Kit review: SmartWool Next-to-Skin baselayers
Looking for a lightweight Merino baselayer? The new SmartWool NTS range could be just the thing. I love Merino wool for its amazing all-weather and all-year-round wearable qualities. Merino wool is a natural fabric and is great at keeping you warm on cold days while walking or cycling. Amazingly, it’s also good at cooling the skin on hot days and effectively getting rid of sweat and nasty smells. The natural properties of merino allow for easy evaporation of perspiration from the skin and, unlike most man-made baselayer fabrics, do not retain the smell of dried sweat. This is how Smart Wool describe it: “When you’re wearing Merino next to your skin, your body doesn’t have to work as hard keeping itself cool, dry and stink-free. Merino starts working as soon as your body heats up, letting moisture vapour pass right through the fabric before it even gets a chance to turn into sweat. Drier skin means a lower heart rate and less lactic acid, which helps you to stay out longer. And when the sun is beating down, SmartWool high-performance Merino answers with a UPF 30+.” I have put Merino wool, and another natural product yak wool, to the test on multi-day hikes and found that the product still smells like wool, rather than sweat, even when I have perspired a great deal and not changed my top. However, there is one thing I do not like about Merino wool – and that is the itch. I find that it is usually unbearable to have Merino against my bare skin when the product is brand new. After a few washes I can then have the wool against my arms but still not against my bare torso. I just find it too itchy. I get around this problem by wearing a non-wool baselayer underneath my Merino baselayer. However, a new Next-to-Skin (NTS) range of SmartWool baselayers are impressively “non-itchy”. I have been wearing the SmartWool NTS Micro 150 and it doesn’t cause me any next-to-skin discomfort. The size ladies small fits me perfectly (I am usually a UK 10) and feels lightweight, as well as looking good. On warmer days I’d wear a 150 merino as an outer layer (the SmartWool top boasts UPF 30 so it protects bare skin from the sun) and has an athletic fit. The sweat wicking and cooling properties of Smart Wool also work beautifully in the 150g weight. A baselayer is an important item of clothing for a walking or cycling holiday. See our baselayer blog. The chances are you will wear it again and again and although SmartWool can be pricey they are very durable and long-lasting. There are other items in the NTS 150 range, including camis, tanks, long-sleeved tops and tights, and a heavier weight 195 range. Check out the SmartWool women’s range and the men’s NTS range. You can buy SmartWool products on line and in stores, such as Ellis Brigham. Also see UK stockists and SmartWool.
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