You need to make sure that it is not wet though otherwise you will literally need to break the ice…
And when talking about Icebreaker t-shirts and odour-resistance, you do not need to take my word for that alone. Go and ask my wife, who is ‘über’-hygienic. She grew up with a mother who is a microbiologist so, her natural tendency would be to change her t-shirts several times a day, even in the most remote areas. If she had a chance, of course.
But when I introduced her to Icebreaker, she instantly became a full-time convert and she does not want to buy anything less than that. For example, last year, when we travelled in Japan for three weeks, she took a couple of icebreakers as well as a few cotton t-shirts with her. But she ended up using only the latter, the cotton ones lying as dead weight at the bottom of the backpack.
That is why this year, when we were preparing for our new Japan trip, she said that she would only take Icebreaker t-shirts and that’s all. And she actually did exactly that and never regretted her decision.
Marta in her Icebreaker t-shirt at the Osaka train station this year
To sum it up, I love my icebreakers because they look nice on me, I can wear them for a long time during trips and in my everyday life and because they keep me warm. And of course, because they “do not stink”.
Final comment: Only recently, my wife told me that she would like to ask Santa Claus for a black icebreaker to replace her favorite one which was stolen earlier this year. And I have a feeling that he might grant her that wish.
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