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Monday, March 26, 2012

Talent Contest & Smartwool product review

Question:  Should Mel play in Sunday's talent contest?

Step 1: find fiddle

Me: have you seen my fiddle?
Matt: Under the bed?
Me: no, the other fiddle.
Matt: ummmm....closet? (the closet is where we stash everything that isn't used on a daily basis)
Mel: (after 15 minutes of searching a tiny house and digging through the closet) Here it is on top of the dresser!

Step 2: inspect the fiddle

Oh good, the strings still have enough tension that the bridge and sound post haven't fallen down.  And the tuner still has battery!  Score!

Step 3: play the fiddle

Matt: I think I need to go outside and work on something....and I'm pretty sure the dogs want to go too.

Step 4:
Realize, after a back spasm and first finger left hand cramp that not only can I not play anything decently beyond "skip to my lou", I'm obviously not going to be able to practice either......

Smartwool review
All year I save up for my REI dividend by buying gas on my REI card (and paying it off each month of course).  All year I've had my eye on something very special for my dividend this year......and as I plunked it into the cart, Matt said "REALLY?" in disbelief.

OK - so may the 2 little lumps of cloth didn't look like much for $140 - the entirety of my dividend.  But really, how else was I going to justify buying $140 worth of underwear if not with my dividend?

I've worn my REI brand long silks everywhere and done everything in them.  I've traveled, backpacked, rode 100 miles and been more comfortable in my own skin than I can remember.

However, the silks are sometimes not enough and as I'm going to be living in scrubs or professional clothing I need a way to be comfortable in a variety of temperatures without bulky jackets or sweatshirts.

I had my eye on smart wool under layers.  They are expensive.  $70 a pop for the basic versions.  I chose to buy from REI because they would be "free" and if they didn't wear well, I can return them a year (or more) later.

So far I'm very very happy.  They are a touch warmer than the silks, better at wicking moisture, while still preserving the barely there feel.

A couple of comments about the smartwool layers.  While I've never been too hot with the silks, indoors with the heater on I did find myself a bit warm in these.  Clothing (such as scrub pants) don't slide over the wool as well as silks, thus if I was wearing clothes where how they "hung" on my body was important (like slacks in a professional setting), silks would probably be a better option.  I did a bike ride yesterday in them and the wool did a better job for activity, especially starting and stopping in cold weather.

As I get older, I'm finding that life is too short for certain things:
-Horses that will probably cause serious injury or death
-clothes that don't feel good
-Food that is less than stellar
-A job that you hate.

Thus, if I can find a way to buy something once that I love, but sacrificing lesser, shorting lasting pleasures, I feel it is worth it, even if two lumps of cloth doesn't quite have the "cool factor" of a new tech gadget or flashy new piece of tack.  For me, quality base-layers give me a quiet pleasure every time I wear them that is unmatched.

If you are like me and spend 90% of the year bundled in a sweater or coat because you are cold (even though you live in CA), or have trouble monitoring body temperature (you're hot, then cold), or sweat a lot, I highly recommend looking at a quality base layer.  I wear my silks even in the summer to help me maintain a comfortable body temperature.  I think of my base layer as my fur coat that God didn't see fit to give me.  :)


  1. I have a Smartwool underlayer tank top that I love! I originally picked it up on a ski trip probably about five years ago and it quickly got turned into a riding shirt that I end up wearing at most rides under some kind of long-sleeved sun shirt. I'm been really happy with how long it's lasted.

  2. I got some cheap silk camisoles from STP a couple months ago, and I wear them all the time! I should invest in some smartwool too.

  3. The SmartWool will wear like iron. I A lot of their shirts, at this point. But the first ones I bought are at least 2 years old and get worn (and sweated in, and horse-slimed upon, and embedded with hay...) as a solo layer (sometimes under a vest, but nothing protective) and washed ~2x/week from October through April-ish. They still look brand-new. Enjoy!

  4. Good to know....I am ALWAYS cold at work, but lately have been wearing Merino wool socks, and that helps a bunch. Maybe a silk or smartwool layer is the next step.

  5. I'll be interested in knowing how well the stretch "keeps" between washings. That's one thing about the silks, is that they sag after awhile.


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