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lightweight wool shirts
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Dave Conrad
(raindog101) - F
lightweight wool shirts on 02/11/2005 22:31:00 MST Print View

I'm a newcomer to the site, and I must say it's a pleasure to see all the gear freaks congregated in one place! My current conundrum is making the plunge from all-synthetic baselayers to all-wool. I've been cruising the sites of Ibex, Icebreaker, and Smartwool, trying to get weights and performance information. Could someone give me an idea of the relative durability and performance of, say 200g thickness wool as a lightweight and base layer. Mainly thinking of how the Smartwool LW zip tee stacks up against the Ibex woolies zip tee and the Icebreaker mondo zip. And how does Smartwool versalite fare in the breathability and liveability category (most things I've seen on it have been positive)? And finally, how do the wool t-shirts from these respective companies really perform in the wicking/dry-time category? I must say it would have to be significantly better than my old standby Duotherm hydroduct t-shirt, especially at those prices! I know this is a long post, but any feedback would be appreciated, especially when I'm thinking about laying down that kind of money.

Roland Hackenberg
(Robson) - MLife
Icebreaker on 02/13/2005 23:31:56 MST Print View

my absolute favorite piece of clothes on hiking trips is definetely the Icebreaker Superfine 190g. In my case I just love the "U-turn" long sleeve shirt. it is extremely comfortable to wear.Even in summer I'm wearing it and although I'm sweating very fast I never felt uncomfortable.I can only recommend it.For me all heavier Icebreaker shirts are too warm in summer, but excellent in colder conditions.

Jason Shaffer
(pilgrim) - F
wooly base layers on 02/14/2005 00:17:47 MST Print View

Can't offer much in the way of comparisons, but...
I have a Smartwool Microweight zip-t that performs like a champ. I recently wore it 3 days in a row under only a montane windshirt in extremely damp subfreezing conditions--even after hiking at full tilt for over an hour, never got chilled when I stopped, and was still dry enough each night. The crew version might be better for warmer conditions, but I seldom backpack in temps above 80. I'd recommend smartwool microweight over versalite, which is heavier, slower drying (only b/c it absorbs more in the first place), and might only be better for extreme cold. However, the microweight zip + a Possum fur / merino vest has provided me the ideal winter baselayer. The only other products I would consider are the superfine icebreakers like Roland's, which do look sweet.

Glad to hear you're enjoying the site, Dave. Cheers.

Jerold Swan
(jswan) - F - M
aero zip-t equivalent? on 02/14/2005 21:34:03 MST Print View

Can anyone recommend an equivalent to the Smartwool Aero Zip-T from a couple of years ago? This was a long sleeve, turtle-neck, very thin shirt with a very deep zipper. Mine is starting to get holes in it, and I want something as similar as possible.

Jason Shaffer
(pilgrim) - F
smartwool aero replacement on 02/20/2005 18:01:08 MST Print View

Hi Jay,
The smartwool zip-t I talk about above is pretty close to the aero in thickness. See it at

Not sure why SW stopped making the aero shirts almost a year before releasing the lightweight/microweight models. ? Seemed like a mistake to me. Anyway, SW offers little technical info on the thicknesses of their various wools, so tough to compare w/ Icebreakers.

Bryan Redd
(lucylab) - F
Aero replacement: IBEX Zepher---and its on sale!! on 02/20/2005 21:23:34 MST Print View

I have two of the IBEX Zepher zip T necks and love them. They have performed well and have held up. They are currently on sale at for $55. And, they are made in the US.

Ross McLean
(mcleanro) - F
Smartwool Superiority on 03/01/2005 15:43:09 MST Print View

I believe that the washing instructions for Ibex and Icebreaker are to machine wash and hang dry, while Smartwool's instructions allow machine drying. This was the deciding factor for me in choosing Smartwool's lightweight zip-T, and microweight boxers and T-shirt. I'd like to see Smartwool make a long sleeve top in the microweight material, which dries quicker than the lightweight material and is more suitable for year round use.

Bryan Redd
(lucylab) - F
Automatic dryer is not good for wool---regardless of who makes it. on 03/01/2005 16:52:25 MST Print View

There is nothing unique about Smartwool wool that makes it somehow immune to the damage caused by the heat of an automatic dryer. Smartwool uses the same Merino wool as Ibex and Icebreaker. The special physical and chemical properties that make wool such a wonderful fiber will indeed be degraded if repeatedly dryed in an automatic dryer. I've looked at many slides of wool fibers with electron microscope and there is no doubt whatsover that substantial degradation occurs. Air dry it---it dries plenty fast for me.

Michael Kirby
(Strider518) - F - MLife

Locale: Whatcom County
wool and automatic dryer on 03/01/2005 19:04:35 MST Print View

My favorite pair of wool ski socks became my son's ski socks after a trip through the dryer. I salvaged an England made balaclava by stretching it over my head. Keep wool out of the dryer!

Kim Skaarup
(skaarup) - F

Locale: Cold, wet and windy Scandinavia
Why wash on 03/01/2005 19:15:18 MST Print View

Wool donĀ“t stink like poly. :-)

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Smartwool Aero vs. Lightweight on 03/01/2005 22:30:21 MST Print View

Smartwool Aero and Lightweight are in the same fabric weight class. Smartwool rebranded their line last year from Aero/Trad to Light/Mid (Aero = Lightweight, Trad = Midweight) to be more consistent with industry nomenclature for base layers.

Ross McLean
(mcleanro) - F
Washable Wool on 03/13/2005 15:12:20 MST Print View

Thanks for the info. I was thinking maybe Smartwool used some extra processing/treatment (like SUPERWASH) to make their garments less suceptible to shrinkage and other degradation from machine drying.

Mark Lynch
(lostorfound) - F
Re: Washable Wool on 09/18/2005 18:33:52 MDT Print View

I've been shopping for lightweight wool and was told by an salesperson that there is an important difference between Ibex, Smartwool and Icebreaker: Icebreaker is the only one that does not 'preshrink' their wool. So, says the salesperson, one should buy Icebreaker a size larger if it's going to find it's way into a dryer. Also that the preshrinking process removes natural oils and renders the garment less resillient or able to recover from stretching.

This is all second hand, so any corrections/verification of degree or fact by those in the know would be great.

Andrew Browne
(andrew_browne) - MLife

Locale: Mornington Peninsula AUSTRALIA
Icebreaker Shrinkage on 09/18/2005 20:54:33 MDT Print View

The label states "Warm or cool machine wash, close all zips before washing, wash colours seperately, line dry or dry flat in shade, warm iron, do not tumble dry, drycleanable, up to 5% shrinkage"
my wife follows the above with my 3 Icebreaker tops and I have experienced no shrinkage at fact one of the tops is a little too large and I've been hoping it would shrink a little..but none after 6 months...Am considering placing it in the clothes dryer to get some shrinkage!

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Washable Wool on 09/19/2005 03:33:33 MDT Print View


have used wool garments for years. pre-shrinking should NOT remove natural oils. washing in a detergent (at the very least soap+surfactant = detergent) will remove natural oils. in my experience, it is the drying process (like even on low heat in a dryer) that causes the vast majority of the shrinkage. as far as resilience and recovery, don't know for sure, but it sounds logical and makes sense as long as one means that it won't stretch quite as far as before shrinking without breaking fibers.


tried this once (i.e. drying on low heat) with an inexpensive merino (or so it claimed) wool sweater from a big name retailer. overall, it was a very nice sweater. just a tad itchy which makes me question the quality of the merino wool & the garments manufacturing (merino wool like that used in Poss'mDown is the only wool i can wear and not feel "lousey" (sic) and be scratching prit' near continuously).

dried it on low heat for maybe 40min - dryer used a humidity sensor to determine "drying time", so i'm not sure how long it was actually subjected to the "low" heat. garment shrunk to small kid sized - so gave it away to some younger friends from our local church who have a couple of boys.

my advice to you, if you feel that you really want to do this, is to check it every 5 minutes. try it on each time to check the fit. then proceed appropriately.

Edited by pj on 09/24/2005 09:57:13 MDT.

John Pickron
(pre) - F
wool's great on 09/24/2005 06:35:54 MDT Print View

icebreaker longsleeve 190g is 10oz in Large...I've used this in 50-70 deg temps/and for sleeping. It's very comfortable, and great at regulating heat. Doesn't stink even after 3 days of my heavy sweat...p.s. there is no top stitching going over the shoulder, so it's meant to be comfortable w/ a pack--

I also bought a stack of icebreaker crew short sleeve's and smartwool short sleeve t's. smartwool is a better deal on the crew t's but--icebreaker has more style (2-tone)-so up to you..

the crew t's come in at about 7oz-capilene clothing is about 2oz lighter, but after 10 years--I'm going to have to say the new OLD school of wool products is much better -- stink factor and comfort (think soft cotton t) wins it..

I've found the icebreaker 190g/200g and smartwool shirts are comfortable in cool and hot georgia weather...I think the heavier knit products would be for mountaineering, skiing, cold weather prospects.

My wife has a whole set of wool tops--her favorite phrase, "don't be jealous of my icebreakers." then i found a sale at high country-- 40%off..she's the jealous one now...

--our layering system includes-- one smartwool shortsleeve crew, one icebreaker long-sleeve crew, capilene bottoms, patagonia houdini windtop and windpants, pata micropuff vest, pata specter WP pullover, golite umbrella.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: wool's great on 09/24/2005 10:03:39 MDT Print View


great layering system! now, i'm the jealous one!!!

looks like you've designed a very versatile system - perfect for whatever nature throws your way.

agree with you on "the new OLD school of wool products", as you termed it - good description. my experience, as far as upper body layering is concerned, is limited to Smartwool Zip-T's and Poss'mDown Sweaters & Vests (all very nice garments).

good post. thanks. i'm going to look into the Icebreaker garments. thanks for sharing your experiences.

Don Wilson
(don) - MLife

Locale: Koyukuk River, Alaska
More on wool to come from BPL on 09/24/2005 12:10:33 MDT Print View

Hi all -

Good discussion. Most of us at BPL concur that wool performs very well, even in hot weather - so we will take a closer look at garments, performance, fabrics, etc in 2006. Expect an overview and analysis of base layers, including synthetics.

Don Wilson
BPL Clothing Section Editor

John Pickron
(pre) - F
shrink factor on 09/24/2005 13:47:36 MDT Print View

Thank you Paul...I've really enjoyed being able to shop all this great equipment w/o too much concern for price. However, I have to admit some icebreaker shirts are hella expensive @ $60-$70, but I've found some web sales and in-store deals that brought them down to about $30-$40 a top.
I wear them as part of my regular wardrobe, so I went out and spent about $200 to buy 5 new shirts...

Yes the shirts shrink by about 10-20%, however, I think you'll notice that a Large at the store will fit you like an XL, but after you wash it--it's just right.

The main thing to avoid with wool garments-is washing in really hot water and/or drying in really high heat...

I have a feeling that--silver impregnated poly's, and capilene poly--are in for some tuff competition. Wish I could buy stock..

Jason Shaffer
(pilgrim) - F
deals on wool tops on 09/24/2005 14:00:53 MDT Print View

Hey guys,
If anyone still knows where to find Icebreaker tops on discount, please pass that info along! I've been wanting a short sleeve model, but at $70, 'hella expensive' is right.