February 2, 2021

Long-Term Product Review: Smartwool Women's Merino Midweight Pattern 1/4 Zip Top

I'm going to start going back and occasionally re-reviewing a few of the products I've reviewed in the past. I feel like there's some value in a long-term review from me to see how things hold up over time, since I tend to do a lot of research before I buy something and I keep things I like for a long time.

Up first are the Smartwool Women's Merino Midweight Pattern 1/4 Zip Tops I bought from Riding Warehouse a little over three years ago. Or, more accurately, my mom bought me the black one as a gift and I bought the green one for myself.

I have two of them, and they're the only two shirts I wear to the barn when the temperature is below about 50 degrees, which, I live in Indiana, so that's about 5 months out of the year. So for three winters now, they've been worn 5-6 days a week for five straight months. How have they held up?

The other color I own, the black and white pattern

In short, amazing. They still look new. No stretching, no pilling, and the only damage is one small hole in the arm seam on the back of the green one, from what, I'm not sure. I can't sew, but you can be sure I'm going to find someone to fix that hole for me rather than get rid of it.

I don't wash them much; I don't need to (hello, wool). Even with wearing them nearly daily, they just don't retain smells nor do they get gross like other fabrics do, and I sniff tested them DAILY at home at first because I just couldn't believe that, but it's true. I maybe wash them once every 3-4 weeks on delicate and then dry them on my Sheila Maid. And yes I wash all of my other non-wool clothing regularly like a normal person!

Like all wool products, these shirts do a great job of keeping heat in but letting moisture out, so I'm able to comfortably wear these up to a warmer temperature than I would be able to wear a similarly warm but synthetic fabric. The threshold at which I start to feel hot in Smartwool is much higher than with other shirts. 

From my raccoon hunting expedition, wearing the green one.

Finally, it IS nice to both be warm and feel like I look good at the barn, which is difficult in winter when you just want to bundle up like the Michelin Man. In addition to wearing them to the barn I've sometimes worn them out to dinner with jeans and booties (you know, in the normal times). I love shirts that can pull double duty like this.

December 2018, PC: Austen

I like to put my clothes in terms of cost-per-wear, which saves me from myself when I find a "good deal" on a cheaply made shirt that will only last a couple wears. I paid $90 each for these shirts and I estimate I've worn them collectively about 300 times over the last three years, which puts the cost per wear at about $0.60 right now. I have no doubt these will last at least another few years though, so that figure will continue to go down.

RW no longer carries these exact shirts, but there's nothing equestrian-specific about them. Any Smartwool 250 midweight 1/4 zip Merino base layer will be the same product, such as this one from REI:

This color is calling my name, but I have absolutely no reason to own more than 2 of these.

Bottom line: After three years of daily winter use, I can wholeheartedly continue to endorse these as a great buy for both riding and looking good in the cold. They're not cheap, but very worth the price since I've proven they will definitely hold up over the years.

What: Smartwool Women's Merino Midweight 1/4 Zip Top

Price: I paid $90 three years ago, and it looks like they're still roughly around that $90-100 price point.

Sizes: XS-XL. You may want to consider sizing up one size if you're not into super fitted stuff. For reference, I'm 5'1 and 115lbs with a 32DD chest and I normally wear an XS in everything, but RW chose not to carry that size so I ended up with size smalls, which are perfect. The small is plenty fitted enough to flatter my figure, plus allows me to wear my very thick UA 4.0 underneath when I need to. 

Where: Smartwool.com or any sporting goods store that carries it, such as REI

Disclaimer: Bought these myself, paid for these myself, opinions are, as always, my own.


  1. I bought these shirts three years ago after your initial review. I didn't get them at RW because they didn't have the color I wanted. But I found them online, in purple and heather gray, at another online store on sale for $75 each. I have used them just about same amount as you and they have held up well too, no holes. I haven't always been pleased with Smart Wool's quality, but these are definitely on par quality-wise with my original Smart Wool items that are just about twenty years old and still in the rotation. These old ones are getting frayed at the edges but I can't complain at this point. Hopefully I can say the same about these in another 15 years ;) And yes, they are warm. We often have days on end of subzero temps and they're an integral part of my layering system.

    Thanks for doing all the reviews. They're very helpful.

    1. That's awesome! I love hearing that people are happy with the stuff they buy after I review it. I would looooooove purple and heather grey ones, great color choices!

  2. I love a good long term review :)
    I tend to love multi purpose clothes- things I can run AND ride in are super valuable to me. I'll definitely be looking into these!

  3. I have one of these too and I adore it. It gets HEAVY use in the winter. I typically layer a Patagonia top underneath and a vest over and it keeps me plenty warm enough down to most temperatures.

  4. Great to know they hold up so well! I also appreciate merino for a base layer when it's cold. Especially now because I ride one before work, get all sweaty and then since I work from home, I don't want to change just to go ride again later. The merino does a great job of wicking that I'm not feeling sweaty and gross all day.

  5. This is excellent info. I am trying to stock my wardrobe with better, longer-lasting staples instead of cheap fast fashion. I wear a lot of synthetic thermal shirts and they are great, but they stiiiiiink so fast. Which means I need to own more to make up for the amount of time they spend in the laundry rotation.

  6. I have the one in pink. Bought it at Dover on a whim about 3 or 4 years ago. It has held up incredibly well.

  7. I love reading reviews on how things hold up over time. I don't mind paying more if it's going to last.