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Hands-on Gear Review
Icebreaker Oasis Review
Cons: Average durability, limited layering ability, short sleeves and torso
Bottom line: The Icebreaker Oasis is a solid merino wool base layer that has several nice features, but also fails to keep wrists and lower stomachs protected due to its short lengths.
The Icebreaker Oasis re-entered the competition in our latest Men's Long Underwear Review. We couldn't resist getting our skin wrapped up in this comfortable merino wool fabric once more. On top of great comfort, this shirt also breathes exceptionally well, and is relatively quick to dry. Throughout the testing period, though, our patience with the sleeves of this model became similar to this fabric — thin. They were constantly riding up our arms and camping out there until we pulled them back down. When cold air hit our bellies, we were reminded of this model's short torso, too. It's also not as versatile in layering combinations as several other products we tested. Our opinion of this product is still pretty high, but it's score wasn't enough to snag any awards.
For a higher performing base layer at the same price point, check out the REI Merino Midweight. Or, if you want the most versatile and best merino wool base layer, the SmartWool NTS Mid 250 will not leave you in the cold.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Oasis by Icebreaker is a merino wool product offering mixed performance. For $90, you get a top with very soft and comfy fabric, superior breathability, and fast drying speed. Its major downfall, though, is its small fit; we liked the tightness, but were very disappointed by the short sleeves and torso that constantly had us pulling it down. It also wasn't as warm as several other models, and didn't overwhelm us with great durability, either.
The 200 g/m² merino wool on the Oasis provides a moderate level of insulation compared with the others tested, but weighs only 7.4 ounces. Its drop tail added further insulation. However, this top felt colder when moving due to frequent exposure of the wrists. The sleeves took every opportunity to slide up our forearms, granting chilly air unwanted access to our shivering skin. The short torso had similar problems. With longer sleeves and torso, this product would have scored higher in this metric. For warmer merino wool products, check out the REI Merino Midweight or SmartWool NTS Mid 250.
Like the rest of the merino wool shirts in this review, this long underwear product performs above average in breathability. Give credit for this advantage to the superior warmth-to-weight ratio of this fabric over synthetics. This allows a top of equal warmth to be made of thinner material and predictably breathe better. This base layer scored a tiny bit higher than the Smartwool NTS Mid 250, but not as well as the Under Armour Base 4.0.
Comfort and Fit
There was a bit of love/hate going on with the Oasis. We were huge fans of its soft texture, and loved the tight fit that hugged our chest. Supplemented with an asymmetric lens-shaped gusset under each arm, this model had great mobility.
We were less than impressed, though, with the sleeves and torso. We didn't enjoy the constant adjustments that accompanied any movements we made in this shirt. Pulling down the sleeves over our wrists, or the shirt bottom over our bellies, shouldn't be a constant chore with a quality base layer. There were several better-fitting models in this review, including the warm Arc'teryx Rho AR and the top scoring SmartWool NTS 250.
For a better fit in the sleeves and torso, you might want to consider sizing up. However, the chest area won't be as tight if you do this, which would, unfortunately, have a negative effect on this top's warmth and fit.
In the speed test, from soaked to dry, this top came in third place. It was only 11.5% slower than the fastest-drying Rab Merino+ 160. When you combine this strong showing with merino wool's resistance to absorb water, or even feel wet, you have an even better performance.
Merino wool clothing needs to be handled carefully, and the Oasis is no exception. This top is susceptible to abrasion, and should dry flat or on a hanger to avoid shrinkage. The fabric, however, will not absorb odors like a synthetic so it should not have to be washed as frequently; extending longevity. We saw no significant signs of wear after three months of regular use. For a more durable product, check out the Best Buy award winning The North Face Warm.
The snug fit in the chest and under arms of the Icebreaker model didn't lend itself to layering on top of other layers. When we tried, it bunched up the first layers in the armpits and restricted mobility, as well as adding discomfort. It did perform well in the traditional base layer sense. Jackets and mid-layers on top of this shirt were no problem at all.
If you want the option to wear layers underneath your long underwear, we recommend products like the Patagonia Capilene Midweight, or the best layering model, the Arc'teryx Rho AR.
We found the Oasis to be useful on its own in low to moderate to intensity activities in mild weather. Layering comfortably under jackets and mid-layers, we also like it as our first layer during adventures into cold and frigid environments. It's not a great choice for activities that involve lots of mobility in the upper body, as it doesn't stay in place well.
At $90, the Oasis costs the same as the REI Merino Midweight, but doesn't perform as well across the board. We believe this model is a good product, but there are better options for the money.
The Icebreaker Oasis performed above-average in key metrics for base layers, namely breathability, drying speed, and comfort. However, the designed shortness in the sleeves and torso let to mild frustration as we continuously readjusted this top. We liked this product, but it wouldn't be our first option in the long underwear marketplace.
— Ross Robinson
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