Friday, April 8, 2011

The Wonder of Smartwool

Imagine having a nice looking, comfortable shirt that looks and feels similar to cotton, but never smells and dries very quickly. This is what numerous online sources promised for Merino wool fabrics. It sounded to good to be true to me when I first heard about this wonder material. I had to try one of these out myself.

There are various brands with Merino wool products such as Icebreaker, SmartWool, and Minus 33, but the best option for me initially was SmartWool. REI keeps SmartWool products in stock and with their generous return policy, I could try out the shirt and return it at anytime if I felt it was not worth it. And at $60 plus tax for a paper-thin SmartWool NTS Microweight t-shirt, it was nice to know that I could return it if the shirt was terrible.

My plan was to wear the shirt for almost every activity I do for two weeks, including running, hiking, and sleeping. The weather around this time was cool, so I did not sweat just by walking normally. Here are my observations for the first few days of the experiment:

  • Day 1: I ran one mile in it and did chin-ups and dips at the gym. After the workout there was an odor very similar to my underarms in the arm pit area of the shirt. I continued to wear the shirt throughout the day, sleeping in it at night.
  • Day 2: I ran about two miles in, sweating quite a bit around my neck and under arms. After my run, I let the shirt dry for about 30 minutes and put it back on. There was still a slight odor in the arm pit area of the shirt and a little bit of a musty smell when putting the shirt up very close to my nose. Overall, it was still quite comfortable to wear.
  • Day 4: I hiked 15 miles with a backpack on in one day. I sweat profusely but not so much on the areas where the shirt was touching me. I think this demonstrated the "wicking" ability of the fabric quite well. At the end of the grueling 15 mile hike, I inspected the shirt and there was essentially no odor. This was quite impressive as any normal cotton shirt would have been absolutely disgusting after such a long hike.

In the following days, the shirt slowly started to get a more apparent musty smell, but it never felt unwearable or even gross. I even had some of my more adventurous friends closely inspect the shirt and none thought it smelled. At the end of two weeks, I washed the shirt in my sink with some Dr. Bronner's Liquid Soap for about 10 minutes, hung it to dry overnight, and the next morning, it was fresh and ready to go again. I wore it for another week or so, working out in it and sleeping in it without ever taking it off unless I was showering.

I am convinced of Merino wool fabrics in terms of their odor-resistant abilities. Despite their cost, I think it is worth it if you are travelling and do not want to do laundry often or are hiking and only want to bring a small amount of stuff.

One thing, however, I am not totally convinced of at this point is their durability. The Microweight t-shirt from SmartWool is awfully thin which makes it great for hot or warm weather, but also makes me think it will tear or get holes in it easily. I have read mixed things online about the durability of these fabrics. I will just have to see for myself how this thing holds up. I will keep you posted on this as time goes on.

Buy the SmartWool NTS microweight t-shirt here.

1 comment:

smartwool said...

Great article! Thank you for sharing this. Keep it up!