Icebreaker Base Layer Clothing Review

Cross-Posted at: One Foot In Reality

Back on November 28th, I was contacted by a representative of the Natureshop which is based out of New Zealand, asking me if I would be interested in wear-testing some of their Icebreaker base layer clothing after reading my post on what to wear in the winter post on “One Foot In Reality”.

We coordinated the logistics and they sent the package out on November 30th and it got here December 6th. Unfortunately, I wasn’t home to receive the package and had to wait until today to get it picked up. Six days to travel half-way around the world for delivery to Maine from New Zealand is pretty impressive delivery time.

Here is what their site says about the Icebreaker line of clothing:

What I will be looking for in them are:How well are they made, what are the obvious flaws or how is the workmanship

  1. Fit to sizing for me
  2. Comfort
  3. Did they work as advertised
  4. A very important factor to TheWife do they stink after having worn them for a while?

During this first review I will address the first two of those factors and give a short summary of what I like or dislike about the items being reviewed so far.

Quality of Workmanship?

I was very impressed with the quality of workmanship, the seams were straight, all but one of the thread ends were properly cut. In many garments that I have purchase lately, this little attention to detail is often neglected even in high-end clothing. There were no obvious flaws in workmanship or materials that I could see. The designs were appropriate to the function that the clothing will be used for.

Below are pictures that I took of the Icebreaker clothing when I took them out of the box.

I turned all of the items inside out to check the seams and I didn’t find any imperfection in either the top or bottom.

  • Quality of Workmanship? Top notch

How did they fit?

I wear a size large for most of my clothing and the Icebreaker top was snug to fit, like it was supposed to be and the bottoms ran a little long as do most size large clothing for me. The clothes ran true to size and fit the way I expected them to.

Picture of me wearing them – yes I did suck my gut in 😉

  • How did they fit? Just as I expected them to.

Are they Comfortable?

Initially when you think of wearing wool, you think of something itchy, scratchy and not very comfortable when worn directly against the skin.

When I initially put the Icebreaker Merino Wool clothes on it was a different sensation than synthetics, but it was not uncomfortable.  I have worn them a few hours now, without any unpleasant scratchy or itchiness from the wool fabric.

They have been comfortable as a base layer, around the house. Initially I was concerned about the tags on the side of the top, but I since I put the shirt on, I haven’t noticed the tags at all.

I have stretched and done some light moving around in them, without any restrictions in my ability to move.

  • Are they comfortable? They are very comfortable and more than met my expectation in this area, I fully expected the Merino wool to be a little “itchy”, but it wasn’t.

Don’t Like

The only thing that I do not like about the Icebreaker base layer is that it recommends that you not dry  these clothes in the dryer. TheWife doesn’t like the idea of us having to be careful to remember to not put them in the dryer and to hang dry them after washing.

I imagine that sooner or later they will “accidentally” go through a dryer cycle and we will see what happens then. However, they are Merino wool and this is the same warning that most other wool garments have, so I was not really surprised by this warning.

The Gloves

The gloves, I got them in Medium and they fit really well and are comfortable.

Like the other pieces of Icebreaker clothing, they were well constructed and when I wore them outside in a cold rain tonight, the gloves worked really well. My hands remained warm in spite of the gloves getting quite wet.

They will need a shell for wind protection, which is the same as my other gloves that I wear for running.

Up Next

For the next part of this wear test I will see how well they do when I am actually running in all three pieces. The important one to my wife though, is how bad do they smell after I get through running in them.

I have had to throw away otherwise perfectly functional and fine – synthetic base layers, because they smelled so bad, TheWife refused to let me wear them in the house. So that is an important criteria for the Icebreaker line to pass.

On the box Icebreaker advertises “no stink” and TheWife kind of scoffed and told me she would believe it when she didn’t smell anything and few rather unflattering words about how bad I can make things smell after I have sweat.

Expect the next part of this review in a couple of weeks and to see how the Icebreaker base layer is working for me.

Initial Observations

The Icebreaker base layer that tops and bottoms that I received are “high-end” performance wear and went through my initial testing flawlessly. I am to say the least very impressed with the Icebreaker base layer so far.
Full Disclosure:  I was provided with a base layer top, bottoms and gloves to wear test in exchange for an honest evaluation of the Icebreaker base layer clothing on my blog(s). The fact that the product was given to me, does not influence my review of these products. My review will be based upon my personal experience with and use of these products.

RunLog 12/7/11 – Cold Rainy Day

At the Brook O/B turnaround point

I hate cold rainy days.

While I was running today, it was a steady, light rain with the temp right around 40F not warm, fuzzy or friendly out there.

I walked Bennie 2.7 miles, finishing about 1/2 hour before I ran today.  I have found that I need to give myself an hour or so before I run, after walking him, otherwise I am still a little tired and it negatively affects my runs.

However, today I just wanted to get it over with. So I changed up, definitely needed the synthetic base layer and second layer then my running jacket. I also wore my winter running tights, wool socks, ball cap and gloves. It turns out I was dressed perfectly for the run. I was pretty well soaked by the end of the run, but never felt cold and my feet, while very wet, were warm. If anything I was a little warm and worked up a pretty good sweat.

 

Picture of that “Damn Hill” from Monday, the road wasn’t
any better today, just colder and raining.

The run itself turned into my version of a tempo run, a little faster than my current regular pace on the way out.

On the way back when I hit the bottom Stevens gate at the bottom of that damn hill I hate so much-I bonked. I don’t know if it was a mental thing or physical, but the hill added a lot of time onto the run.

I finally made it to the top, doing more than a survival shuffle, but not much more than that and then I was able to pick up the pace again to finish the last 1/2 mile.

I was surprised that I ran as fast as I did today, actually it was a the fastest I have run this course this year.

Day 18 of my current running streak, I know I am not supposed to be streaking, but as long as I am not beating myself up too much, doing too many miles and feeling really good, I will continue. Once I don’t feel right, I will take some down time, but it would be nice to keep it up through the New Year and then start a new one for 2012.

Quality of Run: Very Good
Weight: 174
Time of Run: 12:00 Noon
Temp: 40
Weather: Steady cold rain, muddy road down back

 

Dressing for Winter Running

What do you wear for winter running?

Up in my neck of the woods (Central Maine), shorts and a cotton t-shirt and regular road running shoes just ain’t gonna cut it during most Winters.

While this year has been very unusual, I have been wearing shorts almost all of the year, usually running around “heah” in shorts and a t-shirt from late November through the first part of April could be hazardous to your health. Some years even sooner.

There are a couple of things to consider when running in the winter that is not a problem other times of year:

  • Hypothermia
  • Slipping and sliding
  • Ice and snow
  • Frostbite

This post is about my thoughts on what kind of gear to use when running outside during the winter and some these ideas can be used for many other outdoor activities during the winter, beyond just running.

Shoes

In regions where there is snow, slush or even wet conditions, I strongly believe that you need a running shoe with a great tread. I have had good luck running in winter using aggressive tread trail shoes, you never know what kind of weather you will run into during the winter and for me they do the trick. I have used regular running shoes during winter runs and landed on my ass far too often, which hurts both your ass and your ego among other things, especially when you look around to see if anyone saw you fall.

Look at the treads on the bottom the shoes you have now, how do you think they would handle snow, slush, wet roads or muddy conditions? Think about it and it might save you from landing on your ass, with people around you applauding your acrobatic skills.

The second thing if the conditions are really slick and you still feel the need to be out running, wear something like YakTrax (or whatever you find that you like that is similar – Disclaimer I am not being compensated to recommend YakTrax, it is something that I use that works for me).

I like YakTrax because they are light and only slightly interfere with your stride and can be put on or taken off quickly when you need to.  Warning if you are wearing these you need to slow down and be very careful when you hit bare tar or loose gravel. Also they tend to wear out after one season of use, but they are a good investment if you feel that you need to run no matter what.

If it there is a lot of snow on the ground where you are running, you can also add in a small set of gaiters to help keep the snow/wet out of shoes. Dry feet are happier feet, but I pretty much expect my feet to get wet when running in the snow and rain.

Socks

Like I said plan on your feet getting wet during the winter and you need something that is going to retain warmth even when wet. I like to use a synthetic sock or wool blend sock in the winter time – definitely no cotton. Personally once it gets colder, I use Merino Wool Hiking Boot Socks, yes they are a little thicker than your regular running socks, so your foot might be a little snugger in your shoe, but they do keep my feet warm in most conditions.

When buying shoes that I am going to run in the Winter time, I take the socks I am going to wear with them, so that the shoes fit correctly and are not too tight when wearing my winter socks or if I am going to wear gaiters very often with them, I bring the gaiters with me also. I want to know that my shoes will fit correctly and the equipment all works well together.

A good example was when I while running in a Nor’Easter right before Thanksgiving, my feet were not cold at all, even though the wind was blowing 30-40 mph and I was running in snow up to 8 inches deep at times.

I don’t know about you, but if my feet are cold, it is no fun running.

Below the Waist

After a while you just shouldn’t wear shorts, your legs will thank you and you will be injured less, in my opinion. Good old fashioned lined wind pants are not sexy (as long as the liner is not cotton), flap in the breeze and work well to keep you warm. However, I prefer to wear synthetic running skin tights or looser fitting winter running pants that have a layer of windstopper material (my personal preference), they just feel more comfortable when I am running. I have had several pair and found they work just fine for running in nasty conditions. You just have to think about how cold it will be and how much of a fashion plate you need to be while running.

But if you are like me and chafe your inner thighs too easily, you either have to grease up between those babies (vaseline, body glide, etc.), wear compression shorts or clean out the blood that will drip from excess chafing and not be able to run comfortably for a week or so.

Personally I go with the compression shorts for three reasons:

  1. compression shorts help prevent chafing,
  2. they are an extra barrier to keep your junk away from the cold and wind,
  3. they are a lot less messy – just think about sitting down on something after greasing up your legs to run – yechhh or after someone else who has greased up and didn’t clean up their mess – gross.

I prefer the models with the built in compression shorts, it is a matter of convenience and cost – think about it.

Then there is a certain problem for guys. Have you ever just worn a pair of shorts or tights and got caught out on a cold, windy day? That external plumbing can get pretty cold. Unfortunately, it is not a pleasant experience, during the re-warming phase, even with your favorite partner helping to warm things back up.

If you don’t have the chafing problem and just need underwear (not worried about lines on your running tights), guys ensure that the underwear has a wind panel in the front to protect the family jewels, you will be glad that you did.

If you need an emergency windstopper panel or if you don’t want a line in your running tights – a baggie does a great job and they come in different sizes all the way up to gallon bags to protect those who think they have that much junk and need more much protection from the cold.

Upper Body

Dress in layers using synthetic materials. Personally I like a skin-tight synthetic base layer without any sleeves – hey no one can see the unsightly bulges of fat underneath everything else, I want to ensure that this layer wicks away moisture to the next layer. Another synthetic or wool blend, layer only this time a long sleeve version if it is cold enough. Then dependent upon how cold it is I add a synthetic fleece vest and a windproof shell.

I have had good luck with my GoreTex shells and like how they breath fairly well, while I am running so that I don’t get sweaty and become a puddle under the shell. Other benefits of the GoreTex shell are that they stop the wind (well most of it), which always seems to be howling during the Winter time and keep you mostly dry from rain and snow – even though after awhile in a downpour you will soak through.

Head

There is a lot of personal choice here and many people run without much of anything to help cool themselves down. People just wear a knit hat of some type that covers their ears.

Most of the time I run with a head band to cover my ears, with my Brooks Hi-Vis ball cap (see the picture at the top of the post). If it is extra cold, like below 10F I have a neoprene face mask that I wear (that I have had and used for years), but that fogs up my glasses, so it is a catch-22 sometimes.

Wearing a ball cap/head band combo makes it easier to vent excess heat quickly if you begin to overheat – just stuff the ball cap in your pants (also works as additional wind stop for “junk” protection – the hat will wash). That way your ears still stay warm, and when you start to cool down you can put the hat back on.

Hands

I usually have a pair of fleece gloves (liners) to run in and when it gets colder, a mitten shell to go over the top of the gloves. I guess you could just wear the mitten shell and add the gloves when it gets colder, but for me the other way works fine. If my fingers get cold while wearing the gloves, I take my fingers out of the finger holes and curl them up in the palm area.

If it is really cold, I just wear my ski mittens and a liner, they haven’t gotten cold resorting to this.

Visibility

This is not something to take lightly, when running you need to be seen by those driving in motor vehicles (you know – cars, trucks, buses, semis and around here dump trucks), especially since days are a lot shorter and it is dark when many of us run.

WEAR REFLECTIVE GEAR and a have a light. yes I yelled – so sue me.

I also drive a 4WD truck and a car. When I come up suddenly on runners wearing their favorite black or dark colored clothes, without reflective gear at dusk or dark:

  • First I get pissed because they startled me and I probably almost hit them
  • Second I feel sorry for their next of kin, because sooner or later they are going to either be killed or maimed for their stupidity.

I hate reading about runners being hit because the driver couldn’t see them, it gives our sport a bad name, especially when this kind of accident is usually preventable.

Glasses

One of the biggest problem I have with running in the cold weather is that I wear glasses and they fog up or like the picture (even when wearing a hat) they get all spotted from rain or snow.

I haven’t found any of the anti-fogging stuff that actually works for me and I no longer wear contacts, which means my ability to see is compromised in bad weather.

So a ball cap of some type is standard for just about all of my running, year round. The hat helps keep rain, snow off them and combats bright sunlight when I forget my sunglass clips.

And no going without glasses is not a real good choice, I enjoy seeing what is going to hit me. Yes I am blind as a bat without my glasses.

Overdressing

I tend to overdress more often than not. I prefer to be a little too warm than not warm enough. If I get too warm I can take something off, if I am cold I have to just suffer through it, until I get home or cut the run short.

Summary

Those are my general ideas for how to dress while running outside during the Winter time. There are some lessons that I have learned the hard way (using baggies in front of your junk when it is really cold), good tread design for your shoes, (I have fallen and ended up like a pretzel more than once), and all the other experiences I have had while running in the winter, which enabled me to learn what works and more importantly what doesn’t.

If you decided that you want to enjoy the benefits of running during the most challenging time of the year (in my opinion), think about what you are wearing before you go outside. Stopping for that short look to see what you have on, before you step out the door, may make your run more enjoyable and ensure that you come back safely and uninjured.

How you dress when running during the Winter is completely your choice, after all you are responsible for what you do when you step out that door, these are just things that I do.

This was originally part of my 6 Rules for Winter Running post over on “One Foot In Reality” and when I went back and thought about it – I felt that it should be its own post and re-wrote and edited the post for publication here on “A Veteran Runnah”.

Six Rules for Running in Winter Weather

I know so many others have written about this topic lately, why do we need yet another running in cold weather post in the blogosphere?

You never know when you say something in a slightly different way, that somebody remembers the next time they go outside for their winter run.

Here are my rules for that may make your winter running routine a little safer.

My Six Rules of Winter Running

First rule – of winter running (when it gets colder) – NO COTTON! Save cotton clothes for lounging around the house after you get done running in front of the fireplace.  That means no cotton socks, briefs, t-shirts, etc., they rob you of your body heat once you start sweating and they get wet.  This means you will get colder faster.

Second rule – Slow down, if the weather is crappy, don’t try for a PR and land on your heinie or get yourself injured because you were going too fast for the conditions. Tendons and muscles are not nearly as elastic in cold weather and sooner or later you will slip, slide and go boom, which could result in an injury and time away from running.

Third rule – Be seen! Dress in bright colors that contrast with the environment you are running in. Wear reflective gear, if you are running in dawn, dusk or dark conditions and carry a flashlight/headlamp.

Fourth rule – Bring your cell phone if you have one.  Getting rescued is a lot easier this way.

Fifth rule – Use shorter courses and do more laps. Hell yes it is a lot more boring to do laps, but if the weather is nasty, suddenly gets worse or it is really cold, it is better to be safe and only have a short distance to get back home, than it is to be a long ways away and take a chance on something bad happening.  Also you are more likely to have injuries in the winter – slipping, falling, getting splashed by cars, feet getting wet, etc., so think about shorter courses and more laps, until the weather improves.

Don’t over estimate your current running abilities during the winter, if anything be very conservative, Mother Nature is a cruel mistress and doesn’t treat those who believe they are more prepared or fitter than they really are nicely.

Sixth rule – Cars/Trucks Win. Even if you have the right of way, being dead or injured is not worth being right. As we know in bad weather, vehicles respond differently than they do on bright sunny days on dry pavement. Metal wins when it impacts flesh and bones. Your heirs will not appreciate the doctor bills or the funeral costs. Even if you do survive the impact, you won’t be running for a while. Remember this when you are running in the winter, even if you have the right of way, yield it for your own safety.

Those are my personal rules for running in the Winter – I try to follow them, but usually forget the cell phone and once in a while will wear a cotton t-shirt and really regret it when it gets soaked and I get friggin cold while running – I do that one at least a couple of times during the winter running season.

No – none of these rules apply if you are running on a treadmill in a 70 degree room.

Where did I dream up all this stuff?

  • I have read a lot of books, magazines and yes blogs that give a lot of helpful insight into winter running and this is a summation of all the stuff that I learned.
  • I have been running for a long time (40+ years) and have made most of the mistakes that you can make while running during the winter. While gaining this experience I was extremely lucky on more than a couple of occasions that I wasn’t seriously injured or worse – especially learning that yield to vehicles lesson.

Running outside in the Winter is not that bad once you are outside, getting out the door is usually the biggest hurdle, so as they say have fun and do it. However, there are days that it is better to just take a rest day and stay inside where it is warm, so use your common sense and be safe.

Do you have any additional rules for running during the winter that I missed or you believe should have been included?

Welcome to Veteran Runnah

Welcome to “A Veteran Runnah”, my new blog, and yes this is an update to the original welcome post. I figured it would be appropriate since I returned to “A Veteran Runnah” on the 1st of December.

Yes I am from Maine and instead of “er” we say “ah” thus the term Runnah.

Running has been one of my passions for many years and it is something that has been a very important part of my life. It has helped me through some very tough times, is part of some fantastic memories and allowed me to meet some very interesting people that I never would have otherwise.

It has been how long?

I have been involved with organized running since the summer of 1971 when I began training for my high school cross country team during my Freshman year – thank you Jay Brown. It was supposed to be something todo to get ready for basketball season, after I got cut from the J.V. soccer team and turned into a lifelong activity.

That also means I have been doing this “running thing” for a while. I guess that I can now in good conscience call myself a veteran runner.

During my running career, I have seen the highs of being fairly competitive, finishing a marathon, meeting some really great people and the lows of being injured for extended periods of time and then fighting to come back to being a runner again.

What can you expect from Veteran Runnah?

I had arthroscopic knee surgery in May and I am returning to running after being away since February 2010, even then I considered myself a runner – I kept trying to run and see how far the knee would let me go – (shhhh don’t tell the TheWife what I was doing when I was walking the dog) it turned out that I was not able to run very far, until just recently.

So I will writing about:

  • how I am doing coming back to running
  • what I learn along the way.
  • Before I was injured I had just started doing a lot of local trail running and was loving it and as the knee gets better, I plan to make trail running a regular part of my running routine.
  • I don’t like to lift weights, but as my former trainer at the gym used to say, you gotta do’em and not just do cardio.  I know that and I do know that lifting weights does help and I am doing some – not as much as I should, but more than I used to.
  • Reflections on different parts of my running career, both the highlights and the lowlights.
  • Reviews on different shoes, clothing, techie stuff and other gear that I use when I am running.
  • I also plan to use “A Veteran Runnah” as my off-beat way of keeping my running log and a way to keep me honest about whether I am running or not. I am not as into numbers, totals or time like I used to be and a blog as my running log has a certain amount of appeal to me. Also if I do my log open to the public, you will hold me more accountable.

Finally, I run year round, which isn’t always easy up heah in Maine, this year I don’t have access to a treadmill (I retired and didn’t renew my gym membership) and plan to run outside, so that should make my return to running even more shall we say even more “interesting”.

Running is something I do and even though I no longer am a competitive runner. I love to run and when I am not running consistently there is a huge void in my life. Who knows maybe over the next couple of years, I might even enter a few races and see how I do.

I hope that you enjoy reading the “A Veteran Runnah” as much as I believe that I will enjoy writing heah.