Wool for the outdoors (and indoors)

Now the weather is getting colder in this time of the year in Europe and large parts of North America it is wise to dress up warm. Not only for the outdoors but also for the indoors now the energy prices for home heating are rising tremendously. Despite being old fashioned wool is still a very good choice. Especially since modern wool varieties such as Merino Wool doesn’t bring the itchy feeling on your bare skin. Wool is natures own wonder material. Modern synthetic fibers are often designed just to mimic the properties of wool.

Label inside a Marine Corps wooly Pully.

Wool blends. Very often wool is combined with other materials such as nylon or polyester fibers. In this way the fabric gets stronger and often also softer. Another reason this is done is that this makes the overall production costs lower.

Thrift-shop wool. Wool is a strong fiber that has the natural ability to bend and withstand friction. Wool clothing and fabrics tend to keep their shape and look new for much longer then other materials. In other words: Wool is made to last, slow fashion. A good wool sweater can be as expensive as 300 Euro’s. Popular brands are Dale of Norway and Paul & Shark from Italy. These garments are from a very good quality and will usually still be in good condition when they end up in a 2nd hand store. Also Canadian (or Italian made) lumberjack blouses made of wool might end up here. In this way it is possible to obtain a high value and high quality item for a fraction of the new price.

Army surplus wool. Decades ago wool was a go to material for armies around the world. Entire uniforms like the ww2 Battledress Uniform were made out of it. The Scottish regiments of the British army are known for their Tartan (aka Plaid) patterns, varieties of of colored horizontal, vertical and criss-crossed bands, made of wool. Nowadays most garments are made of cotton or synthetic fibers. Unfortunately old stocks of wool pants and jackets are getting scarce nowadays. So finding a good wool trousers in a suitable size for a bargain is almost impossible. Wool jackets can be found as Swedish and Swiss army surplus items. Wool sweaters are widely available since they were used in many countries by the Navy and their Marine Corps. Often this type of wool sweater is referred to a the Woolly Pully. Also the Dutch army surplus contains some nice wool garments. First there is the battle dress uniform model 1949 as was worn in the 2nd world war. This was used in the 50’s. Later decades also brought some wool garments. During the 70’s and 80’s some garments were made of Half Wool. Probably a mixture of 50% wool and 50 % cotton as was used by the US army. These items were a long sleeve T-shirt, a long john underwear trousers, short underwear trousers and a tubular woven shawl wit extra flaps to protect the back and chest.

Pea coats and great coats are popular jackets in both the army as the civilian world for centuries. Up till the second ww the greatcoat was worn into active battle. Later it became more a ceremonial uniform piece and for roles as standing guard. Also it remained popular for of duty time since they were fashionable items in the civilian world.

Woolen indoor boots. Boots made of wool are usually marketed for staying cozy at the couch at home. Lesser known is that they work very good as tent socks. Especially when you sleep with them when doing winter camping it’s hard to get cold feet.

Wool boots or woolen slippers. Perfect as tent shoes. Source: shop.alwero-wool.com
Microsscopic differences between regular wool and Merino wool. Source: thehikingauthority.com

Merino Wool. Merino wool comes from several types of Merino sheep. This type of sheep is mainly hold for it’s wool production and not for meat or milk. Regular wool comes usually as a byproduct from sheep that are hold for meat and milk production. Therefore Merino wool is more expensive than regular wool. Merino sheep consistently produce wool with very fine (small dimeter) fibers. Also the surface of the fibers is much smoother than in regular wool. This results in a soft wool that doesn’t feel itchy. The softness of its wool fibers is what makes this type of wool so attractive. It can easily be worn on the bare skin. Since wool has the natural ability to stay clean and doesn’t provide a good breeding ground for bacteria this type of wool has gained popularity among travelers as a ”self cleaning fabric”. Also it is widely believed that the typical properties of wool such as moisture regulating, temperature regulating, insulation, resistance to smell etc. are better for Merino wool than that they are for regular wool. Large Merino wool producing countries are Australia and New Zealand. Also in Europe some small farms have Merino sheep.

A Merino sheep with thick lumps of skin and wool. Source: mcdonaldtextiles.com

A company that specializes is Merino Wool is Joe Merino.

Alpaca wool. Alpaca wool comes from the South American alpaca and comes in a variety of different colors. The lighter white and ivory shades can also absorb dyes so the variation in color is endless. Alpacas are native to South American countries like Peru, Ecuador and Chile. Nowadays they are bred around the world for their wool and also just for their charming appearance in hobby farms etc. Due to microscopic air pockets inside the fiber it is warmer and lighter than sheep wool. It contains no oils or lanolin. The wool is known for it’s softness and doesn’t feel itchy on the bare skin.

Alpacas in different colors. Source: brontemoon.com

A company that specializes in outdoor clothing made from Alpaca wool is Appalachian gear company.

More info about wool:
Wild for wool Outdoor reviews. YouTube channel about different woolen outdoor garments.

Published by dreweszuur


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