At Merino Wool Gear, we’re always looking for the newest apparel innovation. And while Merino wool is an excellent fabric for formal wear, sweaters, and more, today, we will focus on its use as outdoor performance apparel. More specifically, we will test the latest Icebreaker creation: the Men’s Merino Hike Short Sleeve Top.
You may know Icebreaker as one of the top Merino wool brands in the outdoor industry. Still, even with their already-stellar reputation, they are constantly stretching the limits of fabric technology so that you – the wearer – can get the most out of your clothing. Let’s hope this Merino wool hiking polo lives up to that same high-quality reputation as the rest of their collection.
And to do this, we’ll review it! I’ll provide you with some tech specs and not-so-expert initial thoughts. Then, I’ll wear it for a few months, give it a much-deserved wash, and report my findings. So, if you’re interested in seeing the results (why wouldn’t you be, right?), stick around as we review the Icebreaker Merino Hike Polo!
Disclosure: Merino Wool Gear DOES NOT sponsor products to maintain our genuineness and authenticity. However, as an affiliate member, we may earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
Specs & Features
To say I was excited about receiving this shirt may be an understatement. I was checking the shipment tracker for days! When it finally arrived, I ripped open the package and was not disappointed with what I found.
I first noticed how soft and flexible the main jersey fabric felt. After years of doing these reviews, I can easily determine the fabric quality, and this is one of the best. Icebreaker sources its wool from some of the finest New Zealand Merino Sheep so I wouldn’t expect anything less. Yet it’s the wool-cotton canvas shoulder panels that stood out. They are less soft than the pure Merino jersey knit body but shouldn’t irritate my skin. Now will they help take a load off my hiking pack? That’s yet to determine.
Another feature I noticed is the strength-to-weight ratio of the fabric. The ultralight, 150 gsm material is so lightweight that it is the perfect addition to my UL backpacking load. However, despite its thinness, it feels relatively strong. And for all you ‘weight weenies‘ out there, Icebreaker measures a size medium at 8.11 oz. As for the small that I ordered, that clocks in at 7.60 oz. This polo is one of the lightest, most durable hiking shirts on the market.
And regarding technical aspects and top-of-the-line craftsmanship, this polo is also at the top. The forward-set shoulder seams prevent friction from pack straps, while the double-layer back yoke adds comfort, no matter how heavy the pack. I particularly like the snap closure buttons. It not only helps with ventilation, but it’s still relatively fashionable without looking too casual. I may like wearing it off the trail, too!
After my initial findings, I’m excited to put the Icebreaker Merino Hike Shirt through the wringer!
60-Day Wear Test
When we typically do these ‘wear tests,’ we’ll wear the gear for three days in various situations and infer how it would hold up over time. Yet, we decided to extend those three days into sixty for this Icebreaker hiking polo. More precisely, about twice a week for 60 days with no washing, fabric fresheners, or laundry products. Hopefully, by the end of the two months, it doesn’t stink! And by then, I can give you a more accurate analysis – both the good and the bad.
The first day I wore this hiking shirt, I wasn’t even hiking! Instead, I decided to pair it with black chinos and a black hat for a casual look to run errands around town. I was hesitant that the shoulder panels and two-fabric design would translate to something other than my everyday style, but the unique design gave me a more distinguished look. Moreover, the ultralight fabric did well breathing and wicking away moisture. Even in Houston’s summer sun (about 90 °F), I didn’t sweat all day!
After a couple of wears around town and in an office setting, I put this polo to an unusual performance test: baseball! Well, a baseball simulator in Katy, TX, Home Run Dugout. And despite my subpar performance, this polo withstood two hours of frustrating swings like a champion. The flexible, free-flowing material – even the abrasion-resistant shoulders – didn’t restrict my movement, not even a bit. Now imagine if it could increase my batting average, too!
For two months, I tested this polo in the office, around town, on the trail (we’ll get more into that later), and at the batting cages! It’s truly a one-of-a-kind Merino polo, so let’s hope it survives the washing machine!
After 60 days and 15 total wears with no washing, I am happy to report this polo doesn’t stink. I aired it several times while damp, but the fabric didn’t hold any odor in the long run. That’s the power of wool clothing; it’s odor-free! Still, one of the staples of our gear reviews is our laundry test. That’s because there’s no worse feeling than having your brand-new shirt destroyed by the washer. Moreover, we want to ensure the fabric stays fresh (minimal pilling, shrinkage, and loose stitches) for years.
Icebreaker recommends machining washing on delicate with cold water and like colors. You’ll also want to avoid harsh detergents/bleaches and the dryer. If I’m washing Merino, I like to use Outback Gold Wool Wash instead of traditional detergents. Instead of the dryer (a no-no in Merino wool care), I’ll flat dry this polo on a collapsible drying rack. I use this extra-large, multi-tiered monstrosity for all my gear. But if you don’t own one, it’s best to flat-dry on a towel so the fabric retains its shape.
After washing, I let it dry overnight. It was slightly wrinkled in the morning, but the fabric was intact. There weren’t any loose threads, pilling or unfortunate tears. When I tried it back on, the fit was snugger than it felt pre-wash. However, after wearing it for a few hours, the material molded back to my body shape nicely.
Still, I noticed that the collar was more relaxed than before. I snapped the button placket before washing it, hoping the collar would retain its rigidity. However, it just wasn’t as stiff. Yet despite the slight bacon-like collar (which I ended up cool-ironing out), I can happily say the Icebreaker Hike Top passed the laundry test.
What I Liked
After wearing the Icebreaker Hike Top over a dozen times, I can tell you it’s one of my favorite shirts in my closet. I could go on and on about this polo’s performance and comfort, but you probably understand that by now. Instead, I’ve divided what I liked most about this shirt into three categories: its hiking features, expert craftsmanship, and surprising style.
It’s My New Summer Hiking Shirt
I said before that I tested this shirt on the trail, and I did! After a few hikes with my dog (and the backpack), I came to love the features that this polo provides. While I use more of a vest-style pack than a hiking pack, the shoulder panels came in handy for cushioning and comfort. I had no straps or seams digging into my shoulders since the front seam sits forward to prevent that. On top of that, I never felt restricted in my movement or suffered any chafing from the backpack.
As for temperature regulation, I think the hottest I wore was around 95 °F with 80% humidity. I was wearing a backpack on my way to work, and I did get a little sweaty. However, the fabric is light and airy, so it dried out before leaving an embarrassing sweat stain. I haven’t tested it in cooler conditions, but I’d bet it would perform just as well.
In short, this Icebreaker polo is now my go-to summer hiking shirt. And while my mountain adventures still await me this season, you better believe this shirt will be there for the ride.
Fabric QUality & Craftsmanship
As a Merino wool nerd, it’s genuinely impressive to me how Icebreaker designed this shirt. They combined two fabrics – the durable wool-cotton canvas and free-flowing Merino jersey body – into one of the finest-engineered hiking shirts that money can buy. Everything between these fabrics works well together: their thickness, texture, functionality, etc.
Yet without the reinforcements holding these fabrics together, the whole thing wouldn’t work. As for this hiking polo, every stitch is clean and properly placed. The seams don’t bunch or warp the fabric. Icebreaker clearly considered every detail during the design process. There is an expert level of craftsmanship put into this polo, and I knew it from the moment I opened the package. And, knowing Icebreaker for a few years, I wouldn’t expect anything less from them.
Surprising Versatility & Style
Finally, this polo is unexpectedly fashionable. I initially thought the two-fabric design might not work well with a business-casual aesthetic. But as you can see from the picture, it works relatively well with khakis and dress shoes. Alternatively, you can get away with an everyday look as it pairs well with back chinos and tennis shoes. And if you decide to head to the trails, this polo is perfect for that hiker-casual look.
And it’s true; there are more stylish polos out there. But none come with these many features. And sure, I’d love to see Icebreaker release additional color options (other than gray and teal) to match the rest of my wardrobe better. But since it’s a new release, we suspect there won’t be any new color options until next season.
Areas To Improve
During these reviews, we strive to give you the whole gear picture, not just the tasty morsels you’d see on a product page. In that spirit, despite liking several of the main technical aspects of the Icebreaker Merino Hike Top, I found some areas that could use improvement. Two of these areas worth noting are the collar stiffness and overall price. Let me elaborate on each.
For some reason, I never got 100% comfortable with the collar. At the beginning of my 60-day wear test, it felt like the collar was starched or even had one of those plastic ‘collar savers‘ hidden underneath it. But it was just that stiff! You can see from the picture below that it held its shape while the rest of the fabric sagged. And while this came in handy to keep the sun off my neck on the hiking trail, it took some getting used to in the office.
However, after washing, the collar lost a bit of stiffness. It even picked up a more wrinkled texture. I was worried the needle swung in the opposite direction until I realized I could use a cool iron to smooth the collar. No biggie in the long run, but still an area I feel could improve.
If you already took a sneak peek at this shirt on Icebreaker’s site, you were probably floored by the price tag. I get it; paying $150+ for a polo may seem ridiculous. While a few slightly cheaper options are on the market, you’re typically looking at a steep price for any Merino polo. It’s just one of the downsides of Merino wool gear.
Luckily, with Icebreaker, you get what you pay for. This shirt uses Merino wool technology, design, and performance that I’ve yet to find a comparable opponent for. So, if you were to ask me if it’s worth the price tag? I’d give you an overwhelming YES.
Final Note About The Icebreaker Hike Top
With that, fellow Merino lovers, we conclude our comprehensive review of the Icebreaker Mens Merino Hike Short Sleeve Top. It has awesome outdoor features like a double-layer back yoke and offset shoulder seams for backpack comfort. Yet the expert craftsmanship and high-quality Merino wool truly stole the show. We give this shirt our full Merino Wool Gear seal of approval.
And a big shout out to Icebreaker for creating one heck of a hiking polo! They always have, and continue to be, one of the top Merino wool clothing brands. If you like their style and vibe, check out the many other Merino wool pieces they offer on their site.
Or, if you’re learning about the wonders of Merino for the first time, poke around our site a bit! We dedicate our time to finding the best Merino wool clothing for you! So, follow us on the socials below or subscribe to our newsletter for the latest info, deals, and sales on all your favorite gear! Come on, join our Merino flock!