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November 12, 2009

Icebreaker BodyFit Shirt Review (and Coupon Code Sale)

My wife usually doesn’t react well to conversations that begin with me saying, “Hey, come here – smell this!”, but this week she was happily surprised by what I had to show her.

I had just come home from work, and was unloading my clothes from that morning’s 12-mile trail run, including an Icebreaker BodyFit 200 base layer I recently received from Wilderness Running Company. Among other qualities, the shirts claim a “no stink” feature, even after repeated washings.

I’ve described my wife’s bloodhound-like sense of smell in the past, so I don’t need to retell that story here. One of her biggest pet peeves about my training is how I hang the clothes from my morning workout on hooks in our bedroom closet to dry during the day before I toss them in the hamper. She claims she can smell the stench of them from three rooms away, or something like that.

Needless to say, I was excited to try the Icebreaker stuff. Their clothing is made from the superfine wool of the merino, a mountain sheep from the Southern Alps of New Zealand. The merino’s wool fibers are remarkably thin but also very dense, which keeps the sheep warm and dry in harsh conditions, but allows them to stay cool during the warmer seasons.

These specialized wool fibers have the same dynamic quality when incorporated in performance clothing as they do on the sheep: they expand to lock in body heat for insulation when it’s cold, but remain highly breathable so you don’t overheat. Icebreaker garments are made from 100% pure merino, in three different thicknesses designated by number: higher numbers indicate denser material, and lower numbers are more lightweight.

I tried a BodyFit 150 T-shirt, and a warmer BodyFit 200 long sleeve crew (shown at right - on someone who's not me). All Icebreaker tops are made to be form-fitting, but not quite as tight as a compression shirt, and with a seamless underarm area to prevent chafing. The high density fabric feels very soft and comfortable against your skin – certainly much better than synthetic material or even cotton. They’re generally used as base layers, but would work alone as a fitted tech tee as well. Bodyfit shirts are available in a variety of weights and styles, so you can pick one that’s ideal for your preferences.

Merino wool has several unique qualities that make it attractive for apparel companies: it’s eco-friendly and 100% sustainable (all you need is a small flock of sheep), completely biodegradable, and the end product is comfortable and dynamic as described above. But what really sold it for me – and especially for my wife – is the way it resists odors.

Icebreaker products are marketed as “no stink” garments, and they absolutely work as advertised. Whether following a 12-mile run, or after sitting in my car for 10 hours while I’m at work, they DON’T STINK. Not even a little bit. It’s kind of amazing, really. And nobody was more shocked and delighted to learn this than my wife.

In fact, she was so impressed with the “No Stink” performance that the conversation I mentioned at the beginning of this post ended this way:

Wife: You need to buy more of those. How much are they?

Me: They’re a little pricey …

Wife: I don’t care. They’re worth it. Get more of them.

So there you have it. Icebreaker gear is on the expensive side – the long sleeve crew I tried retails for $70 – so unless you have a ton of disposable income, you can’t just rush out and revamp your whole workout wardrobe. However, for the next 10 days, Wilderness Running Company is making the opportunity to try them a lot more affordable.

Between now and November 22nd, WRC is offering a 15% off promotion on all BodyFit baselayers. This is a general sale – although it doesn’t apply to Icebreaker caps or gloves, which are made of the same merino wool - so if you use my regular discount code R&R10, you’ll get an additional 10% off, giving you a 25% total savings. (You can use my coupon code for the caps and gloves for 10% off as well). It’s a great opportunity to try one or two models, to see for yourself how they perform.

Who knows, they might even contribute to improved domestic tranquility at your house, like they have at mine.

*products provided by Wilderness Running Company
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at


Stacy 11/13/09, 6:46 AM  

Thanks for the review, Donald. Just a quick note to your readers that, in addition to IB caps and gloves, the general sale here at WRC also does not apply to GT tops.

(Icebreaker's GT line is similar to the BodyFit line, but designed to work a bit better as a standalone technical top, the main differences being that GT tops are cut just a little looser than the "true" baselayer BodyFit range and feature a bit of reflectivity.)

Alisa 11/13/09, 8:19 AM  

Hmmmm....your wife and I should have a chat. I feel the same way about my hubbys clothes. I should look into this product line as a xmas gift for him.

Thanks for the review.

Alisa 11/13/09, 8:20 AM  

P.S. I'm doing Barb's Race 70.3 next summer and I noticed you did the full vineman IM in 2007. I'm going to have to read through your race report if you have one since Barb's race is held on the same course as the full vineman.

Darrell 11/13/09, 8:27 PM  

This stuff sounds kind of interesting. What was the temperature when you wore the long sleeve 200? Did you get too warm. It is sometimes difficult to figure out the right thing to wear down here in SoCal. It not cold enough for the realy good cold weather gear but it does get cool enough to where a short sleeve tech shirt isnt' enough.

Donald 11/13/09, 9:48 PM  

Darrell - the mornings here have been in the mid to upper 30s lately. I wore the long sleeve crew under a sleeveless vest. Once it gets a bit colder here (below freezing), I'll probably wear it under a full jacket.

I wear the short sleeve under a cycling jersey to keep my core warm when it's in the 50s or so. Hope this helps!

Jo Lynn 11/13/09, 10:22 PM  

Yes, IB stuff is very nice but I think just a bit too expensive. Merino wool is the BEST, hands down. I appreciate your review, as usual. I like to read what you have to say and use your experience when I talk to customers about the products. ;)

Paul Charteris 11/15/09, 11:37 PM  

Just the fact it's from New Zealand and it's made by sheep makes IceBreaker pretty much the coolest product on the planet. I've been wearing the stuff (not the same shirt) for at least a dozen years now.

Actually, I lost my original Icebreaker shirt just outside Caballo Blanco's place in Copper Canyon, Mexico.

Cheers, Paul

Spokane Al 11/16/09, 8:44 AM  

Icebreaker also makes some great bike socks. I have four pair and they are my favorite socks for all my bike rides, all year long.

Anonymous,  11/19/09, 11:54 AM  

Longtime reader, firsttime commenter.

I've been wearing Icebreaker stuff for a year or two now. It is great in the winter, but I mainly bought their thinner stuff to wear in the summer. It is great to come back from a two-hour bike ride and have my shirt completely stink-free. I also just got back from a vacation in Hawaii, and spent much of the time staying fairly cool with their boxer shorts and undershirts.

It is incredibly expensive, but they show up on Steep and Cheap fairly regularly.

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