Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $54 - $68 | Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros: Natural fiber, warm, good breathability, track the sheep it came from!
Cons: Loose fit, tight neckline, expensive.
Best Uses: Hiking, climbing, camping, backpacking, horseback riding, sailing, kayaking, mountain biking, skiing, winter sports.
Because the Icebreaker Bodyfit 200 Oasis is the same material (merino wool) and cost as the Smartwool Midweight Crew, and because both tops held up under testing extremely well, I think the final decision should be based on fit and style. If you want a looser top, the Oasis is the one for you. If you want a tighter fit and more basic design, head for the Smartwool Midweight Crew. Other than that, if you want a less expensive top, and coziness and style aren’t huge factors, the Patagonia Capilene 3 is a good alternative. However, for traveling, as an example – I would wear the Oasis 200 into a museum or café any day over the Patagonia Capilene 3.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Icebreaker top is very similar to the Smartwool Midweight Crew in that it is a natural fiber, warm base layer that breathes well. They are also the same price. However, the overall design and fit of the two are very different.
The Nature 200 has a looser fit, which makes it easy to move in, easy to push up the sleeves, and easy to take off and on. Because of this, I found myself actually layering it over lighter tanks and tops for conditions prone to variance. On their website, Icebreaker touts this top as one that can be worn as a base layer or alone, and they are right. With the subtle design on the sleeve and torso it transferred well to being an everyday top.
The Icebreaker top was extremely warm, breathable and dried quickly, three qualities I have come to expect from Merino Wool. It is also far softer than some of the synthetic tops I tried, with the Arc'teryx RHO being the exception.
When I first washed this top, I checked the tag for any special instructions. Not only is it easy to care for, but I noticed something that truly sets this top apart. On the tag was an identifying number, and if I type that number into a website, I can actually track the sheep who provided the wool for my specific top! It’s a simple and interesting perk tied directly to the company’s environmental and anti-cruelty policies, but really, in the end, it’s just cool!
My primary issue with this top was the fit. I found that the arms were just barely long enough, and the torso a bit boxy. This was surprising as the photographs online show an extremely fitted, longer top. I also found the elasticized ribbon around the neck was a bit tight and felt restrictive. This was fine when I was relaxing, but when my body temperature rose, or I was bending and stretching, it definitely became an issue. Because it is the same price and same material as the Smartwool Midweight Crew, I found myself comparing the two for fit, and I must say I preferred the soft, wide hemlines and fitted, longer fit of the Midweight Crew.
The Nature 200 is a great base layer or outer top for cooler weather activities, even those with higher aerobic demands. Winter sports, sailing, and mountain biking would be well served by this base layer. It is also cozy enough and durable enough to bring camping or traveling.
While more expensive than the Patagonia Capilene 3, the Nature 200 is pure Merino Wool, and performs beautifully. It is breathable, cozy and does not trap odor. I would say that if you want a warm top to wear both as a base layer and an outer layer, from a company that is environmentally responsible, it is worth the cost.
— Chris McNamara and Emily Zell
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: February 20, 2014
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