Gear Pick: SmartWool for smart people

Originally published in The Aspen Daily News on November 16, 2012

If I could go back to my 22-year old self and give her one piece of wardrobe advice for living in the mountains, it would be to buy SmartWool clothing.

When I first moved to Aspen, I had spent the majority of my life living at sea level where the average temperature was about 80-degrees year round. Needless to say, it took me a few years to figure out how to dress appropriately for shredding the so-called “gnar.”

I tried many different techniques to keep me warm on the mountain. I layered a mixture of cotton long underwear with cheap clothes made of synthetic mystery materials that looked like they would keep me warm. Those did little better than retain sweat, which in turn froze on chair lifts.

When layering didn’t work I bought a large puffy ski jacket to cover a light layer. That worked great on the frigid days early in the season, but it was smothering on most mild days. The few occasions I tried to hike Highland Bowl in the jacket it became a heavy weight reminding me of my own mountaineering fashion ignorance with every step.

After three seasons, I was finally turned on to SmartWool clothing. The product’s labels are — in a word — cutesy. The brand is written in sloppy cursive with the loops filled with bright colors — a style that is very similar to one I used when I was in fifth grade writing love letters to JTT. Meanwhile, the company’s website looks like it’s selling cupcakes or knitting equipment rather than base layers meant to keep you warm during super-sick, extreme outdoor activities.

Still, the label wasn’t intimidating to someone like me who has been fooled before by high tech base layers that boast their five-syllable materials as the end-all, be-all answer to outdoor mountain wear.

SmartWool makes those claims, but it does so in a way that I understand. It’s made out of Merino wool and wool comes from sheep. I get that!

Regardless of your views on branding, the kicker is that SmartWool actually does what it’s suppose to do. It keeps you warm in a single layer and it doesn’t hold onto moisture. The company claims that it’s more effective at regulating body temperature, heart rate and “lactic acid build up” than its synthetic competitors. I’m not sure about all of that, but from my experience it is the best at keeping me warm and dry so it gets my vote.

SmartWool makes its products for men, women and children and it comes in shirts, pants, socks, hats, scarves and even some bright colored gloves. I recommend them all.

Get Your Own
Women’s SmartWool base layer shirts and pants, starting at $95 at Ute Mountaineer 210 South Galena Street

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