New Balance Mesh NB Ice 2.0 Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The main reason the Mesh Ice 2.0 was out of the running for any awards was the low level of comfort. Coarse fabric, combined with an athletic cut, made for uncomfortable, long days on the trails. Fortunately, it boasts incredible breathability and dries rapidly. These attributes work best for someone who doesn't have sensitive skin and is into high-intensity interval training - where you get your entire workout done in less than an hour.
Fit, fabric, and seams. These are the critical components when determining the comfort of a running shirt. The Mesh Ice 2.0, while it does have low profile flatlock seams, isn't what we'd define as comfortable. The fabric is a pin-dot mesh, and the fit is "athletic".
The athletic fit is quite snug; our 5.11", 175 pound gear tester noted the size large shirt was especially snug around the shoulders and chest. This snug fit wouldn't be an issue if the polyester was slippery and smooth like many polyesters, but the pin-dot pattern makes the material coarse. As you can imagine, snug and coarse isn't a recipe for comfort.
The upside for having this moderately coarse pin-dot mesh polyester is a highly breathable shirt. During real-world testing, there was a pronounced difference between the amount of air we could feel flowing through the mesh. This translated to an increase in evaporative cooling and the ability to sustain homeostasis in high temperatures. At the gym, when standing in front of the floor fan, we were able to rapidly cool down.
Via our drying speed test, we discovered just how rapidly the Mesh Ice 2.0 could shed moisture; spoiler alert, it was swift. While the shirt only retains 26% of its total weight with moisture (this isn't much), it can lose all of that moisture within the first 10 minutes of dryer time. This rapid drying speed puts the shirt alongside the best.
The real-world testing revealed more of the same. We often wear a fanny pack while out hiking to carry essentials; this pack creates a place where moisture can't evaporate until we remove the pack. The Mesh Ice 2.0 allowed for the gross, sweaty patch to dry within moments of taking off the pack. Unencumbered by dense fabric, any gust or slight breeze could be felt passing through the shirt.
The highly breathable but coarse fabric makes it more of a specialist than a versatile shirt. It was too coarse for wanting to wear it with a running pack or backpack, plus the added layers hindered the high level of breathability. To get the full benefit from this shirt, wearing it for high-intensity low duration workouts seemed to be what it was most suited for; we're talking intervals where you are maxing your heart rate, sweating, and trying to cool off before the next soul-crushing interval.
The Mesh Ice 2.0 is equipped with a few features. There are reflective tabs on both sleeves and a reflective NB emblem on the chest. This is an often overlooked safety feature that we wish was added to more shirts! Unfortunately, there isn't any anti-odor treatment on the fabric, and for a shirt designed for sweat, we find this is unfortunate.
There are a few setbacks that make the price tag seem quite steep. Firstly, the low level of comfort is an issue that even much more affordable shirts have solved. The second issue is how specialized this shirt is regarding what activities it's suited for. If it were a bit more comfortable and a tad more versatile, we would feel the price was justified. As it stands now, this shirt doesn't seem like good value.
The NB Mesh Ice 2.0 is an incredibly fast drying and breathable shirt suited well for high output short-duration activities. This could be a more versatile shirt for those that do not have sensitive skin, or if the mesh fabric were a bit less coarse and softer to the touch.