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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Smartwool PhD Vest > Test Report by Jenna Steffensen

PhD Ultra Light Sport Vest

Test Series by Jenna Steffensen
Initial Report: May 6, 2018
Field Report: August 4, 2018
Long Term Report: September 23, 2018

Reviewer Information

Name:  Jenna Steffensen
Age: 24
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 5" (1.65 Meters)
Weight: 135 Pounds (64 Kilograms)
Email address: jennasteffensen ATgmailDOTcom
Location: Fernie, British Columbia, Canada

Backpacking Background

I recently started backpacking after moving to the Canadian Rockies in 2016. I have been on a few short backpacking trips but I am very experienced in day hikes and car camping. I also like to trail run and climb. I’ve hiked mainly in the Utah desert and Canadian Rockies. As always I have many trips planned this year in BC and Alberta. I’m looking for the best gear that’s light and durable enough for the Rockies. My current set up is a 2 person tent, a white gas backpacking stove to cook, gravity filters, and hefty trail boots.

Initial Report
May 6, 2018

Product Information
Manufacturer: Smartwool
Year of Manufacture: 2018
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: $100 USD

Jacket Specifications
Material: Shell - 100% nylon, Trim - 54% merino wool 46% polyester
Listed Weight: 132 g (4.7 oz)

Measured Weight: 125 g (4.4 oz)
Colour Tested: Lochness (Also available in Bright Coral)
Size Tested: Medium (Also available in XS-XL)

Product Description

The Smartwool PhD Ultra Light Sport Vest is a light, packable layer to bring with you anywhere. The vest is made of three materials: nylon, merino wool, and polyester. The nylon makes up most of the vest as a protective shell with only some parts made of the merino wool for comfort. The wool is on the interior of the vest at the upper back, armpits, and hood near the ears. There is an uncovered zipper with a nice pull that says Smartwool and one small reflective logo on the exterior left hip that is Smartwool's symbol. The vest has a zippered pocket on the left side of the chest with writing on the inside. This pocket is what the vest packs down into and zippers up to make a little pouch you can easily bring with you.

Initial Impressions:   

This really is an ultra light weight layer. The vest weighs next to nothing and can be packed into a very small stuff sack. I am inclined to bring this vest with me everywhere I go as it wouldn't take up that much space in a backpack. I have worn the vest to work so far and it is extremely comfy and very stylish for an outdoor vest. The fit is great as it doesn't feel too snug anywhere or feel baggy. I would wear this vest overtop a tshirt or a long sleeve shirt but I would not be able to fit a sweatshirt or jacket underneath. The hood sits well on my head and the visor shape it has makes it stay on my head. The placement of the merino wool for comfort against my skin is very well placed. Smartwool even made sure to place some at the collar of the vest so when I zip it all the way up the wool is touching my chin instead of the nylon. It is super easy to pack into itself for carrying purposes. The only downside I can think of for this vest is there are no side pockets. A side pocket is just a super handy thing to have so I wonder how I will adjust without one. There is a chest pocket but I'm not a huge fan of putting anything in chest pockets as it's uncomfortable. I look forward to testing this jacket as the temperature gets warmer and see how much warmth it provides. 

Wash Instructions:

Wash with similar colours on the gentle cycle and cold water. Do not bleach or dry clean. Tumble dry on low and cool iron when needed.

Field Report
August 5, 2018

Trip 1: Day Hike                  field
Location: Fanshawe Lakes Trail, London, Ontario
Distance: 19.6 km (12.17 mi) with 327 m (1073 ft) elevation gain
Weather: Sunny with tree cover
Temperature: 25 C (77 F)
Conditions: Dirt trail with some muddy spots

Trip 2: Bike
Thames Valley Parkway, London, Ontario
20.3 km (12.61 mi) with 112 m (367 ft) elevation gain
22 C (72 F)
Paved trail

Trip 3: Car Camping / Climbing
Lakit Lake, Cranbrook BC
18 C to 28 C (64 F to 82 F)

Other Excursions: Mountain biking and Trail Running
Numerous trails in Fernie, BC
From 5km (3.11 mi) to 20 km (12.42 mi)

Performance in the Field: The
Smartwool PhD Ultra Light Sport Vest is a great vest to take for those colder mornings or cloudy days. I took the vest out on numerous occasions as it was super easy to pack and take with me and is super light. The vest is very comfortable to wear even for extended periods of time on longer hikes. At first I did not know when or where I could wear the vest as it was very hot every time I wanted to hike or run or bike. When it is hot out I don't like wearing any layers even if it is a super light layer. I figured out though that the best time to wear the vest is in the mornings and at night when the weather is a little cooler but still too warm for a sweater. I found when I wore the vest hiking I would have to take it off as soon as the sun started heating up the day. Sometimes my back would be sweaty when I took the vest off but I never felt uncomfortable wearing the vest as it has good ventilation and breathability. I am not sure why there is a hood on this vest. I am not one to usually wear hoods a lot unless it is raining or very cold but I couldn't see myself in a situation where I would use this hood. It doesn't stay on my head well either. The only reason I like the hood is it kept my backpack straps from chafing against my shoulders. I haven't used the pocket on the chest yet as I am not a huge fan of the pocket placement. I prefer pockets at the waist as I usually put my phone or keys in it.

The vest so far has seen no tears or pulls even though I went climbing in it. I have washed it a couple times and it has not shrunk or look worn. I usually hang it up when not using it instead of keeping it in its pouch so it doesn't wrinkle. It doesn't hold odours that I can tell of yet but I wonder how it will do on some overnight trips.

Quick Shots: Light, Looks good, Comfy

To Be Determined: Performance in overnight backpacking trips

Long Term Report
August 5, 2018

Trip: Day Hike                  crowsnest
Location: Crowsnest Mountain, Alberta
Distance: 8 km (5 mi) with 1100 m (3609 ft) elevation gain
Weather: Sunny
Temperature: 12 C (54 F)
Conditions: Well marked trail with scree slope / scrambling at the top

Trip: Car Camping / Climbing
Location: Stonehill, Eureka, Montana
Weather: Sunny
Temperature: 8 - 19 C (46 - 66 F)
Conditions: 2 days climbing and camping

This was the first hike with this vest up in alpine conditions with cooler temps. I started off the hike with the vest over a tshirt and a light windbreaker over top. I soon took off my outer layer as it was way too hot but the vest provided just enough protection from the wind. At the top of the mountain the wind really picked up so I put my jacket back on and had it on for the duration of the hike over top the vest. I loved having the vest layer during this hike as it gave me the right amount of warmth and breathability for a sweaty walk up the mountain.

The one overnight backpacking trip I had planned was thwarted by some early season snow so I was not able to test the vest in a backpacking situation. However on the car camping trip I did, I wore the vest overnight as it is super comfy and has soft fabric. With all the other times I have worn this vest I believe I would take it with me on a backpacking trip in warmer conditions. Once it gets too cold I wouldn't see the need to bring the extra weight (even though the vest is super light!) as it doesn't keep you very warm in colder weather. I prefer jackets or sweaters with sleeves rather than a thin vest. Although I did highly appreciate having this vest on warmer days where it was cooler in the mornings or evenings and I just wanted something light to throw on.

Overall I like this vest as it looks very nice and during the right activity is is very useful. Moving forward I think the vest will come with me everytime I trail run, day hike, or backpack in the summer time. 

Looks great
Fits well

No waist pockets
Hood doesn't stay up

Thank you to Smartwool and for allowing me to test the PhD Ultra Light Sport Vest.

Read more gear reviews by Jenna Steffensen

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Smartwool PhD Vest > Test Report by Jenna Steffensen

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