Gear Review: Women’s Icebreaker Mid Layer Jacket; Base Layer Tights
As an avid outdoors woman, I’ve accumulated quite a collection of base layers. At this point, I consider myself a connoisseur. Over the course of thousands of miles of hiking and running, I’ve tried the gamut. It’s safe to say that not all are created equal. The Icebreaker Quantum Long Sleeve Zip Hood Jacket and Tech Trainer Hybrid Tights quickly stood out to me for their quality, durability, versatility, and comfort.
Founded in 1994, Icebreaker is a merino apparel pioneer. The company specializes in the production of high-quality merino wool performance wear. For the uninitiated, merino is one of the world’s most ancient breeds of sheep. The merino is built to survive the scorching summers and freezing winters of New Zealand’s rugged Southern Alps. This results in a wool product that provides odor control, temperature regulation, and comfort. As a perk for the socially conscious outdoors person, Icebreaker’s website extols their commitment to a product that is ethical and sustainable for the sheep, the growers, and the planet.
The pieces I tested include the Merino Quantum Long Sleeve Zip Hood Jacket and the Tech Trainer Hybrid Tights. Over the course of several months, I put these items through the ringer, including thousands of miles (literally) of hiking and running in a wide variety of climates. Both items proved to be worth their weight in my backpack. These pieces are beautifully constructed, well-fitting, durable, and versatile. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I’ve worn at least one of these items every day for the past six months.
The tights traveled with me the entire length of the 2,800-mile Continental Divide Trail and the jacket has been my go-to top every day since my return to a chilly Colorado autumn. I have a closet full of athletic wear and athleisure to choose from, so the fact that I gravitate toward these on the daily is quite high praise.
I recommend these items for anyone seeking out well-fitting, durable athletic wear that is designed with the highly active person in mind.
Weight: Medium = 15.2 ounces
Materials: 98% Merino wool, 2% Lycra
The Quantum Long Sleeve Zip Hood Jacket transitions perfectly from trail to town and back. I wear this jacket to the coffee shop in the morning, out onto the trail for an afternoon hike, and while standing around the campfire in the evening. It not only performs superbly on my mountain adventures, it’s incredibly comfortable and warmer than I expected for its weight.
The Lycra adds stretch and mobility, allowing the jacket to move with my body and perform well during high intensity activities, like running or hiking. The jacket features body-mapped fabric for insulation and breathability. As with all merino, it’s odor resistant, supports thermoregulation, and is soft against my skin.
This item is constructed from a 260 midweight fiber, making it ideal for the chillier days of spring and autumn, or the cool evenings of summer. I comfortably wear this jacket over a T-shirt or tank top in temperatures ranging from the low 40s to high 60s.
What really makes this item stand out are all the additional features that I didn’t even know I needed in a jacket until I wore this one. This includes:
- A fitted hood for warmth and protection.
- A reflective center front zip for visibility in low light.
- A zipper chin guard and interior storm flap.
- Flatlock seams that prevent chafing.
- Fold-over sleeve cuffs for added warmth.
- Zippered chest pocket with media cord port.
- Zippered hand pockets.
The zippered pockets give me peace of mind that my car keys will still be there when I’m done. The zippered chest pocket with media cord port keeps my music player convenient and accessible. Having the weight on my chest prevents it from bouncing around in my pocket. The front zipper goes up the collar, keeping out drafts, and the fitted hood provides added protection. Plus, those fold-over sleeve cuffs are ideal for my always-cold hands.
There is truly nothing I didn’t love about this jacket (which is why I wear it every single day), and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it for anyone headed out for a day of hiking, backpacking, climbing, or any other high energy outdoor adventure.
Weight: Medium = 9.52 ounces
Fabric: 46% nylon, 38% merino wool, 16% Lycra
I wore the Tech Trainer Hybrid Tights in every imaginable condition you can expect to encounter on a 2,800-mile hike between Canada and Mexico. These tights are comfortable in temperatures ranging from the low 20s to high 60s. I wore them through snow, rain, and sun, making this item an essential piece of my CDT thru-hike kit. This piece continues to be indispensable to my wardrobe, as I still wear these tights running and hiking, as well as to yoga class, and around town.
The Lycra adds the same well-fitting stretch and mobility I found in the jacket, making them ideal for running and hiking. The Pertex Quantum Air nylon fabric gives this item breathability and comfort in all conditions. This fabric combination is soft, yet fitted, and I didn’t experience the droop and sag that I have with other tights. This is a major bonus when you’re wearing the item many (many) times between washings (while thru-hiking, of course).
Not that I know from experience, but one might comfortably wear these tights 24 hours a day for multiple days in a row. (Thank goodness for merino’s odor resistance.)
As with the jacket, I love how warm these tights are for the weight. I looked forward to putting them on at the end of every day, certain I’d stay cozy throughout the night, and I felt more comfortable leaving my tarp on chilly mornings, knowing these tights would keep me warm.
If there’s any downside I can cite, it’s that the inner seam of these tights is starting to wear thin and get micro-holes. Granted, this is after multiple thousands of miles and hours of hiking, running, sleeping, and living in these tights. I’ve never had a pair of tights that this didn’t eventually happen to, and usually much sooner than the amount of wear-time I’ve gotten from this pair.
I recommend both of these items for the active outdoors person who is seeking base layers that provide comfort, breathability, durability, and versatility. These items are lightweight, odor-resistant, beautifully constructed, and well-fitting. Plus, they’re made of natural fibers, so they’re renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable. Win win win.
This product was donated for the purpose of review.
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