AH, the Smartwool Corbet 120 ($200). Just feeling the words roll off my tongue makes me warm. Wool, as you know, is the original tech fabric. Humans were summiting 8,000-meter peaks and tending goats in January on the Steppes of Mongolia while wearing wool long before any lab-born textiles were a even a remote idea in someone’s head.
Let’s talk about remote ideas in one’s head for a moment. Cycling-specific jackets, I have found, aren’t exactly known for their warmth. Oh there are a few cycling-specific brands that make jackets for cycling in cold weather (Pearl Izumi nailed it in the Versa Quilted Hoodie, for example) but I live and ride in Minnesota. Our version of cold is single-digits and well below zero.
I set out this winter to test jackets that were traditional cycling jackets and jackets that were geared towards general active pursuits in cold weather. So how did the Smartwool Corbet 120 hold up on the frigid Minnesota bike trails?
What I liked
- Not the most weather-resistant but it still delivers warmth. The Smartwool Corbet 120 is constructed with 120 grams of SmartLoft insulation and heavyweight merino wool. On rides in the low-twenties to low-thirties it did well at blocking cold gusty wind. It is not waterproof but does have a DWR coating that I found worked well at repelling snow and sleet. Although fast rides through melt puddles caused the sleeves and back to become quite wet, I thought the heavyweight merino wool lining did a good job keeping me comfortable in inclement weather. And when it did get wet it dried really fast.
- Breathability is stellar. I’ll come clean here. I hate lab-born synthetics. I really do. While lab-born synthetic tech fabrics may “automatically” sense body temperature and regulate it, merino wool, the original tech fabric, wicks moisture, dries quickly and repels odor naturally. I found that the breathable merino wool of the sides, arms, neck and back, as well as the merino wool liner under the SmartLoft insulation panel, easily transferred the extra heat that built up under the insulated front panel. It also increased my comfort level when the merino wool didn’t trap moisture when wearing a hydration pack. While I still experienced sweat, the Smartwool Corbet managed sweat better than most cycling-specific jackets I tested, like the Pearl Izumi Versa Quilted Hoodie.
- Warm! Insulated with 120 grams of SmartLoft core insulation in the front and constructed with heavy-weight merino wool everywhere else, the Smartwool Corbet proved to be a warm jacket for cycling in temperatures ranging from the low-twenties to low-thirties. Its relaxed fit is a key component of its warmth because it allowed me to wear a heavy-weight merino wool base layer which kept me comfortable in temperatures down to the high-twenties. Thumb loops in the sleeves prevented any cold drafts sneaking in between our tester’s gloves. When riding in temperatures in the low-twenties to low-thirties with very low or no wind-chill, its relaxed fit accommodated a mid-weight merino wool baselayer and a lightweight outer shell, both long-sleeved and vest.
- Versatile. The fact that the Corbet’s construction and cut makes it useable as both a mid-layer and an outer-layer impressed me because it increased the jacket’s versatility as a multi-use active jacket. Hey, I wore it under a Patagonia Adze jacket while snowshoeing on a -20 degree day in Northern Minnesota and didn’t bitch once about my core being cold. This is an outstanding multisport jacket for cold weather.
What I didn’t love so much
- The chest pocket. Condensation did build up significantly on the nylon side of the chest pocket on high-exertion days, causing my iPod to get soaked. It wasn’t damaged because it’s in a case, but if you don’t have a case, and want to ride with your tunes, you should get a case.
- It’s short in the waist when worn as a cycling jacket. I struggled whether or not to mention this, as it’s not the fault of the Corbet. Not everyone is going to use it as a cycling jacket. But if you do, know that it’s shorter in the waist than a standard cycling jacket. While it fully covered my back, it didn’t cover my butt when when in the aggressive cycling position.
While the Smartwool Corbet can very much be used as a minimalistic non-cycling-specific jacket, its greatest feature beyond its outstanding breathability and warmth is its versatility. Because of its relaxed fit and stretch, it can be a midlayer and outer layer, making it an outstanding multisport jacket for cold weather. Oh, the wool construction? Primo.
The Smartwool Corbet 120 is a Gear Gals Piece of Recommended Gear.