Smartwool Merino 150 Short Sleeve - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Versatile across sports and seasons, comfortable, odor-resistant fabric
Cons: Wildly expensive, not the best for heat
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Our Analysis and Test Results
With a fun range of colors (and even stripes!), the Merino 150 has the performance to get through any workout and the comfort to wear all day long. Its versatility with odor-fighting qualities and its ability to regulate your body temperature no matter the weather makes this one a true standout.
High scores in the comfort metric can be attributed to both the fabric and the fit of the Merino 150. With a pretty slim, close-to-the-body fit, it works as both a running shirt and a base layer. There are no gussets under the sleeves, but we didn't feel like any range of motion was lacking. It has a crewneck collar and the body and sleeve lengths are typical for what we'd expect in an athletic top. The underarms are cut fairly high, so if you're a climber in addition to being a runner, you may want to size up in order to accommodate your lats and shoulders. The raglan sleeves move the seams off from the top of the shoulder — a feature we always love — and flatlock seaming throughout creates sturdy, low-profile seams that are less likely to chafe than other styles. The side seams slant forward towards the front of the shirt, meaning your arms won't be rubbing against them while running.
Merino fabric can feel a bit magical with its many capabilities. It's a naturally odor-resistant fiber that wicks sweat away from the body when it's hot out and traps heat when it's cold. While our testers don't have any skin sensitivities to this fabric and find it very comfortable and not itchy, try it on in person to be sure you don't have a wool allergy or sensitive skin that will still feel some itch. This shirt blends 87% merino wool with 13% nylon, giving it some stretchiness and increased durability.
While polyester running shirts often implement some sort of fabric treatment such as pin-prick sized holes or gridding in order to increase breathability, the Merino 150 relies on the merino fabric itself for this quality. The fibers are naturally crimped, which helps wick sweat away from the body. While this shirt didn't score as high in this metric as some of the ultralight models we tested, that's just because it's pretty hard to compete with a less than 2 oz shirt that's built only for hot weather.
This shirt may not be your top choice in 100-degree heat, but you'll still like it for warm weather, More importantly, it's the one you should reach for when temperatures will be fluctuating — you'll find yourself staying comfortable throughout those changing temps. In the cold, the texture of the wool fibers creates little pockets of air that trap body heat and keep you warm while maintaining breathability. The shirt we tested weighed in at 3.53 oz, which we were satisfied with based on its wide range of uses.
During our drying speed test, we soaked each shirt, wrung them out by hand, and then hung them up while keeping track of how quickly each one dried. The performance of the Merino 150 was up there with all of the fastest drying shirts. Another fantastic feature of wool is that it can keep you warm even when it's wet — a characteristic that makes this shirt a perfect pick for backcountry travel.
The inner core of the fibers absorbs water, while the outer layers of the fibers resist it, keeping you drier. When it's hot out, the moisture that evaporates creates an evaporative cooling effect, helping regulate the body temperature.
Features & Versatility
Although running shirts are a simple piece of gear, there are features we like to see. Back to touting the wonder of wool, one of the exceptional characteristics of merino is that it has natural UPF resistance, with the specs of this shirt listing the rating as 20. When considering that some of the running shirts we test are so thin you can practically see through them, this level of sun protection gives us some peace of mind. Additionally, the shirt features a reflective decal on the wearer's left side, always appreciated for a bit of extra visibility when running in the dark.
As mentioned previously, merino wool is naturally odor-resistant, and we think this is not only one of its best features, but also increases its versatility. Due to its anti-microbial properties, bacteria doesn't grow in the fabric the way it can in synthetic garments. You'll wash this shirt less often and smell fresher. If your trail runs often become fastpacks, longer backpacking trips, or alpine climbing missions, this is a quality that you'll love!
This is also a perfect travel shirt for your running vacations when you're just bringing a carry-on. Without the shiny look of many athletic tops, it passes for casual wear (in style as well as feel), yet still has the high performance to carry you through your adventures. Thanks to the fact that there are no seams on the tops of the shoulders, it's comfortable when worn with a running vest or heavier pack and layers well with different jackets. We'd definitely wear this shirt climbing or as a base layer for snow sports in the winter.
Although it comes with a high price tag, we think the Smartwool Merino 150 Baselayer absolutely has a high value and is worth the cost. Impressive breathability, drying speed, and comfort combined with its exceptional versatility, means you could use this one throughout the year, getting tons of wear out of it. The nylon core of the fabric increases the durability of the merino, again adding to its value.
We feel like we can't say enough good things about this shirt. It's comfortable, breathable, dries quickly, and doesn't stink! It's well-made, cute, and performs for nearly every sport in nearly every season. The Smartwool Merino 150 Baselayer is a true all-around winner, and it easily won our Top Pick for Versatility this season.
— Paige Klugherz