Gear Review: Icebreaker RedRam Base Layers

As opposed to those made from more traditional synthetic materials, merino wool base layers offer a number of distinct advantages. They are breathable, they’re warm, they’re sustainable and, perhaps most important for the day-to-day user, they are naturally stink proof.

It’s amazing. It’s unbelievable. It’s true. With wool, which is an easy washing material, the after-snow stink is a thing of the past.

For the most part, however, these advantages come at a premium, with merino base layers tending to cost a good 20 percent more than the synthetic alternatives. It’s just supply and demand. The market for natural fiber base layers has not, until recently, been particularly large. As a result, wool suppliers prefer to sell their products to apparel manufacturers who deal in more volume – like those dealing in the sweaters and socks that are always so popular at the mall — leaving outdoor gear makers in a tough spot.

The RedRam line of men’s and women’s merino wool base layers from Icebreaker, however, hits all of merino’s performance high points at a price that’s easy to live with. Selling for around $60 a piece, depending on the style, RedRam is a sustainable, high performance base layer that doesn’t sacrifice quality in order to hit a price point.

But maybe that’s because this isn’t Icebreaker’s first turn around the shearing barn. After all, the company more or less created the merino wool outdoor clothing category back in 1994 when it launched its first merino layering system and became the first outdoor apparel company to source its wool directly from the farmers, setting the stage for what would become a massive outdoor business. These days, there’s plenty of competition in the merino market, but Icebreaker has remained focused on its core market: high quality, performance oriented merino products.

It’s also worth noting that the company remains focused on sustainable production methods and ethical sourcing. According to Icebreaker, it contracts directly with the farmers who grow its wool – all 140 of them, mostly located in New Zealand — in an effort to ensure the best possible treatment for its sheep. From there, every step of the process is completed with an eye toward sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Of course, once the sheep are taken care of the product is really the thing.

The RedRam line comes in the usual base layer configurations – long sleeve tops, zip tops, t-shirts, leggings – and a few more unusual styles, including boxer shorts and a tank top that ‘s a good fit for high intensity winter sports. Women also get the option of a cami top or boy short. Men’s styles are available in black, navy and camo, while the women’s models come in white, black and red. All RedRam products feature raglan sleeves, flatlock sticking and form fitting side panels, and the line is primarily sold through hunting and fishing stores and other sportsmen’s retailers.

For more information on RedRam, visit To purchase Icebreaker products, click here.

About the author

Tim Sprinkle

Tim Sprinkle is a Denver-based writer and editor whose work has appeared in dozens of publications, including Outside, Backpacker and Wired.

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