Nearly every outdoor apparel company sells a 60-gram insulated jacket, and the PhD Propulsion 60 Hoody Sport Jacket (available for both women and men) is SmartWool’s comparable offering. However, the company has veered from the standard of a synthetic fill by using Merino wool for a bulk of the jacket’s insulation and body fabric. The exterior is DWR coated and, like polyester fill, a wool insulator stays warm when wet, to some extent. The result is a toasty outer layer for riding in cold temps, or a great insulating layer for low-exertion activities.
The jacket’s chest and back lining, as well as the stretch panels located on the sides and at the neck, all incorporate a Merino and synthetic fabric blend. These panels offer generous freedom of movement and breathability that wouldn’t be present in a 100-percent poly shell. With a stretch panel extending up into the hood, it’s surprisingly comfortable to wear during activity. I wore the hood up while riding (it fits nicely under both a city and mountain helmet), jogging and skiing without feeling restricted.
Other useful touches are snug cuffs with thumb holes, an adjustable waist and an interior phone pocket. The phone pocket has an opening to route your headphones out of the interior pocket and into the small chest pocket, where they can be safely stored from the elements when not in use.
It took a few tries to determine what combination of temperature and exertion level this jacket was right for. When coupled with the Mid 250 Crew, the jacket was much too warm on a mountain bike night ride in the 20s, but it was just perfect cross country skiing at 15 degrees. Of course, it’s all contingent on exertion level. With a single wool base layer, the jacket would likely be comfortable to wear into the single digits during high-exertion activities and into the low 40s as a casual piece.
The Propulsion Hoody is definitely warmer than the 60-gram insulated Stio jacket we reviewed, which offers a broader range of warmth for varying winter temps and activity level. This difference in warmth may be due to the wool insulation or simply the addition of a hood, zipper closure, cinched hemline and elastic cuffs on the SmartWool jacket.
At $260, the Propulsion Jacket is very expensive, eclipsing even some of the priciest options in this category. However, it’s at a price point I’d expect from Merino wool apparel. As a long-term investment, the yellow color will likely be the downfall of this jacket. While I like it, light colors show dirt that wouldn’t be visible on black.
Available for women in sizes small through extra-large in black, sunglow (tested) and desert purple. Check out the Propulsion Hoody for men.
For ultimate wool warmth, pair this with a SmartWool shirt and bra, featured in our big base layer review.