wool undershirt

Anyone use “Ice Breakers” woolen garments? I ahve a light one (140 grams) t-shirt. It is awesome. I have worn it in 40 degress to 80 degrees. It is excellent for wicking persperation away. It does not stink even after 3 days of heavy labor and never taking it off and still I ahve remained comfortable in it. Anyone have experience with the 190 grams?

the best
Icebreaker and Ibex are amazing. Smartwool is comfortable but not quite as longlasting in my experience. Since converting to wool I almost never paddle in anything else. The heavier duty is perfect under a drysuit but I wish they’d make a body suit for this purpose.


I believe you
I must admit that I looked at the prices for icebreaker (and a similar brand) and experienced instant sticker-shock, and decided to stick with my polypro stuff. However, in cool weather, or even warm weather when the water is cool, my first layer of outer clothing is wool, and I swear, there is no synthetic material that matches its ability to remain warm and comfortable when the weather is icky, or after a dunking. I’ve also heard other people say that when it comes to your base layer, nothing beats wool because it doesn’t develop the awful stink that synthetics do (I really dislike polypro in that regard).


– Last Updated: May-31-07 11:33 AM EST –

It's funny watching the conventional wisdom change when it comes to things like wool (obviously due in part to developing the product). So itchy, hot, uncomfortable, get some soft cotton or some polypro.

I love my smartwool stuff. Pricey but IMO worth it. But I'm going to check out the Icebreakers stuff.

I have become a smartwool sock fanatic
I wear mine all the time, even in humid, subtropical Houston summers. I even wear them as casual socks all year long, but especially for hiking in the summer, I can wear smartwools without liners and never get a blister.

I can remember the wool aroma from several damp zip t-necks after a week of XC skiing in Quebec (bnack in the 70s). The synthetics dry faster, but many develop funky smells. At least damp wool reminds me of more carefree days…


Love the wool
Wore Icebreaker on long journeys in Alaska, BC. What I found with Capilene was that I’d be soaked under my dry top when I took a break or stopped for the day. I’d get super chilled real fast and would quickly change. I then had very damp Capilene that did not dry real fast in SE AK climate.

The wool got equally damp but I found I could pull the dry top off, put my raingear on and wear the stuff dry as I remained warm.

Now it’s the only choice for cold wet days surf kayaking or touring. JMO

Swear by PolarTec
I am fond of my smartwool socks I received as a gift, and I have always considered that one of the best feelings in paddling comes at the end of the day when I change out of neoprene socks and into ragwool socks and hiking boot, but my polortec gear has treated me so well, for so long, in so many nasty conditions, that I just can’t believe wool could do any better.

For starters, the threads are waterproof. Any water that accumulates in the garment is in the space between the threads. As a result, it drains and drys better than anything else. Polartec has antibacterial properties that keep it from stinking no matter how much I sweat. It breathes well. IMO, the best wool can do is almost be as good as polortec. Other posters obviously disagree. Shall we repost to bicker and banter?

~~Chip Walsh, Gambrills, MD

Icebreaker is the way to go
In addition to the other features it looks rather stylish - suitable for wearing around town.

I am fond of my smartwool socks I received as a gift, and I have always considered that one of the best feelings in paddling comes at the end of the day when I change out of neoprene socks and into ragwool socks and hiking boot, but my polortec gear has treated me so well, for so long, in so many nasty conditions, that I just can’t believe wool could do any better.

Icebreaker (merino wool in general) dries very quickly and does something that synthetics don’t do… actually generate a slight amount of heat while they dry.

True Polartec threads do not absorb water, they don’t breath either. So you end with a garment that only breathes through the weave, wool fibers


Wool has natural antibacterial properties. I wore one top against my skin for 11 days straight, let it air out overnight and the next day it didn’t smell bad. Closer to kayaking, I wore the same top under a non-breathable drysuit for 5 days. The next day I was late for work and grabbed the first top I saw on the way to work, which happened to be the one I had been wearing the past 5 days. It didn’t feel gross and there wasn’t a bad smell - no one new the difference.

A little manufacturing history… polypro, capilene, and fleece were created to be a non-itchy wool substitute. Synthetic fabrics are constantly being modified because they haven’t reached the mark yet.

Remember it ain’t your father’s wool.

wool is not the equivalent of Polartec
A good wool garment is more tightly woven. Most Polartec is lousy for air penetration. Some of the more expensive ones have a denser construction.

Polartec doesnt do much for keeping you warm when it finally does get sodden (its hydrophobid).

Wool does keep you warm and cool

Its the choice for desert trekkers in 140 degrees on a camel. My father used to wear a wool robe all the time as a geologist in Arabia.

Cant remember what the robes are called.

Results Vary
Tons of people swear by wool, expecially old timers. I’ve had such good results with Polartec that I’m not looking for another solution. Obviously, individual preferences vary. I may have to give icebreaker a try, just to see what the hoopla is about.

Not all fleece is equal, and if you’ve had poor results with fleece, you probably didn’t pony up the $ for p-tec.

Warmth when wet? Yes, the polartec threads are hollow, so even when the garment is wet, it retains heat. Antibacterial? Yes, I’ve gone days, sweated profusely, and the fabric doesn’t get smelly. Breathable, check on that, too. I originally became a polartec fan during my cycling days. I cycled hard, and I sweat a lot. I tried some of the alleged breatable fabrics for winter and rainy conditions. I would be sopping wet, nothing breathed well enough, except, oh, did I mention? Polartec. In the rain, I eschewed the goretex in favor of Polartec, because it kept me drier. The moisture genrally stayed on the outer surface of the garment, and if it stopped raining, I was almost instantly dry.

A favorite Polartec pullover I bought in the 80’s is wearing out, after 100s of wearings. Maybe I’ll give the icebreaker a shot at replacing it. Then I can speak with personal knowledge. But regardless, it is great to have these solutions available. After all, the difference we are discussing is gradations between good and great, a pleasant predicament.

In New Zealand, I learned that sheep are now more profitable for meat than for wool, which is the reverse of the traditional values. The reason is there is much less demand for wool, due to the development of high-quality, synthetic, wool replacement fabrics. Maybe you fellas in the wool fan club can restore the old-time value of wool.


Less Demand for Wool

– Last Updated: Jun-03-07 3:22 PM EST –

I always thought the reason that there is less demand for wool nowadays is that CHEAP synthetics have taken over the whole garment industry, not to mention things like upholstery and carpet which were once made mostly from wool, too. Clothing made especially for outdoor enthusiasts is a drop in the bucket compared to everything else, but even in that case, I'm sure the main reason for the popularity of synthetics is price. I'm not sure about Polartech and fleece, but all the high-end synthetic longjohns I've seen are less than 1/2 the price of the good ones made from wool.

All about the Wool
I have about 10 pair of Smartwool socks that I wear year around. This past winter I bought a set of Smartwool long underwear, and am in love with it. I wore it under my drysuit all winter and even after 2-3 days of hard paddling, the stuff has no odor, or at least the odor is not that horrible synthetic/human bacteria stench.

I am not arguing polartec is bad
Polartec is good, but Merino wool is better. As I said before, Polartec does retain heat when wet. Merino generates a small amount of heat as it dries. Polartec has been treated to be anti-microbial. Wool is naturally anti-microbial. Polartec is breathable because of the weave, wool fibers are breathable in addition to the weave.

As far as breathability of Gore-tex it is breathable but it isn’t the sweat savior people think. In order for Gore-tex to work it has to be hotter and more humid on the inside than outside. In rain the outer fabric is soaking wet (100%) humidity, if you are sweating like crazy you will only reach 100% humidity. Therefor you never have a higher level of humidity on the inside and Gore-tex doesn’t function. I have a few Polartec pieces and like them, at least I like them well enough to keep around so friends can borrow them.

No, it’s the M factor

I like merino wool garments but they are vulnerable to moth attacks and they don’t dry as quickly as some synthetics. However, they do feel warmer even when damp.

My ex used to say that he thought wool’s warmth was partly from irritation of human skin in response to the wool fibers. He may be onto something.

but it itches!
Wool itches! Even smartwool–much as I like the way smartwool socks feel, if I hike in them, I end up with a nasty itchy rash. (but tags on the backs of shirts also give me a rash, so my experience probably isn’t worth worrying about…I wish I could wear wool next to my skin, but it isn’t going to happen…

wool allergies :frowning:
There are two types those that are allergic to wool and those that have sensitive skin. Sounds like you have sensitive skin, either way wool is out for you.

Polypro makes my skin itch but not wool - go figure?

I still have
a couple of wool bike jerseys dating back to when they were standard. I’m still impressed with how ell they work over a wide range of temperatures.

wool threads breath?
how do wool fibres breath?

i’ve seen those robes in Egypt
out guide wore one and i was stunned by how thick it was…no way but memory says more than a quater inch thick.

I got tired of ‘poly’ after living in the stuff for many multi day trips and the vomit like stench…maybe its just me, but wool has never developed the funk of poly, and bnystrom is right in that wool lasts a long time.