'Realfleece' Wool Apparel

Mention the term “fleece” in an outdoors setting and people automatically think of a synthetic fabric. For 30 years, since Malden Mills created its Polarfleece fabric, high-loft “fleece” jackets made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and other synthetic fibers have dominated the market.

This year a New Zealand company has gone back to the roots of what fleece originally was back in the pre-PET days. The company, Icebreaker, recently introduced a line called Realfleece, which includes men’s and women’s tops made 100 percent of wool.

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Icebreaker Realfleece

Icebreaker is known for its merino wool tops and long underwear. The fine wool of the merino sheep does not itch, and used as sportswear for the outdoors the insulating but breathable fabric has gained in popularity in recent years.

Realfleece uses the same type of merino yarn as all Icebreaker apparel, though piled on in a thicker bulk. The wool fabric of the Realfleece tops is up to two millimeters thick.

The front side of a Realfleece top is smooth. On back, the fabric is manipulated with a wire roller brush, creating a soft and furry face. Warmth comes from the fabric’s loft, which is airy and insulating.

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Icebreaker touts Realfleece as being made for performance and style

I tested a Realfleece top this winter for activity as well as everyday wear. It is comfortable and good looking, doing double duty as a sporty mid-layer that insulates in the winter or for wearing around town.

The Realfleece top I tested has a full zipper in front and zip-up hand pockets. It can be used alone as a jacket during moderate days or as a cozy mid-layer under a shell or insulated parka in the cold.

Icebreaker’s craftsmanship and style are commendable. The company’s clothes, in general, fit great and last a long time. But you do pay for all that: Items in the Realfleece line, which debuts in full later this year, will cost between $180 to $225.

—Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.

Posted by A-drain - 04/04/2011 09:22 AM

Sooooo…the golden fleece is not made of gold polyester? Bummer.

I love that the new way to do something is the way it was done 50 years ago. Wool. The new “green” renewable resource.

Posted by gnarlydog - 04/04/2011 04:31 PM

Stephen, you nailed it when you say: “It is comfortable and good looking, doing double duty as a sporty mid-layer that insulates in the winter or for wearing around town”
However the emphasis should be “around town” because it just does not cut it in the stix.
Sure, if one’s definition of outdoors is crossing the carpark to the bar then all is good but not for serious pursuits.
I have been using Icebreaker for 5 years now and I don’t take it in the bush: it just is NOT durable. Takes ages to dry and nowhere near as warm as the good old polyester (same weight comparison). Now, if you were to schmooze at the bar after a day on the slopes the Icebreaker will certainly score you style points. It’s the Eddie Bauer effect: looks though but it ain’t.

Posted by Debi - 04/05/2011 12:48 PM

I’ve had an icebreaker real fleece for a few months now and absolutely love it. It is just as warm as my puffer jacket I used to always wear, except way less bulky. I love it!
My blog

Posted by David - 04/05/2011 02:26 PM

I haven’t had a chance to try the Realfleece yet but I’m looking forward to losing another layer of polyester.
As far as durability “in the bush”; I’d say being able to wear the same top and bottom for 15 days in a row while slogging up and down a mountain can be a pretty good testament to a products usefulness. True, merino wool will weigh more that its polyester counterpart, but when it comes to the comfort (and aroma) polyester doesn’t hold a candle to merino (mostly because the polyester would melt).

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