by Icebreaker is a merino wool product offering mixed performance. For $90, you get a top with very soft and comfy fabric, superior breathability, and fast drying speed. Its major downfall, though, is its small fit; we liked the tightness, but were very disappointed by the short sleeves and torso that constantly had us pulling it down. It also wasn't as warm as several other models, and didn't overwhelm us with great durability, either.
Reviewer Ross Robinson testing out the Icebreaker over frozen terrain above Lake Tahoe.
The 200 g/m² merino wool on the Oasis
provides a moderate level of insulation compared with the others tested, but weighs only 7.4 ounces. Its drop tail added further insulation. However, this top felt colder when moving due to frequent exposure of the wrists. The sleeves took every opportunity to slide up our forearms, granting chilly air unwanted access to our shivering skin. The short torso had similar problems. With longer sleeves and torso, this product would have scored higher in this metric. For warmer merino wool products, check out the REI Merino Midweight
or SmartWool Merino 250
Umm, yeah. The Icebreaker here, not really impressing.
Like the rest of the merino wool shirts in this review, this long underwear product performs above average in breathability. Give credit for this advantage to the superior warmth-to-weight ratio of this fabric over synthetics. This allows a top of equal warmth to be made of thinner material and predictably breathe better. This base layer scored a tiny bit higher than the Smartwool Merino 250
, but not as well as the Under Armour Base 4.0
Comfort and Fit
There was a bit of love/hate going on with the Oasis. We were huge fans of its soft texture, and loved the tight fit that hugged our chest. Supplemented with an asymmetric lens-shaped gusset under each arm, this model had great mobility.
This model flexes well enough to use when climbing, but again, the sleeves sliding back were an annoyance.
We were less than impressed, though, with the sleeves and torso. We didn't enjoy the constant adjustments that accompanied any movements we made in this shirt. Pulling down the sleeves over our wrists, or the shirt bottom over our bellies, shouldn't be a constant chore with a quality base layer. There were several better-fitting models in this review, including the warm Arc'teryx Rho AR
and the top scoring SmartWool Merino 250
For a better fit in the sleeves and torso, you might want to consider sizing up. However, the chest area won't be as tight if you do this, which would, unfortunately, have a negative effect on this top's warmth and fit.
In the speed test, from soaked to dry, this top was the fastest 100% merino wool product to dry out. It was only 21% slower than the fastest-drying Helly Hansen Lifa Stripe Crew
. When you combine this strong showing with merino wool's resistance to absorb water, or even feel wet, you have an even better performance.
Merino wool clothing needs to be handled carefully, and the Oasis
is no exception. This top is susceptible to abrasion, and should dry flat or on a hanger to avoid shrinkage. The fabric, however, will not absorb odors like a synthetic so it should not have to be washed as frequently; extending longevity. We saw no significant signs of wear after three months of regular use. For a more durable product, check out the Best Buy award winning The North Face Warm
Ross Robinson hiking around the city of Arequipa in southern Peru, with the 6,000+ meter Chachani volcano in the background.
The snug fit in the chest and under arms of the Icebreaker model didn't lend itself to layering on top of other layers. When we tried, it bunched up the first layers in the armpits and restricted mobility, as well as adding discomfort. It did perform well in the traditional base layer sense. Jackets and mid-layers on top of this shirt were no problem at all.
If you want the option to wear layers underneath your long underwear, we recommend products like the Patagonia Capilene Midweight
, or the best layering model, the Arc'teryx Rho AR
As the temperature dropped below 50°F, we were ready to reach for another layer.
We found the Oasis
to be useful on its own in low to moderate to intensity activities in mild weather. Layering comfortably under jackets and mid-layers, we also like it as our first layer during adventures into cold and frigid environments. It's not a great choice for activities that involve lots of mobility in the upper body, as it doesn't stay in place well.
At $90, the Oasis costs the same as the REI Merino Midweight, but doesn't perform as well across the board. We believe this model is a good product, but there are better options for the money.
We like some features of the Oasis, but prefer a little more performance from a $90 shirt.
The Icebreaker Oasis
performed above-average in key metrics for base layers, namely breathability, drying speed, and comfort. However, the designed shortness in the sleeves and torso let to mild frustration as we continuously readjusted this top. We liked this product, but it wouldn't be our first option in the long underwear marketplace.