A little while back, the fine folks at Natureshop were kind enough to send me some of Icebreaker‘s new summer line to test out. As with most of the clothes I’ve worn from New Zealand’s finest (and sometimes strangest) woolmongers, this gear did not disappoint.

The first item they sent was a GT 200 Sprint Tank, a lightweight sleeveless merino top billed for “high aerobic sports.” All of the Icebreaker stuff I’ve worn has been incredibly soft, but this was definitely the softest – if someone didn’t tell you this was wool, you’d never know it.

This may be because the GT series not only uses finer fibers than other Icebreaker garments, but also has a 3% LYCRA wrap. These shirts fit a bit tighter than other styles in the same size, but you want all that wicking wool as close to your skin as possible.

The shirt itself is fairly simple, design-wise – straight black with just a few reflective touches here and there – small logos on the chest and upper back and a bit of reflective stretch fabric on the sides.

With a backpack and hipbelt on, this shirt can ride up a bit – but I think every hiking shirt I’ve ever worn has done that. It’s not really a big deal. As far as comfort is concerned, this is pretty much unsurpassed. I was never too warm or too cold and as an added bonus, won’t get my traditional Summer Farmer’s Tan.

The second item they sent along was a pair of Beast boxer-briefs, which I had been wanting to try for a while. Wool undies, right? That at least deserves a test run.

Well, I’m happy to report that after a hike, two bike rides and some time at the gym, this garment also passed the test. As with other Icebreaker items, no itching or discomfort of any kind – although I do think the legs are just a bit short for boxer-briefs.

Now, as far as these are concerned, I can say that I enjoyed them during exercise, but I’m not sure how much of a difference they’d make compared to, say, something from ExOfficio or Under Armour, which are what I usually wear on the trail.

You do definitely pay a premium for Icebreaker (or merino wool gear of any sort), but I really do think it’s worth the extra cash. All of my wool gear has outlasted my synthetics and it’s much easier to deal with on the trail and at home. You can wear the same wool shirt for days when you’re backpacking, and if you can find a good stream to rinse it off in – even for weeks. Although they have a … unique scent, they don’t tend to pick up the Hikers’ Funk my synthetics tend to get on long, sweaty hikes. And you don’t have to treat these things with kid gloves when you’re doing laundry either – just a regular wash and line dry every few hikes and you’re good to go.

If you’re on the fence about making the switch to merino, head to a local retailer like Adventure 16 or REI to try a few shirts on for yourself. A16 in particular has been known to have Icebreaker events (with wine) every once in a while.

Thanks again to Natureshop for the gear and great service!

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