A Cozy Casual Winter Sweater Round-Up
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The ‘Active’ in Active Gear Review can certainly have various meanings. For me, when Fall and Winter roll around, the mood and motivation changes. Mind you, I don’t go into complete hibernation, but I do tend to focus more on the winter activities that include alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, and snowshoeing with a bit of running and biking mixed in. In turn, the family takes center stage as the Holiday festivities kick into high gear. After my athletic functions, and during those cold and dark days, being cozy and comfortable is certainly part of my routine.
For those reasons, these sweaters become my go-to ‘gear’ pieces that I grab from the closet when heading out. All of these sweaters and brands have their merits when it comes to meeting my needs. That said, each and every one is unique, and fit a niche for me. I foresee using these casually while out and about, as office attire, a bit of active, as well as merely lounging around the fireplace.
I think we have a really nice mix of warm sweaters here, so take a look and even if you pick one or two, I don’t think you can go wrong. As I got to wearing and testing these, I also made it a point to highlight the care instructions for these sweaters. Some of these are quite delicate, and I’d hate for you to ruin a perfectly fine piece of comfy apparel.
Smartwool Heavy Henley Sweater
Can we call this a throwback sweater? I think so! The colors, the patterns, the “wool”. It’s retro, yet with a touch of technological advancements of today. I might have to dig through my parents photo books to see what I wore in the 70’s and 80’s. Maybe, at some point, I’ll add some leather patches to the elbow to add to its throwback authenticity. The Henley looks the part as it engulfs the torso with a heavy cozy feel without added bulkiness. Smartwool, as is part of their name and heritage, created this sweater with 65% Merino Wool, 5% Alpaca (yes, Alpaca), and 30% recycled nylon. That’s the technological trend and upgrade to create a blend that wears well, lasts long, moves freely, and looks good.
This sweater screams ‘walk in the park after Thanksgiving dinner, topped off by a bourbon next to the fireplace. I fully intend to do so, but I found myself at a work function, and the “mountain man” image can also be anointed by throwing some tomahawks at a target.
Let me point out the care instructions with great detail, because you do have to be careful when washing.
- Hand wash cold! I know that’s the tough part that many won’t follow. Just do it, alright!
- Lay it flat to dry, and never throw it in the dryer.
- They say you can use a cool iron, but I’d just skip that part. It’s a sweater, and meant to look the ruffled part.
- Alternatively, take it to the dry cleaners.
Detail Feature: The metal buttons add that little extra touch, and the black pocket perfects that classy look.
For all their color choices, please check out the Henley HERE.
Patagonia Mens Better Sweater ¼ Zip
This is one of the cooler tops of the bunch. And by cool, I mean hip. I like the simplicity of the style without unnecessary bells and whistles. The Patagonia Better Sweater ¼ Zip is made out of 100% recycled polyester. It combines a sweater-knit aesthetic with the easy and care of a fleece. I’d say, that’s the best of both worlds.
We got lucky with the weather at an end of season soccer playoff game. Mid 50’s at the start with temps dropping to the upper 40’s at the finale provided a perfect opportunity to wear this Patagonia sweater. A simple and stylish look is complimented by enough warmth to not need a coat. Obviously, there’s a fine line for every individual when it comes to being cold or warm. Over the years, my cold tolerance has gotten better, and this Patagonia sweater was a perfect companion for an autumn event. A few of their features are truly appreciated; like the stand-up collar, zippered left pocket, and flat seam construction to reduce bulk and eliminate chafing. Plus, it’s made in a Fair Trade Certified™ factory, which means the people who made this product earned a fair wage for their labor.
Washing instructions: This is actually one of the more straightforward “hands-off” directions.
- Machine Wash Warm
- Do Not Bleach
- Tumble Dry Low
- Do Not Iron
Detail Feature: The fleece collar is soft and delicate on the neck. The cuff buttons trend this garment towards jacket with adjustability for whatever you’ve layered under it.
For purchase, check out Patagonia.
Arc’teryx Covert ½ Zip Fleece
I like to call this sweater the magician in this group. It looks and feels like a stylish sweater, but underneath it all is a really comfortable and soft fleece interior lining hugs the body. In addition, I certainly classify this as casual office-attire worthy with form fitting lines, and its clean presentation.
From a material standpoint, the Covert is made from 100% recycled polyester. It’s got thermally efficient qualities while also being soft and breathable. With the articulated patterning there’s freedom to move like a sweatshirt, but stylish enough to act like a sweater.
Arc’teryx also adheres to providing a living wage with manufacturing in a fair trade Certified Factory. I used to not pay too much attention to all that, but with a reduce, reuse, recycle mindset, I have come to appreciate their approach.
Alright, pay attention here!! Washing for the Covert is not like the others. Do NOT dry clean! However, you do want to machine wash gentle on low while turning it inside out.
Detail Feature: The collar here is super soft and will be enjoyed. In addition, the arm sleeve pocket adds a sporty look, and the opportunity to stash Cash, Key, or Card.
For more information and purchase please visit Arc’teryx.
Toad & Co Wilde Crew Sweater
This Wilde Crew Sweater also has a really warm and ‘heavy’ feel to it. In turn, Toad & Co took their inspiration from the Irish Isles. I suppose their design and naming came with the fabrics’ take on a heritage look of classic wool that surprisingly actually uses Nylon. It’s 80% wool non-mulesed, and 20% Nylon. They use a Wilde Donegal OEKO-TEX standard 100® certified fabric that provides a stronger bond than wool would on its own. The softness of the material is what’s really astonishing. The throwback wool look that I recall from my sailor uncle definitely puts it into the rugged category.
This sweater on a recent trip became my trusted companion. I like to travel light, so this was my one piece of warm apparel. And it did come in quite handy as I “pilot-ed” a tri-shaw bicycle for some retirement home residents. I also needed the outer layer, but underneath it all, I was super warm. My favorite features is the fact that it is moisture wicking.
You really need to take good care of this sweater by doing a bunch of “Do Not’s”.
- Do not machine wash
- Do not machine dry
- Do not wring.
- Do not iron.
- Do not bleach.
However, what you can do is to hand wash with cold water only and a gently rinse. Re-shape garment and lay flat to dry. That’s it!
Detail Feature: The elastic-like collar keeps it nice and tight. Additionally, the sleeve cuffs tie it all together, nice and neat.
Check it out HERE.
Mountain Khakis Norris Shirtjac
Mountain Khakis is getting downright witty or straightforward with the name of this shirt, or is it a jacket? Add in the fact that it’s warm like a sweater, this piece of garment is definitely in a category of its own. First, it looks like a shirt! Secondly, the Mountain Khakis Norris wears like a jacket in many situations. And lastly, it does have that cozy comfy feel of a soft and warm sweater. Additionally, the toughness of the material makes it much more versatile and rugged for a host of outdoor activities. Conversely, it’s not supposed to be runway stylish, but I think that’s the point.
The one thing I do want you to keep in mind is the sizing. I have a Medium, and it is pretty roomy, so think of it as a jacket when it comes to finding the right fit for you. Depending on conditions and personal preference, layering is a great option to find your Zen.
The fabric is 100% Polyester and is breathable while also very easy to take care of with a warm wash and hang it to dry.
Detail Feature: The snap buttons are a cinch for closure when taking on or off, or being able to adjust the body temperature dial when its warm or cold. The actual color of the Norris trends more so to the photo on the right, for what it’s worth.
For all the details, please check out www.mountainkaakis.com.
Outdoor Research Trail Mix Quarter-zip Pullover
I’d say this is the more active sweater out of all of these sweaters. Firstly, the OR Trail Mix has a more athletic look to it versus a thick and warm sweater. That suits me fine as I take to the trails for a hike where this Pullover provides the necessary protection and layering.
Secondly, it incorporates features that allow me to take it from a cozy sit by the fire sweater to a trounce around the woods, trails, and mountains. It’s a quick-drying mid-weight layer that features a unique waffle grid construction. Furthermore, with 94% recycled nylon blend fabric, the Trail Mix Quarter-zip pullover is breathable and moisture wicking. The Kangaroo pockets allow me to stuff my hands for warmth or tasty treats for keeping the kiddos happy while out and about.
Lastly, they added UPF 30 sun protection, and water-resistant woven overlay at the neck and shoulders for added protection from the elements. Their absolutely final magic touch is the Thermoregulating ActiveTemp™ treatment that maintains warmth or releases excess heat depending on exertion level. Now that’s an interesting feature that I can get behind. Hiking, running, bike commuting, etc., are on tap for testing all of its virtues.
Detail Feature: The sleeve pocket is unique and adds a ton of storage space. The shoulder and collar material is much more rugged and weather proof to compliment the soft fabric throughout.
Wash warm with like colors! I’d recommend hanging it, because it dries so fast.
For purchase or to see all their offerings, please visit Outdoor Research.
Icebreaker Mens Lodge LS Half Zip Sweater
The Icebreaker Mens Lodge LS Half Zip Sweater is certainly a mouth full. It’s a thing with many brands, including Icebreaker, to really explain the specifics of each sweater model in the name. There are always numerous variations on a brands’ sweater, so explaining it does make sense. The ‘Lodge’ is what grabs my attention the most. Very soon, I’ll be après skiing at my favorite mountain lodges, and that’s where I see myself sporting this sweater.
The sporty look comes from the shoulder to sleeve racing stripe. I like that about this sweater, but what it comes down to more so is the fact that this guy is really warm, and I can use if for a host of winter activities. The second reason to use it in that manner is that it is form fitting which prevents bunching, and allows me to move freely even with an outer layer.
Warm is certainly what this Icebreaker sweater is! Equipped with soft merino fibers that regulate body temperature in all weather conditions. Let’s be honest, this is not a sweater to be worn while taking down trees. I hear you, but that’s the predicament I found myself in as a friend needed help. A few trees needed to come down, and I happened to have my chainsaw in the truck. The Lodge sweater cleaned up nicely afterwards, and I’ll certainly put it to a more relaxed and casual use going forth.
Merino wool is tricky on the cleaning side, so please follow the instructions to the letter. In this case, I would go to the very last instruction, and take this Icebreaker Lodge sweater to the dry cleaners.
- Machine wash cold.
- Wash with like colors.
- Do not use softeners.
- Fasten all closures to wash and dry.
- Do not bleach.
- Do not tumble dry.
- Line dry in shade.
- Cool iron.
- Dry cleanable.
The zipper is nicely hidden and adds to the clean line of the overall presentation. More so, the collar on this one is high and tight, but super soft.
For more information and purchase, please visit Icebreaker.
Ibex Men’s Wool Aire Vest
Ibex promotes this athletic looking vest as “comfort and performance with everyday style.” I can get on board with that! More so, this Wool Aire Vest is incredibly light. Almost, feather light. My very red vest seems almost loud, but I feel surprisingly dapper and fancy chic while wearing it. The hand warmer pockets are lined with fleece to create a wonderful warm environment to keep my hands toasty.
The outside fabric is Bluesign® certified which is both wind and water resistant. The insides are filled with a proprietary Merino wool insulation. And despite its lightweight, this has kept my body temperature regulated in a variety of situations.
The collar is slightly more poofed up, and pillow-like for a really comfortable fit. The chest pocket is a cavernous addition. I slid my phone in, and it dropped down quite a bit. Very nice!
Again, please take notice of the cleaning instructions.
- Machine Wash Cold
- Do Not Use Fabric Softeners
- Do Not Bleach
- Lay Flat to Dry
- Cool Iron if Need
- Do Not Dry clean
Check it out HERE for all the details and purchase.
Final Thoughts On The Cozy Casual Sweater Round-up
The mix of really great sweater options is definitely on display here. The variety of sweaters lend itself to a host of scenarios, outdoor activities, or simply a family holiday gathering. Many of these sweaters have warm, yet delicate materials which need that extra care to elongate their lifespan. I like mine to last a long time, so I make sure to take good care of them. In the end, a thick and warm sweater will be appreciated. Warmth, comfort, style are all features you will find from any of these choices. Happy winter-ing!