The first time that I went snowboarding, Chamonix in January of 2003, I didn’t have any base layers. Cotten t-shirts and a snowboard jacket. Not smart, because I was cold a lot of the time. The following year, I used one of those dry-fit tops – an improvement, but I was still cold at times.
So I did some looking around; I wanted some base layers that were good at moisture management as well as being thermal. That’s when I found out about the technical clothing from IceBreaker. Merino wool: super effective at getting water vapour away from your body, breathable, and warm at the same time. IceBreaker do a bunch of different weights, so you can tailor your layering to suit your own needs…
My IceBreaker Base Layers
So in 2005, I bought:
- Bodyfit 200, 3/4 length leggings
- Bodyfit Skin 200 long sleeve crewe (lightweight)
- Bodyfit 260 long sleeve crewe (mid-weight)
My legs don’t get that cold, so I opted for a lightweight base, and 3/4 length works nicely with snowboard boots and socks. I chose two differently weighted base layers for the upper body, so that I could create different layering options.
For example, on a really hot day I could wear nothing but the lightweight, long sleeve base with my jacket. If it’s pretty cold, I can wear both layers, plus the jack. If it’s very cold I can wear the mid-weight long sleeve base, plus a technical hoody that won’t trap the moisture (one of Burton’s bonded hoodies), and then the jacket.
I wanted good performance and flexibility…
Are the IceBreaker layers any good?
The short answer is yes – they’re very good.
First of all, they’re durable. I’m still wearing mine now, and since 2005, that amounts to around 18 weeks on snow. I also use them in the UK, for walking, cycling, camping, that type of thing. They’re still going strong.
They’re warm. That’s not the most useful statement, because I wear different combinations, depending on the weather. Here are some things I can say:
- If you want a base layer that isn’t just for moisture management, IceBreaker layers will give you effective temperature control
- They don’t make me sweat – they’re very breathable
- With the two layers that I’ve got for my upper body, I can cover lots of different temperature scenarios
They’re comfortable. My biggest reservation with the IceBreaker gear wasn’t the price, it was the comfort – how would it feel having wool directly next to the skin? I’ve never been uncomfortable in them. Not once.
When I put one on, for a split second I feel that it’s a different material, being used to cotton t-shirts etc. But after a second or two, I stop noticing that it’s there. The merino wool is soft – these layers are comfortable.
They’re awesome with the moisture. I’ve saved the best ’till last, or at least the thing that I found most impressive. During the decision making process of whether or not to buy these, the guy in the shop was explaining how good they were, and used an example
– that you could wear them for two weeks and not need to wash them, the odour won’t stick around because there won’t be moisture there, it’s transported away through the garment. Really?
Yes. That’s true actually. The majority of my snowboarding trips are two weeks long. I’ve put that statement to the test every time – I’ve never washed my base layers while away. They don’t need it.
I will say that the heavier of the two crewe tops, the 260g base, seems slightly better. I pretty much wear that one everyday, either because I’ve got them both on, or just that one. After two weeks of snowboarding, 13 days on the hill, it doesn’t smell. Job done.
A quick comparison
As a quick comparison, I can compare this with a Burton base layer that I’ve got. It’s a long sleeve, technical garment. It looks good, but it’s not as successful as the IceBreaker layers. A typical pairing for my layers will be the IceBreaker 260g base, with the long sleeve Burton layer on top. Yes, there’s a hint of fashion dictating my choice there 😉
The point is, the Burton layer does need to be washed, normally after a few days. It collects the odour. IceBreaker layers are far superior in this regard!
If you’re looking for base layers, the IceBreaker products may not be the cheapest, but they are very good. I’ve got absolutely no complaints. When the time comes, I’ll replace my base layers with more from IceBreaker.