Wool is a fabric many people either love or hate, depending upon their experience wearing it. For those who spent childhoods clad in itchy, bulky sweaters knitted by indulgent grandmothers, or mittens that stunk to high heaven after a few handfuls of snow, wool doesn’t always appear a first choice for base layer attire. But times have changed, and outdoor enthusiasts now have choices, options that defy memories of wool’s discomfort. Now, we have products like Icebreaker (www.icebreaker.com).
Icebreaker New Zealand is different. Woven from Merino wool, an upland breed of sheep with fibers as soft as cashmere, Icebreaker clothing might just change the mind of a reluctant lowland-wool wearer.
I tested several items from Icebreaker’s diverse online catalog; a tech tee, two lightweight sweaters, and a pair of wool pants. It should be noted that I live in Alaska, where winter fashion and daily function go hand in hand, so my choices in clothing reflect a lifestyle of office-to-trail. My son, 10, tested Icebreakers’s base layer products for kids, a shirt and leggings that right away appeared softer than the fleece he usually wears for outdoor activities.
Women’s Tech T Lite, Banff Mountain Film Fest: Light and serviceable for a workout, but heavy enough for layering under other Icebreaker products, this tee proved valuable during a weekend trip to Denali National Park. Not only did the wool wick away moisture during our ski treks, it also kept the multi-day odor away. And, the slick logo of the Banff Mountain Film Fest incited many a comment of “Cool!” $49.99.
Women’s Tech Fair Isle Sweater: This half-zip sweater proved its worth during an early-morning meeting and midday ski at -10F. Looking smart with a Scandinavian-style design, the sweater paired nicely with a pair of slacks for the office and Icebreaker’s Villa Pants for the trail.$119.99.
Women’s Isis Pullover: Never has wool looked so fashionable while acting so functional. With a cowl neck and slim, lean fit, this pullover works best with a camisole or tank underneath. I dressed this shirt up with a skirt and boots, then dressed back down in the evening with a pair of leggings. $69.99 on sale.
Women’s Villa Pants: Wool bottoms have come a long way from the rough, stiff hiking pants many of our parents wore. These are soft, comfortable pants with an elastic waist to accommodate multiple layers as temperatures change. Villas hold their shape, too; I wore them constantly in Denali pre-and-post activities, and found them to be the perfect choice for traveling. $139.99.
Kids’ Oasis Crewe top: Warm, light, and perfect for layering under school clothes, fleece, or the football uniform, this shirt spent days upon my son’s body, with nary a hitch. It does run small in torso length, so order the next size up for maximum benefit. $39.99.
Kids’ Oasis Leggings: “Oh, these are so soft!” said my sensitive son, ripping the package open and pulling on these leggings. Indeed they were, and served as long underwear during a cold snap of -20F, pajamas during our weekend in Denali, and an extra layer of protection during a flag football tournament. An added bonus? Both the crewe and leggings appear strong enough to withstand a ‘tween boy’s daily roughhousing and tumbling upon the ground. And, at $39.99, this product line appears to be a good investment, as well.
Visit www.icebreaker.com for an interesting history of Icebreaker’s New Zealand-based company, and a comprehensive sizing guide for assistance with online ordering.
Outdoor Families Magazine is committed to informing readers of articles that include sponsored content. Icebreaker Merino provided samples of clothing for editorial review.
Erin Kirkland is managing editor of Outdoor Families Magazine, publisher of AKontheGO.com, and author of the guidebook Alaska on the Go: Exploring the 49th state with children. She lives in Anchorage, Alaska. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.