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Smartwool TML Light SportKnit Crew

Backcountry ski season has arrived in Colorado, and I've been taking to the mountains in Smartwool's TML Light Sport Knit crew sweater. It does a fantastic job of wicking sweat in high-octane activities, which is key in the winter when wet skin results in a drastic drop in core temps.

When this midweight layering piece arrived in the mail, I was stoked to spend an afternoon skiing in some fresh snow in Rocky Mountain National Park. I donned the Smartwool TML Light SportKnit Crew and was immediately impressed with its fit. The semi-fitted cut conforms to my body but still allows room for a thin baselayer underneath. I don't like my midlayers to be too tight because they can be binding and uncomfortable, causing the dreaded "armpit wedgy." I found the TML Light SportKnit crew to be cut just about perfectly for its intended job.

Smartwool's TML Light SportKnit Crew has relatively long sleeves so the cuffs don't ride up my forearms. The top also features nice thumb loops that extend the sleeves enough to cover the back of my hands and some of my palms. In not-so-cold temps I can hike sans gloves, and when it's time to put on another jacket, the thumb loops prevent the sleeves from riding up my armpits. The ribbed construction along the sleeves of the TML Light SportKnit Crew helps them hug my arms.

It's always blowing pretty hard in the Rocky Mountain National Park, but I found the weave of this top did a pretty good job of keeping the wind at bay. The sweater is fairly heavy and has a thicker weave than other midweight tops I've tested. In fact, I was able to keep my wind shell in the pack until my descent.

As I skinned up the valley at 9,000 feet, my core temperature rose, and I broke into a pretty good sweat. I was impressed at how well the Smartwool TML Light SportKnit Crew wicked away moisture. I really did stay dry, and when I took off my pack I didn't have a big wet splotch on my back. You'll hear ice climbers talk about the importance of hiking in slowly to avoid breaking a sweat because once they're wet, they'll be miserably cold while they belay. Wearing effective layers, like the TML Light SportKnit Crew is the best solution.

The more I test outdoor gear, the more I've come to appreciate the benefits of natural wool. Its excellent moisture wicking and thermoregulation properties are unparalleled. On some mountain trips, I've been sweating in the sun one minute, freezing in a gale the next, and drenched in a downpour a few minutes later. Clothing that remains warm when wet and that transfers my sweat away from my skin is vital to comfort and safety when I'm hours from the trail head.

Smartwool's TML Light Sport Knit Crew is available in men's sizes S-XXL in orange, blue, black and gray, and in women's sizes S-XL in green and black. Other versions of the sweater are available in a half zip and a full zip hoody for men and women.

Bottom Line: Great cut, highly breathable, and extremely warm mid-layer sweater that will see a lot of use this winter.-–N.W. (Nov. 2011)

BUY ONLINE : $110, on sale for less at Altrec, plus free shipping. Shop for men's & women's styles at Amazon.

Manufacturer's Site : www.smartwool.com

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When hiking or camping, always carry the "10 Essentials":

Extra clothing, extra food and water, lighter or water-proof matches and fire starter, map in waterproof envelope, compass, pocket knife, sunscreen and sunglasses, flashlight or headlamp, first aid kit, emergency shelter.

Source: Seattle Mountain Rescue and Seattle Mountaineers.