Smartwool Women’s Apparel Review

An in-depth review of women’s Smartwool apparel.

By on May 25, 2023 | Comments

Smartwool is a mainstay in the cold-weather, endurance-sport realm, but in recent years, they’ve worked to refine their warmer-weather offerings, and this spring’s Active Ultralite line has some of their lightest weight, most breathable, moisture-wicking options yet.

In my sensitive-to-fabric opinion, the items in this review do not itch even beneath a pack or another snug-fitting layer, so they are indeed worth checking out.

For this review, I tested the women’s version of the following items:

Smartwool Women’s Active Ultralite Hoodie

The Smartwool Women’s Active Ultralite Hoodie ($80) is a long-sleeve hoodie made from a combination of the ZQ-certified Merino Sport 120 fabric (53%) with TENCEL Lyocell fibers (47%), which yields a highly breathable, quick-drying garment with a bit of warmth as a midlayer, or a dry, cool-weather outer layer. It’s too sheer to provide sun protection and is quite easy to see through, particularly when sweaty — so if you’re concerned about modesty, a dark color may help. Smartwool did well with this material as it’s not at all itchy, which makes it quite comfortable to lounge around the house in as well. It also resists odor build-up, so if you skip some washes here and there, others will be none the wiser.

I find the sizing to be generous. I’m between sizes small and medium on the chart, but the small is roomy and plenty long through the torso, coming just below my hip bones in front and with a slightly dropped tail behind. The regular fit allows for a base layer beneath and plenty of room to stretch and move. The arms could be a bit longer as I can’t quite get my hands up inside, but my wrists stay warm and covered even with poles on steep climbs. I like the closer fit of the hood — plenty of room to add a visor beneath, but the hood also fits well under a bike helmet for a chilly start to an otherwise warm ride. I’m very diligent with washing only on cold and hang drying, so my hoodie size and fit have remained the same.

I like this piece for an extra layer going to and from the gym, for an early morning run where the temperature starts perhaps in the upper 40s Fahrenheit but is rapidly warming, or if I need a light midlayer beneath an outer wind layer on a blustery day. It’s not an overly warm piece, so I’d call it a two- to three-season option, unless your internal thermostat runs hot. I’m disappointed in the lack of a ultraviolet protection factor rating, but there are other options from Smartwool that do have that rating in a slightly heavier garment, such as the Smartwool Women’s Merino Sport 150 Tee.

This particular hoodie is only offered in the women’s line of Active Ultralite options at this time.

Shop the Smartwool Women’s Active Ultralite Hoodie
Smartwool Women’s Active Ultralite Hoodie - Front view

A front view of the Smartwool Women’s Active Ultralite Hoodie. All photos: iRunFar/Kristin Zosel

Smartwool Womens Active Ultralite Hoodie - back view

A back view of the Smartwool Women’s Active Ultralite Hoodie.

Smartwool Women’s Active Ultralite Short Sleeve

The Smartwool Women’s Active Ultralite Short Sleeve ($50) is made from the same exceptionally light, breathable, moisture-wicking material as the hoodie reviewed above, just with raglan-set short sleeves and a standard crew neck. The same generous sizing holds true, and I appreciate the roomy cut of the size small once again. This is a pleasure to wear running, lifting, biking, or playing ultimate frisbee — as it glides lightly over the skin and doesn’t restrict in any way. With the raglan sleeves, there’s also no seam pressure on your shoulders beneath your hydration pack. It combines well with about any midlayer or outer layer as well due to the soft and relatively smooth feel. Again, it’s quite sheer in the lighter colors, so choose your color according to your comfort level, and remember the lack of sun protection through the fabric.

The men’s version, the Smartwool Men’s Active Ultralite Short Sleeve, is the same product with a slightly different cut.

Shop the Smartwool Women’s Active Ultralite Short Sleeve
Smartwool Womens Active Ultralite Short Sleeve - front view

A front view of the Smartwool Women’s Active Ultralite Short Sleeve.

Smartwool Womens Active Ultralite Short Sleeve - back view

A back view of the Smartwool Women’s Active Ultralite Short Sleeve.

Smartwool Women’s Active Lined Short

The Smartwool Women’s Active Lined Short ($60) is designed for warmer days, with the mid-rise and loose-breezy fit. The 2.75-inch (7 centimeters) inseam fits longer than it would seem, thanks to the lengthened drop in the back, making them less cheeky than they could be — whew! The wide waistband with adjustable drawstring also allows me to wear them a bit lower than perhaps intended, which lends another inch of coverage at least. The breathability is enhanced with four vents on each side of the mid-bum region, where the arcing seam crosses. I personally didn’t have issues with them being revealing at all through the vents — the vents stay flush with the shorts, at least with the size I received.

I chose a size medium based on my standard between-sizes experience and found the hips and thighs to be loose and easy to take high steps in without restriction, but I did need to cinch the waist drawstring quite a bit to keep them from sliding too low. This is by far my preferred concept of fit through the waist, so I’m happy my belly can breathe free.

The shorts are relatively simple in construction overall with just a gel or key-fob-sized drop-in pocket on the left front of the waistband and a slightly larger single zippered pocket along the center back of the waistband. The only thing I find really strange about these shorts, and I’m not alone based on a few product reviews on their website, is the fact that the Merino 150 wool liner was oversized and was not fitted at all at the leg openings, which rendered them useless and quite annoying. I cut the liner out after my first attempt at running in them. With the liner removed, the polyester/elastane shorts are fabulously cool and light for runs of any speed, especially on warm summer days. Perhaps this was just a fluke affecting a small number of shorts, but you may want to check this aspect out if you get to try before you buy.

The men’s version of this short comes in two lengths, the Smartwool Men’s Active Lined 5″ Short and the Smartwool Men’s Active Lined 8″ Short. I can’t wait until it’s common for women’s shorts to have this same option for multiple lengths of the same shorts!

Shop the Smartwool Women’s Active Lined Short
Smartwool Womens Active Lined Short - front view

A front view of the Smartwool Women’s Active Lined Short.

Smartwool Womens Active Lined Short - back view

A back view of the Smartwool Women’s Active Lined Short.

Overall Impressions

Smartwool has three excellent products here for the warm days of spring, summer, and fall. What the two tops lack in sun protection, they more than make up for in breathability and comfort. When paired with the shorts (sans liner), they are the perfect combination as the temperatures increase. I would not hesitate to use them for a Colorado multisport day — from trail running to paddle boarding to disc golf to backyard games and snacks or whatever your creative combination may include.

Call for Comments

  • Have you tried any of the pieces in this line? How did you like them?
  • Are there any other Smartwool pieces that you love for warm-weather running?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a shoe brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

Kristin Zosel

Kristin Zosel is a long-time iRunFar contributor starting first as the lone transcriptionist and then moving over to the gear review team. She is in constant pursuit of the ever-elusive “balance” in life as a mom, student, mountain lover, ultrarunner, teacher, physical therapist, overall life enthusiast, and so much more. Kristin’s trail running and racing interests range anywhere from half marathon to 100k trail races, facilitating others’ 100-mile races, and long routes in the mountains, but mostly she just loves moving efficiently through nature solo and with friends.