Function: Technical Base Layer
Material: 97% Merino Wool, 3% Elastane
Reviewer: 6’0”, 160 lbs.
Days tested: 28
Based out of New Zealand, Icebreaker produces base, mid, and outer layers (along with many accessories) in varying weights. They also use homegrown merino wool from local farmers, which they believe is the most comfortable, best temperature regulating, fastest drying, and most odor resistant material available.
Since the beginning of the season, I have been wearing a number of their products, including the lightweight 200g/m Sprint Long Sleeve Crewe base layer shirt.
Since Icebreaker was founded on the belief that Merino wool is superior to all other wool and synthetic insulators, you could probably guess, the Sprint Crewe shirt is made mostly of Merino wool. I say mostly because the Sprint line of Icebreaker base layers use Lycra as a “structural framework,” which Icebreaker says allows for the use of finer merino yarns, resulting in “25% more wool against the skin.” Icebreaker claims this increase in 200g/m merino wool translates to an even faster drying time than a traditional 100% merino wool base layer.
The addition of Lycra also contributes to a slightly more snug, form-fitting shirt compared to a traditional 100% merino wool Icebreaker shirt.
The Sprint shirt also uses raglan-styled sleeves (i.e. no shoulder seams, like a baseball shirt) and gussets (additional pieces of fabric) in the underarm to oblique region, with flatlock stitching on all seams, for comfort and complete freedom of movement in all directions.
Icebreaker claims merino wool is more comfortable than both traditional wool and synthetics, and I can’t argue with that. I have found the Sprint shirt to be incredibly soft and stretchy, it is not itchy in any way, and the seams are flat, smooth, and basically unnoticeable. The merino wool is more comfortable than any other base layer material I am using currently, including polyester mixes from Dakine, L.L. Bean and Hot Chillys, and nylon mixes from L.L. Bean.
The fit is trim and athletic, as a base layer should be. For a size large, I would say the torso of the shirt feels perfect, and very similar to all other base layer shirts I own. While I wouldn’t say the shirt is noticeably shorter than my other shirts, I also wouldn’t complain if this snow-sport-specific base layer were a little longer. This would help the shirt stay tucked into my pants in stretched-out positions.
I have found the length of the sleeves of the Sprint shirt to be a little short for my long arms. Most of my shirts that are size large from Hot Chilly’s, L.L. Bean, and Eastern Mountain Sports, I picked because of their longer-than-normal sleeve length. I would say if you usually don’t have trouble with sleeve length, the Sprint shirt will fit well. But if you have long arms, you might consider sizing up.
Much more surprising than the length of the sleeve, however, is the fit of the sleeve. I have found the forearm area to be especially snug, while the upper arm fits more similarly to the rest of the shirt. I find this surprising because by no means do I have big forearms—in fac, they’re skinny. The good news is that the shirt does stretch out a little, so with a day of wear, the fit loosens up slightly.
Base layers are all about offering a little bit of warmth when the body is cold, while also drawing moisture away from the body and being quick drying to aid in cooling a hot body. I can say that after a few months of using Icebreaker’s merino wool, I have found my new favorite base layer material.
Aside from the above-mentioned comfort of the fabric itself, the Sprint shirt dries faster and breaths better than any other base layer shirt I have. On a few boot-packing sweat-fests, I found the shirt to pull moisture quickly off my skin, and dry basically immediately after I stopped sweating. Also, unlike many synthetic base layers, the merino wool never felt clammy as my body temp increased, just exceptionally breathable.
Another fantastic benefit of merino wool is that the fabric retains absolutely zero body odor. In my experience to date, the synthetic fabrics I’ve used haven’t come close, even with all their “anti-bacterial” and “odor resistant” claims. It’s just important to remember that if f you do ever decide to wash the Sprint shirt (whether it smells like it needs it or not), merino wool products often require a little bit of special care when cleaning, and these two pieces should not be machine dried—unless you have a small child you would like to shrink it down to fit.
The only shortfall I have noticed compared to some of my other base layers is warmth. I personally prefer a lightweight, performance-oriented baselayer, so I never expect too much out of them in terms of heat retention, choosing instead to add thicker or additional midlayers on colder days. Still, given that all my baselayers are approximately the same weight, I do notice more heat trapped by my Hot Chilly’s and L.L. Bean base layers. All this means is that when wearing the Sprint shirt on colder days, I just need to pay a little more attention to my mid layer selection. For spring skiing and touring, the Sprint is perfect, but as a resort base layer, I have to wear either an additional layer or a thicker mid layer to stay warm.
The Icebreaker Sprint Long Sleeve is made of an incredible material. Merino wool has been the most comfortable, most breathable, and fastest drying base layer fabric I’ve used to date.
I highly recommend the shirt to anyone looking for a very comfortable base piece, and especially for the active, often hot and sweaty, skier/snowboarder. It is perfect for hitting it hard at the resort, or trekking while you earn your turns.
If you are looking for a little warmer piece, you might take a look at the heavier weight base layers in Icebreaker’s product line.
NEXT: Icebreaker Sprint Legless Pant