SmartWool Merino 250 Bottoms Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: A nice balance of warmth and breathability, super cozy, nicely articulated design
Cons: Expensive, stretches out in between washes, slow to dry when saturated
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SmartWool Merino 250 Bottoms
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|Pros||A nice balance of warmth and breathability, super cozy, nicely articulated design||Soft next-to-skin, super warm for its weight, durable and all-natural||Breathable, highly efficient wicking, comfortable merino/recycled polyester blend, impressively durable||Unbeatable price, breathable, quick drying, functional||Affordable, lightweight, warm for weight|
|Cons||Expensive, stretches out in between washes, slow to dry when saturated||A touch heavy for fabric weight, slow to dry after washing||Not designed for mid-winter warmth, relatively heavy for fabric weight, thin waist band||Short cut legs, average comfort and warmth||Instant fabric tear, baggy fit, sticky exterior gridded fleece|
|Bottom Line||Designed to keep you warm in the coldest conditions, this is a versatile pair of merino wool bottoms||Undeniably comfortable, warm, and breathable, this rough-and-tumble pair of 100% merino long underwear has it all||A versatile, lightweight merino-recycled polyester blend that offers superb breathability and wicking, making these a near ideal high performance bottom for any fast-paced adventure||Slender and breathable, these are everything we expect out of a lightweight pair of long underwear||A warmer lightweight option that has a lot of potential to improve upon design|
|Rating Categories||SmartWool Merino 25...||Ortovox 185 Rock'N'...||Outdoor Research Al...||REI Co-op Lightweig...||Carhartt Base Force...|
|Comfort And Fit (30%)|
|Specs||SmartWool Merino 25...||Ortovox 185 Rock'N'...||Outdoor Research Al...||REI Co-op Lightweig...||Carhartt Base Force...|
|Material||100% Merino wool||100% Merino wool||47% Merino wool / 47% Recycled polyester / 6% Spandex||92% Polyester / 8% Spandex||100% Raised Mini-Grid Polyester|
|Fabric Weight||250 g/m²||185 g/m²||150 g/m²||N/A||N/A|
|Weight (size M)||8.3 oz||6.4 oz||6.8 oz||5.46 oz||5.2 oz|
|3/4 Boot-Cut Available?||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Picking up a redesign for this season, the SmartWool Merino 250 Bottoms now incorporate a gusseting pattern in both the front and back for a fit that is both more functional and more comfortable. No longer do you have to size down to achieve the proper athletic fit for these base layer bottoms.
Our testers are big fans of the SmartWool Merino 250 top, which won our Editors' Choice Award in our base layer tops review.
Constructed to excel in harsh winter conditions, the Merino 250 Bottoms boast a fabric weight of 250 g/m², the heaviest in SmartWool's lineup. The 100% Merino wool is thick cut, making these bottoms much more plush feeling next-to-skin than comparably weighted models we tested. These pants are plush, an ideal companion for full days spent outside through the coldest months of winter.
Boasting 250 g/m² of thick and cozy 100% merino wool, these bottoms are constructed to excel in harsh conditions. They do a superb job of wicking away sweat when you're working hard and drying quickly against your skin so that after skinning endlessly for the perfect line, you're not soaked and freezing when you finally reach the windblown and frozen summit.
Merino wool is naturally hydrophobic, which keeps these base layer pants warm and comfortable throughout the day, regardless of how intensely you are working up a sweat. The thick Merino wool traps just enough heat to allow this layer to dry against your skin quickly. Even through 6,000 vertical feet of skinning and climbing to reach the summit of Mt. Hood on a mid-winter ascent, the Merino 250 bottoms were warm and dry by the time we reached the summit—even if we weren't in the frigid alpine wind. It is important to mention that while these bottoms are warm, they are not expedition-weight warm. So if you're planning a trip north of the Arctic Circle, plan on buying something even thicker.
What continues to impress us about these bottoms is how aptly they balance top-notch insulation with near top-notch breathability. Functional thermoregulation is not a common-trait amongst base layers, and the Merino 250 bottoms handle that task masterfully.
The special interlock knit used in the design of these bottoms sets the scene for breathability of this thick layer and truly helps set the Merino 250 Bottoms apart from the competition. The lattice-like knit adds additional loft, supplementing the natural breathability of merino wool fibers with a microclimate that uses heat to force moist air up through the fabric, where it is able to evaporate on the surface. Unlike other thick layers that hold onto sweat and become clammy once you stop moving, these avoid becoming sweat-soaked by harnessing the power of simple thermodynamics—the harder you work, the more powerful the temperature/pressure gradient between your skin and the outside air, and the faster these bottoms dry out.
We generally consider merino wool to be an all-natural super-fiber, one that wants to insulate, breath, and moisture-wick all at once. But if they happen to soak-through, it is important to mention that these bottoms will take a long time to dry out. Plan taking more than an hour for this layer to flat-dry in the sun. Although the breathability of the Merino 250 Bottoms is unmatched for their weight and warmth, they will certainly not breathe nearly as well as thinner models we tested.
Comfort & Fit
The Merino 250 Bottoms have effectively won over the hearts of all of our testers — when it comes to pure comfort, these bottoms are heavenly. Not only are they warm and cozy, but the 100% Merino knit is thick, soft, and stretchy. SmartWool designers seem to take this fact with pride, and this updated version thoughtfully lines the interior of the extra-wide waistband with Merino wool to increase comfort further and cut down on a common spot for irritation. The entire construction is supported by flatlock seams that are specifically designed to minimize rubbing and chafing, giving you even more reason to wear these bottoms directly next-to-skin.
We often wear these truly as long underwear, opting to comfortably layer them under our jeans during the coldest months of winter. The natural elasticity of Merino wool makes these bottoms a versatile option to prepare for those extra-cold moments, like freezing your buns off in an ice-climbing belay stance. The material is stretchy enough to pull over a lighter weight base layer, and yet somehow snug-enough fitting to wear below a mid-layer pant without any constrictions.
A minimalistic design incorporates a gusseted crotch, allowing for a single seam to run the length of the inseam without losing out on flexibility. While we dealt with saggy-bum issues in the past, this update takes the same gusseted design from the front and applies it to the back of the pants. Now you don't have to pull these bottoms up past your belly-button to secure a snug fit.
While merino wool is reputed to have durability issues, modern knitting and design technique has done a seriously great job of improving upon concerns. The SmartWool 250 bottoms are the thickest Merino layer in our review, easily landing them among the most durable all-natural options we tested. Even after our overly aggressive abrasion test, this pant exhibited mere surface wear. Still, for snags and punctures, they will simply not be as durable as other synthetic options.
Being the thickest merino wool layer, these are easily among the most durable wool layers we tested. Nearly all of the merino wool bottoms developed a hole during our abrasion test, whereas these boasted mere surface wear. As they are merino wool, they are just simply not as durable as some synthetic fabric. Still, they offer breathability, wicking capabilities, and resist odor build-up very well.
The main way you can protect your purchase and invest in the longevity of a Merino base layer is through proper laundering. By carefully washing, and most importantly, flat drying, the Merino 250 Bottoms, you will likely have these are your go-to cold weather bottoms for years. While you may experience them stretching out between washings, don't feel inclined to shrink them up in the dryer — that is the surest path to an early grave for this high-quality layer.
Although the Merino 250 is one of the most expensive pairs of long underwear bottoms we tested, the quality of construction and sheer ability to balance warmth and breathability warrants the price tag. Think of it as an investment in your well-being, to keep you warm, dry, and performing your best even through frigid conditions.
The SmartWool Merino 250 Bottoms offer superb warmth and thermoregulation, wrapped up in an uber-comfortable package. For those that need an extra boost of warmth to get them through the winter, these are a great investment that will prove themselves worthwhile even after the mercury rises from sub-freezing temperatures.
— Aaron Rice and Roland Mott
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