by Joe Henry | August 08, 2017

Would you really consider wearing wool during a scorching summer workout? You should if you're wearing gear from Icebreaker, a merino wool activewear company that originated in the late '90s. 

While Icebreaker's first products were base layers for cold weather activities, the company has a series of warm weather products, made from its specialized Cool-Lite technology. The apparel manufacturer has been in the incentive market for the past three years, but it's now making a big push to inform people that despite the name, Icebreakers isn't just for the cold.  

Catherine McCourt, who took over Icebreaker's North America corporate sales last October, spoke with Incentive recently:

There are a lot of activewear companies. What makes Icebreaker different?

The basis of everything we do is merino wool. We started with base layers, and we source our fiber from 200 farms in New Zealand. And we're a sustainable company through and through. We have a transparent supply chain. Our founder's goal is to be one of the cleanest companies in the world. We control quality because of where we're sourced -- whereas other companies don't know what chemicals are in their products.

What's the benefit of wearing merino wool?

It's a natural fiber. When it's interpreted into clothing, it reacts exactly the same on us as it does on the sheep itself. Most outdoor apparel is moisture wicking. But merino starts working before it has to wick. As an example, your body temperature is increasing or decreasing all day long. When you have too much moisture coming off, cotton has to find holes in the weave to release it. But that's such a slow process you start sweat. Merino reacts differently, and vapor moves through every fiber. And merino stays warm when it's wet, unlike a cotton or down jacket.

Women's Cool-Lite Sphere T-shirt for warm to hot weather

What do you make besides base layers? 

We started with base layers, but we've expanded into socks, accessories, and mid-layer jackets -- hybrid jacket with a merino lining and a 100 percent recycled polyester outer, with side panels so you can dump heat.

A lot of your products are for warm weather activities. Wool works for that?

People tend to call us when they have a winter program. But our really lightweight layers, like our Sphere collection made of our Cool-Lite fabric, are the best thing you can wear in high or dry heat. 

What are some of the more interesting Icebreaker products?

The majority of our socks are produced and manufactured in the U.S. So if you're a planner and you want U.S.-made products, our socks are a great item. 

And lightweight mid-layers are great when people travel to warm retreats but go back to colder climates, or to put on later in the evening when it's cool. The HELIX & Ellipse Jackets are our most popular jackets thus far. They are hybrids that can be worn Fall through Spring in most regions.