We’re already big fans of Smartwool’s socks and baselayers, which combine all the benefits of merino (comfort, warmth, anti-stink) with style. And we’re pleased to see that they’re not too proud to admit that, whilst wool definitely has a place in outdoor apparel, it occasionally needs to be mixed with other fibres to reap the best from it.
The Divide top is an example of where Smartwool has accepted that they need a man-made fibre (in this case nylon) and used it as an in-your-face design feature to hint at what the garment does.
I’ve been testing one in a less garish all-black, but the yellow shows up better in photos. The idea is that you get a full-zip long-sleeved midlayer which has the benefit of keeping your chest (and therefore your core) warm when you’re running in to the wind. The nylon panelling is fairly windproof, and also coated in a durable water repellent so it sheds drizzle well, and it’s insulated with a layer of warm wool which continues to insulate you when the nylon eventually lets water through, or your sweat saturates everything.
That said, having worn the Divide on some pretty warm climbs, it seems to breath really well and only when really working did it feel a little clingy on the front. That said, the inside of the front panel is lined with a deliciously soft fabric which doesn’t have much of a propensity to feel clammy.
The fit of the Divide is fairly slim but not fitted. It is loose enough on me (average sized bloke) to allow all manner of movement without constriction and the merino itself has enough flex in it that if it was a tighter fit on you it wouldn’t be a problem.
The arms are long enough for cycling, and feature hidden thumb holes in the cuffs for keeping things in place when slipping on an outer layer, and for maintaining some warmth in your knuckles. Beautifully finished, they don’t scream ‘I’m a thumb holes kinda guy’ when you’re in the pub either.
The Smartwool Divide has two deep hand pockets which, whilst they don’t zip closed, seem secure enough that a phone won’t bounce out of them. It also has a zippered breast pocket with a headphone hole in the inside face so that you can stow that phone securely when running.
The merino parts of the Divide are thick, like a very heavyweight tee-shirt, and keep you nicely warm if you’re wearing it on a chilly day. They’re not windproof, so if you’re doing stop-start activity or not building up much heat then you may need a windproof over the top.
Price wise, the Divide is expensive. It’s $200 US, or about £150 if you can find it in the UK. To my mind though it’s an absolutely gorgeous piece and if I was in the market for a few really good all-round garments for travel or a year of sport it’d be a wishlist contender. The problem is that Smartwool’s UK distribution seems limited, so they’re like hens’ teeth to find.
SUMMARY: A gorgeous, warm garment which works really well at keeping your core warm when it’s windy out. The look is unique, the fit is flattering and the adaptability is good. It won’t get smelly or lose its shape over time. But, it’s top-end pricey and harder to find than a difficult to find thing.