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Reviews > Clothing > Underwear > SmartWool Women Midweight Bottoms > Owner Review by Jo Ann Moffi

Owner Review
April 4, 2007

SmartWool Midweight Bottom
Photo courtesy of SmartWool Website

Name: Jo Ann Moffi
Age: 33
Gender: Female
Height: 168 cm (5 ft  6 in)
Weight: 79 kg (185 lb)
Waist: 97 cm (38 in)
Hip: 109 cm (43 in)
Inseam: 71 cm (28 in)
Email address: jomoffi AT gmail DOT com
City, State, Country: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

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.

Product Information:

Manufacturer: SmartWool
Manufacture Date: 2006
Style: Women's Midweight Bottom, 'Seriously Comfortable Next-To-Skin Base Layer', part of the Midweight Line
MSRP: $60.00
Size: L (Available in women's sizing Extra Small, Small, Medium, Large, and Extra Large)
Color: Silver Gray (also available in Black, Sky Blue Heather and Plum Heather)
Actual Weight: 194 g (6.84 oz)
Material: 100% Super Fine Merino Wool
Warranty: From the SmartWool tag and website:  'The SmartWool Guarantee:  We are proud of what we make and if it does not perform to your satisfaction we want to know about it.  Simply return it to the store from which you bought it with a dated sales receipt for a replacement or a full refund of the purchase price.  Damage due to normal wear and tear is not covered by the guarantee.'

Field Information:
I wore the SmartWool Midweight Bottoms on the trails at Hiawatha Highlands, the Voyager Trail around Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, on hikes and backpacking in Lake Superior Provincial Park, ice fishing on Lake Superior at Batchawana Bay, around town walking to work, and snowboarding at Searchmont Resort.

Description of Location(s):

The Hiawatha Highlands is a 3000-acre wooded area. There are 50 km (31 mi) of maintained trails as well as many more unmaintained trails requiring navigational skills to wind through. This area contains a range of forest types including 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.

The Voyager Hiking Trail is an over 500 km (311 mi) discontinuous trail that extends from the Nipigon River Recreation Trail beginning just north of Red Rock, Ontario and ending at South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island in Ontario. Each area has it’s own local club that maintain and add to the trail every year with the goal of a continuous, non-motorized trail extending across Ontario. I wore the bottoms on the portion of the Voyager Trail close to my home, a 58 km (36 mi) section of consisting of dense maple and mixed forest, passing numerous smaller lakes, streams and waterfalls.

The areas in Lake Superior Provincial Park I frequented while wearing the SmartWool Midweight Bottoms included Gamitagama Lake and the Coastal Trail. The Coastal Trail consists of craggy outcroppings, sheer rock faces that drop down into the lake, as well as long stretches of sandy and rocky beaches. The trail ascends and descends over cliffs, rocky outcrops, beaches, boulders and driftwood.  Some sections require squeezing through canyon walls littered with fallen rocks and logs. In the winter, the Coastal Trail is even more challenging, so I avoid the areas that could be dangerous. The areas around Gamitagama Lake and the Pinguisibi Trail are somewhat flatter than the coastal trail. Gamitagama Lake was frozen when we hiked across the lake.

Lake Superior at Batchawana Bay was frozen solid when I was ice fishing. It was flat, without much shelter from the wind, although it wasn't very windy on the days I was out there. There is a large island that shelters the bay somewhat from the waves of Lake Superior, allowing the lake to freeze over completely. There was about 40 cm (16 in) of ice on the lake in late February.

Searchmont Resort is a 100 acre downhill skiing and snowboarding mountain resort with an elevation of 230 m (750 ft). The 18 runs pass through forested areas of the mountain, making some of the runs more sheltered than others. Winds can get quite strong at the top of the mountain, on some days it was gusting up to 25 km/h (15 mph).

Weather Conditions:

The temperature range that I have worn the bottoms in this winter was from -1 to -24 C (30 to -11 F). Wind conditions were anything from a slight breeze to about 10 km/h (6.2 mi/h) from the West/Southwest. Thankfully the 10 days or so the temperatures dipped to -24 C (-11 F), there wasn't much wind. Active weather included snow flurries, blowing snow, overcast, and sunny days.

Product Review:
The SmartWool Women's Midweight Bottoms (herein after called the bottoms) came wrapped in plastic with manufacturer's tag attached.  The tag had a brief introduction and description of the bottoms, a description of the variety of apparel SmartWool manufactures, 'The SmartWool Guarantee', brief synopsis of SmartWool, care instructions, and contact information for the SmartWool Corporation.

I bought these bottoms in my quest for warm long underwear for my winter pursuits. In the past, I have worn the standard cotton waffle looking long underwear. This is my first purchase in a wool lower base layer. I have two wool base layer tops that I have been extremely happy with, so my expectations were pretty high for the bottoms as well. I am happy to say they haven't disappointed me.

These bottoms are made from a stretchy, form fitting fabric that retains its shape, even after a couple of days of being worn while backpacking. The fabric is 100% Merino wool. The stretch comes from the way the fabric is woven, not from the wool itself. They are thin and lightweight, even though they are advertised as the heaviest of the SmartWool line of bottoms. The top band of the bottoms have a 2.5 cm (1 in) elastic waistband that is housed inside the folded over top of the Merino fabric. The fabric is very soft next to the skin. I have not found the bottoms to be itchy or uncomfortable.
The bottoms performed admirably in all conditions I wore them in. They kept the cold at bay to about -16 on their own under a top layer of either regular pants or a thin p
air of snow pants. On really cold days, -16 to -24 C (3 to -11 F), I would wear another fleece layer over the wool bottoms, with the regular pants or snow pants over both. Once the temperature started to hover near 0 C (32 F), I would find the wool bottoms to be too warm. I am a warmer person and can create my own body heat quite well.

These bottoms were also part of my sleeping wear during all backpacking trips this winter. When the temperature was below 0 C (32 F), I wore another pair of either fleece or insulating pants on top of the bottoms. The bottoms alone were able to keep me toasty warm inside my - 10 C sleeping bag if the temperature was above or hovering around 0 C (32 F).

SmartWool advertises that their Merino wool fabric wicks the sweat away better than synthetics and helps to keep the body warm even when not active.
I never felt any dampness close to my skin, even on warmer days when the temperature was close to 0 C (32 F). Early spring conditions while snowshoeing and skiing have resulted in some sweating in the bottoms. The fabric is true to its description, even when I stopped being active, I would still be able to maintain my body heat and not feel cold and clammy from sweating. SmartWool also advertises the Merino wool fabric to be naturally odour controlling. Even after two or three days of wearing the bottoms while backpacking, I never noticed a smell emanating from them.

Most desirable features:

* Lightweight for their warmth rating.
* Soft next to the skin.
* Retain their shape even after a couple of days of wearing.

Least desirable features:
* None that I can think of!

SmartWool provides a soft, warm midweight base layer for active outdoor pursuits. I will continue to use these bottoms for many years to come and will buy more when these wear out!

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

Reviews > Clothing > Underwear > SmartWool Women Midweight Bottoms > Owner Review by Jo Ann Moffi

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