Smartwool Intraknit Thermal Max Merino Base Layers Review

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Since 1994, Smartwool has been the leader in Merino wool adventure clothing. Since then, they have continued to push the boundaries with what’s possible with Merino wool. It feels so soft, wicks away moisture, regulates temperature, and resists odors. In my search for some new base layers for winter backpacking and ice climbing, I selected Smartwool Intraknit Thermal Max Merino Base Layers Pattern Hoodie and Bottom. It was my first go at the Intraknit technology, which is a tightly knitted material with varied patters of looped material to give you warmth where you need it.

Intraknit™ Thermal Max Merino Base Layer Pattern Hoodie

This hoodie is as warm and functional as it is fashionable. The 100% Merino wool is knitted into a well fitted, slim style top. The hood provides full coverage with a ribbed band around the face. It covers your chin and mouth if needed, and is a great insulator under a helmet or coat hood. When not using the hood, it sits neatly around you neck like a super snuggly turtleneck. The Intraknit fabric had some stretch but not a lot so I would recommend looking closely at the sizing guide before ordering. The hoodie has a fitted body and I found that it fit neatly lays under my outer layers. Keep in mind, it is not as thin as Smartwool’s All Season base layer so make sure leave a little extra room for this shirt.

The sleeve length on this top deserves an award! I’m 6 feet tall and almost always struggle with sleeve length. This top was perfect. The ribbed cuff landed right at my wrist bone and I wasn’t constantly pulling it down. Speaking of length, the body of this top was plenty long as well. All my tall people out there, this top is the bomb! Despite the long sleeve length, I did find that the ribbed elbows were a little high on my arm. Even so, I didn’t have any complaints about movement in this nicely fitted hoodie.

Intraknit™ Thermal Max Merino Base Layer Bottom

The Smartwool Intraknit Base Layer Bottom was also engineered for warmth, but they look great, too! The waist band is nice and thick elastic. The thick waistband is tapered, taller in the back and lower in the front. This is awesome because they ride above your hip bones and resist slipping down under your hiking pants. They had ribbed knees, similar to the elbows on the shirt, that allowed for great movement but didn’t get stretched out after repeated uses. The ankles have a nice fitting ribbed cuff without any elastic or seams. They are great for putting over or under socks without too much added bulk.

Freedom to Move!

The last thing you want in your base layer is restrictive movement. Smartwool thought of just about everything in these Intraknit Thermal Max Base Layers. With the extra room ribbed knees and elbows, you are provided with the flexibility in movement in a garment that retains it’s shape. The material never bunched up behind my knees or on the inside of my elbows. The back of my pants stayed in place and the pants never needed to be hiked up under my backpacking pants. I appreciate that Smartwool created such a soft, comfortable knitted style that is able to keep up with my every move.

These Clothes are Made for Warmth

I almost forgot to mention the most important feature of the Smartwool Intraknit Thermal Max Merino Base Layers. The top and bottom are both made of 100% Merino wool. As I mentioned earlier, Merino is known for being soft, temperature regulating, and resisting odors. I found all of that to be true in this set of base layers. After a full weekend of backpacking in the Colorado Rockies in October, these clothes still smelled fresh! I used them as a base layer under my hiking cloths and as my pajamas at night. I stayed so warm!  And as mid-day approached, I was able to shed my jacket and wear the beautiful base layer top as a shirt. It provided just enough warmth while still wicking away my sweat as we stived to reach a 14-er. Well done, Smartwool!

My Final Thoughts and Recommendations on the Smartwool Intraknit Thermal Max Base Layers

Smartwool clearly put a lot of thought into this base layer. The patterned hoodie and the bottoms are both designed as cold weather base layers. They were excellent on my Colorado backpacking trip and I can’t wait to have the warmth for Michigan ice climbing this winter. Both the top and bottom look great, also. They are suitable for wearing around camp and you don’t look like you are wearing your grandpa’s long underwear. I get so many compliments on the style. Smartwool deserves a pat on the back for both of these items. I felt like both were reasonable priced, the Pattern Hoodie is available in Black Cherry Violet Plaid and Black Plaid. The Intraknit Thermal Max Bottom is available in Black or Black Cherry. If you are interested in learning more about Smartwool or would like to order this pair for yourself, visit

Sara Fillman: Sara is an avid ultra-marathoner and outdoor adventurer. Living in Michigan, Sara has ample opportunities for outdoor sports during all seasons. When not open water kayaking on the Great Lakes or backpacking in some distance mountains, she can be found ice climbing in Norther Michigan at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. She is constantly looking for the next big adventure.
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