Since really getting into hiking and doing a couple walking and scrambling holidays in Snowdonia this year, where we tackled all 15 of the Welsh 3000ft mountains and quiet a few extra, I’ve really learnt to appreciate hardcore, technical base layers. When it comes to baselayers, there is one company who are right at the top of the pile – Icebreaker.
We recently got some of their midweight winter baselayers so that we could keep being active and outdoors during the colder months. I’ve been wearing mine regularly during different activities for the last month or so and thought I’d write and let all of you know how I’ve been finding it.
During our trip to the Forest of Dean, where we did lots of walking, we both wore our Icebreaker Men’s BodyfitZONE Winter Zone Long Sleeve Half Zip a lot. The photos in this review are taken on one of those walks, a circular trail through the forest, along the edge of the Wye, up to Symonds Yat and back along the other side.
In my opinion, one of the most unique and impressive features of these baselayers is their BodyfitZONE design. What Icebreaker have done is created ‘heat-dumping zones’ these are areas underneath the armpits, which are made from a special fabric which lets the heat out. Whereas the chest, back and shoulders are made from a different insulating material which will keep the heat in.
This sounds all very lovely in principle but to be honest I was a bit sceptical about being able to tell any noticeable difference. We started off the trek with a walk through the forest and then descended down to meet the river. Walking along the relatively flat river wasn’t very strenuous at all and the baselayer did a good job of keeping me warm in the cold winter air.
When we reached the (excellent) Saracens Head pub we started to walk up the steep path and steps to the top. Ploughing on up at some speed, it was pretty hard work and was exactly the sort of time that you’d normally start to get hot and bothered; luckily with the Icebreaker baselayers I can honestly say that this didn’t happen. The ‘heat-dumping zones’ clearly do work and despite powering on up the steep inclined slope I stayed very comfortable. Upon reaching the top and the incredible views, I felt totally fresh, fine and dandy.
There are some more great features on the Winter Zone Long Sleeve Baselayer. It has a half zip which is awesome for further ventilating if you’re doing something especially exertive like running or cycling. If I am wearing this baselayer and end up going inside to a pub or somewhere, I tend to zip it down a bit so I’m a bit cooler as these things are really good at keeping you warm.
On the cuffs there are thumb holes which I’m not especially keen on as a feature on coats but on baselayers I think they’re great. The reason being is that when layering up with mid and outer layers you can often find your baselayer sleeves rolling back up your arms. With your thumbs through the holes, they easily hold your sleeves in place when adding more layers, even if you later take choose not to use the thumb holes. The seams on the garment are flatlock which prevents chafing and rubbing, this is especially important when wearing a pack or during really active sports like skiing.
I love merino wool for outdoor layers. All of my favourite hiking layers and socks are made from merino wool and I think it’s great that science can’t really do any better than this natural ancient breed of alpine sheep. Well I say that but Icebreaker have used a bit of science and added a small amount of lycra into the mix to give these tops some extra stretch and help them fit even better. They’ve really thought about each area of the garment and have changed the mix again for the high wear and abrasion areas to make them even tougher. They’ve added a small amount of polyester to make the parts like the elbows and forearms stronger, this is great when climbing or scrambling.
We descended down from the view points and headed straight for the Saracens Head pub. Sitting outside on a cold day I was really impressed by the material of the baselayer and how it seemed to adapt to different levels of activity and temperatures. Being made from Merino wool, it has lots of natural properties which are exactly what you are looking for in a baselayer. It’s UV resistant meaning that you could wear it in the summer months and not have to worry about harmful sun rays.
It’s very breathable and will help to stop you sweating and over heating. If you do sweat, it will wick it away from your skin and let the water vapour pass through it, keeping you comfortable. Being a natural insulator, material made from merino wool will keep you warm in the cold and cool in the heat.
Once we had soaked up enough of the view and finished our drinks, we crossed the River Wye on the hand ferry. I’ve never been on, or even heard of a hand ferry before so thought it was brilliant. Basically a cable suspended across a river with a teenager on a boat who would pull the ‘ferry’ across with a rope hooked around the cable. As rudimentary as it really gets and beautifully simplistic – I loved it!
We then wandered down the other side of the river, following the flow, until we reached a chain suspension bridge. This lovely (and slightly wobbly) bridge is another interesting way of crossing the gorgeous River Wye and took us to the foot of the original piece of forest we had started in. We now just needed to meander up through the wooded hills back to our campsite.
I carried on wearing the Icebreaker Men’s BodyfitZONE Winter Zone Long Sleeve Half Zip through out our trip. Due to the merino wool, this baselayer just doesn’t seem to get smelly; this makes it a great baselayer system for travelling or walking holidays.
We’ve both been loving wearing these Ice Breaker tops – at £100 each they aren’t cheap but I’m a firm believer in ‘you get what you pay for.’ Due to the fact that by its nature a baselayer will be underneath other layers of clothing and wont get wear and tear, it will last a long time and I can assure you that you’ll get your money’s worth out of it. They are so comfortable to wear and if you’re comfortable you’ll enjoying walking – which is what it’s all about.