Smartwool HyFi Hoody – Climbing Gear Review

Can Katie stay warm enough to crush her problems in The Frankenjura?

Performance *****

Quality *****

Value for money ****

Earlier in the year we received some gear news from Smartwool about a new range of Merino products called HyFi, this hybrid fabric promises to be more hardwearing but retain all the excellent warmth and odour eliminating properties of pure merino, we gave Katie a womens hoody to test on her problem crushing visit to The Frankenjura in Germany…

I had been given the SmartWool HyFi TML (thermal mid layer) mid full-zip hoody to test a week before my trip to the Frankenjura, and for this I was very grateful.

As much as I know cold weather equals good friction, my body knows cold weather means limbs like frozen logs.  So I was very happy to pack this in with the rest of my warm clothing.

SmartWool are a clothing company based in Colorado; dedicated to creating clothing kindly, sustainably and with a low carbon foot print to boot. They are in partnership with the New Zealand Merino Company, who have developed Zque, the world’s first Merino wool accreditation program.

This program ensures environmental, social and economic sustainability, safeguards animal welfare, and allows them to trace end products to their source.

Smatwool HiFy - toasty on those subzero days.

Packed, ready to go and get shut down by some super hard problems, I made the 20ish hour trek by car and ferry and car again to the Frankenjura; the totally freezing Frankenjura I might add. Perfect testing conditions.

At least if I couldn’t make it up anything, I could still sit cozily in my Smartwool HyFi top. They do say their clothing works best when layered with another of their products, but then not everyone can afford to have three layers of merino wool loveliness. So I worked with what I had, and what I had worked well.

The hoody is a mid layer with a central front zip, which they say is made slightly off centre at the chin so it doesn’t chaff, I didn’t notice that too much, but I guess you don’t notice something when it isn’t annoying you.

It has engineered thumb holes, secure hand and chest pockets, and articulated elbows.  It’s made with 64% super fine merino wool and 36% nylon, this is to make the material a little more hardwearing that pure merino.  They say that they make the hoody a little longer to allow for potential (or in my case definite) shrinkage.  It got a little smaller when I washed it, but not by a large amount, it didn’t do the usual thing my clothes do, and turn into a hoody for 8/10yr olds (a good start).  So a wool garment that can be washed without worry.

The hoody I was given was a size small; I’m normally a size 6 up top and this hoody was about one size too  big for me. I looked on the website and a small is about an 8-10, so their sizing is pretty spot on.

They don’t make an XS in this product and I think I was probably pretty lucky to get a small to test! The sizes in this product range from S to XL. Bear in mind, different products do have a larger range of sizes.

There’s a chance it may have felt different if I had worn it as a single mid layer, but because of the sizing I put another hoody on underneath. It did get to -2oC some days so two mid layers wasn’t such a crazy idea.

Smartwool HyFi - great for climbing in.

I like a top with thumb holes, some people may never use them, but for me they’re great, it stopped the cold getting in when i had my gloves on over the top, and when I wasn’t wearing gloves, they made a nice little mid point to bare hands.  The hood is quite fitted, designed to fit under a helmet for skiing, cold weather routes, etc.  I used mine on the coldest days under my bobble hat and it sat rather nicely with no excess bulk.

Now not the most pleasant of topics, but I find when I wear a lot of layers when out climbing, they get a bit sweaty and don’t exactly smell great.  The Hoody excelled in this; if I could rave about anything, it’s that I could climb all day in it, or do a 20 hr car ride and it didn’t smell! The layers underneath did, but the hoody stayed odour free.  I wore it for two weeks and only washed it when I got home because, well it’s what you do, plus I just emptied my bag into the washer and washed everything together, including the hoody. No problems at all with a mixed 40oC wash, I haven’t tried it at lower temperatures yet but I think it would wash OK.

So the Smart Wool fibres in the hoody are meant to keep a more regulated body temperature, this stops the smelliness, keeping you cool when it’s hot, and warm when it’s cold.

I think this may be the part where it would work best as a secondary layer to a SmartWool base layer.  As I was wearing it with a thermal, a t-shirt and a hoody it was pretty tough to tell if the technology was working in the way it is designed to do, but from a very basic level of the way I was wearing it, it kept me warm, it was light weight (a plus) and it was comfortable to wear when climbing.

Smartwool HiFy - stylish and functional

From a style and fashion aspect, I really liked the shape and design of the hoody; even though it was a little big, it didn’t really look too big for me, it just looked like a different style to what it would if it were smaller.  It comes in a range of colours, claret, grape or black: all with contrasting zip colours.

I had a look on the SmartWool website to do a bit of ‘research’, yes research, the things I have to do!  It has some fantastic things on it, one of which was a hoody with an interesting design, I mention it because I think it’s one of the only things that could make the hoody better.  It had a ponytail hole in the back of the hood; Useful, very useful. I also found out how easy it was to get hold of SmartWool products in the UK.  Because it’s all good me telling you about a product, but if you can’t get it easily its a bit of a moot review.  You can’t buy anything on the site (thankfully for my bank balance) but it is stocked in several major retail stores as well as many smaller ones.  If you don’t have one near you, they do answer your emails pretty quickly and you can always order online.

If you were to buy the HyFi TML hoody you wouldn’t be disappointed, it looks and does what it says it does and feels really comfortable, no itchiness here.  The price is definitely at the top of the scale at around £150,but it is merino wool and they do seem like a company that take pride in their products. The massive plus for me is knowing that if I buy this product or any of their range, I know it’s history and that they’re doing their darnedest to make it as eco friendly as possible. Thumbs up guys: through the handy thumb hole!

UK RRP £130.00

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