November 18, 2011

Icebreaker Clothing Review

Report by Robin Rongey, with Chuck comments in red:

Chuck and I have been lucky enough to have trained and raced in Icebreaker gear all year long and now we want to give the gear a real life review. If you haven’t heard of Icebreaker it is a company in New Zealand that make technical clothing using Merino wool. I know what you are thinking, I went there too at first, how on earth can they make tech clothing out of wool. I’m sure you may have this preconception that wool is itchy, hot and heavy. Everyone in my generation thinks that because we were all forced to wear those heavy wool coats and sweaters as kids and the entire time we had them on we whined about them being itchy. When I was a kid, I would say, when I have kids, I’m not going to make them wear this stuff. You know what’s really funny, my two girls try to sneak and wear my Icebreaker gear, so much for my kids not wearing wool.

I laughed when I read that. So true! My Mom used to make me wear this one blue sweater when I was a kid. I hated it!

As for athletes when we think of wool we think of bike racers back in the day wearing the wool jerseys. I always think about Bob Roll and Team 7-11 wearing the wool jerseys and riding the steel frame bikes. Even though Bob Roll is one of my hero’s and retro everything is cool, I wouldn’t want to wear the wool of his day.

Today though, we don’t have to wear the wool from back in the day, we have Icebreaker Marino wool, it is soft to the touch, does not itch, keeps you dry, no matter how sweaty you get, it’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It never feels clammy, I know that when I sweat in the dry-fit, poly tech materials, I may feel dry while working out, but if I stop for even 30 seconds, I’m cold and clammy, it kind of feels like slime. For instance, If I head out on a 10 mile run, then walk around for a few minutes after finishing, my shirt will feel like slime when I pull it off.

Now, when I wear my icebreaker gear and do the same run, I never feel cold or clammy after stop and when I pull the shirt off, it may be damp, but there is no sliminess to it. Oh and it doesn’t stink, I might be crazy, but oh my gosh, any of my dry-fit clothing smells awful after a workout and in fact it pretty much smells awful a lot. I have tried washing my gear in every kind of detergent imaginable and it always has this smell, I can’t seem to get rid of it. My friends have told me that same thing about their gear, I don’t know why it holds the stench, but it does. I have been wearing the Icebreaker gear all year, and I wear it every time its clean, and it still smells fresh, no stench attached.

So let me get specific. I first tried the socks, bike shorts and bike jersey. The socks are the best socks I have ever worn, we even wrote a review about the socks because they are so great, you can see the review here for full details. I was a little worried about the bike gear, thinking it would be too hot, but like I said earlier, it is so breathable, it’s not hot at all. As for fit, the shorts fit so well, it’s like they mold to my body, I almost feel like I’m riding in a second skin, it almost makes me feel like I’m being bad riding naked. Both Chuck and I have worn the bike shorts so much, it’s a wonder that we don’t have holes in the butt of them.

Funny thing about the shorts is they fit a little odd when you are standing up putting them on, or getting ready to ride. But as soon as you are on the bike, they are perfect. I bet they were designed on a hunched over body model.

The jersey fits great also, and mine has a really great design without being too girly for me. We were even stopped during a race once and someone asked if we were wearing Icebreaker jerseys.

We also spent a lot of time in the base layer and running shorts and shirt. I would say of all the Icebreaker gear I own, my favorite is the base layer, it feels so good, fits like a glove and there is no chaffing anywhere. I wear it riding, running and I even wear it to the gym as a shirt. The design of it is so cool, with red stitching that really stands out, I have gotten a few cool shirt comments at the gym. The base layer paired with the bike jersey is as good as it gets during the workout.

As for the running shirt and shorts, I love the shirt, and I have never once ended up with chaffed under arms after a long run, which is an almost always occurrence with cotton or tech fabric. The running shorts have never chaffed my legs, and let me tell you, I have huge quads and no matter what I wear, I have to bath in bodyglide before I run and I still end up with chaffing. I have never once used bodyglide with the Icebreaker running shorts and I have never once been chaffed after any run, even long 20 mile runs. Again I wear these shorts every time they are clean, at least 2 or 3 times a week and they still look like new.

All the Icebreaker gear I have, washes well, wears well and when you touch it, you know that it is great quality. Those must be some high class sheep they get this wool from. I know I can go online and get the information about where the wool came from, that was used in the item I’m wearing, but really, all I care about is how it fits, how it wears and how it smells. Chuck on the other hand is a true engineer and he loves all the technical stuff, he can tell everything about the wool, he read up on it.

It’s true. I’m just geeky enough that I really did enter the BAA code to see where my shirt came from. Kinda cool knowing that.

This would not be a good review unless I talked about the hat and gloves, oh… my gosh, I love them. The hat especially, it fits great and is just the right length to cover my ears without covering my eyes. And when it’s really cold, my head is warm and the outside of the hat is covered with frost, so you can see how it wicks the wetness away. I don’t know if you can see it in this little photo, but there is frost on my hat.

The gloves are great too, if I had any negative to say, it would be on the fit, mine don’t fit my hand well, they are kind of loose, but I might just have the wrong size, because chuck’s fit him great. Here is a shot of Chuck and his wife Lori at the finish of the Checkpoint Tracker National Championship race in Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky. I wish I were the one standing there with him in full Icebreaker gear, but if you had read my last few posts you would already know why I wasn’t. I broke my tailbone just days before the race and Lori graciously stood in for me. This is a really cool picture though and it shows just how reliant our team is in Icebreaker gear.

So one last thing, not only did we spend the entire year working out in Icebreaker gear, but we also did some just hanging out in it. I love V neck T-shirts and I was lucky enough to have a Black V neck Icebreaker shirt. It goes with everything, jeans, casual pants, dress pants even shorts. When my mom saw me wearing it, she said that is a really nice shirt, where did you get it. I said mom this is wool, she was so surprised, she couldn’t believe it was wool, she had to feel it and still wasn’t sure, I finally had to show her the tag and of course go online and show her how I could see where the wool came from by the ID number. Not much surprises my mom and not ever would she wear a shirt like mine, she thinks she is too old for what she calls kids fashion, but she said, I would wear a shirt like that. There you have it, Icebreaker got a thumbs up from my mom, now that is a true test of quality and style.

My overall rating for Icebreaker clothing is EXCELLENT, If I were to change anything it would be the fit of the glove. Don’t do anything else, this line of technical clothing is perfect, I’m not sure how it could get better.

The next thing on my agenda is to try an Icebreaker sports bra and running tights, I checked the website and they have them, if they are even half as great as the other gear, I will be in tech gear heaven.

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