The world that we all share is a truly wondrous place, with endless regions to explore and countless experiences to find. The untamed beauty of the planet’s harshest regions draws the most adventurous among us to them, with the promise of unique opportunities to those who dare to venture off the beaten path. While a strong will and ample determination are essential to reaching such places, of equal importance are the physical belongings you bring with you to ensure you can survive in the unforgiving conditions. By wearing apparel that is able to perform effectively regardless of the challenges you may face, you can ensure that your motivation and determination are reinforced by technical garments that have been shown to thrive in such moments. The team at Icebreaker, led by their founder Jeremy Moon, strive to disrupt the existing outdoor apparel market by introducing a product that they rightly believed was superior to the plastic-derived options found on the market then, in 1995, and even still today. The name ‘Icebreaker’ has a dual meaning; firstly, it indicates their desire to keep the wearer warm in their garments. The second, more subtle meaning, references their desire to ‘break the ice’ in the outdoor apparel market, with their fresh ideas and their clear link between the wearer’s body and nature.
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Icebreaker has established itself as an alternative to brands that produce outdoor apparel predominantly constructed of plastic derivatives. Materials such as nylon, polyester and spandex are all examples of man-made fibres that have plastic as its base. Such materials are notorious for releasing plastic microfibres into the environment when they are worn and washed, causing large amounts of pollution which is not noticeable to the wearer’s naked eye. Merino wool, as a natural fibre, does not contribute to the growing plastic pollution threat that faces our planet. Merino wool, which is produced by Merino sheep exclusively, was first identified and explored by the Spanish, before spreading across the globe as its popularity grew. Wool was traditionally seen as a fabric fit for utilitarian garments exclusively due to its high resilience. Whilst it has now established its presence across the fashion landscape, merino wool is still recognised by Icebreaker as a highly utilitarian material that makes it ideal for use in technical garments.
If you wish to understand the technical capabilities of Merino Wool, there is no better way to gain some understanding than observing the natural behaviours of its producers; the Merino Sheep. Merino Sheep are one of the toughest breeds of sheep, it being necessary for them to survive in two weather extremes throughout the year. In New Zealand, where Icebreaker works with their growers to source the required Merino Wool for their production, these sheep are exposed to temperatures up to 30°C in summer, and as low as -10°C during winter. The unique insulating capabilities of Merino Wool allow them to easily regulate their internal body temperature to allow themselves to survive these shifts in temperature without the necessity of external shelter. A Merino Wool technical garment will provide the same capabilities to a wearer, by ensuring that they do not overheat in hot summer conditions whilst ensuring that body heat is retained during colder months. This temperature regulation is able to be achieved without the necessary use of any synthetic fibre.
Here at Snowscene, we believe in Icebreaker as a brand, and are happy to be able to offer a wide range of their products in our store. Their technical garments, in addition to being designed to be highly functional, are fashionable and wearable, making them easy to work into your wardrobe. Here I will briefly outline the Icebreaker products that we offer in out store, and outline the key features that would make Icebreaker a great investment.
Icebreaker Base Layers, which include both long sleeve and short sleeve crewnecks, singlets as well as ¾ length and full-length leggings, contain between 80 - 100% Merino wool, exclusive of decoration such as labels, zips and logos. While you may find it strange that Icebreaker has made the decision to use other materials than Merino Wool after advocating so strongly for its widespread use, there is valid reasoning. They determined, after extensive testing, that the incorporation of a small percentage of synthetic fibre is beneficial as it allows the garments to possess greater longevity. Fibres such as nylon and elastane are incorporated to increase the ability of the garment to stretch and return to its original shape, thus ensuring the wearer is able to use the garment more before it needs to be replaced. The garment will still possess the desirable temperature regulating properties of a 100% woollen garment but is designed to last longer, with the synthetic serving to increase the performance capacity of the merino wool fibres. Icebreaker base layers are designed in three different thicknesses, or ‘weights’, to allow consumers to select the base layer that suits them best. When choosing between 150, 200 or 260 weight garments, you should consider your own intentions while wearing the garments and your propensity for feeling even slight temperature changes. For the person who does not intend to exert themselves significantly while wearing the garment, the 150-weight option may be the best option. However, for the person whom intends to travel to the harshest conditions they can find, the 260-weight garments may serve them best in their attempts to successfully regulate their body temperature.
Icebreaker Mid Layer Jackets, coming in both full-zip or half-zip iterations, are a highly versatile garment that transitions between seasons effortlessly. These Mid Layer jackets are constructed of a thicker material than a 260-weight base layer, and are designed to be worn over the top of a base layer to provide additional insulation against harsh conditions. While the name would indicate that it is always necessary to wear an outer layer on top of such a jacket, it is quite possible to use a mid-layer jacket as your outer layer in drier and milder conditions. As an alternative to a purely technical mid-layer garment, Icebreaker Flannel Shirts or Knit Sweaters can function as an effective Mid-layer option for a more fashion-conscious consumer. With both the Flannel and Sweater being 100% Merino wool garments, you need not worry about losing your temperature regulating capabilities you expect from Icebreaker products.
Icebreaker Outer Layer Vests are a fantastic option for those who wish to increase their warmth without restricting their ability to move. By adding a vest to your layering options, you can ensure that your chest and torso are kept well-insulated while allowing your arms full movement without the encumbrance of a thick, heavy outer jacket. Icebreaker Outer Layer Vests such as the Helix Vest utilise merino wool as extensively as is sensibly possible, and then utilise synthetic materials to increase the performance of the garment. The face fabric and side panels are constructed predominantly of polyester, elastane and nylon to give the garment both a water-resistant nature and the ability for the garment to stretch through the side panels. Both of these features increase the garment utility, and will ensure that the vest is more valuable while it is being worn. The lining of the vest is 100% wool and the large majority of the insulating fill is wool as well. The vest uses MerinoLOFT, a sustainably-sourced wool insulation, between the wool inner lining and the external water-resistant membrane to increase the insulating properties of the vest while reducing weight.
Icebreaker Socks, just like many Icebreaker products, possess Merino Wool as its core component and have synthetic fibres incorporated to allow the Merino fibres to function optimally. In regard to their sock range, Icebreaker considered producing a 100% Merino wool sock, but found that it did not perform as they desired. After multiple uses, the sock lost its shape, which is typical of a woollen knitted sock, and no longer possessed the desired fit that consumers desired. The incorporation of nylon and Lycra into the design of the sock allowed it to have the best of both worlds. The merino wool allowed the sock to be breathable, insulating and odour-resistant, while the synthetic fibres ensured the sock was far more durable, stretchy and retained its shape with far better longevity. Icebreaker Socks come in lengths varying from low-cut to over the calf, ensuring that they have a sock perfect for any activity you may wish to take on. With a variety of bold patterns and designs to choose from, there is sure to be an Icebreaker Sock for you!
As any experienced cold-weather traveller can confirm, layering is the key to warmth that still allows you to get on with your life. While a heavily-insulated coat is fantastic at holding body heat to keep you warm, a thinner, lighter, more user-friendly jacket paired with multiple other layers can achieve the same level of warmth without restricting your ability to move freely. Technical garments for layering were traditionally constructed from synthetic polyester and polypropylene, both made from plastic, and as a result were sweaty and prone to smell after a single wear. The founder of Icebreaker, Jeremy Moon, discovered a product that solved these problems. Layering garments constructed of merino wool were soft to wear, odour resistant even after multiple wears and were not reliant on plastics to be produced. Icebreaker have established themselves as a market-leader in merino wool technical garments that are ideal as layering options underneath ski jackets, ski pants and snow boots. In addition to their capable insulating properties, Icebreaker garments are odour-resistant, soft against the skin from the first wear and have highly effective moisture-wicking properties. All of these characteristics contribute to a garment that is a joy to wear regardless of the activity being undertaken. Further showcasing the value and versatility of merino wool, Icebreaker have developed a natural insulation for winter garments that acts as an alternative to duck down. MerinoLOFT was developed as a highly breathable insulating material made from merino fibres that could be incorporated into Icebreaker garments to allow them to provide greater warmth than their standard layering garments without the need to use synthetic insulation materials.