Hill People Gear Forums
HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsGeneralGeneralWool May Be Heavy, But It Still Works!Wool May Be Heavy, But It Still Works!
Previous
 
Next
New Post
11/25/2012 12:50 PM
 

Recently I relocated the buttons on my Filson double-cruiser and Mackinaw vest to give more room to fasten around my aging middle. When I bought them back in 1972, the sales advisor at Eddie Bauer told me to buy them "at least two full sizes larger than I wore now."  Filson-quality woolens are "lifetime garments" which I would "grow into."  A sad truth to be sure.  

When I got out of the military in 1974 I was still in "fighting trim" and wore a size 43-long suit.  When I walked into the Eddie Bauer store I intended to buy size 44.  Instead I bought a size 46. In hindsight 50 years later I realize I should have gotten the biggest they had!.   The wool fabric has lost  most of its nap over many years, its forest green color has faded, and turned seams are threadbare.   Living in West Virginia today, I wear the vest more often than the double cruiser, which sees occasional winter wear.  Both garments smell mildly of wood smoke and wearing them evoke memories of pleasant hunts, several unplanned nights spent in the woods, and one especially dark, cold walk along NH Rt. 114 after my jeep slid on black ice off the road, and into a pond near Sutton, New Hampshire in 1984. I jogged several miles home in the snow to tell the tale.  

While modern Gore-Tex and fleece is much lighter to carry, it is much less resistant to tears and damages easily when riding a horse or walking through heavy thorns and brush.  Tightly woven wool gear is heavier and more expensive, but if you buy quality garments they will last for many years of hard outdoor use and will keep you warm as long as you apply basic cold weather principles.  If the lowest weight and bulk are important to you, the best synthetics are affordable, available and do the job.  But in harsh and isolated environments where one set of outdoor clothing must last for years, it should entirely wool, with the exceptions of silk or polypro base layer and a 60/40 cotton-poly rip stop parka, anorak or wind suit.

I say this because wool remains warm when wet, including complete saltwater immersion.  Next to a diver’s wet suit or a USCG approved exposure suit www.bestglide.com/imperialsuitpage.htm wool clothing offers the best protection in cold water.  Trapped air in the garment is buoyant and aids as insulation. Bulky wool sweaters worn by Allied sailors and U-boat skippers during WWII documentaries weren’t just for show, but absolutely necessary for survival.  The body loses heat 32 times faster in water than in air and goes into hypotheria when body core temperature drops to  95 degs. F.  

You simply cannot appreciate the panic-shock of being suddenly immersed in cold water, unless you have actually experienced it,  IF you live to tell about it. Dangerous water immersion doesn’t have to happen in winter.  After three hours in 70 degree water you are exhausted and your hands too numb to grasp a lifeline.  In 40 degree water you may last 30 minutes without an exposure suit.  If you live near the water, boat, trap, hunt or fish in the cold water months you should be skilled in water self-rescue methods. See http://homestudy.ihea.com/concerns/23capsize.htm and http://www.ussartf.org/cold_water_survival.htm    

 
New Post
11/25/2012 3:29 PM
 

I like wool as well, and there are some manufacturers that are creating some light-weight liner garments.

Thanks for the post

 
New Post
11/25/2012 7:36 PM
 

Wool works for sure, but so do Model A Fords.  The most bang for the buck I've found for a non-puffy insulating layer is the old pile first produced in the early 80's by Patagonia.  The last garments made from that stuff I'm aware of were the "bear suits" issued in the late 80s-90s to the US Army.  That stuff was incredibly warm, much lighter than fleece, and dried in a fraction of the time fleeces do.  It went out of fashion because the outer surface "pilled" and got pretty scruffy looking rather fast.

 
New Post
11/26/2012 12:28 PM
 

It's worth talking about why wool is "warm" (i.e. only somewhat miserably cold) when wet.

Unlike synthetic fibers, wool hairs absorb water.  Curiously, in my testing of baselayers I found that in fabrics of comparable weights wool gained less weight when saturated.  Wool dries considerably slower under real use conditions (i.e. the influence of body heat only) because the water weight must be evacuated from within the fibers, rather than merely from between them.  The benefit of this for base and mid layers is that wool moderates or buffers evaporative cooling, which is highly relevant when dealing with persperation or modest water gain from precipitation.  Moisture from within or without passes into the fabric itself, is spread out over a larger area, and evaporates at a fixed and usually slower rate.  When it's cold out this is highly desirable.

The nice thing about having so many options, in both wool and synthetic base and mid layers, is that you can tune the speed of wicking and evaporation to your own preferences.  I like a 100% wool baselayer paired with a fast-wicking synthetic midlayer (the new Patagonia Capilene 4 is outstanding) in deep cold.  The baselayer moderates the speed with which my sweat moves away from my body, and the midlayer dries fast and keeps large amounts of ambient moisture out of my clothing system.

 
New Post
11/26/2012 1:22 PM
 

I did a piece related to the topic a couple of weeks ago for Snowshoe Magazine if anyone is interested.

 
New Post
11/27/2012 10:25 AM
 

Timateo wrote

I did a piece related to the topic a couple of weeks ago for Snowshoe Magazine if anyone is interested.

Thanks, this technology-challenged aging appliance user finally figured out your hotlink 

 
New Post
11/27/2012 10:47 AM
 

I have used a lot of wool over the years, including stuff from Filson. At this point, unless we are talking mil surplus I just don't think its use is justified. If you are starting out and on a budget then good mil wool from a surplus store can usually be a great place to find solid clothing.  I can't argue against the longevity of filson gear, but at this point I find soft shells and modern synthetics to work better, be lighter, more compact, and if you keep an eye out for deals a TON cheaper than something like Filson. I have personally not had good luck with the less expensive wool. 

I still like wool and if working from a vehicle will still use it, but other than that it is to heavy to carry.  The exception being base layers, gloves, socks, and a lightweight beanie.  That being said I may be moving away from wool base layers.


Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
New Post
11/27/2012 2:09 PM
 

scothill wrote
 

I have used a lot of wool over the years, including stuff from Filson. […] I can't argue against the longevity of filson gear, but at this point I find soft shells and modern synthetics to work better, be lighter, more compact, and if you keep an eye out for deals a TON cheaper than something like Filson.

I would love to own a pair of Filson whipcord pants, but, ooh, the price!

scothill wrote

At this point, unless we are talking mil surplus I just don't think its use is justified. If you are starting out and on a budget then good mil wool from a surplus store can usually be a great place to find solid clothing.

I purchased a pair of old NVA (East German Army) pants a couple of winters ago and they have worked out great for me and were had at a very nice price.

 

 
New Post
11/27/2012 2:48 PM
 

 I have sold off all my wool outerwear. For stand hunting back east or in the midwest, I guess it still has a place. But for layering when I have to hike in, it's just too heavy. 

Until they come up with truly odor proof synthetic base layers, I will stick with good merino for that purpose. Otherwise, synthetics now take care of all my outdoor clothing needs. The only downside I have come up with is errant cinders, but I don't choose my clothing for how well it performs sitting around a fire. I have tape. ;)

 
New Post
12/8/2012 4:58 PM
 

I'm a big fan of merino base layers, and frequently use heavier wool outer layers (like an Asbell pullover), depending on what I'm doing. For hunting in close-quarters, the lack of odor retention in wool is really hard to beat. High output activites like xc-skiing, I'll switch to synthetics.

If you're going to buy wool, do yourself a favor and make sure you're not buying something made of recycled wool. The recycling process robs wool of much of its water-repelling and warmth-retaining quality.

 
New Post
12/11/2012 1:17 PM
 

Smithhammer wrote

If you're going to buy wool, do yourself a favor and make sure you're not buying something made of recycled wool. The recycling process robs wool of much of its water-repelling and warmth-retaining quality.



Speaking of which, lanolin can be used to improve the water-repellency of wool. Kinda like renewing the DWR on your gore-tex.

http://pig-monkey.com/2011/02/19/lanolizing-wool/



I've used the process to improve my cheap surplus wool as well as the Pendleton and Filson pieces I've inherited.

 
New Post
1/18/2013 9:36 AM
 

Take-a-knee wrote

Wool works for sure, but so do Model A Fords. 

Ho-hum wool (the itchy and/or looser knit stuff) may be comparable to the venerable Model T.  But good wool, such as Merino for base/mid layers and Filson for the outter layers is the diesel G-wagon of outdoor clothing.  Dependable, comfortable, and classic.   Other materials may approach the totality of wool's perfection, but non surpass it IMO.

 
New Post
9/27/2013 11:53 AM
 

I have three styles of wool gear I use regularily - merino mix longjohns and mid-layer sweater, and a Swanndri bush ranger jacket. 

The merino mix (78% merino and some other synthetic stuff to make it machine washing / drying safe) is awesome for three reasons:  does not stink, wearing the same longjohns for three weeks at a time while snow shoeing many kms a day, very light weight and itch free and can be washed / dryed normally (that's important when you are using laundry services in the bush or when away from home at a laudromat). 

The Swanndri is heavy, itchy but warm and water repellent.  I keep it for two main purposes:  sentimental reasons (it was my father's) and as am indestructible coat in my truck for pulling people out of ditches or for safety if I were to become stuck for a prolonged period.

Wool is excellent because of these reasons.  I now only use my other base layers (HH and UA) for PT, I will never take them in the field again.

 
New Post
9/28/2013 4:27 PM
 

 Glad to see another swanndri user around. I'm one of the rare people that can wear swanndris next-to-skin in comfort, lovely sleep shirt.

I wore my bushshirt all over AUS and NZ while I was living out of a backpack for a few months. It was my night gown, bathrobe, and parka. With the hood and wide sleeves it is amazingly adaptable for tempurature conditions. Nowadays I wouldn't pack it for a longer trip, my eVent layers and lofted jackets (patagonia down sweater, arcteryx atom) do a better job combined then the swanndri at much less weight and bulk. I still use them around the yard, in the woods and on the jobsite though.

The way I see it, if you can have two jackets you can do a whole lot better then wool (shell/insulation layer) but if you could only have one, a good wool jacket might be my choice, splits the differance between sweater, shell and softshell.

 
Previous
 
Next
HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsGeneralGeneralWool May Be Heavy, But It Still Works!Wool May Be Heavy, But It Still Works!