Saturday, June 9, 2012

Gear Review: Smartwool Midweight Zip-T Wool Shirt and Midweight Bottom base-layers

Several months ago, Smartwool asked us to review their Mountaineering socks, which didn't take much arm-twisting since I was already a professed fan of their hiking socks. When I was offered the opportunity to test out their Merino-Wool base-layer Midweight Zip-T and Midweight Bottom, it was pretty hard to say no!

Unlike the rest of the country, the Rocky Mountains can still wallop you with nasty, winter-like weather even in the warmest parts of summer. I've seen three feet of snow fall in the high country in August, so carrying a proper layering system is critical for both comfort and surviving the elements.

Field Testing

I was able to test the Smartwool Midweight Zip-T Wool Shirt and Midweight Bottom on several occasions, including a couple of Spring backpacking trips, a day hike up to 11,000ft on Longs Peak Trail, and a couple of weeks of base camping. Weather conditions varied from warm, dry days to cold, snowy nights. Both the top and bottom proved to be warm and comfortable next to the skin, and the fit was similar to Smartwool's socks. In other words, excellent.

The only negative is that the shirt tended to shrink a little more than expected, even using a delicate wash cycle with cold water and hang drying it. It didn't shrink dramatically, but more than I would have liked. I would suggest buying the next size up from what you normally wear to compensate for this. The Midweight Bottom didn't seem to suffer from this issue. One other negative is that these are not made in the USA like Smartwool's hiking socks. If you feel strongly about buying USA made products, this issue may affect your decision on what to purchase. The Smartwool Midweight Zip-T and Midweight Bottom felt very durable, so I do feel confident in saying that the quality seems high for a foreign-made product.


My overall impression was very good, with the exception of the shrinkage issue with the shirt. The fit, durability and comfort were similar to Smartwool's excellent wool socks. Anyone looking for a comfortable, durable and well-fitting base-layer set will find these to be a good choice.

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About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ (without spaces)

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