Saturday, July 20, 2024
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REVIEWED: Icebreaker Cool-Lite Compass II shirt

Part merino wool, part awesome, this quick-drying technical layer is ideal for when you need to look smart while on a longer trip

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Here at TravGear we’ve long been fans of the dedicated travel shirt. You know, those horribly practical-looking shirts with security pockets everywhere and some kind of clever-but-crinkly-looking, quick-drying fabric. But what about when you have a meeting, or need to look smart – or as close to it as possible – when travelling on a capsule wardrobe? It’s not easy. Cue the Icebreaker Cool-Lite Compass II shirt.

Merino marvel

Crafted from Icebreaker’s Cool-Lite fabric – a combination of 56% merino wool with TENCEL – the Compass II has a style we’ve not seen before. Although it looks like a smart shirt (our review sample was grey, though it’s also available in various plaid looks), it feels like the much-lauded (by us) Icebreaker Tech T Lite. That’s because it’s also in the 150 Ultralight category, making it super-thin and lightweight.


Because this shirt is made primarily of merino wool, it has the same properties as most Icebreaker gear. It’s soft, high-wicking and doesn’t smell even after a hike in humidity. It’s clever stuff, but the Compass II can also be worn in smarter situations. There is a small nod to the Compass II’s outdoorsy design in a bright red zipper on a security breast pocket, but that’s a flash we can live with. But best of all, we hand-washed the Compass II and hung it out to dry … for two hours. That’s so handy when you’re travelling on a tight schedule.


The only problem we have with merino wool and, hence, with the Compass II, is that it does tend to degrade after a year or so. Or less, if you use it a lot. Which is why the advice must always be the same with Icebreaker gear; when you wash it, don’t use conditioner, and only wear it when you really need it – you’re next casual business-meets-pleasure trip. That will put some travellers off, but the Compass II remains almost unique in being a garment that’s as good in a restaurant or bar as it is halfway up a mountain.

Price as reviewed: UK£77

Buy the Icebreaker Cool-Lite Compass II shirt