Winter temperatures have plummeted and Mother Nature has been dropping some serious snow over a wide swath of the Northern Hemisphere. For all who continue to adventure outside, the art and science of layering is raised to the next level to ensure safe and somewhat comfortable personal thermoregulation. There are endless options out there for dialing in heads, hands, and feet, but one region of the body that is often left behind is one that is integral in propelling us forward—the bum, posterior, hind-end, gluteal, and lateral-thigh region. In all its muscular and padded glory, in temperatures approaching and below zero Fahrenheit, it’s one of the hardest areas to keep warm after a few hours… at least for me and many of my sisters in sport. I’m not sure if men have the same challenge, but if so, read on. I know of more than one man who has ventured human-powered through the wild hinterlands of Alaska with variations of the two products I’d like to tout today with great success.
Polar-vortex runners, may I introduce you to two of my favorite pieces of winter-adventuring gear: the Skhoop Gretchen WINDSTOPPER Mini Skirt ($169) and the Smartwool Corbet 120 Skirt ($130).
Skhoop Gretchen WINDSTOPPER Mini Skirt
Now I’m not a skirt-wearing runner in general. I think they’re fine and fabulous for anyone who wishes to wear them, but I don’t generally seek them out for me… unless they’re made of down, synthetic fill, or WINDSTOPPER, that is. If this is the case and the temperature is below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, I basically covet Skhoop’s entire selection of skirts in all the lengths. I only have two—an old relic synthetic-fill mini with a central zip—and the one I received for this gear test, the Gretchen WINDSTOPPER Mini with a right-side zip. I run in them, throw them on over running tights for school pick-up and a grocery trip, and lounge in them the rest of the day knowing that my bum is warm, cozy, and as a bonus, modestly covered. “Does this down skirt make my bum look big?” “Why, yes, yes, it does,” and that’s okay by me.
Skhoop was founded in 1999 in Are, Sweden, by Sissi Kewenter. She envisioned and designed an insulated skirt with a two-way zipper as a much simpler alternative to the more laborious task of putting on and taking off snow pants over her clothes each time she took her dog out for a walk. The demand for the skirts from family and friends soon led to the creation of Skhoop. In 2007, Sissi’s friend, Osa Tham, started selling them out of her garage in Anchorage, Alaska, and the buzz continued to grow throughout North America and Europe. The skirts (and other cold-weather gear) are made by women for women specifically, but if you’re willing to think of them as kilts, there’s certainly no reason why gender has to keep your posterior frostbitten.
The Gretchen WINDSTOPPER Mini Skirt is a lightweight, wind-proof, water-resistant insulated skirt constructed with machine-washable, 100% poly, DWR (durable water repellent) finish, and 60-gram synthetic insulation. The garment is environmentally friendly and PFOA-free. Size medium weighs in at 200 grams but is essentially unnoticeable once on. Thanks to the stretchy side panels, smooth-faced interior, and two-way, full-length YKK zipper on the right side, the skirt allows uninhibited movement while running, climbing steep slopes, and even fat biking on snowy trails which, let’s be honest, often involves getting on and off the bike and pushing the bike about as much as actually riding it. The 24-inch length of the size medium allows for ample rear coverage while sitting whether on a bike seat or a cold rock during a mid-run snack session. A small zippered coin/key/gel pocket sits on the front left side and easily and unobtrusively holds a key, chapstick, and a gel if needed.
Where this skirt really stands out is in temperatures below 20 Fahrenheit with the wind kicking up and precipitation or spindrift swirling. The water resistance easily shed eight ounces of water when a bottle failed in negative temps. A thin layer of ice formed in two spots on the outer surface but I felt nothing but warmth beneath. Paired with wool tights and ultralight wind pants, this skirt kept my bum and thighs toasty warm running and hiking in 28 degrees Fahrenheit and 50-mile-per-hour winds on a Colorado 14er attempt as well as a 10-mile-per-hour and negative-eight-degrees-Fahrenheit fat-bike outing. With different layers beneath, this skirt would be perfect in colder temperatures as long as the effort level was moderate to high. It’s also not too warm to throw on over capri tights at 40 degrees Fahrenheit to provide coverage for post-run errands around town.
I would recommend consulting the size chart on skhoop.us prior to purchasing, and if you find yourself in between sizes, don’t hesitate to call the fine ladies in the Anchorage office for clarification. Each of the styles of skirts fits slightly differently. I requested a medium because I knew I wanted to be able to wear this skirt over thick wool running tights coupled with a wind pant, so sizing up seemed prudent. The sizing in the Gretchen is generous and I likely could have been satisfied with the small, but I appreciate the unrestricted movement and layering options the size medium allows.
As far as suggestions for improvement, I have one very small one. I wish there was a zipper on both sides rather than just on the right. Though my movement was unrestricted, on long uphill climbs, the skirt would often rotate around so the zipper opened in front. I think having the left side zipper as well would have kept the skirt centered. This is a very small suggestion as the rotation in no way affected comfort or function. I genuinely love this skirt and wear it often enough that I wish I had a second… or maybe a short down skirt… or maybe the Osa Vest… Seriously, just check out the website and start saving up.
Smartwool Corbet 120 Printed Skirt
Smartwool needs little in the way of introduction. They’ve been making high-quality wool and wool-blend adventure gear since they began in 1994. In more recent years, they added their SmartLoft 60 and 120 Series for higher-intensity adventuring and stop-and-go outings. The Corbet skirt is found in the 120 series with the ‘120’ representing the warmer weight 120-gram wool insulation (75% wool/25% poly) used.
The Corbet 120 Skirt is a wind- and water-resistant, insulated skirt with a full-length, two-way zipper on the left side and a no-stick 56% Merino/44% polyester liner on the interior which makes it very easy to just put on over whatever layers you have underneath and go—wool tights, skinny jeans, and wind pants all work well under this skirt. The outer layer is DWR-treated poly which protects the 120=gram insulated fill quite well even when running in heavy blowing snow for a few hours. I am also pleased with the moisture management provided by the interior of the skirt when I layer it over wet running tights after soggy runs in order to appear more socially acceptable to the ‘non-dirty-trail-runner public.’ The skirt is a mere 13 inches long in the front and 15 inches long in the back which is about the minimum length to get the chilly parts protected for me, but it doesn’t provide quite enough coverage while sitting on my bike or on cold logs at the side of the trail. The positive trade-off is, again, there is no movement restriction climbing the steepest slopes or getting on and off a bike. It’s a highly functional and fashionable layer that goes from trail to town without the slightest issue.
Like most women’s gear, I’d definitely recommend checking the sizing chart on this skirt at smartwool.com. I was surprised to see how much difference there was between the extra small, small, and medium sizes. I’m in between small and medium again, but this time, the small was the only option once I tried both on courtesy of very generous sizing.
There are two small details I’d improve upon with this skirt in future iterations. As I stated earlier, I’d love to see a second partial or full zipper on the opposite side. Again, as I was running, I’d find the skirt rotating around my body so the zipper ended up in the front. Lastly, the small coin/key pocket on the right front area has no way of fastening shut. Adding Velcro, a zipper, or even a fold-over flap would make me feel more confident about putting anything other than a gel packet or two in there. My history of catching toes on small rocks demands my key and cards must always be securely zipped and packed away.
Overall, this skirt is very warm—sub-zero temperatures are no match for this layer—but I find myself wishing it was in that 24-inch range in length also. Though my bum was warm, my legs need a bit more coverage to really keep the elements at bay. The Corbet skirt definitely ups the ‘fashion quotient’ in my run and post-run clothing selection. Compliments from strangers and friends abound. The Smartwool Corbet Skirt is a terrific layering piece that certainly supports the saying, “There is no bad weather if you’ve got great gear.”
If you’re someone who has any issues at all with keeping your posterior and thighs warm in the harshest of wintery weather, I cannot overstate how marvelous an insulated skirt is in keeping the frosty skin away. The Skhoop Gretchen WINDSTOPPER Mini Skirt and the Smartwool Corbet 120 Printed Skirt are two options that perform well for active adventures and post-adventure errands. They are an investment, but my 10-year old Skhoop mini looks and performs as well as it did on day one of my purchase. Keep your eyes out for end-of-season sales on their respective websites, local stores, and your other favorite online gear websites. Stay warm!
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Are you a skirt wearer in rough winter conditions? Women and men, we’re looking for both of your thoughts.
- Have you tried either the Skhoop Gretchen WINDSTOPPER Mini Skirt, the Smartwool Corbet 120 Printed Skirt, or perhaps another model made by either of these companies?