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Smartwool NTS 250 Crew - Women's Review

Women's Merino 250 Base Layer Crew
Top Pick Award
Price:   $95 List | $65.73 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Super comfortable, stylish, odor resistant, cozy and warm, natural fibers
Cons:  Expensive, limited durability, sticky layering, long drying time
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Smartwool

Our Verdict

Soft, cuddly and stylish are three words that come to mind when we think of the Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Crew. It won the popularity contest right away with our testers who fell in love with the cozy material, made with 250 g/m2 of 100% merino wool, and the flattering fit. In our previous women's long underwear review, this product earned our Editors' Choice Award, but this year it was narrowly beat out! Instead, we replaced it with the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip - Women's for its versatile features including a zip-up collar, "like a glove" fit, and astounding durability. The race for Editors' Choice was close, and the NTS Mid 250 lost by a hair due to poor durability and frustrating layering moments.

Update - September 2017
The Smartwool NTS 250 Crew has a new name: the Smartwool Merino 250 Base Layer Crew, pictured above. Aside from new color options, absolutely nothing else has changed with the product. This review will link to either version of the Smartwool 250 crew (NTS and Merino) based on availability and price! Look below to learn more.

Like the Icebreaker Oasis - Women's and the more affordable Minus 33 Ossipee, we were impressed with the 250 Crew's ability to regulate a wide range of temperatures. We were also thrilled to see that even after two to three days of sweaty use, the Smartwool resisted odor. If great temperature regulation, comfort, and odor control are in your cards, then read on to learn more.

Looking for a Zip?
In addition to some great new colors this season like Desert Purple Heather, Light Loden Heather, Glacial Blue Heather, Berry Heather, Mountain Purple, Charcoal Heather, and Black, Smartwool also has this great base layer available in the NTS mid 250 zip - Women's. This base layer has all the great things we love about Smartwool, but with the addition of a zipper.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Long Underwear for Women Review


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Amber King
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Sunday
September 10, 2017

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The Smartwool Merino 250 Base Layer Crew Vs. The Smartwool NTS 250 Crew


Smartwool dropped the "NTS" from the name of their popular base layer and replaced it, fittingly, with "Merino". A representative from the company said that no one knew what "NTS" stood for and thus it was simply a source of confusion. The Merino 250 is available in five colors, retails for the same price, and is exactly the same product as the NTS 250 Crew.

Three of the current color options are pictured below. Mountain Purple Heather is on the left, Blue Ice Heather in the middle and Potion Pink Heather on the right.
Women's Merino 250 Base Layer Crew
Women's Merino 250 Base Layer Crew
Women's Merino 250 Base Layer Crew
 

Here's a summary of the updates:
  • New name — The Smartwool NTS 250 Crew - Women's is now the Women's Merino 250 Base Layer Crew.
  • New Colors — The Dark blue shade we tested is no longer available. The colors for 2017 are Mountain Purple Heather, Blue Ice Heather, Potion Pink Heather, Lochness Heather, Charcoal Heather and Black.

Since there are no technical updates to this product, we don't anticipate any changes with regards to its performance. Still, the review below reflects the testing results of the prior version.

Hands-On Review Of The Smartwool NTS 250 Crew - Women's


Our 2015 Top Pick for Comfort, the Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Crew, is made of 100% natural wool fibers and regulates through a wide range of temperatures. Get yourself lost in this soft and stretchy midweight top that's perfect for most outdoor endeavors.

Enjoy all the comforts of merino wool. It sports temperature regulating fabric with  natural fibers that feel good on your skin! This Top Pick for Comfort pulls out all the stops leaving you feeling GOOD.
Enjoy all the comforts of merino wool. It sports temperature regulating fabric with natural fibers that feel good on your skin! This Top Pick for Comfort pulls out all the stops leaving you feeling GOOD.

Warmth


As a stand-alone midweight shirt, this 100% merino wool top was the warmest of all layers tested. Unfortunately, it was bumped down a point because of its inability to protect from the wind, making some of our missions a little nippier than intended. However, when this shirt was integrated into a layering system we found ample warmth that kept us content through some really cold conditions. In comparison to our Editors' Choice Award winner (the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip), the Smartwool was warmer when integrated into a layering system, but when worn alone it felt much colder especially since it doesn't offer any wind resistance. If you're planning on heading on an extremely cold mission to say, the Arctic, consider a heavier or expedition weight layer like the Patagonia Capilene Expedition Weight.

When you go from warm to cold on any endeavor  you need a fabric that will wick moisture and regulate temperature. All the base layers in this review including the Smartwool NTS (our Top Pick for Comfort) do just that and more!
When you go from warm to cold on any endeavor, you need a fabric that will wick moisture and regulate temperature. All the base layers in this review including the Smartwool NTS (our Top Pick for Comfort) do just that and more!

Breathability


As expected from any merino wool top, breathability was fantastic and comparable to the Minus 33 Ossipee. Since the face fabric does not cut the wind (like the Icebreaker Oasis Crew or the Arc'teryx Rho LT), the Smartwool top allows heat to escape more easily and provides better temperature regulation. We took this top on a hiking/running adventure in the high country of the San Juan mountains. During this escapade we encountered shady and snowy nooks laced with warm sunny trails. We went from warm to cold and didn't have to take off this shirt or add any additional layers. As a result, it scored top points for breathability - it's truly a fantastic temperature regulator. If you're looking for shirt that focuses on the best breathability, with a trade-off in warmth, check out the Under Armour Base 2.0 Crew - Women's.

Effectively releasing heat when it's needed  the Smartwool NTS does a great job at breathing when it's really necessary. This breathability is essential to keep you comfortable and warm when the temperature drops.
Effectively releasing heat when it's needed, the Smartwool NTS does a great job at breathing when it's really necessary. This breathability is essential to keep you comfortable and warm when the temperature drops.

Layering Ability


Even though we were able to comfortably wear layers over and under the Smartwool NTS, we found that the shirt would grab other layers and slowly ride up, exposing our skin. If this had happened just once or twice, it wouldn't be so much of problem. However, it happened all the time and was a deal breaker for some of our testers. The Minus33 Ossipee had a face fabric with less friction and is a good alternative if you are looking for a good merino layer without this issue. Needless to say, we weren't impressed with the Smartwool NTS in this area and hoped for something less grabby.

Layers will fit under and over the Smartwool NTS. Though expect it to bunch and twist  especially when layering over a tighter insulation layer.
Layers will fit under and over the Smartwool NTS. Though expect it to bunch and twist, especially when layering over a tighter insulation layer.

Comfort & Fit


Being our Top Pick for Comfort, the Smartwool NTS beamed in this metric. From the moment we put it on, we didn't want to take it off. The merino fibers were thin and soft, feeling luxurious against the skin. The fabric has just the right amount of stretch, which allowed us to pull the cuffs over our hands when a wind blew through. The cuffs of both the wrist and hem are stitched in a thicker design, making this shirt more versatile.

The cuffs are much thicker and stretchier than other merino layers tested making the sleeve easy to push up and comfortable. It also complements the design  making you look even better when worn on its own.
The cuffs are much thicker and stretchier than other merino layers tested making the sleeve easy to push up and comfortable. It also complements the design, making you look even better when worn on its own.

To top it off, this base layer didn't stink after three straight days of use. This is a great attribute of merino wool that synthetics like the Patagonia Capilene Crew do not exhibit. Generally speaking synthetic layers like the Capilene 3 start to stink after one or two days (tops!) of use. In all, the Smartwool NTS is a HUGELY comfortable layer that earned top marks and our top pick in this metric. If you're not psyched on the crew neck cut, check out the Smartwool NTS Mid-Zip, which features a zip-up collar and thus offers more versatility.

Amanda Fenn  our Editor  styles the Smartwool 1/4 zip option while hiking up some big terrain in California. This is a great alternative that offers more versatility with the same great temperature regulation.
Amanda Fenn, our Editor, styles the Smartwool 1/4 zip option while hiking up some big terrain in California. This is a great alternative that offers more versatility with the same great temperature regulation.

Drying Speed


Of the merino wool layers, this was second fastest to dry, next to the Oasis Crew. Merino wool in general repels water when it's first exposed, but when saturated it generally takes a little longer to dry out. If you're looking for a layer that dries quickly, check out the synthetic options like the Under Armour Crew 2.0 or the Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip. If you still want to go with merino wool, take a look at the Icebreaker Oasis Crew.

Taking a longer time to dry than all synthetics and the Icebreaker Oasis is not the only thing to consider with drying speed. In general  merino wool is impervious to water as we observe here with the Smartwool NTS.
Taking a longer time to dry than all synthetics and the Icebreaker Oasis is not the only thing to consider with drying speed. In general, merino wool is impervious to water as we observe here with the Smartwool NTS.

Durability


We were not impressed with the durability of this Smartwool top and it actually earned one of the lowest scores in our review. After an inspection of the seams we found a hole in the right shoulder, pilling on the face fabric, and a stitching fly away on the collar. Unlike any other layer tested, this was the only one we found with a hole, so we weren't too happy. On the upside, we didn't notice any stretching like we observed with the Minus 33 Ossipee.

A blowout that the Smartwool NTS had after a long day of hiking with a backpack on. We were not impressed with the durability of this top.
A blowout that the Smartwool NTS had after a long day of hiking with a backpack on. We were not impressed with the durability of this top.

We spoke with several Colorado mountain guides and they mentioned that merino wool fabrics are oftentimes less durable than their synthetic cousins. We also learned that wear and tear commonly happens where backpack straps rub. We think this may have been the case with this layer after many ski touring and hiking missions over these last three months. As a result, we weren't impressed with this garment's durability even though the stitching on the seams seemed to be solid at first glance. So buyer beware on this one. If you plan on buying it, know it may wear out quicker than a synthetic.

The Smartwool NTS is a cozy choice however it is far more delicate than all our layers tested. Not only did we notice pilling on the seams and a stitching fly away (as pictured here) but we also found a hole where one seam ripped through. We think it is unacceptable for a $90 base layer to be preforming in this way after only 3 months of use.
The Smartwool NTS is a cozy choice however it is far more delicate than all our layers tested. Not only did we notice pilling on the seams and a stitching fly away (as pictured here) but we also found a hole where one seam ripped through. We think it is unacceptable for a $90 base layer to be preforming in this way after only 3 months of use.

Best Applications


You'll look great and feel amazing in the Smartwool NTS…wear it anywhere - around town, hiking, on the couch, or to the top of a mountain. Be careful though, its weight is intended for cool to cold days, and not meant for those burly expeditions with multiple days of sitting in frigid conditions. Save that for the heavier weight layers.

Wear this on any mission you have in mind. On its own or in a layering system  it will keep you warm and cozy. Its temperature regulation makes an early spring jog on dry trails a fun endeavour.
Wear this on any mission you have in mind. On its own or in a layering system, it will keep you warm and cozy. Its temperature regulation makes an early spring jog on dry trails a fun endeavour.

Value


We realize that merino wool tops are more expensive and less durable than most synthetics. However we weren't thrilled that this $95 merino layer showed a hole after just three months of use. We loved the comfort it provided us, but there are less expensive merino options (like the Minus 33) that we feel offer a better value if you're concerned about durability. If temperature regulation, odor resistance, and maximum comfort are your top priorities, then our Top Pick for Comfort is a solid investment.

Conclusion


The Smartwool NTS won our Top Pick for Comfort and is perfect for many outdoor pursuits. This merino wool base layer will regulate temperature and keep you feeling A-mazing in general. Try it on and love it forever!

The Smartwool NTS won our Top Pick for Comfort for its thicker fabric and luxuriously soft merino wool fabric. A great pick for comfort and all around everything use.
The Smartwool NTS won our Top Pick for Comfort for its thicker fabric and luxuriously soft merino wool fabric. A great pick for comfort and all around everything use.

Other Versions


NTS 150- Women's
⁃ Fabric weight- 150g, micro weight (thinner than the NTS 250)
⁃ Cost- $75.00 ($20 less than the NTS 250)
⁃ Thinnest layer Smartwool makes
⁃ Best for warmer weather actives

NTS 250 Zip Neck- Women's
⁃ Fabric weight- 250g, mid-weight (same as the NTS 250)
⁃ Cost- $100.00 ($5 more than the NTS 250)
⁃ Neck zipper for better ventilation
⁃ Best for actives in very cold weather

NTS 250 Full Zip Hoody- Women's
⁃ Fabric weight- 250g, mid-weight (same as the NTS 250)
⁃ Cost- $130.00 ($35 more than the NTS 250)
⁃ Full front zipper and hood for more versatility
⁃ Best for actives in very cold weather

If you are looking for a great pair of long underwear bottoms to go with the NTS 250, check out the NTS 250 bottoms.
NTS 250 Bottoms- Women's
⁃ Fabric weight- 250g, mid-weight (same as the NTS 250)
⁃ Cost- $95.00 (same as the NTS 250 top)
⁃ Mid-rise waist
⁃ Best for actives in very cold weather
Amber King

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Most recent review: September 10, 2017
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