Hands-on Gear Review

Icebreaker Tech 260 - Women's Review

This Merino wool contender features the warmest fabrics with the widest range of thermoregulation.
By: Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 27, 2018
Price:  $110 List  |  $63.80 at Backcountry - 42% Off
Pros:  Super warm, widest range of thermoregulation tested, comfortable, stretchy
Cons:  Durability, high price
Manufacturer:   Icebreaker
74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 9
  • Warmth - 20% 9
  • Breathability - 20% 8
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 8
  • Layering ability - 15% 5
  • Drying Speed - 15% 6
  • Durability - 10% 7
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Our Verdict

Boasting lavish comfort, the Icebreaker Tech 260 is the warmest base layer tested. Loaded with 260-g of 100% Merino wool this cozy contender will keep you toasty through the chilliest months of the year. Not only is it warm, but its thermoregulation is exemplary. Of all tested, it provides fantastic breathability while hiking uphill and ample warmth while skiing down. The fabric wicks away moisture and efficiently transfers it for evaporation, so it doesn't sit in the fabric, ultimately keeping you warmer. We found that it performed well through all activities like hiking, trail running, skiing, and more! Our only caveat is that it's not super durable and layering takes a little extra effort. It's also a bit expensive. Aside from that, this midweight base is perfect to wear as a layer or on its own.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Share:

Layer or wear the Icebreaker Tech 260 on its own for all-day comfort. The 100% Merino wool construction is excellent at thermoregulation while the heavier weight provides more warmth on colder days. It's suited for cool weather use that can extend to all seasons. Enjoy!

Performance Comparison


The Icebreaker Tech 260 is a great option for those with shorter arms and torso.
The Icebreaker Tech 260 is a great option for those with shorter arms and torso.

Warmth


Featuring 260-g of 100% Merino wool, this is the warmest product in this review offering the widest range of thermoregulation, scoring a nine out of ten. Similar to the Smartwool Merino 250 1/4 Zip, our Editors' Choice winner, it provides ample warmth in a layered system.

When worn on its own, the tightly woven fabric in addition to its thicker design provides better "wear on its own" warmth than any layer in our review. If you seek a warm synthetic base layer, be sure to check out the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip Neck that features a fuzzy interior and wind-resistant face fabric or The North Face Warm Crew.

Freezing our buns off on a negative 20-degree day  we test the capabilities of the super warm Icebreaker 260 in a layered system while running five miles through the pavement jungles of Mississauga  Ontario. Despite the frozen eye-lashes  we were still smiling!
Freezing our buns off on a negative 20-degree day, we test the capabilities of the super warm Icebreaker 260 in a layered system while running five miles through the pavement jungles of Mississauga, Ontario. Despite the frozen eye-lashes, we were still smiling!

Breathability


Keeping with the pattern exemplified by 100% Merino wool base layers, the Tech 260 is quite breathable with comparative performance to the WoolX Hannah, the highest valued Merino wool competitor in this revew. It scores an eight out of ten, similar to other Merino wool base layers.

When wearing it while ski touring, we experienced bouts of warm and cold temperatures, sweating while moving uphill and shivering on the way down. In both situations, the Tech 260 kept us comfortable and dry - venting and breathing on the uphill while locking in warmth on the downhill. The fabric performs similarly to the Smartwool Merino ¼ Zip but the Smartwool scores higher because of its zip neck that allows better ventilation than the crew-cut collar of the Icebreaker.

Comfort & Fit


The 100% Merino wool fibers used by Icebreaker are soft and comfortable against the skin. Featuring no-itch properties and a relaxed athletic fit, this shirt is a favorite among our testers. While it's not as stretchy or tight as other base layers like the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip or the REI Co-op Midweight Base Layer Crew, our Best Buy award winner, it fits most of our testers. It earns an eight out of ten for its affinity to be worn all day and for multiple days on end.

Unlike the WoolX Hannah that features super long arms and a longer torso, this shirt doesn't have as much length. Because of this, it rode up a little easier than other layers, but it didn't constrict through the shoulders or bust. As a result, we'd recommend the WoolX Hannah for those with longer limbs. Size is true to fit.

This crew-cut base layer is soft and comfortable with a shorter fit then other Merino wool competitors tested.
This crew-cut base layer is soft and comfortable with a shorter fit then other Merino wool competitors tested.

Layering Ability


Like all Merino wool shirts, the face fabric is a little grabbier than synthetics and doesn't slide as easily over other layers. We found that it grabbed tighter mid-layers, but performed just fine under jackets. Since the arms aren't as long as the WoolX, the arms bunched more than other contenders, earning it a lower score. However, it does accommodate a tank top or t-shirt for wear underneath during the warmer months.

If you seek a base layer that fits more tightly and doesn't catch or grab upon layering we like synthetic options like the REI Co-op Midweight Crew or the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip. Of all the merino contenders, the Kari Traa Rose Half Zip proved to be the easiest to layer because of its super tight fit and tightly knit face fabrics.

Layer this with a mid layer and a comfortable jacket. While the sticky face fabric bunches more than synthetic competitors  it still functions well to layer under and over.
Layer this with a mid layer and a comfortable jacket. While the sticky face fabric bunches more than synthetic competitors, it still functions well to layer under and over.

Drying Speed


We were surprised at how well this base layer dried out! When we first weighed its wet weight, it absorbed the most water of all base layers. At first, we expected it to take the longest to dry. However, despite its level of absorption, it dried in 90 minutes. This is similar to other Merino wool competitors like the Smartwool ¼ Zip and Kari Traa Rose Half Zip.

While this is decent for a shirt built from Merino wool, it wasn't even close to the drying speed of the synthetic base layers tested. For example, our Top Pick for Breathability, the Patagonia Midweight Capilene Crew took only 40 minutes to dry. While the Icebreaker provides an average level of drying ability, it is certainly surpassed by synthetic base layers. As a result, it's not our top pick for rainy conditions, but it'd still do a decent job of keeping you warm when wet.


Durability


Inherent to the properties of Merino wool, this is not the most durable base layer tested. The softer face fabrics can grab and snag trees or other sharp objects while hiking and the fibers will wear away faster when exposed to high-friction activities like off-width crack climbing or spelunking. As a result, it scores a seven out of ten.

While it didn't show any significant signs of wear and tear during our testing period and is more than suitable for casual activities or wear around town, we noted a couple of stitching fly-aways and a little pilling of the face fabric. As a result, we would contest that when taken care of, this base layer will last you for a long time. If you seek a more durable option, be sure to check out the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip or The North Face Warm Crew, both bomber synthetic base layers.

Aside from a little fabric pilling  this shirt is quite durable for a Merino Wool top.
Aside from a little fabric pilling, this shirt is quite durable for a Merino Wool top.

Best Applications


With its wide range of thermoregulation and comfortable feel, it's a perfect option for all-day wear throughout all four seasons. We seriously think you could do anything in this top! Our only suggestion is to leave it at home if you plan on seriously exploring caves or canyons as the friction will most likely burn a hole through the fabric. We also wear a thinner top when the temperature gets warm.

Skinning  trail running  and hiking were all the different modes of testing for breathability in both a layered and unlayered system. Here the Icebreaker (that can't be seen) does well on this snowy day in the wet climates of Washington state.
Skinning, trail running, and hiking were all the different modes of testing for breathability in both a layered and unlayered system. Here the Icebreaker (that can't be seen) does well on this snowy day in the wet climates of Washington state.

Value


At $110, this is one of the most expensive baselayers tested. While this Merino wool option stands out for its great craftsmanship and warmth, the WoolX Hannah is only $79 and proves to perform at a similar level. The only difference is that the WoolX isn't as warm as the Icebreaker. If you prefer a high-value synthetic option, consider the REI Co-op Midweight crew or the warmer The North Face base layer for just $50.

Conclusion


The Icebreaker Tech 260 base layer stands out for its ample warmth and a wide range of thermoregulation. Pack or wear it on your next wild adventure into the wilderness this winter or summer.

Amber King

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Most recent review: March 27, 2018
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