Review: SmartWool Teller Tech Zip Merino top

SmartWool were the pioneer in using Merino wool to make outdoor apparel and they are still one of the main players on the market. Today we are looking at the Teller Tech Zip, a top from their new Trail range we talked about before.

The new SmartWool trail range was created with hikers in mind, to provide a diferente type of base layers, stronger and more versatile. We like Merino wool for its great properties like odor resistance, temperature regulation and moisture management. One of the down side of the wool however is that it absorbs more water than polyester hence taking longer to dry.

Here SmartWool used a blend of 75% Merino and 25% polyester to improve dry times and durability a bit. This does not affect much odor resistance however. In my usual test, bouldering twice a week indoors in a small and stuffy climbing gym, it started to smell after the 3rd week. The sacrifices we have to make as reviewers, you would not believe…

Weight and features

The first impression when we got our hands on the top was that it was quite heavy.  The scale tells us 193g (6.8oz) for the men size S which is almost double the weight of Patagonia’s Merino On Silkweight top (104g / 3.66 oz).

SmartWool Teller Tech Front

Now of course the Teller Tech Zip is a different kind of technical top. First of all it has a zipper, going down to about just below the chest which helps regulate ventilation and prevent overheating, but more interestingly the fabric is not woven in the same way on certain areas.

SmartWool Teller Tech shoulder detail

Click to enlarge

To improve durability, SmartWool strategically placed jersey knit panels on high abrasion areas like the shoulders and lower waist sides. Those work beautifully at preventing wear caused by backpacks like we’ve noticed on other Merino tops. Although I am not sure why they haven’t made the  lower back likewise instead of just the sides, that would have made a lot of sense since backpacks generally make contact in the area as well. The rest of the fabric is eyelet knit to maximize ventilation. It feels great on the skin, never clammy, and breathes remarkably.

The last feature of this shirt is the small hidden pocket on the back, ingenious if it wasn’t for the fact that you may not be able to use it depending on the type of backpack you wear. For me it falls right in the hip belt area and is uncomfortable if filled.

SmartWool Teller Tech back

A word on the size, they sent me a size S, which is the smallest available apparently but it could easily be taken for a  M. If you want something form fitting and not too long, and are not as fit as the guy in the pictures on their website, you might want to take a size smaller than you normally wear. If you’re a size S like me then no luck, it will probably be a bit baggy.

The wool used by SmartWool is sustainably produced, ensuring minimum impact on the environment and animal health and welfare, good point for them there.

Final Words

If you manage to get the right size for you then SmartWool’s Teller Tech Zip is a great top. We like Merino and the use of the different knit types to improve durability and breathability is genius. If you’re not looking to shave every gram possible and don’t mind the premium for Merino it is a good option to consider. If you are not interested in the wool’s qualities then a Polyester shirt could probably be as durable and a lot less expensive.

Retail prices: 60£ / 60€

[note]Disclaimer: The baselayers featured here was sent to us by SmartWool for the purpose of this review.[/note]