Smartwool Active Fleece Wind Headband Review 2023

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As hiking enthusiasts, we know how important it is to protect our ears from the biting cold wind during our outdoor adventures. That’s why we were eager to test out the Smartwool Active Fleece Wind Headband. If you’re looking for an accessory to keep your ears protected in windy weather, this headband may be just what you need. This versatile headband promises to keep your ears warm and protected in cool-to-cold windy conditions. It is made from a blend of fine merino wool and polyester, which provides a comfortable and cozy feel without any itching. The headband features a windproof front panel to keep out cold gusts, reflective elements for better visibility in low-light conditions, and a sleek design that reduces bulk.

In this comprehensive review, we’ll delve deep into the material and construction of the headband, examine its weight, design, and fit, and put its characteristics to the test. We’ll also highlight its pros and cons and share our thoughts on the best use of this accessory by Smartwool. So, whether you’re a hiker, runner, or cyclist, read on to find out if this headband is the right choice for you.

Smartwool active fleece wind headband

Quick specs: Smartwool Active Fleece Wind Headband

Price: $30

Weight: 27 g (0.95 oz)

Dimensions: 23.5 cm x 7.5 cm x 9 cm (9.25 x 2.95 x 3.54 inches)

Material:

  • Main Body: 47% Polyester (recycled), 38% merino wool, 15% elastane
  • Overlay: 85% Nylon, 15% elastane

Where to get it: Amazon | Backcountry

Notable features:

  • Windproof front panel with 1CFM rating for enhanced protection against the wind.
  • Reflective elements for visibility in low-light conditions provide added safety and peace of mind during dawn, dusk, or nighttime outdoor activities.
  • Soft-brushed merino wool blended with recycled polyester for next-to-skin comfort and warmth without any itching or irritation.

Pros:

  • The windproof front panel functions effectively in windy conditions, providing just the right coverage for the ears and forehead to cut through the wind and offer excellent insulation. This creates a comfortable feeling for the user, almost as if there’s no wind at all in a moderate breeze.
  • Lightweight and compact, making it easy to carry in your backpack. It also fits well under a helmet or a hood without causing overheating. Additionally, this headband can function as a replacement for a warm hat or beanie.
  • Works great in combination with a merino wool underlayer (such as another headband) when the temperatures drop below freezing.
  • Excellent craftsmanship. Made of high-quality materials that feel soft, warm, and cozy without causing any itching.
  • Effectively blocks out external noise. While this can be either a positive or negative feature depending on personal preferences and the surroundings, we generally found it to be advantageous.

Cons:

  • The one-size-fits-all/most design runs a bit small and may feel snug or even tight for those with larger heads (while it may fit better for people with smaller heads and/or women). However, the upside is that the headband stays securely in place during use.
  • If the weather is still and the temperature drops below 0 degrees Celsius, the Smartwool Active Fleece Wind may not provide enough warmth on its own. It is best paired with another headband underneath to ensure adequate insulation in really cold conditions.
  • Does not breathe as easily as an all-merino headband, mainly due to the windproof panel.
  • Not a very stylish or attractive design and there are only two colors available. Furthermore, the reflective logo is located on the back side behind the ear, which seems counterintuitive. However, despite these drawbacks, the headbands still look good.

Women’s Version: Unisex

Smartwool Active Fleece Wind headband
The reflective logo and elements are among the interesting features

Summary

We used this headband since February of 2023 (so in the late winter and the early to mid-spring) in temperatures down to around -1 or -2 Celsius and everything was all right especially when using it in windy weather.

We tested the product rigorously and can say that this headband is really windproof. It cuts the wind well and feels reliable in chilly weather replacing a beanie. It is lightweight and can be paired with a thermal headband underneath for optimal performance in cold and windy weather.

We discuss its strengths and weaknesses in more detail in the full review below.

Detailed review

Material and construction

The Smartwool Active Fleece Wind Headband is a well-constructed and sturdy product with a clean finish. The headband is constructed with two layers of materials – a soft poly/wool (merino) blend on the inside and a sturdy windproof nylon/spandex panel on the front. The inner layer is comfortable and feels great against the skin. No itching or discomfort even after prolonged use.

The headband seems to be durable, and we have not experienced any issues with wear and tear so far. However, it’s worth noting that the back part of the headband is made of a single layer, which may affect its longevity over time. In case you do encounter any problems, Smartwool offers a 100% Satisfaction guarantee, providing peace of mind for potential buyers. This guarantee allows customers to take advantage of a replacement or refund option in case they are not completely satisfied with the product.

Weight

At just 27 g or 0.95 oz, this headband by Smartwool is an incredibly lightweight option for those in need of a windproof headband for an active lifestyle. Compared to other similar windproof headbands, such as the GORE Windstopper, this model stands out for its lightweight design. This makes it an excellent choice for outdoor activities like hiking where you want to minimize weight and bulk.

Compared to the Smartwool Thermal Merino Reflective headband, this model is slightly lighter at 27 g (0.95 oz) compared to 30 g (1.06 oz). This makes it an ideal choice for those seeking a lightweight and compact option for outdoor activities in windy conditions. It’s worth noting that the Smartwool Active Fleece Wind headband is designed specifically for use in windy conditions, whereas the other headband is more suitable for still weather.

Design and fit

In terms of design and fit, the Active Fleece Wind headband is streamlined and serves its purpose of blocking the wind. However, the design is not particularly fashionable, and the reflective logo is placed on the back side instead of the front. It comes in one size fits all/most. While the one-size-fits-all or most design may work for some, we found that it runs a bit small and may be too snug for those with larger heads (as was the case with us). Despite this, the snug fit kept the headband securely in place during our hikes. Initially, we did find it a bit too tight, but over time it became more comfortable.

This headband is available in two colors (black cherry and black), both of which look good. The main color of the headband in our review is a color combination called “black cherry”. To prevent any potential rubbing, there are a few labels sewn into the inseam that should be removed. The inside tag contains useful information, including material content, care instructions, and date of production. Fortunately, it can be easily removed in less than a minute, even by inexperienced users, as long as you have small scissors or something similar to do the job.

Tag with labels on the inner side
Remove the labels sewn into the seam

Warmth and comfort

The headband provides moderate thermal protection, keeping you warm in temperatures above 0°C. However, it may not be as warm as the Merino Thermal Reflective headband by Smartwool in colder conditions. Our testing showed that it performed well down to about -2°C (28°F) in windy conditions while staying active. Its windproof feature makes it an excellent choice for windy weather.

The material is soft, and relatively warm, and does not itch, making it comfortable to wear for extended periods. Its warmth-to-weight ratio is not great but it is good enough to make it a possible replacement for a warm hat on mild winter days and for high activity levels. In colder conditions, you can pair this headband with a hood or another headband underneath, which can provide additional warmth. More information about this can be found in the next section.

Functionality

It is a functional accessory that works great in cool-to-cold windy weather. Its compact and easy layering feature makes it an excellent accessory that can be paired with a thermal headband underneath, worn under a helmet or hood. When it comes to colder weather, we found that combining the Active Fleece Wind Headband with the Smartwool Thermal Merino Reflective worked well. As we mentioned in our review of the latter, it’s a soft, warm, and comfortable headband that is particularly effective in still weather conditions. We were surprised to find that wearing this headband with an all-merino headband such as the Smartwool Thermal Merino Reflective, felt even more comfortable than wearing the windproof headband alone.

Layering it with the Smartwool Merino Thermal Reversible Headband
Pairing the Smartwool Thermal Merino Reversible with it is easy and comfortable

The headband is versatile and can be used for a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, running, or cycling. However, it can block sound which may be both beneficial and problematic. On one hand, in calm environments where hearing through the headband is not necessary, the noise-blocking feature can be advantageous. However, in situations like the mountains, where being aware of your surroundings is crucial, this feature may be a serious drawback. All things considered, we view this feature as a net positive.

Moisture management and drying speed

The Smartwool Active Fleece Wind headband is made with a combination of wool and polyester that offers good moisture management abilities. Both wool and polyester are known for their moisture-wicking properties, which means that this headband can effectively wick sweat away from the skin to keep you dry and comfortable during activity. Keep in mind that the headband is not completely immune to internal moisture buildup, especially during high-intensity activities. So, while it has good moisture-wicking abilities, it may still get wet from the inside. Thankfully, the material is also thin and lightweight, which allows for a fast drying speed.

The headband offers decent breathability, but it is not as breathable as an all-merino headband, especially during intense hiking. Those who prioritize maximum breathability may find this to be a downside. Regardless, we are willing to sacrifice some breathability for the sake of wind protection.

Care and maintenance

Proper care and maintenance are essential to keep this headband in good condition. This Smartwool headband is straightforward to care for as long as you follow the care instructions provided on the label. If you do so, you can have a hassle-free and low-maintenance headband that you can wear frequently without worrying about damaging it. Despite the recommended machine washing, we personally prefer to hand wash smaller and more delicate items, and this headband is no exception.

We cannot stress enough the importance of reading the labels and following the instructions for proper care and maintenance of your outdoor gear. This applies to every product, and it’s essential to ensure the longevity and performance of your gear.

On the trail in a forest setting
The reflective logo is located on the back left side of the headband (despite what the mirror effect may suggest)

Price

Headbands come in different models and brands with varying prices, depending on the materials used in construction. Polyester fleece, acrylic, and different polyester/wool blends are some of the materials commonly used. There are also headbands made of 100% merino wool. Typically, headbands can be priced anywhere from less than $10 to more than $30 or even $40. Many headband designs on the market prioritize active performance over aesthetics, resulting in a simple design with minimal features. An affordable option with this design is the Turtle Fur Bang Band, priced at $14. For those looking for a wind-resistant option, the Rockbros fleece ear warmers headband is a budget-friendly choice at $14. For more advanced features, the GORE Windstopper is a functional option but comes at a higher price point of around $40.

Although the Smartwool Active Fleece Wind Headband may seem expensive at $30, we believe that it provides good value for a high-quality windproof headband made with merino wool. Its performance and quality justify the price, and it stands out from other headbands on the market. Additionally, it is possible to find it on sale for around $20-$22, making it even more affordable.

Conclusion

The Smartwool Active Fleece Wind Headband is a great option for those who prioritize wind resistance and thermal protection during outdoor activities. Its use of merino wool provides warmth and softness, while its windproof technology keeps the chill at bay. While it may not be the most breathable option on the market, it offers a good balance of breathability and wind protection. Its noise-blocking feature is also a plus for those who appreciate a quieter environment. All in all, we highly recommend this headband for anyone in need of a reliable and comfortable headband for their outdoor adventures.

 

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