Apparel / Gear / Slider / January 15, 2021

Merino Everywhere - Smartwool’s PhD Midlayer Collection


Smartwool PhD SMARTLOFT Jacket $175

The Good: Nice style, slim fit, warm Merino wool insulation.

The Bad: Slim fit doesn’t leave much room for adjustment, big guys may want to size up a bit for comfort.

The Ugly: Windy conditions cut right through the back liner of this jacket. Jack Frost gives a pretty crummy back rub.

Smartwool has seamlessly combined merino wool elements with sleek materials for a slim fit that layers well, but can still stand up to the elements on it’s own. The jacket has a jersey knit merino wool insulation for soft comfort against the skin, with stretch panels under the arms and shoulders that keep it from binding up. The formed hood is thin enough to fit under helmets, with a snug hold that retains peripheral vision. A jacket like this looks good enough to wear just about anywhere, and that’s exactly what we did. From the office to the trail, the design is flexible enough to go where you do and durable enough to keep up.


The jacket has nice warm merino-lined pockets, and an easily accessible chest pocket big enough for a smartphone. The wrists have soft merino cuffs with an overhanging outer shell that mate nicely with gloves. The overhanging cuff is cut at an angle to allow for warm coverage but also keeps the palm free . With a waterproof face and a double jersey knit wool back the temperature regulation works great on it’s own during cool days or under a shell for comfortable insulated warmth.


We took this jacket out as both an outer and mid-layer piece, and it performed exceptionally well.  The material breathed well, regulated body temperature when hiking and running, and insulated under a shell during some brutally cold weather. The hood held tight and cinched down under a helmet without restricting movement or peripheral vision. Gloves worked well with the cuffs, keeping wind from creeping up the arms. The slim fit made the jacket comfortable as an insulating layer under a shell, but fits a bit tight on it’s own; sizing up a bit may be necessary for the bigger guys out there.  With such great performance, it still managed to make this adventuring fool look good out there in the wild.

So for a smooth looking mid-layer that will feel right at home just about anywhere, this lightweight Merino wool jacket has what you need.


Smartwool PhD Divide Vest $170

The Good: All the wool insulated goodness and with plenty of range of motion.

The Bad: Hip pockets don’t keep gear in very well, especially when moving around.

The Ugly: Watching keys to my ride home skip along the granite trail. I’m too pretty to hitchhike.

The Smartwool Divide vest is designed to provide lightweight Merino wool protection without the bulk. The vest has a dual knit wool back, and windproof front for plenty of ventilation and temperature regulation during active adventures. Pockets include a zippered chest, and open hip pockets; don’t stash anything too important in those hip pockets, during a run I almost lost my keys bouncing down the trail.


The Merino wool liner kept the vest comfortable as either a warm-up or layered piece, and under a shell it was barely noticeable. So, for a lightweight stashable vest that packs the benefits of merino wool, the divide vest is a great piece to consider.


Smartwool PhD Teller Jacket $160

The Good: Lightweight wind protection with merino wool lining, nice and toasty.

The Bad: A bit loose for a windbreaker, a slimmer fit would be nice when out running in the wind.

The Awesome: Wool layer keeps warm, but not muggy while running.  I like to work up a sweat, just don’t like to feel it on my skin.

The benefits of moisture wicking soft merino wool combine with a wind cutting DWR nylon shell for a comfortable and ventilated jacket we love to wear while running (and to the store, and pretty much everywhere else). The Teller wind breaker has a merino liner with underarm stretch vents to quickly banish excess moisture but retain warmth on those chilly morning runs. The soft collar zips up tight but doesn’t rub during long distances, and the thin cuffs keep the breeze out without the bulk.  The lightweight jacket has a barely there feel thanks to thin materials and low profile seams.


We took this jacket out on runs, walks, and just about everywhere else. The lightweight materials and nice style fit in just as well on the trail as it did running errands. Wind shed right off the jacket, and the sculpted side panels vented well enough to keep down on any sweat buildup during high exertion activities. From a fit standpoint, it would be nice if it cut a little tighter in the sides to keep excess material from making the annoying “swishing” noise while pounding out the miles.

A jacket like this is perfect for chilly morning runs when wind is expected, but don’t be surprised if it finds a place in just about any activity you do.


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David Skinner
David Skinner
With a wife & two kids, adventure has to come close to home. It’s a good thing he lives in Northern California where a short drive in any direction will land him near the water, a trail, or a mountaintop. His passion for adventure comes from a growing up in the Trinity Alps, and a few trips to the other side of the world. With about 10 years of paddling behind him and mountains all around, he’s ready to share a fun take on what makes this world a wonderful place to explore – one adventure at a time. Contact him at [email protected]

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