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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Smartwool Lightweight NTS Zip-T > Test Report by Derek Hansen
SmartWool Lightweight NTS Zip-T
Test Series by Derek Hansen
Manufacturer: SmartWool Corporation
15 Feb 2008
I received the SmartWool Lightweight NTS Zip-T (hereafter referred to as Zip-T or shirt) in excellent condition in the original packaging consisting of a colorful paper wrap and hang tags attached to the collar. Included in my test packet was the SmartWool 2008 catalogue and fabric information sheet.
The fabric is fairly lightweight and thin and is made of “100% super fine merino wool.” The manufacturer promotes the product as “efficient, versatile, and odor free”–referring to the characteristics of the natural wool fibers.
Construction: The Zip-T is manufactured with a quarter-length zipper and mock polo collar “for warmth and ventilation” and has been sewn with a flatlock seam to “[eliminate] chafing.” The Zip-T “has been designed slightly longer to allow for minor shrinkage during initial home laundering.”
A statement on the packaging reads, “SmartWool’s goal is to provide you with high-performance, quality products that will enjoy the outdoors as much as we do. It’s our love of the outdoors that keeps us committed to using environmentally sensitive and renewable materials.”
The packaging was printed on recycled paper.
Care: According to the printed directions: machine wash in a cold, gentle cycle; machine tumble dry on low; do not bleach; iron on a low setting and do not dry clean. The website, however, says you can use a non-chlorine bleach when needed and you can dry clean as needed.
Appearance: The garment is very well-made with flat seams. The SmartWool logo is printed on the left sleeve, near the wrist. The SmartWool logotype and the words “MADE IN CHINA” are screenprinted on the inside below the collar on the back. A care label is sewn into the seam on the bottom inside left of the Zip-T. There is a small YKK metal zipper attached in front to open the mock polo collar.
I really like the feel of the Zip-T; it is very comfortable and feels great next to my skin–definitely not itchy or abrasive. The material is very light and the fabric is slightly loose around me, which is a little different than what I was expecting. The package does say the “garment has been designed slightly longer to allow for minor shrinkage,” so I will see after my first washing. The shirt is pretty thin, which should be great as a base layer, but I will see how it performs by itself as I hike around.
The size fits well to my body and the sleeves are perfectly long. When I first zipped up the high collar, it felt a little stiff around the zipper. I don’t have many shirts with a high collar, so this will be something to get used to. The shirt is not overly long, but it is long enough to tuck into my pants without pulling out.
I plan on wearing the Zip-T in all my upcoming treks and outings during the test period, both as a base layer and an outer layer. Over the next few months, I will evaluate the shirt on comfort and feel, the claims of the manufacturer on being “odor free” and versatile, and its durability through wear and cleaning.
I’m looking forward to taking the Zip-T out into the field!
This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be appended to this report in about two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for more information.
Thank you to SmartWool and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test this product.
01 May 2008
The Zip-T has been my constant companion for the last few months. In fact, glancing at my arms, it appears that I am still wearing it as I write this report.
Testing Locations and Conditions
Most of my backpacking, hiking, and outdoor adventures have been with the Boy Scouts during our regular monthly adventures. I have worn the Zip-T on all of these activities which have been in and around the Northern Virginia region, including the George Washington National Forest and Shenandoah Valley. Elevations have been from sea level and about 100 ft (30 m) to about 1000 ft (305 m). I have experienced temperatures from around 15 F (-9 C) to just over 80 F (27 C). Unfortunately, it has not snowed very much this year in Northern Virginia and it has seemed unseasonably warm at times.
Most of the hikes with the Scouts were about 5 miles (8 km) with a few day hikes thrown in as part of the program.
In addition to my Scout backpacking adventures, I have worn the Zip-T on short 2 mile (3 km) family hikes in regional parks, and while commuting on my bicycle to work along the Mount Vernon Trail (about 20 miles, 32k round trip). Temperatures dipped to the 20s and 30s F (-7 and -1 C).
Comfort, Fit, and Function
The Zip-T is very comfortable to wear. I have worn the shirt alone as a single layer and as part of a base layer and the shirt performed well as both. It is not too tight and has been comfortable without being too restrictive. During my treks with the Scouts, I really pushed the layering and warmth limits to the test.
One of the coldest trips was on a trek into the George Washington National Forest, where temperatures dipped down in the teens at night (15 F or -9 C). I wore a down flight jacket over my Zip-T and was very cozy standing around, while the Scouts struggled to keep warm huddled around a campfire.
At another event included several other Scout troops at a camporee where we backpacked about 3 miles (4.8 km) into Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land to practice and learn Leave No Trace principles. The early morning temperatures hovered around 40 F (4 C)—a very comfortable range for the Zip-T. However, by 10 a.m., the skies cleared and the temperature rose to 70 F (21 C) and by the afternoon, it was well over 80 F (27 C). I quickly abandoned the Zip-T early in the morning for the shirt was far too warm for that temperature. We had a few day hikes equaling over 5 miles (8 km) that helped keep the body temperature high. Way too hot for April and much too hot for the Zip-T.
This was a good experience because I had to remove the Zip-T as a base layer. The shirt has a good stretch to it, so it was easy to pull off, but it was a little inconvenient to take off all my outer layers (decency, you know). I’ve decided to wear a loose, light, silk-weight under shirt under the Zip-T (for modesty with the Scouts) in cases like this.
One thing that I am glad to report on is the fit and feel of the high-collar zipper. I was initially worried about the Zip-T high-collar because of experiences with other shirts with similar designs. I was worried the collar would be too stiff and poke into my neck and throat. Happily, this has not been the case with the Zip-T.
On a day hike on the Bull-Run/Occoquan Trail with my family, I was wearing the Zip-T as my base layer with a fleece jacket on top. The weather was cloudy and it soon began to drizzle constantly. Temperatures were in the low 40’s F (4 C), but the rain made the ambient temperature feel a bit cooler. One of my children was getting cold, despite wearing a coat. I took off my fleece and gave it to my daughter and then I put on my rain jacket for protection from the wind and rain. I eventually decided to zip up the Zip-T collar to help keep the heat in. I was amazed at how warm I felt with that slight change, and I barely noticed the Zip-T’s zipper in my throat. In fact, after a few washings, the “stiffness” I worried about has all but vanished and I find the collar very comfortable to wear zipped up.
Care, Cleaning, and Durability
One of the first things I noticed after I washed the Zip-T for the first time was slight piling or “rippling” across the shirt. It looked a lot like sand ripples under water. To be honest, I was a little freaked out, worrying that I hadn’t followed the care instructions properly. I am not sure what caused the rippling on the fabric, but over time it has relaxed a little, although you can still see it slightly on the sleeves. I haven’t tried ironing it yet, but that may work in smoothing out the fabric again (although ironing seems overkill). I’ve stopped worrying about the rippling; it has not affected the comfort, fit, and function.
I’ve washed the Zip-T a number of times over the past few months and the fabric holds up nicely. I’ve tried wearing the shirt for a few days in a row to test the “smelliness” factor, and I noticed a little funk after about a week of wear. I purposely took the Zip-T during some bicycling commuting and left the sweat-soaked shirt to dry overnight and then put it on again the next day. The Zip-T does pull the moisture away very well, but after about five days of heavy sweat, the shirt needed a wash.
To date, I’ve been lucky not to spill anything major on the Zip-T, despite eating with the Scouts. I may try to purposely spill something on a corner—just to test—but I hope I never spill anything on the front. I am kind of fond of the bright orange color: it takes good photos!
This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report will be added to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for more information.
Long Term Report
26 June 2008
I’ve taken the Zip-T on an additional five days and four nights of camping, although for a few of those adventures the Zip-T has remained in my pack, unused. Why? Well, unfortunately, the temperature and humidity in northern Virginia in June have been too high to make the Zip-T comfortable for me. However, I didn’t mind the shirt in my pack because of how light and compact it can be.
One of the best testing opportunities in this time period came when I took my two oldest sons on a “Father and Sons” campout in the Mason Neck State Park area. The weather was beautiful for May when we arrived to set up camp, but as the evening wore on, it began to sprinkle and rain. We planned a five-mile hike around local trails in the morning and the rain wasn’t about to stop us. I wore the Zip-T as a base layer with a light fleece on top (yup, I left my rain gear at home). The temperatures were in the high 50s F (15 C), but with the constant drizzle, it kept the ambient feeling a few degrees lower. We all did fine until we reached the lookout point halfway through. I ended up relinquishing my fleece to keep my youngest warm as I carried him the remaining three miles back to camp.
I was damp by the end of the hike, but the Zip-T helped keep me warm as I kept moving around and hiking. It did a great job, even though I was otherwise unprepared for the conditions. However, had I not kept moving to keep my body temperature up, I would have been in trouble.
Next time, bring rain gear!
Warmth and Comfort
For me, the Zip-T’s temperature comfort range was between 40 and 70 F (4 to 21 C) when used as outerwear. In the 40s F (4 to 9 C), I would need to keep hiking or some other activity to keep warm, but I wouldn’t have to add any other layers for comfort. Adding additional layers works for ranges in the low 40s (~4 C) and below. Above 70 F (21 C) at sea level with humidity was just too much for me and the Zip-T.
Wear and Durability
The Zip-T has held up nicely under the testing conditions. It fits well now after the initial washing and a break-in period of several days and nights of wear. After several washings, I’ve noticed no color fading, noticeable shrinking, or fabric wear. The only cosmetic change I saw after the first washing was a slight rippling effect, akin to piling, I guess. It is a strange phenomenon, but it hasn’t bothered me as to fit, comfort, or function, so I largely ignore it.
As I mentioned previously, I was worried about the feel of the zipper, but I find it very comfortable and usable now that I’ve given it a good testing. The material isn’t too thick or stiff to bother my neck. The shirt was never too tight-fitting, which I appreciated.
The SmartWool Zip-T has been great to wear, both in terms of comfort and warmth. I was happy to find that such a lightweight fabric did as well as heavier fleece gear I own. In fact, as I begin packing for my upcoming week-long trek next week, I happily opted for the Zip-T instead of the fleece as my base layer of choice. I am happy!
I would like to thank BackpackGearTest and SmartWool for the opportunity to test the Zip-T.Updated: Thursday, June 26, 2008 8:15:54 PM
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