Icebreaker – Hand in your passport.

So I have just spent 6 months travelling through South East Asia and Eastern Europe.  I’m a proud kiwi and took a pretty decent supply of Icebreaker clothing with me.  In my 10kg backpack, I had the following merino items…

Icebreaker t shirt x3

Icebreaker dress

Icebreaker socks

Icebreaker outer layer (cardigan type top)

I also took a Macpac long sleeved sweatshirt  and a number of pairs of smart wool socks.

Icebreaker merino wool garments have some great properties… yes they do breathe (even in 48 degree heat in Vietnam) and  no they don’t smell after wearing them for a few days.  These are both admirable properties. They also can be hand washed (the lighter items anyway) and will easily dry over night ready to be worn the next day.  I also used some of the local laundry ladies, some of whom used machines for washing and drying.  None of the items shrunk in these conditions.

So… so far so good!

Unfortunately where they went wrong was durability and service.  Of the items listed above, 3 t-shirts, the dress and the sweatshirt cardigan all got holes in them.

Some holes were larger than others but nevertheless they were holes.  The garments had been worn either not at all or only a couple of times before I left.  I assumed that they would have a decent warranty on them… after all I had tracked my merino sheep back to the farm in the South Island that they had come from.  They seemed like good buggers!

On talking to the Icebreaker team in Canada (where I was next), they said I had to take them back to the store I bought them from (not useful when travelling).  On returning to New Zealand, they said that unless I could produce a receipt then there was no warranty and they would only look at a year old items anyway.  No use to me!  So I had hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of gear with holes  in them.

Sorry Icebreaker not cool!  Love the wicking performance, need the gear to last though.

As an aside if you are looking for the absolute best travel socks (I’ve tried them all), buy Smartwool.  Their socks are better than any other I have tried, dry quickly, are light, don’t perish and have all the good qualities of merino.  I won’t buy anything else now.

Mt Ruapehu, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand


Mt Ruapehu is the skiing/snowboarding hub in the North Island of New Zealand.  It is great in the winter but should also not be discounted in the summer.  We went for a couple of days.  For those unfamiliar to the area, it is an active volcano that throws a tantrum every decade or so.

Where to stay:

The small town of Ohakune is a great base.  While it is a very small town, there is lots of accommodation, mostly in the form of backpackers and baches (privately owned holiday accommodation) that you rent through “book a Bach”.  Ohakune is closest to the Turoa side of the mountain.

You could also stay around the other side of the mountain in the National Park.  There is much less accomodation around this side and the township is limited to the chateau and very little else.  National park is on the Whakapapa side of the mountain.

What to do:

Waiuru is not too far from Ohakune and there is an excellent military museum located on the edge of the army base.  It is easy to spend a few hours wandering through here.  Save it for a wet day – you will probably get one!

Walking – there are nice walking tracks at the base of the mountain which take you though bush and to waterfalls.  Up the mountain you can get on a chairlift which will take you up to a cafe.  You can enjoy a coffee and something to eat or you can just admire the view.  From the cafe there are a number of walking tracks you can take to get some great views.  Tracks are signposted.  Wear boots!

For a real highlight you can walk the Tongariro Crossing.  We didn’t get to do this, this time but it’s on the list!

For burgers and craft beer, try out the new hipster burgeria, the Blind Finch.  While not cheap, they have delicious gourmet burgers that are worth a try.

Photo opportunities:  The big carrot!  Ohakune is famous for it’s delicious carrots.  You can take a photo by a giant carrot.

Ohakune town is a sleepy little town in the summer – which is quite nice as in the winter it is a really busy little town, particularly if the mountain is open for skiing and boarding.

Try the summer – you might like it!