A wool T-shirt? Wool underwear? Before you think Gear Patrol reviewers are a bunch of masochistic wackos (only some of us are), consider Icebreaker Superfine wool clothing. Icebreaker is a New Zealand clothing company that is trying to convince the world that wool can be cool and comfortable, one pair of briefs at a time. Aside from some excellent outerwear, Icebreaker sells a Superfine line of wool base layers that are cool and comfortable in the hottest weather.
The advantages of wool as a summer base layer are many: it doesn’t absorb sweat like cotton does, it is highly breathable, it is a sustainable raw material unlike those plastic-based technical clothes and, maybe best of all, it doesn’t hold stink like polyester can. People have known about wool’s properties for centuries but there’s always been the problem of the itch. Wool has a reputation for being rather uncomfortable. But thanks to the fine wool of the merino sheep of New Zealand and some expert spinning by those Kiwi elves, the Superfine clothes from Icebreaker are a far cry from that itchy sweater you got from your grandmother last Christmas. In fact, it has the feel of soft, light cotton or cashmere against the skin.
The Detour Polo ($90), Tech T Lite T-shirt ($60) and Beast Boxer Briefs ($40) arrived just in time for a steamy spell of Midwestern weather and all pieces performed as advertised. While I still sweated on a hike, the Superfine wool shirt didn’t get soaked like cotton would have and stayed loose and breezy. The briefs also were comfortable in the heat, with my only complaint being that they loosen up and stretch out with use – not always a good thing. Washing is a little finicky, with line drying only. But less stink means less washing necessary. These clothes would be great for travel, when you can only pack a few pieces.
Icebreaker is passionate about their sheep (not in a weird way) and if you want to find out which sheep your briefs or shirt came from, you can enter a bar code on their website and track baaaa-ck (sorry) to the merino sheep who sacrificed a coat so you can be fashionably cool.