Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: Varies from $65 - $95 | Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros: Natural wool fiber VERY soft and cozy, breathable, durable, fitted, stylish design
Cons: Expensive, limited color options
Best Uses: Camping, climbing, bouldering, hiking, skiing, winter sports, walking backpacking, horseback riding, kayaking, rowing, trail running, gym workouts, sailing
The base layer that came closest, or was equal to, the Smartwool Midnight Crew's performance score, is the Arc'teryx RHO LT Zip - Women's. However, the Smartwool top is far less expensive, and in the end, more versatile. If you can only buy one base layer, this is the one for you. It can really be worn for such a wide range of adventures, including trips to the grocery store or dinner with friends. If your budget is tight, or you want a looser fitting top, you might want to go for the Patagonia Capilene 3 Crew - Women's or the Icebreaker Nature 200 LS Scoop, respectively. But for about thirty more dollars, the Smartwool top is softer, has a better fit, and will perform on par with the Patagonia. The Under Armour Base 2.0 has similar value for everyday style, but falls short in the athletic performance categories.
See our complete Women's Long Underwear Review to see how this top compared to the competition.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The first thing I noticed about the Smartwool Midweight Crew was how soft and cozy it is. Even though it is Merino Wool just like the Icebreaker base layer, it felt softer and seemed to have more stretch. It has a long, very fitted shape with wider cuffs on the waist, arms, and neck, and seams that contoured and added great shape. Even with its slim fit, I found the sleeves easy to push up, and the neck totally non-binding when pulling it off or on. The longer length, shirt style hem, and narrow arms made the top easy to move in without feeling uncovered when reaching or stretching, such as with climbing or rowing. Also, it was easy to add layers over the top as it is not bulky or loose.
Another pleasant surprise with the Smartwool top was how efficiently it helped regulate temperature. I usually get warm quickly when I run, and this top stayed on longer than most when I was on the trail. It didnt feel heavy or even that thick, and when I did need to take it off eventually, I did so with ease thanks to the extra stretch and forgiving cuffs. It was highly breathable, and wicked away moisture in a snap. Never did I think I would reach for a long sleeve, wool top when running in anything other than rain or snow. The Smartwool Midweight top proved to be great in not only the cold, but moderately warm conditions also. I even found myself loving it as a post-swim workout top: cozy, warm, and wicking. This base layer was the most versatile thanks to its performance in varying weather conditions and temperatures, with the Arc'teryx RHO top a close second.
Lastly, because of its wonderfully soft feel and stylish, forgiving fit, the Smartwool base layer was great for wearing on a daily basis. I wore the black one everywhere I dont break a sweat and got compliments constantly, but never questions as to the performance aspect of the top. This makes it a favorite choice for active travelers that have limited packing space and want a top that performs and looks great.
To be honest, there was not a lot that I found wrong with this top. The fit was great, functional but very flattering. The Merino Wool was soft, breathable, and durable. It performed in almost all weather conditions. If I had to say anything negative about the top, it would be that yes, it is a bit more costly than others on the market. At $70, it costs more than the Patagonia Capilene 3 and the Under Armour Base 2.0. But as with all performance gear, you get what you pay for, and in this case, you will get either more warmth, more durability, more versatility, a better fit, or all of the above.
This base layer top is a great choice for a wide range of weather conditions and activities. The Smartwool sponsored athletes, for example, range from Big Mountain Skiers to Ultra Runners. The fit lends itself to any endeavor that requires extensive stretching and movement (climbing, skiing, even Yoga!) and the breathability and wicking properties make it good for all-day, weather-changing conditions. Also a great choice for travelling!
Again, while it is more expensive than tops in its class, the benefits of this base layer make the cost almost irrelevant. More than likely, you will use this top often, and it will last years.
Smartwool Midweight Zip T - Women's
— Emily Zell
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: September 20, 2010
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