A midlayer is a must for any outdoor enthusiast, but this piece of clothing can easily go from being your best friend to your worst enemy. The key requirements for a midlayer that you will love through thick and thin are a good combination of warmth, breathability and fast drying.
I have used this Icebreaker Descender Long Sleeve Zip midlayer throughout the fall for hiking and mountain biking, and for all my ski touring outings so far this winter. It has performed fantastically well in temperatures ranging from +5°C to -10°C, and I can safely say that this midlayer is the best one I’ve ever owned.
I have always struggled with the layering for my fall and winter activities. It’s a little chilly at the bottom so I put on an extra layer, and then by the tenth step I am sweating profusely, making my extra layer wet and leaving me cold for the climb down when the extra layer would’ve been really needed. I usually take off the midlayer once I start sweating and either remain in my base layer when hiking in the fall, or put on a shell when ski touring in the winter. This long-sleeve merino midlayer is perfect for me as it dries so fast it is usually fully dry by the time I need to layer up at the top before getting back down the mountain.
Everytime I’ve put the Descender back on, it’s always a relief to feel the warmth and comfort when it’s windy and freezing at the top of the mountain. Ideal for taking off your climbing skins in the winter and getting ready for the awesome descent coming up. I will not lie, it’s so comfortable that I’ve taken off my wet baselayer top a few times and only worn this midlayer underneath my shell jacket for the ski runs down.
Now despite the warmth of this midlayer, the breathability of the Merino GT fabric makes it perfect for skiing and biking as it prevents any sweating and dissipates extra heat very well while sending it (for the boys) down the mountain.
Whether it’s in the fall or in the winter, the chest pocket, with its headphone compatibility, is always useful to keep electronics close and warm and get some musical motivation. This midlayer also features two big pockets on the inside, big enough to fit a pair of goggles, extra gloves or a flask of liquid courage. Although it is not a feature I was expecting to see in a midlayer, it is especially useful in the fall when hiking without a jacket.
Moreover, the presence of thumb holes at the extremity of the sleeves has proven extremely valuable for me. It will keep your hands warm in the fall, and will prevent any snow from getting in when worn underneath your mittens in the winter. I am a big fan of this feature, as certain high-end shell jackets do not have thumb holes to prevent the shell from sliding up when falling in deep snow. This midlayer allows you to ensure no contact between snow and skin will occur, no matter the jacket you are wearing.
Last, but not least: it looks good and fits even better. I am 5’11”, torso length of 22” (top of shoulders to hips), weight 170lbs and I have the Descender Long Sleeve midlayer in size XL. I prefer slightly looser and longer fits for clothing, and this product allows me to have my full range of motion and is long enough to cover my butt, which will be a blessing on those very cold days sitting on the chairlift.