For better or worse, the one-piece suit has experienced a resurgence in both in snowsports and mainstream culture. Partly because people love dressing up as animals, partly because people want to stay as warm as possible. Now you too can dress like a wolf in sheep's clothing with the Icebreaker Zone One Sheep Suit, an all-in-one, head-to-ankle thermal barrier against the freezing temperatures. But how practical is it?
Come at me, cold!
With the arctic air flows, cold weather warnings and chilly days in the Coast Mountains back in December, I took the Zone One Sheep Suit out for a winter road test.
The suit has some familiar features from other garments in the Icebreaker line; a functioning fly, thumb loops for helping keep your hands warm inside your gloves, a shaped hood (which fits perfectly under a ski helmet) and perforated panels around the arm pits and the back of the knees to help dump excess heat.
But the unique feature of this one piece suit is exactly that – it's one piece. That means no cold draft on your lower back when bending over to buckle your boots, no bunching between your top and bottom layer and more effective heat retention overall.
The Zone One Sheep Suit comes with a full torso zip for temperature regulation, thumb loops for warm hands, a fly up front and full zipper across the butt (not pictured) to answer Nature's call
More succinctly, it's damn toasty. And if you do need to answer nature's second call, the two-way zippered back flap provides excess cargo with an easy exit.
I first tried the sheep suit on a roughly -10 C day on Whistler Mountain. The biggest surprise initially was the freedom of movement I had in the suit, whether skiing or stopping to fiddle with either my boots or bindings. I was never stressing any part of the garment where one would expect from a skin-tight one-piece and the flatlock stitching created no noticeable friction against my skin. Riding chair lifts and standing on ridges in the cold felt like I was wrapped in some sort of super hero suit. The lightweight and breathable hood also helped keep out chilly drafts around the neck, a boon for someone who can't stand wearing cumbersome neck gaiters. The security of warmth I felt was unprecedented for a base layer system.
Touring in the Zone One Sheep Suit was mostly comfortable with occasional overheating around the legs. Vents and/or breathable outerwear was key.
How warm is too warm?
But to really test the effectiveness of the sheep suit I decided to bring it on a couple days of touring. For the most part it behaved the same as wearing merino tops and bottoms; a little too hot when the going gets sweaty on the skin track but comfortably cozy at the summit. The perforated panels around the arm pits and backs of the knees did do their job, but it would have been nice to have a similar feature on the thighs to line up with the vents of my ski pants to avoid getting roasted when touring in the sunshine.
The other thing to note is that the Zone One Sheep Suit is only made for men (not exactly sure why) and the suit does not come in a “legless” cut. That means an extra layer of merino up against your socks inside your ski boots, which can create friction points and hot spots.
A Golden Fleece
At $209.99 CDN this certainly is not a cheap garment, but anything from Icebreaker rarely is. The breathable panels are Nylon-reinforced (with the proprietary Corespun technology) which increases durability compared to “100% Pure” merino pieces that in the past could wear quickly or tear easily.
If cold is your enemy, the Icebreaker Zone One Sheep Suit puts up an impressive fight against the elements. If you tend to put your body through constant aerobic output maybe leave this in the closet for the cold resort days and night time outdoor events.
Looking for alternatives base layers? Check out our guide to choosing the best winter baselayer.