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November 2021

Smartwool: Long Live Sustainable Naturals

Review by: David Wilson & Chris Kimmel

It always surprises me how quickly summer seems to call it quits and give way to fall, especially on the coast this year. The allure of swimming in alpine lakes, and the relief of a shady spot on the trail seems like a distant memory. Now that the leaves have changed colour and the daily highs are a shadow of what they were a few months ago, it takes a little more intentionality to be prepared with the right layers to be comfortable in the outdoors.

The layering system is a simple but smart way to stay comfortable outside, and wool is one of my favorite fabrics to use as a base. Wool has been around for a very long time. The earliest evidence of wool fabric dates from about 4,000 BC in Egypt; six thousand years later we are still using Mother Nature's almighty sheep fluff! Although there are some excellent synthetic products, there are few that feel, function, and look as good as Smartwool.

Smartwool uses merino wool, which does not feel like your grandpa's itchy wool vest! Smartwool’s soft and smooth wool, combined with a comfortable fit enables unrestricted movement, making it easy to keep wearing. Thankfully, even if you wear the wool a little too long, it may go undetected. The merino wool that Smartwool uses is naturally resistant to odours. This is a huge plus for you and your friends when taking limited clothing items on backcountry adventures!

Contributing to Smartwool’s comfort and performance is their use of a 3D knitting technology they call “Intraknit”. Intraknit technology minimizes seams and waste during production as the knit can transition between different types of weaves without any seams. This allows for seamless transitions between zones of insulation, ventilation, cushion, stretch, and durability without the addition of bulky seams which can be irritating and inhibit movement. Smartwool’s move away from the more traditional method of sewing different panels of fabric together is one additional way they ensure their products perform at a high level while achieving a delightful level of comfort.

Wool is also excellent at keeping you warm even when it's wet. Unlike other natural fibers like cotton, or some synthetic products, wool still performs well when it gets sweaty on a fall run, or when pesky little rain droplets find their way in. Wool's ability to be warm and stay warm while wicking moisture away from the body is one of the reasons I love wool as a base layer not only for myself, but for kids too.

No matter how hard you try, or how many layers of protection you arm kids in, they always seem to find a way to get wet, even if it's in the only puddle in the parking lot after a long afternoon on the trail. Smartwool’s soft and comfortable wool keeps the kids happier and warmer for longer, which is a win for everyone!

Not everyone, and not every activity, requires the same amount of insulation. The amount of insulation in Smartwool’s fabric is directly related to the weight of wool used per meter of fabric, making a 250 g/m baselayer much warmer than a 150g/m product. Thankfully Smartwool has a variety of different products in different wool weights that will ensure you are comfortable on whatever adventure you set out on!

Another thing I really appreciate about Smartwool is their efforts to create more sustainable products by using ethically sourced wool and by incorporating recycled nylon and plant-based dyes into their products. Choosing to support companies that make an effort to limit their impact on the world we love and explore is one small way we can make a difference too.

As this fall weather continues, and the promise of snow looms, the legacy of wool will live on as I continue to keep Smartwool next to my skin to help regulate temperatures, wick moisture, stay comfortable and feel good outside!