SNEWS Review: Icebreaker Kodiak Long Sleeve Zip

Icebreaker's Kodiak merino wool zip impressed us with its insulation, durability and wind protection. Can it replace a puffy?
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Fleece layers haven taken a bit of hit these past few years as consumers flocked to down and synthetic puffies for insulation and popular style.

While fleece may be down, it’s not out, and many predict a comeback. Brands are attempting to re-invigorate the category with new fabrics, technologies and designs.

One new take from Icebreaker is to bring fleece back to its wool roots, plus make it a viable softshell outerwear piece. The New Zealand merino wool brand does both in its Kodiak Long Sleeve Zip, a product we’ve been testing since last spring. (There’s also a similar hooded version).

Right off the bat, your customers might be dubious — a merino wool outer layer, can it work? The Kodiak is 100 percent merino wool, minus the trim, so there is no poly or nylon mix here to toughen it up. With some similar all-merino products, we’re used to snags, pulls and pilling.

Not so with the Kodiak. First and foremost, this product impressed us with its durability. The tight, thick and smooth knitted exterior held up to everything we threw at it, including serving as camping blanket for the dog one night. Nearly half-a-year later, there’s not the not the slightest scratch or pulled thread.

The Kodiak’s ability to insulate, breathe and control odor is great as expected with merino. And while this isn’t a next-to-skin piece, we didn’t feel too much itch from the brushed interior, only cozy warmth.

As an outerwear product, we were pleasantly surprised about the Kodiak’s wind resistance. It was perfect for riding our bike to work during cool mornings, without having to add an extra windbreaker. Bonus points: it doesn’t have that stiff feel that other wind-resistant softshells have.

There’s a nice big, sturdy full-length zipper, two zippered exterior hand pockets and one zippered chest pocket (with a pass through for headphones), plus two interior pockets on the reverse of the hand pockets.

The medium fit was great for our tester, who has a slim build and long arms. The sleeves surprisingly ran even a little long for him (a first for a medium!), but that was great for those bike rides to cover the gaps while the arms were stretched out.

But here’s the real question: Does the Kodiak replace the puffy? Yes and no.

When it comes to insulation, protection and style, plus an advantage of breathability, we say yes. In and around town, this was our go-to piece. Its form-fitting style also layers well under a jacket if extra protection is needed.

But in the backcountry, the Kodiak’s disadvantage is weight (the men’s medium came in at 19.3 ounces on our scale) and compressibility (it can go down to a size of about a football). The Kodiak’s durability held up in the backcountry, but its bulk and weight made us frequently opt for our lighter puffies instead.

Bottom line: This is a great piece for the urban outdoorsman and bike commuter. It will stand up to a more serious workout in the backcountry, if the customer doesn’t mind the extra bulk and weight.

MSRP: $250

SNEWS® Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Related

SchwinnAirDyneAD4.jpg

Product Review: Icebreaker Kodiak Long Sleeve Zip

Fleece layers haven taken a bit of hit these past few years as consumers flocked to down and synthetic puffies for insulation and popular style. While fleece may be down, it’s not out, and many predict a comeback. Brands are attempting to re-invigorate the category with new ...read more

SNEWS Review: Patagonia merino wool 1&2 baselayers review

In fall 2011, Patagonia relaunched its merino baselayer line after a season’s absence during the redevelopment of the product. The previous versions were some of our favorite merino wool baselayers, so we eagerly awaited the reworked line. After a year of testing, we’re happy to ...read more

SNEWS Review: Salewa Firetail GTX shoes

The performance of any product relies largely on its design, materials and personal user preferences. But don't forget to add “setting and environment” to the list of requirements. That’s why when we received a pair of Salewa’s Firetail, lightweight, do-it-all ...read more

Men's Neptune Long-Sleeve Crew by ExOfficio

The innovation of the Neptune Collection offers worry-free adventuring. Treated with Nanoplex, all Neptune pieces are odor resistant, quick-drying, moisture-wicking, and protect from the sun's harmful rays up to UPF 30+. * Sporty, stylish silhouette you'll love wearing * UPF 30+ ...read more

Boulder Long Sleeve by Marmot

The Boulder Long Sleeve by Marmot is a comfortable jersey knit long-sleeve, stretch-cotton crew neck for rock climbing, bouldering and all-around casual wear. Main Material: 92% Cotton/8% Elastane Features * Contrast Stitching * Crew Neck Tee * Flat Lock Seam Construction * ...read more

SNEWS Review: Apparel used for the Gore-Tex TransRockies Run

While I mostly wore running staples I’ve had for years during the Gore-Tex TransRockies Run, I did test some gear throughout the six-day trek. Check out how the stuff worked for me: Gore Running Wear X-Running Light AS Jacket (MSRP $160) We interviewed Gore Running Wear back in ...read more

SNEWS Review: Rab Stretch Neo Jacket

Polartec’s waterproof/breathable NeoShell fabric debuted to consumers earlier this year — one entry on a growing list of competitors to Gore-Tex, eVent and other proprietary shell technologies. Our first test of NeoShell came in the form of the Rab Stretch Neo Jacket, which ...read more

Men’s Sportsman Tall Long Sleeve Tagless® Crew by Duofold

The Men’s Sportsman Tall Long Sleeve Tagless® Crew by Duofold is perfect for the avid hunter or fisherman, this mid weight two-layer fabric provides exceptional warmth during moderate activity. * excellent moisture management - quick drying. * odor resistant fabric * natural ...read more

RunningApparelSauconyThreeInOneSonicJacketasVestFORweb.jpg

Solving runners’ winter woes: Brands boast do-it-all, lightweight endurance apparel

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 23-26. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update ...read more