SMARTWOOL MEN'S NTS MICRO COMBO TEE 147g (large as tested) £49.99
Smartwool Men’s NTS Micro 150 Combo Tee is available in short or long sleeve versions. Relatively expensive compared with several chain-store branded models; is well made and the cut works slightly better, worn as a casual T-shirt.
Merino wool has long been revered for its tactile, temperature and odour regulating properties. Made in Vietnam, this is their “micro” 150g/m2 version designed to be worn on its own or beneath a jersey as conditions dictate. I immediately took to the “cinnamon” livery but bright blue and “sunglow” are the alternatives.
Detailing is good but not markedly superior to others at this price point. Flatlock seams eliminate chafing, or tell-tale branding when it’s time to strip off and hit the shower. Raglan sleeves; a one piece construction method where the seam runs from underarm to neckline has several advantages.
Freedom of movement is the main draw, then of course there’s no shoulder seam, production time and theoretically reduced costs can be passed to the consumer. It arguably achieves a sharper aesthetic too.
Talking of cut, I’m much broader across the shoulders than my height and weight might imply, hence I’m usually a large. In all honesty, medium would’ve been a sleeker bet were I only looking for a base layer.
That said; the looser fit compliments messenger longs, touring shorts and other street inspired technical wear brilliantly.
Worn beneath my trade jerseys and through a wet, humid June/July test period, performance is everything I’d expect from a merino garment. Body mapping technology (where fibres are tailored to encourage faster wicking) has been a popular concept with synthetics for several years and in most cases, seems a marked improvement.
Smart Wool has used a similar technology to accentuate the wool's natural properties. Despite some initial scepticism and allowing for the lighter weave, alternating between Merino layers suggests there’s a slight edge. Pits; lower back and chest areas seemed that little bit drier over similar distances and comparable speeds.
More basic polyester mid and outer layers put a slight dent in the wools’ wicking prowess but at worst, we’re talking a very faint glow; no yucky clamminess.
Replicating a short haul tour; I more or less lived and died in ours for a week and 250 miles. Funky odours were conspicuous by their absence, although a faintly sweaty patina had developed at those key points.
Chances are you’d hand wash it a couple of times in that period. In any case, it remerged from a 30 degree machine wash looking packet fresh and line dried in 12 minutes; it’s also survived low heat tumble drying without any sign of shrinkage or losing shape.
Summing up, this is an extremely competitive price point and there are several cheaper options capable of giving it a seriously good run for your hard earned. Nonetheless, I’d recommend a closer look if you want a base-layer that doubles as a stylish T-shirt.