Game-changing women's gear
The original technical midlayer
You don’t have to wait for après to pull on a sweater. These four old-school midlayers hold their own against the growing field of synthetic puffies and fleeces. Plus, they feel cozier and look way spiffier off-trail.
Marmot Vivian Sweater ($110)
Knitted wool makes this pullover ridiculously warm. It’s so insulating, in fact, that I often can’t wear it indoors. Outside, however, it’s the perfect layer for leaf raking, hiking, dog walking, and downhill skiing. In camp, when I’m chilly but can’t creep any closer to the fire, I pull this on and feel as cozy as I would in a sleeping bag.
The back of the Vivian is made entirely of polyester fleece, so even if I do get sweaty from exertion, the fabric wicks and dries fast. And a bit of nylon is blended into the wool, so it doesn’t pill as easily as softer yarns do. I’ve actually worn this sweater beneath a backpack and didn’t see any evidence of shredded wool (some supersoft merino sweaters can’t handle much abrasion).
I also like how comfy and nonplasticky it feels. Few synthetics can beat wool for breathability. So although the Vivian is extremely warm, it never makes me clammy. And this is no unisex fleece zip tee: It’s feminine without being girlie.
Canada Goose Fulford Sweater ($395)
At first glance, the sweater doesn’t look like technical apparel. That’s its genius. Hidden within the high-fashion styling are construction details that deliver performance benefits on cold, gusty days. The collar’s contrast fabric keeps the wind off my neck. The upper back uses a looser, more open knit to keep me from overheating. And under the arms are ribbed panels with big, sweat-dumping gullies to keep the pits dry.
Best of all, the Fulford is knit in a high-grade Argentinian merino that feels more like silk than wool. I wish my sheets were made of this stuff.
Kari Traa Ringheim Sweater ($115)
Kari Traa’s Ringheim sweater isn’t quite as soft as the Fulford, but the acrylic-wool-alpaca blend isn’t prickly enough to demand an undershirt. I can wear it next to my skin without feeling itchy, and the curved shirttail hem is more flattering than the straight hem on most sweaters.
Patagonia Recycled Cashmere Crew ($199)
Patagonia’s Recycled Cashmere Crew is made from lots of little bits of discarded cashmere (the ultrafine goat’s wool that’s silkier than sheep’s), so it’s phenomenally soft—I get a lot of gratuitous hugs when wearing this—and far less bulky than most sweaters this warm. It’s not durable enough for any pursuit involving a backpack, but this sweater is so cozy and compressible that I pack it on backcountry ski trips to wear at the hut.