Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fabrics: Wool


      When people think of wool, they think of big, bulky, scratchy sweaters, too hot and uncomfortable to be worn.  This misconception has confused many a consumer when buying warm clothes.  Wool is one of the original wonder fabrics, and with modern science involved, some super-light Merino Wools can make a wonderful fabric for most layers, in any climate.  Even when wet, it can retain the body’s heat by trapping the air in its fibers because of its 'hydrophilic' interior, and a protective 'hydrophobic' exterior.  I recommend wearing it in cold, wet climates because it does not lose any of its warming properties when the wool fibers get wet.  Wool does however get heavy as it absorbs the water, and should be rung out whenever the item gets too heavy (i.e. socks).  It can also be worn in hot climates, but some of the synthetic fabrics (like polyester) wick and dry a bit faster than wool, if you don’t mind the chemicals used in the production of synthetics.  Two things you should consider about wool; are expense, and care.  Read the care instructions on the garment, but as a rule of thumb I air dry it because wool has a tendency to shrink if machine dried.  Here is a quick list of just some of the benefits of wool:

· Keeps its insulating properties even when wet.

· Water-resistant with a lanolin film, similar to wax

· Odor resistant, because it is naturally antibacterial, which means less washing

· Stain-resistant.

· Durable, so it will last much longer than other articles of clothing.

· Wool does not melt like some synthetics do.

· It is a natural fabric since it comes from the Bovidae family which includes sheep, and there are typically no chemicals used in its production.

     I can’t say enough about this excellent fabric, and I’m sure you get the gist.  I suggest wool base layers (such as underwear, long-underwear, and socks) in the very cold climates, or if you prefer natural materials as opposed to synthetic.   I highly recommend it as a mid-layer jacket, sweater or fourth layer for added warmth.  Hats and gloves made of wool can also be an excellent addition to your wardrobe as well.  Wool's tend to be a bit expensive as I mentioned, especially some of the finer Merino Wools, but I find that they are worth the price due to function, and the years of use they provide.

     From a survivalist stand point, I would rather be caught in a disaster wearing wool layers, than cotton.  Cotton in a cold climate can be a death sentence, and some outdoor survivalists call it “death fabric”.  Cotton can be useful in the summer due to the same reasons it sucks in the winter, but I find I prefer synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon over it because of their excellent wicking abilities.  Try out some different fabrics, each person is different when deciding which they prefer.

     Here are some links that either have some great wool products, or explain the "wonders of wool":
     A few links to Amazon of wool items that are very useful:


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