Icebreaker has been around since 1995 and offers the self-proclaimed "best layering system in the world." Can we dispute that? No - but we will say the 100% merino wool Icebreaker Oasis Crew was not the best base layer in our testing group. The deal breaker for most women was the short fit through the torso and arms that caused skin exposure during colder pursuits. We also weren't thrilled about the extra laundering care required to ensure that it didn't shrink. Being the only shirt in the lightweight category, the fabric was a lot thinner, and thus lost points in the warmth category (naturally..). Though we must say that its temperature regulation was seriously impressive. Unlike the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip - Women's we didn't have to take this off while hiking and skiing up and down 13,000 ft mountains. After our adventures, we didn't notice a stench either which adds to the versatility of this piece. Overall, if you're interested in a lightweight merino layer, this may be the one for you. Just make sure you size up if you decide to purchase online.
Icebreaker Oasis - Women's Review
Cons: Tight fit, short arms and torso, shrinks, limited warmth
Our Analysis and Test Results
If you're looking for an excellent lightweight temperature regulator, you've found it here! The Icebreaker Oasis Crew is a 100% merino wool top that is thin and great to layer over. We wished for a better fit, but loved the wide range of activities it performed well in.
Light? Yup! Warm? Not so much. As the base layer with lightest weight fabric of the lot, we weren't too surprised that this merino wool layer wasn't as warm as the SmartWool Merino 250 Base Layer Crew - Women's or the Minus33 Ossipee. In fact, it scored the second lowest of all the tops - beating out only the Under Armour Base 2.0 Crew - Womens.Despite its light weight, the Icebreaker performed well in a variety of activities. It kept us warm after layering up at the ski resort and regulated temperature AMAZINGLY well while running. It was the least warm of the merino wool layers tested, but for its lightweight did a great job in this category. Its tightly knit wool fabric that did a great job of both cutting the wind (as a stand-alone top) and retaining heat (in a layered system).
Like we said, this was the best temperature regulating top we found and with that comes good breathability. In fact, we happily did a lot of running and hiking in this top because it performed so well for aerobic sports. The knit of the fabric is tight but it still releases heat effectively. We were both surprised and happy with this finding.
Because the fabric is thin, soft, and not "grabby," it performed the best of our merino competitors in this metric. Layering over is simple and easy, but layering under is a little more troublesome as some of our testers felt like it fit too tightly across the chest. Other than that, we thought it did a great job in the layering department.
Comfort & Fit
If the length of the torso and arms were longer on the Oasis, it would have made this shirt far more comfortable and it might have even been in the running for our Editors' Choice Award. However, many of our testers wore this shirt on hiking and backcountry skiing excursions and many reported the shirt riding up and exposing their skin. When skin is exposed the purpose of a base layer is lost, so for some of our testers, this was a deal breaker. We were disappointed with this aspect of the shirt but we loved the comfort of the fabric against the skin. Additionally, the great temperature regulation we talked about above really made this shirt more comfortable during excursions. Be sure to try this on before you buy it, or size up for good measure.
Of all the merino wool blends, this was the fastest to dry. However, it was not as fast to dry as the other synthetics tested like the Hot Chillys Micro-Elite Crew - Women's.
After three months of use, we noticed some pilling on the fabric and seams, but we didn't notice any serious fly aways. Of all the merino layers we tested this was the most durable. However, we were pretty surprised to find after washing and drying in a machine that there was shrinkage. When we consulted the label we found that this piece is supposed to be hung to dry. With that in mind, make sure you follow the laundering instruction to prevent this from happening to you . Hang to dry, do not machine dry. We didn't take any points off for this one, but if you're somebody who likes to throw everything in the drying machine, you might want to opt for any of the other layers we tested.
A lightweight piece with fantastic temperature regulation, the Icebreaker Oasis Crew will perform in a wide range of activities as both a base layer and stand-alone top. Take it on your aerobic missions in the spring, winter, or fall and layer it under a jacket in the winter. Don't be afraid to hike, bike, and ski in the same day without taking it off!
Getting a merino wool layer with a wide range of temperature regulation and good durability for only $90.00 seems like a steal. And it can be as long as the fit is long enough for you and you don't need the added warmth that some of our top-scoring products provide. Make sure you size up on this to get its full value. Two good alternatives with similar pros and less cons are the Smartwool NTS for $90.00 and the less durable Minus33 Ossipee for only $60.00.
A great 100% merino shirt that does an amazing job at temperature regulation and making you look fine. The fit is short, but if you have a short torso, this might be a good choice for you. The $90 price tag is questionable, and we think that the Smartwool NTS is a better option for the same price. But if you're in the market for something lighter intended for more aerobic activity, then this is a good choice.
— Amber King