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Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Smartwool Lightweight NTS Zip-T > Test Report by Jo Ann Moffi


INITIAL REPORT: February 19, 2008
FIELD REPORT: April 29, 2008
LONG TERM REPORT: June 19, 2008

SmartWool NTS Zip-T

Name Jo Ann Moffi Backpacking Background:

I was introduced to backpacking about 15 years ago when I met my husband. We have been backpacking, canoe camping, car camping, hiking, and participating in all sorts of outdoor activities ever since. We live in a border town (US & Canada), so we spend lots of time in both countries for our outdoor excursions. When making a decision on gear, I like to go lightweight and practical. I don't like to carry around extraneous bits and pieces.
Age 34
Gender Female
Height 168 cm (5 ft, 6 in)
Weight 84 kg (185 lbs)
Email Address jomoffi AT gmail DOT com
City, State, Country Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

Product Information

Manufacturer:  SmartWool
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufactured In: China
MSRP: $75.00 U.S.
Colour: Dark Henna Print (also available in Black, Ice Blue, Juniper Print, & Wisteria Print)
Size: XL (also available in XS, S, M, L)
Listed Weight: None provided.
Actual Weight: 200 g (7.1 oz)
Material: 100% Super fine merino wool
Warranty: SmartWool will replace or refund the purchase price if the buyer is not completely satisfied. Damage due to normal wear and tear is not covered by the guarantee.

Date: February 19, 2008

Item Received: February 14, 2008

The SmartWool NTS Zip-T arrived folded in a small compact plastic bag with the relevant hang tags attached. Also in the package was a page describing the SmartWool NTS line, a page outlining SmartWool fiber and fabric information, and the 2008 catalogue.

SmartWool advertises the Zip-T as a breathable baselayer also flattering enough to be worn as a stand alone garment. It is made with princess seaming to create a more flattering fit. Flatlock seams are used to eliminate chaffing. The Zip-T is part of their Lightweight line designed to be used for year round aerobic activity as a base layer. SmartWool fabrics are advertised as being better than synthetics when it comes to wicking and evaporation of sweat, helping to regulate body temperature in all seasons. The fibers of the merino wool are purported to be odour free. 
SmartWool NTS Zip-T Zipper Tag
Initial Impressions:
The fabric of the Zip-T is thin and soft. When I think of wool, I recall the scratchy pullover sweaters my mother knit me when I was a kid. The shirt does not feel like wool to me at all, more like a really soft, stretchy cotton. The weave of the fabric allows for quite a bit of stretch, a bonus for high motion activities.
The flatlock seams create a smoother finish than a traditional flat seam or princess seam.

Upon examining the Zip-T more closely, the most significant feature I found was the little piece of fabric they have put on the bottom of the zipper on the inside of the
Zip-T. I have another SmartWool shirt from several years ago that also has a zipper in the same area. My beef with it has always been the scratching on my chest from the end of the zipper on the inside of the shirt. I am very happy to see they have added this little piece of fabric to hopefully eliminate the scratching issue.

Initial Fitting:
I pulled on the Zip-T to check out the fit. The sleeves are plenty long enough, but the body of the shirt just reaches over my hips. I would prefer a longer shirt so that I would be assured it would remain tucked in during activity. It will be interesting to see if I find this an issue. The Zip-T felt cozy and warm for the few minutes I had it on inside.
The collar of the Zip-T is quite high when it is zipped up all the way. It is comfortable both zipped up and unzipped.

I plan on wearing the Zip-T while hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding and for any other activity that comes my way that I feel the Zip T will be functional for. I will be checking on the fit, how durable the Zip-T is, the warmth in various weather conditions, its function as a baselayer and a stand alone garment.  It will be washed numerous times throughout the test period to test for durability.

Date: April 29, 2008

Testing Locations:
I have worn the SmartWool Zip-T on all my outings; hiking, snowshoeing, and snowboarding. The hiking and snowshoeing have been primarily in the Hiawatha Highlands and Voyageur Trail system areas in the Algoma region just outside of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. These two areas have many linked trails meandering through red and white pine old-growth forests and dense boreal stands of jack pine and spruce linked by a network of rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Elevations range from 225 to 315 m (738 to 1033 ft) above sea level.

I hiked an average of 5 km (3 mi) per week (usually on snowshoes) over the last 10 weeks. Sometimes this would be a 2 km (1.2 mi) trek, others times it would be a 7 km (4.4 mi) trek. I snowshoed as well as hiked on packed trails in the Hiawatha Highlands area, and I also did some frozen lake hiking later in the season on Lake Superior in Northern Ontario.

Snowboarding this year has been exclusively at Searchmont Ski Resort in Searchmont, Ontario. 'Searchmont' as the locals call it is an 18 run mountain with an elevation of 488 m (1600 ft) about 45 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

I also wore the Zip-T while running in the city to and around our local park, total distance of just under 4 km (2.5 mi) a couple of times a week. The footing was packed snow on the sidewalks then packed snow on the trails through the park.

Testing Conditions:
The weather has been ideal this winter; we've had heavy snowfall during the week with the weekends sunny and clear. The temperatures ranged from -10 to 23 C (14 to 73 F) for the weekends over the course of the Field Report period. During the week is a different story. Snow accumulation has been up to 0.6 m (2 ft) in less than 12 hours on a couple of occasions. We've also had frigid temperatures dropping to -29 C (-20 F) with winds blowing out of the east at 33 km/h (20 mph). I generally avoid doing much physical activity outdoors on those days. The Zip-T has experienced temperatures down to -16 C (3 F) and has been out in most weather conditions we got this winter, from sunny, clear days to overcast and snowing.

In the Field Performance:

The Zip-T fits great. In my Initial Report I mentioned that it was a bit shorter than I normally like in a base layer shirt. Although it still is shorter than I normally like, it does stay tucked in when I need it to. I can do all sorts of movements and the shirt does not come un-tucked.
The sleeves are plenty long enough to keep my wrists warm and keep the wind out. When I have the Zip-T zipped up all the way the zipper does not rub on my chin or neck. Other SmartWool shirts I own that have 1/2 zips can be a bit scratchy on my chest where the zipper ends. SmartWool added a little piece of fabric to the end of the zipper. This does a great job of keeping the coarser end of the zipper from scratching at my skin.

After having worn the Zip-T once or twice a week for the past 10 weeks, I am happy to say it is holding up beautifully. It has been washed 1/2 a dozen times without incident. I've experimented with wearing the Zip-T for a few outings in a row without washing to test its 'funk' repellency. Although it hasn't exactly been 'fresh' by the third or fourth outing, it 
seemed to hold my underarm deodorant smell quite well, giving it kind of a powdery fresh 'eau de Jo' smell combo. I was comfortable being around other people without being self conscious about smelling bad. 

I was out in the Zip-T in a variety of temperatures from a balmy 23 C (73 F) to -16 C (3 F). The colder temperatures I would generally wear another mid-layer wool shirt and sometimes a vest under my softshell jacket. This would be quite adequate for keeping me warm while hiking or snowshoeing. As the temperatures warmed up, I'd remove a layer, sometimes the vest and sometimes the mid-layer wool shirt. I could wear the Zip-T alone while standing around on the 23 C (73 F) days, but if I did any more than that, I was sweating up a storm, and had to change into something cooler. As the weather warms up, I predict that the Zip-T will spend more time in my pack than on my back.

The Zip-T breathes very well while I'm active. The sweat wicks through the Zip-T and then is adequately dealt with by what ever other layers I am wearing. Although the Zip-T hasn't been totally dry when I take it off after an outing, I am able to hang it up and any moisture quickly evaporates off Zip-T.

My one beef with the Zip-T so far is its itchiness. Granted I do have somewhat sensitive skin, so someone else's mileage may vary when it comes to this aspect of the Zip-T. However it is worth mentioning that the hotter and sweatier I get, the itchier the Zip-T is. I generally can ignore it while I'm hiking or running, but as soon as I stop for any period, I start to notice the itch. It is at its worst just after a run. I can hardly wait to get out of the shirt and into the shower.

Date: June 19, 2008

Testing Locations:
I have either worn or brought the Smartwool Zip-T on all my outings; hiking, backpacking and canoeing. Most of my hiking and backpacking has been in the Hiawatha Highlands and Voyageur Trail system areas in the Algoma region just outside of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. These two areas have many linked trails meandering through red and white pine old-growth forests and dense boreal stands of jack pine and spruce linked by a network of rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Elevations range from 225 to 315 m (738 to 1033 ft) above sea level. I have also ventured up into Lake Superior Provincial Park, about 2 hours north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The terrain here consists of trails similar to those found along the Voyageur Trail with the addition of rock and pebble beaches, long sandy stretches, and numerous stream crossings.

I hike an average of 5 km (3 mi) per week. Sometimes this would be a 2 km (1.2 mi) trek, others times it would be a 7 km (4.4 mi) trek. Over the past two months, I estimate that I've worn the shirt for a further 10 hours over 3 days. I have packed the shirt in my backpack on hikes that I have thought I might need a long sleeve shirt and on two backpacking excursions and one canoe trip.

Testing Conditions:
The weather has been cool for spring; temperatures have ranged from 0 to 24 C (32 to 75 F). Although we haven't had any snow as precipitation, there has been snow pack in the bush into early June this year. The skies have been clear, cloudy, and dark with thunderstorms over the field testing period.

Further in the Field Performance:
I haven't worn the shirt very much in the long term stage as we have been into spring here in Northern Ontario. On days I was backpacking, I would start out with the shirt on, but if temperatures rose above 15 C (59 F), I found I needed to take it off in exchange for something less insulating. On all other outings the shirt remained in my pack in case I felt the need for a warmer layer. The shirt was never a problem to throw in my pack; it folds and rolls into a small area in the bottom of my pack, not taking up much more room than about 3 decks of cards.

I still experienced itchiness while wearing the shirt and exerting myself. It was mildly irritating, not so bad that I had the feeling I needed to get the shirt off, but enough that it was a noticeable relief when I did take it off if I was hot and sweaty. It continued to follow the same pattern, the hotter and sweatier I was, the itchier the shirt would be.

During the Long Term stage, I wore the shirt while in my sleeping bag as an extra layer of warmth. On our first trip of the year, the temperatures were much colder than anticipated or forecasted by the weatherman. As the night progressed, I started to feel cold. I was in a 0 C (32 F) sleeping bag with a liner wearing the shirt and a pair of wool long underpants. The shirt was comfortable and did not bunch or twist while I was sleeping.

One thing I have found really beneficial on other base layer shirts is a thumb loop. It is one feature that I missed when wearing the Zip-T over these past few months. I never felt the shirt riding up my arm, but I would have liked that little bit more fabric to pull down over my wrists.

The SmartWool Zip-T is a durable, comfortable base layer shirt. It did an admirable job of keeping me warm this past winter and early spring.

The soft feel of the fabric
The durability

The itchiness after aerobic activity

This concludes my Long Term Report and this test series. Thank you to BackpackGearTest and SmartWool for the opportunity to test the NTS Zip-T.

Read more reviews of Smartwool gear
Read more gear reviews by Jo Ann Moffi

Reviews > Clothing > Shirts > Smartwool Lightweight NTS Zip-T > Test Report by Jo Ann Moffi

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