I found myself on an Ocean Kayak, a hundred metres off a Welsh beach and soaked from head to toe after capsizing over an embarrassingly small wave. What seemed to be a sunny and warm day was all-of-a-sudden chilly and breezy, and I was feeling distinctly under dressed. Luckily, I’d had a little bit of foresight and put on the only non-cotton item in my travelling wardrobe which was the Smartwool Microweight Tee.
Y’see, even though Smartwool have used a very soft Merino wool which feels like a thin cotton, it doesn’t behave like cotton and sap all your body heat when it gets wet. Within minutes I was warm again and the T-shirt didn’t feel cold and clammy against my skin. It was still soaking wet, but remained comfortable. Remarkable.
The Microweight Tee is 150 grammes per square metre, which means that it’s like a very, very thin cotton t-shirt. It weighs hardly anything and despite being wool you can wash it at 40C in a machine – something which would have freaked my granny out completely. Smartwool sell their base-layers in three thicknesses: 150 (very thin), 195 (standard T-shirt) and 250 (heavy T-shirt). The thicker two options might be better if you venture out in Spring/Autumn without a jacket.
The 150, which I tested, is sold as a base layer but doesn’t look like one. It looks much more like a smart-casual T-shirt, with subtle contrasting sewing lines around the arms, and a neat little logo on the waist. I’d happily wear it as a T-shirt all day in summer and the wife says it’s “smart”. It would be an awesome trekking T-shirt, allowing plenty of air flow and keeping you cool when the weather was hot. Conversely, because it’s wool, it’d also keep you warm as a base layer in winter.
As part of my week-long camping wardrobe, the Smartwool Tee didn’t get smelly or wander off under it’s own steam. The packaging says that wool is naturally antimicrobial, which makes some sense because wool fibres don’t soak up your sweat.
The Microweight Tee costs from £30 online, which is at the top end for a T-shirt, but I have to say that if I was packing to go travelling, camping or trekking I’d take wool over cotton any day, so in my book the investment is well worth it.
SUMMARY: I’m yet to meet a Smartwool product which isn’t excellent, and the Microweight Tee earns its 5-hammers easily. Very comfortable, good looking and brilliant when wet. If I was going on an expedition I’d get a few of these in different weights and completely forget anything cotton.
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