Camo & Wool: Merino Giant Icebreaker Going Big In Hunt/Fish Market

Merino wool for hunting? Icebreaker says Yes. Its new Hunting & Fishing Collection comprises dozens of products and styles — one of the largest lines sold by the Auckland-based brand.


Hikers, skiers, and endurance-sports enthusiasts have long known Icebreaker, the New Zealand purveyor of merino-wool goods.

Hunters and fishermen have also long known about wool and its many benefits — including silence when on the move, scent deterrence, and warmth when wet. But until recently, few companies were actually building wool garments specifically for the hook and bullet space.

Icebreaker launched the line in 2014. But the news this week is a further expansion into the hunt/fish category this year. New products include base layers, shirts, hats, socks, and gloves, for women and men.

There are softshell pants and a new jacket, including exclusive technologies only available for the hunting market. Several products use licensed RealTree camouflage patterns.

Merino with camouflage motif

Its thrust, the brand says, is to offer an alternative to traditional hunting apparel.

We caught up with Thomas Hinkle, Icebreaker product line manager, to talk about the brand’s hunt/fish focus and the line expansion coming to stores this year in time for the fall hunt.

How has Icebreaker been received in the hunt/fish space?

Wool is very well understood and appreciated in the hunting world. The concept of “farm to fabric” works well for people committed to field-to-table sustenance.

Where is the line sold?

The hunt/fish assortment is sold through specialty hunting and outdoor retailers. It does have an exclusive co-brand with Cabela’s, but they are the only big-box partner on the hunting side.

How does the expansion into hunt/fish blend with bigger company goals?

It blends very well as this category has been a global launch and not just a U.S. focus. Hunting is very much a part of New Zealand’s outdoor culture, and the hunting line is well received there.

Major women’s line included

Is this a worldwide rollout?

Yes, the hunt/fish line is a global initiative offered throughout North America, Europe, and the southern hemisphere.

Pricing… is it on par with the rest of the Icebreaker line?

There’s a bit more expense with branded camouflage pattern product. But it’s mostly all inline price-wise with our core product offering.

Head to toe: Geared in Icebreaker hunting line apparel

How do you convince hunters they need merino wool? 

The core idea is how merino fiber is good for meeting the needs of hunters. Performance attributes are just as important to hunting as hiking, but they may just be appreciated differently. Scent control, for example, can be more about maximizing performance than comfort.

Are there any exclusive technologies in the hunt/fish line?

One model, the Stratus jacket, started out as a hunting style because of the increased amount of MerinoLoft, a wool-based insulation material. It will be warm and protective in the elements.

A peek at the hunt/fish catalog page – this is a small portion of the overall fall 2015 launch

One of the technologies only seen in hunt/fish is called IKA softshell fabric. It is a nylon Cordura with brushed merino. It comes in a woven polyester fabric for the camouflage patterns.

This was developed for the hunt line to give an outer layer that will hold up to wind and rain. It tends to be warm, which is perfect for high-altitude fall hunts but may be a bit too warm for traditional hiking.

–See the current Icebreaker hunt/fish collection.

Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.