This midlayer jacket is a must have for any smart layering system on those frigid bluebird days when you can’t let the temps keep you inside. The SmartLoft insulation provides maximum warmth with minimal bulk. Highly compressible to fit in your backpack. Machine wash and dry.
- Knit in Vietnam
- Shell Fabric – 100% Nylon
- Lining Fabric – 100% Merino Wool
- Sleeve Lining & Pocket Bags – 100% Nylon
- Fill – 80% Wool 20% Polyester
- Semi-Form Fit
- SmartLoft Wool insulated midlayer
- Quilted DWR nylon shell
- Merino Wool jersey lining inside collar, body and inside sleeve opening
- Nylon sleeve lining for ease of layering
- Center front zipper with semi-locking logo slider
- Full draft flap and chin guard
- Secure zip hand pockets
- Secure zip pocket at left chest with logo zipper extension and Durawelt grommet for media cord routing
- Inside stash pockets
- Tested size medium
- Weight – 534 g (18.8 oz)
- Pit to pit – 57.4
- Center back – 70.2
- Sleeve length – 89.4
- Retail – $220
This season Smartwool is adding some new and interesting products to their offerings. I have tested several Smartwool items for the site, but this has to be the most innovative. Smartwool is one of the big three wool brands on the market, and they are best known for their socks. If you did not know it yet they also make some nice clothing pieces as well. Compared to the other brands, Smartwool often mixes wool with other materials, more so than the others do. This midlayer jacket is one of those pieces.
I tested the Smartwool PhD SmartLoft Full Zip Jacket throughout the summer and fall here in Bend. We live in the High Desert so even in the summer we can get cool nights. I used it on a couple of trips, some car camping, and just around town on the cooler evenings. At most I had a little rain to deal with, but it was not much. I did get plenty of wind to test it in.
The Smartwool PhD SmartLoft Full Zip Midlayer Jacket is definitely different. As I tested this jacket, I tested it as I would any other insulated jacket. As a Smartwool product the focus is always on wool, and that is what makes this unique. If you do not know about wool as a material, it is pretty sweet all the benefits wool has. I do not want to make this whole review about wool so if you do want to learn more about it; you can click on the banner below and read the knowledge base article on it.
The SmartLoft Jacket is a mix of materials. The outer shell is 100% nylon that has been treated with a DWR treatment. By treating it the shell will help water bead up and roll off the jacket. It is not waterproof but will be able to withstand lighter and shorter rain showers. The inner lining is 100% merino wool. This keeps with Smartwool’s plan to have wool against the skin. While many of their products use a combination of fabrics, they always try to get as much wool against the skin. Not all the lining is wool; the majority of the arms are lined with nylon to make them easier to get on and off. They do have wool at the wrist for increased warmth and comfort. Now what makes this jacket different is the SmartLoft itself. The jacket is insulated with 80% wool and 20% polyester. According to Smartwool, this insulation is as warm as down but can wick moisture away and still insulate when wet unlike down can. You may wonder why it is not 100% wool, but they needed to use some polyester to help the insulation maintain its loft. The more loft the warmer the insulation will be.
The SmartLoft Full Zip has a bunch of pockets. It has two hand warmer pockets that have pocket bags that have been sewn in a way so they create drop in pockets on the inside of the jacket. There is also a chest pocket that has a Durawelt grommet audio port for routing your cable up the inside. The jacket has a full length front zipper with large teeth for easier operation. The zipper pull is semi locking so it will not move on its own. The wrists use an elastic hem to make it simple and snug. This elastic hem also keeps the wrist low profile for layering. The SmartLoft jacket has a unique look. It is quilted to keep the insulation in place. It also has a contrasting front zipper that gives the jacket some pop.
When it comes to the materials that the jacket is made from the wool companies are at an advantage as their main material is renewable. Smartwool uses merino wool from New Zealand that has been farmed in an ethical way. Smartwool uses Zque certification to monitor the whole process from start to finish. If you want to learn more, check out the Smartwool site as they do an excellent job explaining their whole system. The jacket does use some polyester and nylon, which are not sustainable, so I did ding it a bit for that. Smartwool as a company does a lot in the community and to support other organizations that are doing good. Smartwool is one of those brands that I like to support.
Arm Length (15%)
Ease of Movement (15%)
Torso Sizing (20%)
The Smartwool SmartLoft Full Zip is described as a semi-form fit. According to Smartwool this is their middle fit. Room to move without added bulk. I ended up testing a size medium after looking at the sizing chart. According to the chart, the chest looked like it would be slightly big, but I could not size down as the arm length would be too short. This pretty much explains the fit right on. I am normally a medium in my outdoor gear and even though the chest was slightly large, I would do a medium again. The jacket has some room, but I did not feel like I was swimming in it. Just as I had suspected the arm length was just right. If I would have gone a size smaller then I am sure the arms would have felt too short. The elastic wrist cuffs are a little large on me. While I do like the low profile cuffs, I wish they were a little tighter. This also describes the bottom hem as well. The jacket does not have any adjustability at the waist which I feel is a bit of a disappointment. Having a bottom hem that can be tightened when it gets windy is nice as the wind can sometimes come up from the bottom. This is why I gave the jacket a zero for adjustability. There is none currently, and I wish there was.
I must say that the jacket is very comfortable. I am a big fan of wool as it is just comfortable against the skin and since the inner liner is 100% merino this does not disappoint. Smartwool also includes a draft flap that doubles as a layer between you and the front zipper which makes it that much more comfortable. The draft flap protects your neck and chin from the zipper which can rub the wrong way on occasion. The sleeves are mostly lined with nylon, and this really helps make it easy to get the jacket on and off easily. Only around the wrists is wool to make it a bit warmer to the touch. This was really well done. I always liked wearing the jacket. It was very comfortable and felt like I had an excellent range of motion. A jacket like this is not necessarily designed for active use, but if you need to the jacket will allow you to move as much as needed.
Weather Resistance (20%)
The SmartLoft insulation has been plenty warm. As an insulation layer I compared this jacket to my down jackets and synthetic jackets. As far as warm goes, for the amount of loft in this jacket it seemed equally warm as my other jackets. It could have even felt slightly warmer due to the wool lining. Sometimes a nylon lining will feel a little cooler against the skin. The nylon outer shell is similar to what the other jackets have and just like on them; it blocks wind well. I had a particular camping trip where it was windy for 2 of the three days, and I think I kept this jacket on the whole time as it was warm and wind resistant. Like I mentioned above I did not get a lot of rain to test it in, but it was up to the task on the light drizzle I had. It will eventually soak through if it rains hard enough or long enough. The good thing about the SmartLoft insulation is that it will still keep you warm even if it is wet. Just not as warm.
There are two areas where this jacket does not match up well with down jackets, in particular. The SmartLoft Full Zip does weight more than down and synthetic jackets of similar warmth. The SmartLoft Full Zip does have extra pockets compared to the lightest competitors, but wool is heavier than the typical nylon they use so that explains the weight difference. The SmartLoft Jacket is also on the bulky side. Down insulated jackets are able to compress crazily small so this would always be tough to comp up against. Compared to similar warmth down jackets, I would estimate that this jacket packs down to about 1 1/2 to twice the size of a down jacket will.
Overall, I like the Smartwool SmartLoft Jacket as it is very comfortable. I also got lots of compliments when wearing it, which is definitely a plus. It is warm and wind resistant, which makes for a great jacket for Bend. Since the jacket is a bit heavier and bulkier than comparable jackets I felt like it was best suited for casual use or instances where I wanted warmth, and the weight or packability were not as paramount. Ultimately, this means that the jacket will actually get more use than it would if it was on outdoor duty all the time. If you are looking for an insulated jacket that looks good and functions well I would definitely recommend it. If you are looking for a lightweight jacket that packs small for technical climbs, then I would look somewhere else. The Smartwool SmartLoft Full Zip retails for $220 and is available in four colors. Take a look, it is something different and well done. As always, your mileage may vary.
Pros [field name=iFrame]
- Insulated even when wet
- Can wick away moisture
- Wool is sustainable
- Lots of functional pockets
- Looks good
- No bottom hem adjustment
- Slightly large at the wrists
- A bit heavy and bulky compared to other insulation options
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