The ongoing debate between wool and synthetic base layers is divisive. Fierce. Passionate! In one case, it destroyed a friendship. Some swear by wool’s warmth-to-weight ratio and natural ability to resist odor; others demand polyester/spandex blends for their softness, durability and quick-dry performance.
Terramar SmartSilk 1.0 tops and bottoms have not only added more fuel to the fiery deliberation of wool vs. synthetic, but might have achieved a slight lead. That’s good. The fiery deliberation keeps me warm.
Comfort: Made of 65 percent polyester, 19 percent nylon, 12 percent silk and 4 percent spandex, the SmartSilk 1.0 tops and bottoms are soft and luxurious. The name “SmartSilk” is a bit of a misnomer, in my opinion. They don’t feel at all like silk. They feel like an ultra-soft bamboo fabric that comfortably accommodates all moving parts of your body without restriction or chafing.
This is not a bad thing at all, especially with the flat seam construction. I like flat seams because if I happen to be carrying a backpack, I don’t feel seams gouging into my shoulders.
Design: Because they’re so soft and light, I can easily wear the bottoms under my cycling pants or tights on days when it’s too cold for one layer without feeling like I’m in a straight jacket. The top, with its zero bulk, fits perfectly under a bike jersey. I’ve also worn them under my kayak dry suit, as camping jammies and under a Terramar Thermawool TXO 3.0 half-zip for yoga and après ski. The beauty of the skin-like SmartSilk top is that you can wear it as a baselayer under another baselayer. Size-wise, both the tops and bottoms are dead-on so order your normal size.
Moisture Wicking/Breathability/Odor Control: Drirelease®, a blend of Merino wool and advanced polyester fibers, wicks moisture from your skin to into the fabric’s outer surface for rapid evaporation. FreshGuard® keeps the odor under control. In my testing, both of these features work very well.
The second most important threshold upon which I hold all baselayers is the odor-control factor. It’s rare that I wear a pair of baselayers once and then toss them in the wash. If, during five straight days of cool-weather commuting they smell like a bag of soiled hiking socks, they get donated to poorer relatives (who usually recycle them into dust rags because the smell never comes out and Goodwill won’t take them).
This is not to say that after five days they smelled like a lilac bush in bloom. But I never hear, “Does something smell like it died?” when I pass people in the hallways on my way to the locker room.
Warmth: Obviously, this is the most important threshold upon which I hold all baselayers. The whole point of a baselayer is to retain body heat where I need it the most. Terramar bills these as a “warm” baselayer on their warm, warmer, warmest scale. I bill them as my choice for biking and skiing in temps that range from the 20’s to 30’s because the silky brew of polyester, nylon, silk and spandex keeps me warm without sweltering.
The Terramar SmartSilk 1.0 comes in both men’s and women’s sizes and retails for $60 each. If you live in Minneapolis, you can find Terramar products at these retail locations.