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Pat Kinsella

Smartwool Men’s Active Mesh Hoodie review: one highly effective shirt for multiple occasions

Man on beach wearing Smartwool Men's Active Mesh Hoodie.

Meet the reviewer

Smartwool Men’s Active Mesh Hoodie: first impressions

The Smartwool Men’s Active Mesh Hoodie is a very versatile outdoor active hoodie that can be used as a running top, in place of a hiking shirt or as a lightweight alternative to a fleece jacket when you’re doing anything from walking and camping through to backpacking, bikepacking, climbing, canoeing and kayaking. 


• List price: $100 (US) / £95 (UK)
• Gender specification: Men’s only
• Sizes: S-XXL
• Weight (large): 252g / 8.9oz
• Materials: Front: Merino wool (53%), lyocell (47%); Hood, back, sleeves & shoulders: Merino wool (38%), lyocell (33%), polyester (29%)
• Colors: Twilight Blue / Light Gray Heather / Black

In spring and fall in particular, but also on many summer mornings and during milder winter afternoons, it’s not uncommon to encounter conditions that cause proper wardrobe dilemmas as you prepare to head outdoors.

If temperatures are too frosty to go hiking, biking or running in just a technical T-shirt, but not quite cold enough to add a base layer (stopping to strip off an underlayer after the first mile is very annoying), or sufficiently soggy to justify pulling on a waterproof shell, wind-stopper or running jacket – what are you going wear?

These in-between conditions call for a breathable, lightweight, long-sleeve layer that will provide some thermal protection from cool breezes without making you pour with perspiration during ascents. And this is exactly what you get with the Smartwool Men’s Active Mesh Hoodie.

Straight out the packet I thought this hoodie looked good and felt great to wear. The Merino wool and lyocell construction, plus the use of flat seams and a loose, relaxed fit all combine to create a genuinely comfortable garment that can be worn around the house, or sent into active duty on the trails.

Smartwool Men’s Active Mesh Hoodie: design and specifications

The skimpy hood on the Smartwool Men's Active Mesh Hoodie may not look that impressive, but it’s surprisingly effective (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

The clever material mix employed by Smartwool in this hoodie means you can enjoy the myriad well-known benefits of Merino wool (including excellent breathability, extreme comfort, top moisture-wicking performance and odor control) along with the properties of polyester (which is tough and hydrophobic, so it doesn’t absorb much water and dries very quickly) and the soft-feel and environmental positives of Tencel lyocell, a fabric made from fibers extracted from pulped certified-sustainable wood. 

To complement the high-performing materials used in this top, Smartwool have used a polyester mesh on various parts of this hoodie – the back panel, shoulders and sleeves – to enhance breathability and temperature control when you’re working hard on the hills, and provide some ventilation by allowing air to flow past the sweatiest parts of your torso. 

The inclusion of a hood means you can keep your neck and ears covered and cozy during chilly pit stops when you’re out on the trails, or if conditions close in and get colder while you’re at the campsite or belaying at the crag. 

Something I immediately noticed as lacking, however, are thumb loops on the cuffs – that simple little design element that allow your keep sleeves where you want them while hiking, biking, climbing, paddling or running.  

Smartwool Men’s Active Mesh Hoodie: on the trails

The mesh used on the sleeves, back and shoulders allows air to flow through the hoodie, keeping you cool when you’re puffing hard (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

I’ve been testing this top while doing all kinds of outdoor activities along the Devon coastline during the last gasp of the English winter and the start of spring – ideal seasons for this garment to show me what it’s capable of. And for the most part it proved excellent. 

The material mix is every bit as smart and functional as I expected it would be, and I found this hoodie to be brilliantly breathable, sumptuously comfortable to wear and impressively high performing in all the areas it promises to be. So far the bacteria-busting enzymes in the natural fabrics have stopped any sweaty smells from hanging around, even though I’ve used it repeatedly in between washes. 

The mesh used on the sleeves, back and shoulders definitely allows some air to flow through the hoodie, which keeps things cool when you’re puffing hard, but I found that the top is capable is keeping me warm in lots of situations too. I wondered whether the hood itself might bounce around and annoy me while running, but this hasn’t happened at all, and I have found the little lid to be a useful feature, enabling me to keep my ears and neck protected from cold breezes.

The mesh on the sleeves is a good feature, but the mesh on the shoulders feels redundant (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

The fabulous fabric mix works so well that even when conditions have significantly warmed up when I’ve been out and about, I’ve rarely needed to remove this hoodie. However, on the few occasions when I have taken it off, it’s very light and easy to carry, either tied around my waist or stuffed into a pack.

There are things I’m less impressed with, though. For starters, there are no thumb loops on the cuffs, which is a big bug bear for me – I find these hoops really handy on both base layers and mid layers, helping to keep sleeves where they are supposed to be during chilly weather and high-intensity activities.

No thumbs loops to help keep your sleeves stay put, but at least that makes checking the time easy (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Also, using mesh on the shoulders feels like an error. While my back and armpits certainly get sweaty, I don’t perspire through the top of my shoulders and I don’t think anyone else does either, so it’s not serving a practical purpose, and the mesh definitely doesn’t supply the padding and extra durability required in an area that really requires both when you are walking, riding or running with a hydration vest, hiking backpack or a daypack. This is a proper weak point that could lead to wear-and-tear issues that would annoy me in a premium and pretty pricey garment, such as this one.

For the most part, however, the Smartwool Men’s Active Mesh Hoodie is a really useful garment to have in your outdoor wardrobe.

Keep those ears covered and cozy (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
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