As our favorite lightweight baselayer top, the Women's Smartwool Merino 150 Crew is exceptionally breathable. Working best as a thin wicking layer, it offers stand-alone warmth only suitable for warm nights in the summer and cool nights during the shoulder seasons. With a relatively low price point, it's affordable and offers great value for those who run hot or like to push it during the winter months. As a very popular base layer in the ski community, it's a favorite for those who hike uphill through the snow. If you're heading to the ski hill and find yourself sitting on lifts a lot, you might want to make sure your mid-layers and jacket are very insulative…or just choose a heavier base layer option. This Top Pick wins awards for its all-around great performance, surprising durability, and stellar reputation in the outdoor community.
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 is our favorite lightweight option. It can perform all-year-round with 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.
Constructed of 150-grams of synthetic materials & merino wool, this base layer offers very little insulation on its own. It's a perfect 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, it is constructed of super thin fabrics that do best when its offloading moisture and heat. As a result, its insulation for simply standing around when worn on its own is quite low. When you put it on in the morning, the merino wool fabric feels cool against the skin and maintains its coolness. When we wore this while walking around town on a cold day, we were cold as well because it doesn't insulate very well. This is most likely due to the synthetic fibers integrated into its construction.
However, when running or hiking on crisp Fall days, it is perfect. Unlike midweight tops, its sole purpose is to wick away moisture to keep your skin dry, so when the temps aren't too cold, wearing on its own is super comfortable. However, wearing it on its own in single-digit weather will leave you very cold and shouldn't be attempted.
When hanging out on chair lifts with other layers that are thin as well, you're going to find yourself cold. If you run really hot, it might be a great layer for the application. Make sure your mid-layers or jacket is well insulated.
Overall, this layer can provide you warmth in super cold weather when layered with very warm fleece and jacket. It'll also provide all the warmth you need if you're going to be running in the winter or hiking in the backcountry during snowy weather. Just be sure to bring a shell. On its own, it's perfect for warmer days or even the summer months as a protective shade layer.
This lightweight merino layer is wildly breathable and dries very quickly. A big reason we chose it as our Top Pick for those who need a thin base layer that'll wick away moisture well without absorbing it in the fabric.
We took it on a few runs in the San Juan Mountains. During this run, the snow just fell, and the sun was out. Our run took us over many hills that provided many sweat-inspiring experiences. When wearing this top, we didn't feel an accumulation of sweat, even when sprinting uphill. The shirt did a great job of off-loading heat to keep us fresh.
In a layered system, it acts fantastically as a naturally wicking layer. It's commonly seen amongst backcountry skiers or splitboarders who spend a lot of time hiking uphill and sweating profusely, especially on sunny days. With very little insulation, this layer wicks moisture away from the skin and easily 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 vent or breathable layer to allow moisture to escape.
In these cases, we were surprised at how quickly the fabric dried when we finally did ventilate our system when hiking uphill. 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 lightweight Top Pick 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 on this piece seems decent so far. We'd highly recommend it for the price.
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. While this layer does very to insulate, it works well as a wicking layer to keep moisture off the skin. 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