If an Icebreaker 260 Realfleece Sierra Hood was a car, it would be a Maserati: technically perfect, performance to the nth-degree, tailored for the comfort of its owner, but with a cost more like a Mustang Boss. Unlike any hot rod, though, a snowshoer or trail addict can sport this ode-to-the-cold on the roughest, nastiest days in the woods and discover their ideal level of personal comfort.
A wearer can take the jacket off while on the trail, stuff it in their backpack, and forget about it for a week like I did. Then finding it all crumpled and wrinkly, simply hang it on a chair overnight and by sheep-magic the crunching wrinkles disappear—the jacket is new again. Really! What a shock, an easy solution for what typically is a pain.
The experiences with my new-favorite jacket taught me its extreme uses. On a coolish run—but not frigid—I peeled off my Icebreaker (upper) technical base layer 200 GT and just wore the Sierra Hood Realfleece zipped. It’s that comfortable . . . fleece and flesh, baby, fleece and flesh.
Icebreaker describes the reason: it is their “new Realfleece fabric—nature’s alternative to a synthetic fleece.” Nature’s fleece, woven from the coats of happy sheep, is the real deal. It’s not that scratchy, uncomfortable oil-based fiber.
The world’s tastiest honey is Tupelo where bees feast on the blossoms of the white tupelo gum tree found only in flooded forests like those in the Deep South of the U.S. Van Morrison sang a love song long ago with the metaphoric lyric, “She’s as sweet as Tupelo Honey.” If this master of music, and he truly is, created a lyric about the ideal winter garment, it might go along the lines of—think Tupelo Honey—“As cozy a piece as Sierra Hood Realfleece.”
The Beatles sang “Can’t Buy Me Love,” but then they never wore a Realfleece jacket out in the elements. In the middle of the night under boisterous clouds blown by a sour north wind, making way on snowshoes, shouldering a Wilderness Athlete backpack filled with their performance delights, dancing a strong Energizer Ultimate light on the snow-covered trail ahead like a locomotive while covered by the soft, comforting touch of the Icebreaker Realfleece . . . one can only look up and thank the stars above for the opportunity to experience the bliss.
Jeremy Moon, founder of Icebreaker, put the idea for this material in stark terms: “Consumers are being fleeced by fleece. It’s plastic,” kinda like wearing a jacket made from your credit cards. From that inspiration, Icebreaker master creators first consulted with the sheep and then developed a fleece that is real and pure Merino, “a natural alternative.”
They call it genuine fleece, “Realfleece.”
The jacket is form-fitting, carries a very clean face, and has snazzy features such as zippers that are, literally, hidden. When I first saw the shoulder zipper fob laying on the cloth, my impression was it was a type of decoration. Surprise, not the case . . . the zipper quietly hides a secret compartment worthy of the key, cash, and card one might carry. I also find it is a good idea to keep identification handy like a business card, too, though you might choose an alternative like Vista Print advertises, such things as “Mommy cards and Date cards;” you never know. This is the pocket for those.
Realfleece is the ideal layering material for my outer shell. I can mix-and-match any number of combos underneath to match the temperatures. As I have suggested in articles, the most difficult part of a cold day snowshoe after driving to a trailhead is the start, absorbing the initial jolt from the weather, getting out of a warm cab.
In a non-race training episode or just a walk in the snow-covered woods, I like to over-dress for the first few miles. As natural activity-heat is created, I open up the Realfleece jacket in degrees with the smooth-use zipper, remove a hat, perhaps unzipping my (upper) Icebreaker thermal 200 GT that incorporates a Sprint Zipper; any number of combos will work. Shoeing back into the face of a stiff wind, I can zip up quickly much like adjusting the temperature gauge in a car.
When daylight crests and the sun heats the day, I can give the jacket the hook by wadding it up in the backpack, and remain at ease the sheep back in New Zealand are smiling . . . their creation is going to look as good as new because, like magic, the wrinkles will fall out like worries left on the trail.
Icebreaker 260 Realfleece Hood
Colors available: black, Dark Blue Planet, Grove/Cave Green, Oak/Spruce
• Interior zipper guard
• Articulated raglan sleeves
• Zippered front hand pockets
• Zippered stash sleeve pocket
• Printed inner hood lining
• Icebreaker embroidered logo
• Hem wrap label
(Upper) Technical Base Layer 200 Icebreaker GT
With Sprint Zip (1/2 zipper)
Colors: Force (Bright) Blue, Black, Stealth (Dark) Blue with contrasting inner collars and flatlock stitching
Short Review: Comfortably hugs, warms. Sprint Zip is like a portable heat setting. Looks good when jacket off.
(Lower) Men’s Sprint Leggings
Technical Base Layer 200 Icebreaker GT
97% Merino, 3% Lycra
Short Review: Hugs the legs, strengthens one’s gait, flexible with outer pant combo for all temperature extremes.