Smartwool Merino 150 Crew - Women's Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Affordable, powerful wicking and breathing, easy to layer, durable construction
Cons: Not warm, fabric is itchy to some
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Smartwool Merino 150 one of our favorite lightweight base layer top. It performs all-year-round with its impeccable breathability and thin fabric construction. If you run hot or plan on doing the most aerobic sports in the winter, this lightweight contender is an award winner. It is durable, integrating Nylon into its merino wool construction.
Constructed of 150-grams of synthetic materials& merino wool, this top offers very little insulation. It's a great layer for hiking or running in cool weather. However, when temperatures plummet into the single digits, it works best in a warm and insulating layered system.
Built to breath, its constructed of super thin fabrics that do best when its offloading moisture and heat. When you put it on in the morning, the merino wool fabric feels cool against the skin and maintains its coolness. When we wore it walking around town on a cold day, we felt cold without an additional layer of insulation. This is most likely due to the synthetic fibers integrated into its construction.
However, for high output activities like running or backcountry skiing, it's excellent. Unlike midweight tops, its sole purpose is to wick away moisture, without added insulation. Wearing it on its own in single-digit weather will leave you very cold and shouldn't be attempted.
Overall, this layer can provide you warmth during super cold weather when layered with very warm fleece and jacket. It'll provide all the warmth you need if you're going to be running in the winter or hiking in cold weather. Just be sure to bring a shell. On its own, it's good for warmer days during the Spring or Fall. It's a little too warm for the summer due to its high density of woven merino wool.
This lightweight merino layer is wildly breathable and dries very quickly. It'll wick away moisture well without absorbing it in the fabric. This is a wonderful top to wear under a heavy layer of insulation or on its own during aerobic explorations.
We took it on a few runs in the San Juan Mountains. During a few of these runs, the snow fell and the sun was out. Our run took us over many hills that provided many sweat-inspiring, try-hard experiences. Even though we sweat, the top kept up dry, even when doing sprint laps uphill.
In a layered system, it acts fantastically as a naturally wicking layer. It's commonly seen amongst backcountry skiers or split boarders who spend a lot of time hiking uphill and sweating profusely, especially on sunny days. With very little insulation, it wicks moisture away from the skin and transfers it to the next layer. It's important to note that if your next layer doesn't have ventilation (like a zip neck) or isn't breathable, moisture can still build up in your layered system. So make sure your whole system has some form of ventilation or breathable layer to provides escape for moisture.
In these cases, we are surprised at how quickly the fabric dries when we finally did open up our jacket. While the merino wool did absorb some water with this lack of ventilation (like all fabrics do), we didn't feel cold or wet like we did with other thicker layers that have higher absorption. The result? This is one super breathable layer that wicks away moisture efficiently.
Comfort & Fit
While this top isn't the coziest, it offers great all-day wear. Those that are sensitive to wool might find it to be a little itchy, especially if you manage to build up a sweat in it. The fit is tight, slim, and a little short in the torso, so make sure you size up if you like a looser fit.
Midweight tops do better in this metric, and it is no surprise that this award-winning lightweight contender doesn't do as well with this kind of competition. While it is constructed of merino wool, the material is thin and far from plush. There are no super cozy elements like really long arms to wrap your hands into or super stretchy fabrics.
While most of our testers liked the way the fabrics feel on the skin, some women that tested this top were more sensitive to wool. Merino wool is renowned for it's "no itch" construction, and for most ladies, this shirt will feel just fine. However, for the more sensitive, you might think it has a tiny itch too it. The reasons are because the knit on this fabric is very tight and more abrasive than the plusher fabrics used in the midweight version of this top. In addition, integrated synthetic fibers are more rigid, which can be a bit more irritating. So if you're especially sensitive to wool fabrics, this may not be for you. Though for those that wear merino wool all the time, you probably find it thin, comfortable, and nice to wear.
This thin base-layer is incredibly easy to layer under and over other pieces of clothing. Bulkier baselayers with "grabby" face fabrics tend to be harder to layer. Given the super thin construction and very tightly knit face fabric, this top is neither. The fabric offers some stretch (but not too much), so it doesn't stretch with a tighter fitting fleece to fit ontop. The whole top is tightly fitted, so it doesn't bunch in the arms or around the torso either. The only thing that we did notice is that because the shirt is a little shorter, it can ride up when worn with other "grabbier" mid-layers. Aside from that, it works just fine.
We've only had the pleasure of testing this piece for a couple of months, so we haven't had too much time to detail its entire lifespan. However, looking at online reviews, it has a very good track record. Built with synthetic fibers in conjunction with soft merino wool, it's more durable than other Smartwool products we've tested.
While the fabric is thinner, the fabric is packed in such a way that it doesn't snag or grab when being dragged through a forest or pushed up against rocks. When carrying a backpack and running pack, we haven't seen any signs of durability issues. We've washed it a dozen times, and it doesn't shrink, nor has it pilled up.
The only thing we've noticed is some stitching that's come undone around the wrist. Given the thinner construction, we imagine this won't last as long as other synthetic contenders, but time will tell as we continue to test it into the upcoming year.
The price on this base layer top is fair. Those that see the most value in it will be those who need a protective layer in the summer and a wicking layer for aerobic activities in the winter. The durability of this piece seems decent so far.
The Smartwool Merino 150 Crew comes highly recommended for those that push it through all the seasons. Its thinner fabrics are surprisingly durable (so far) with great breathability. In the winter, wear it with an insulating mid-layer or jacket to stay warm on the ski hill. In the warmer months, wear it on its own while hiking, backpacking, and exploring in the backcountry.
— Amber King