Icebreaker Quantum Zip Base Layer

Review by Sarah Stirling
Monday 16th March 2009

Icebreaker Quantum Zip Base Layer RRP ₤79.95

This is an expensive, top-end winter base layer, made from the best Merino wool there is by the company that dominates the Merino base layer market. If you want the best, warmest, most comfortable, most practical winter base layer there is and don’t want any compromises: this is surely it.

Merino base layers absorb moisture, whereas poly base layers are hydrophobic, meaning that they wick the water to the outside of the fabric and repel it away from you. Which you prefer is a question of taste, really. Merino is warmer for its weight and more odour resistant but it can be itchy and feel clammy. I’ve found that Icebreaker products don't wear like that, though: they feels silky, because they only use the finest wool.

These days, there is a lot of competition to produce base layers ethically and from natural fibres/renewable sources (so non-poly ones). Icebreaker is a small company that really focuses on ethical and sustainable production, which is good to know. You can trace this (and all their products) back to the sheep stations from whence they came on their website using unique baa-codes, which is entertaining and informative!
I’ve found some of the lighter Icebreaker stuff a bit too close-fitting (and therefore revealing!) to wear as an external layer, but this one isn’t (think about going up a size with their thinner base layers). The Quantum Zip is also made luxuriously thick and has lycra added to it, so it is super soft and stretchy. It is incredibly breathable for the weight and this, combined with the well-thought out shaping and neatly flatlocked seams, really does make this base layer feel like a superwarm second skin.

The Quantum has a drop tail at the back and neat features such as a reflective front zip and graphics on the back and a very tidy zipped stash pocket on the back. These details make the base layer look like a biking top, and it is very effective for winter biking: very warm, yet breathable to wear on its own or under a windproof layer or lightweight soft shell. The collar comes high, and the front zip is deep, so you can unzip to breathe more if you overheat in it.

The top is also great for climbing - the sleeves have binding round them and so does the hem, to stop the top creeping up your arms and back when you stretch up.

I’ve not worn it for skiing yet, but I imagine it would be a brilliant base layer for autumn / winter / spring Alpine trips, and it folds very small for its weight, so I will be packing it for sure!

Verdict: Top end winter base layer
Downside: Pricey

Reviewed by Sarah Stirling (

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