Icebreaker BodyFit 150

Long Term Review of the Icebreaker BodyFit 150 Merino Wool Short Sleeve Shirt

I’ve been using the Icebreaker BodyFit 150 short sleeve shirt as my go-to baselayer pretty consistently for a little over the last two years.

It has been my baselayer of choice for virtually all of my outdoors pursuits (climbing, backpacking, and mountaineering), irrespective of the season, and has even been my shirt of choice for the climbing gym, for running, occasional yoga sessions, and at the normal weights and treadmills gym (when I rarely do go).

It is impossible for me to guess how much usage this ONE particular shirt has got over the last few years… But it’s been through a lot.

I’ve used other shirts occasionally during that time—the Patagonia Capilene 2, both long and shirt sleeve are my other Usual Suspects.

I have owned both the Cap 2 shirts longer than my Icebreaker 150, but these days they see far less usage than they once did.

Needless to say, the Icebreaker 150 has been my preferred baselayer and I have used it to death at this point.

From Old School to New School Wool

I think a lot of us had that one wool sweater that they recall with dread from their childhood… The one that Aunt Gertrude bought you for Christmas that made you itch like crazy.

Yuck, who would wear a wool t-shirt?

As you may know, the mountaineers of the Golden Age used numerous layers of this itchy old-school wool to insulate themselves at altitude because of wool’s warmth, even while wet.

In time, outdoor products began shifting away from leather, wool, and other natural products to performance tech t-shirts, Gore-Tex, fleece, and other oil-based products.

But the increasingly popular wool garments of today utilize special wool from the merino sheep of New Zealand. These sheep produce super fine wool hairs that feel soft like cotton and don’t itch like that sweater from Aunt Gertrude.

Merino Wool versus Polyester

One of the oft-recognized qualities of merino wool is its antimicrobial proprieties, making it extremely odor resistant. You can wear your one shirt day in and day out in the backcountry and you realize the shirt itself does not stink…

You, of course, probably do; but the shirt doesn’t.

It therefore makes a suitable choice for a week in the woods, or even as a good gym shirt: you can go for a run one night, hang it up to dry off and then wear it to the gym the next day without any offensive odor.

I machine-washed my Icebreaker 150 intermittently depending on usage, and then always just hung it up to air dry (mostly to reduce additional wear and tear than out of concern of shrinkage).

Polyester shirts such as the Capilene shirts will definitely pick up a foul odor, even after just a quick 30-minute run outside.

You say “but I’m a rugged outdoorsman, who cares if I stink?” Fair enough. There are other advantages to merino wool though.

Merino wool’s performance as a baselayer when wet is extremely good. It does not feel clammy against your skin and is less chill inducing than polyesters while wet in cold environments.

This is attributable to the composition of the wool fiber itself.

To quote Andrew Skurka from his book the Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, “the coretex (the inner core), absorbs about one-third of its weight in water, but the cuticle (its outer sheath) is hydrophobic.

“So when merino wool gets wet, the coretex absorbs the moisture (until it is saturated), and the cuticle feels dry against the skin. By contrast, a polyester fiber repels moisture, so the moisture stays on the fiber surfaces and between the fibers, where it can come in direct contact with skin.

“Wet wool is warmer than wet polyester because less moisture is in direct contact with skin—it gets absorbed into the coretex.”

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Merino Wool Benefits

  • Feels soft like cotton
  • Excellent odor resistance
  • Insulates when wet
  • Doesn’t feel clammy

I have certainly felt a difference between polyester and merino wool in respect to its performance in wet and cold environments.

I recall a recent trip where I wore the polyester and got soaked by an unexpected rain in the evening, I wasn’t able to dry off before camp and despite my layering fleece and down over the top, I continued to feel chilled and cold because of the damp layer next to my skin.

It eventually dried out from body heat, but in my mind it was much less comfortable than when I’ve had a wet merino layer under similar temperatures and conditions.

So I see the utility of merino in conditions where it is difficult to stay dry—whether from your own perspiration, from rain and snow, or from otherwise wet and damp conditions.

Merino wool shirts do absorb more moisture than polyester however, and thus take longer to dry. By most accounts it takes approximately 50% longer to dry (ie a Capilene 2 garment that takes 30 minutes would take 45 minutes in a merino wool shirt).

Despite the increased drying time, I think the warmth and comfort of wool still prove superior when wet.

The shirts also perform admirably in the heat. This was still my go to shirt during the warm months in the Mid-Atlantic when the temps and humidity soared.

It performed similarly to polyester garments in those conditions, in my opinion. It wasn’t particularly comfortable, but then again what is when the temperatures are 90+ degrees as well as the humidity?

The slightly longer drying time of wool provides additional evaporative cooling benefits during the hotter weather.

Drawbacks of Merino Wool

There are two main drawbacks with merino wool however.

First of all, there are durability issues with these lightweight merino wool garments. They are prone to develop holes and tears over time, particularly in high abrasion areas like those underneath your pack.

This particular shirt has only a few tears or holes on the front, but is full of holes on my back—especially along the shoulders (shoulder straps) and along the back of the torso (from the backpack strap).

By contrast, I have owned my Capilene 2 garments for a longer period of time, and (while I don’t use them as frequently anymore, they did see a lot of use initially) they have held up decidedly better over time.

Secondly, merino wool garments are not cheap.

The Icebreaker BodyFit 150 short sleeve retails for $60. If you keep your eyes open you can get them a little cheaper.

I picked up this particular shirt at the Icebreaker outlet store down near Portland, Oregon for about $40-$45.

This summer I picked the Tech T Lite which has a slightly more casual cut compared to the BodyFit from Amazon.com for $46 (retail $65). And just a few weeks ago I picked up another 150 Tech T Lite on sale for $45 at one of the Icebreaker stores in New York City.

BodyFit versus Tech T Lite Shirt

These two shirts are not tremendously different. Both are 150 g/m2 weight shirts, but the BodyFit is 96% merino and 4% LYCRA, while the Tech T Lite is 100% merino.

The BodyFit, as its name suggests, has a tighter more athletic fitting shirt, while the Tech T Lite has a more casual cut. The BodyFit retails for $60 while the Tech T Lite is $65.

Icebreaker BodyFit 150 Short Sleeve Shirt

Icebreaker makes a top of the line merino wool t-shirt and I have been extremely happy with it as a baselayer throughout its life.

Their garments are not cheap, but I think that the sustainable nature of a product derived from sheep versus oil based products should count for something.

This particular Icebreaker 150 shirt has reached the end of its life after about two years—there are quite a number of holes that have developed on the back, and a few holes on the front.

Even at the end I still proudly wore my holey shirt out in the woods and at the crag though.

But after more than two years of climbing, backpacking, working out, and abusing this shirt—it was time to say good bye.

I was pleased enough with its performance during that time that I knew I needed to replace it with another, and I didn’t hesitate in purchasing another Icebreaker 150 short sleeve shirt.

Actually, I wouldn’t mind picking up another couple of merino shirts and other garments from Icebreaker for my upcoming year-long climbing trip.

After all, I doubt I’ll be able to wash my clothes as often as I otherwise would. I’m looking forward to living like a dirtbag, but it’d be nice not to smell like one…

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Further reading: BackpackingLight.com conducted a detailed assessment of merino and polyester by sewing two shirt halves together. Very interesting review.

Disclaimer: I own this product and purchased it with my own hard earned money. The company did not advocate for a review nor contribute to it in any way. This post contains affiliate links which provide me a small commission if you decide to purchase–thanks for the support!

Skurka, Andrew (2012-2-21). The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools and Techniques to Hit the Trail. National Geographic.

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Ryan

Author, Writer, and Head Honcho at Desk to Dirtbag
Ryan is an author, adventurer, and wanderer. Originally from Seattle, he headed to Washington D.C. where he spent five years working for Congress before heeding the call of the wild. He set out living in his pickup truck and road tripping across the American West. Since then he backpacked through Colombia, drove across all of Central America, and also wrote a best selling book: Big Travel, Small Budget. Right now you can find him driving his old truck across all of South America -- support the adventures by visiting the D2D Shop. Follow the adventures on social media or read more.

Comments 25

  1. Hi…liked your review. I was looking for a description of the different fits and haven’t been able to find any yet, even on Icebreakers website (may my error). You mentioned that Body Fit is tighter than Tech, but I also see them used together. Tech, I have found is a tighter smoother type weave (LOVE it and use my t-shirt for so much as you do! The knitier type I can by a size up and wear for going to town too, otherwise, sized to fit for base-layer. A friend’s wife is overweight and even an XL is a bit too tight to wear alone, so I am looking for the “model” icebreaker that is “classic fit”, but some tops are missing a descrition of the fit (“trim vs classic). Any ideas on how they expect customers to figure out the fit when a person cannot size up one size? Thanks!

    1. Post
      Author

      If by “they” you mean Icebreaker, you can breath easy… This is actually my website, with my opinions, and it has nothing to do with Icebreaker. So no, they probably won’t respond. But I did!

      Thanks for the slew of comments.

  2. Worst underwear I ve ever worn…sweaters are good and jackets and the socks are OK but the UNDERWEAR and SOME T SHIRTS…They TEAR Under the arms and in the middle of the crotch like I ve never seen any underwear tear..

    It seems that they need to put more thickness in the underwear. at 45$…we deserve AMAZING UNDERWEAR

    NOt going back to Icebreaker anymore and I ve spent many THOUSANDS of dollars there

    1. Post
      Author

      I used their boxers last year a fair bit and hadn’t had any problems with rips and tears. I agree that the t-shirts are susceptible to holes and tears in high abrasion areas as I detailed in my post above… But, at the same time I replace them at the end of their life with another Icebreaker product because I like them and they are still my favorite baselayer for outdoor activities of all stripes.

      Underwear-wise, I personally found the cut for Icebreaker to be slightly uncomfortable more than anything–the legs were too short and would ride up on me. I don’t know how much use you are getting out of them before failure, but that would be helpful info for others making a decision. They never ended up failing for me in my limited use.

      I did actually switch over to Under Armour boxers this year which are probably the most comfortable pair I’ve ever worn, and are fast drying, meant for athletic endeavors, etc. Not cheap either though.

  3. I ve purchased over 100 pieces…all in all…the majority are good and comfortable…BUT the underwear and some t shirts ?????? The shittiest 50 dollars iv e spent on pieces with completely ripped and torn without any abuse….

    They ve tried to spare some extra wool..on this underwear …shameful tears everywhere

    Will not go back anymore…

  4. Hi Ryan,

    Did you ever try Lifa ? I prefer it from merino wool. It doesn’t stink anymore (couple year ago the product stink so much). And Also it way more durable they merino wool. I feel that in high energy activities, it work also better.
    I like my merino wool in skiing for the warm.

    Let us know !

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Stephane, can’t say that I’ve tried Lifa, or even heard of it for that matter… Is it a European brand? What type of fabric is it? Feel free to elaborate for people who may be reading these comments. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Hey Ryan,
    Awesome write up. I live on the road as well, and after a year and half I too ran into the issue of holes in my merino t-shirts. After a bit of research, I found some info that might be interesting to you and your readers.

    Washing

    Wool, like down, has lanolin as part of it’s makeup. This is the part of the wool fiber that is responsible for it’s strength, flexibility and softness. When a heavy soap or detergent is used on real wool (like Icebreaker), the bond is broken between the oil (lanolin) and the substrate (the wool fiber). As a result, the wool fiber is no longer protected and will break down much faster.

    None of this is surprising, as it is exactly what soap is supposed to do. The difference being that while your skin naturally replaces the oils that are stripped by the soap, your t-shirt cannot.

    With this in mind, one can see why Woolite (just a weak soap) is such a popular product. So, simply put, to make your shirts and undies last longer, use a weak soap and hand wash them. Kind of a pain in the ass, but at $65/shirt, I’ve started to make the extra effort and carry a travel size bottle of woolite.

    Happy trails dude.

    Dave

    1. Post
      Author

      Hey Dave! Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment, sounds like solid advice. I’ve mostly been hand washing (by necessity) the majority of my clothes (including the Icebreaker stuff) while I’ve been on the road this year, and I’m happy to report that I haven’t gotten any significant holes as of yet. That definitely seems like the most prudent way to keep your pricey shirts in nice shape. Cheers!

  6. This might be TMI, but I bought the Icebreaker underwear for hiking in Patagonia and it was actually really great. Particularly the fact that I was hiking in cold climates and when you get sweaty, the fabric doesn’t make you feel cold. They have good stuff..

    1. Post
      Author

      Hey Anita, thanks for the comment! Yeah, maybe a little TMI… 🙂 But I too have been using the Icebreaker underwear since hitting the road, and I definitely agree that they are pretty great. Initially I was concerned about durability, but so far, so good! I might do a review of them down the line at some point.

      1. It will be interested to see how you do a review of the Icebreaker underwear without revealing too much information 😉

  7. Hey Ryan,

    I enjoyed your review of Icebreaker – what really stood out to me, however, was the picture of you standing on the summit of Seneca Rocks! I just put in an Icebreaker order, and I love climbing, both sport and trad.

    I’m planning on reviewing the Icebreaker stuff soon, but I’ve been using their Beast boxers for months now, and have not even had to wash them – after a day or two of use, I just lather them up with soap when I’m showering and rinse them off. They’re dry in the morning, and smell great.

    I used to work at Earth Treks in Rockville, so it’s possible we’ve crossed paths. I hope you enjoy your year traveling!

    -Josh

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks Josh. Cool that you ran across my blog and that we share the DC connection.

      I purchased a few more Icebreaker garments (t shirts, long sleeves, boxers, even a sweater) and I do love the convenience of wool. The no stink factor rocks, especially considering you aren’t doing laundry as much as you otherwise might! 🙂

      All of them are holding up pretty well too. I think it helps getting more than one of a garment so you can spread out the wear and tear (unlike what I did with the one shirt reviewed above).

  8. I love this shirt too. Or I wanted to…. but I ran into the exact same durability issues you did. In fact, mine went exactly three days from the rack at the store to the final leg of a three day trip around Broken Top in the Cascades before it developed the same holes in your pictures, anywhere my pack straps touched it. Super sad, because it was the perfect weight and extremely comfy!

    1. Post
      Author

      Wow, that seems like uncommonly quick degradation, at least in my experience. It is a shame that the merino wool fabric isn’t a little more durable–I really do like the product. I’ve been wearing my new replacement 150 practically every day for the past two months, and no holes yet (granted it’s been under other layers though). I’ll see how it holds up in the long term, and will update this post accordingly.

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