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The Wool Wire | June 13, 2024

Wool's thermal comfort in the great outdoors, plus Huckberry in Tasmania, Darn Tough in Vermont, and celebrating Iceland's wool legacy

Clara Parkes
Clara Parkes
5 min read
The Wool Wire | June 13, 2024
"Don't go too close to the edge!" // Photo by Cosmic Timetraveler / Unsplash

News snippets from the wool world

Hello, friends!

It's officially summer, a time for venturing into the great outdoors and doing things like backpacking and hiking and biking and mountain climbing...or, in my case, strolling and taking deep breaths while saying "ahhhh!" a lot. So this week I propose that we celebrate wool and its potential role in our enjoyment of the great outdoors.

But before we do that, let's pop over to Paris for a few minutes so I can show you what I discovered at the first Lainorama festival. There was lots of yarn to be found.

Wearing wool outside? No sweat!

Now, back to the great outdoors. Last January, Outside published an article in which a self-avowed outdoor enthusiast proudly described how he came to abandon wool and embrace a synthetic fiber future. In addition to praising all the new chemical treatments that make synthetics behave more like natural fibers, he maintained that wool's ability to absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture is a bad thing, because once wool gets wet, it "stops working" and takes forever to dry.

In fact, he insisted that wool's moisture management was its debilitating weakness.

I couldn't help but think that the article's only purpose was to state a controversial opinion and generate clicks, but it still rankled me. How could someone get it so wrong?

Science to the rescue

Since then, Australian Wool Innovation released the results of a fascinating three-year PhD study at North Carolina State University that tackles the issue of wool's moisture management and outdoor exercise.

The study aimed to measure wool's thermal comfort during active and rest phases of "stop-go" sports such as hiking, cycling, and rock climbing. In these kinds of sports, you have active moments (when you sweat into your clothes) and rest moments (when that sweat evaporates). How your clothes perform between those two phases is crucial.

While quick-drying fabrics like polyester do lower humidity levels next to the skin, they do not lead to better outcomes for the athlete. The athlete perceives rapid drying during the resting phase as uncomfortable because the rapid evaporation of sweat leads to chilling.
Wool’s ability to diminish after-chill was seen to be long-lasting, showing no sign of disappearing even 25 minutes into a resting phase.
New study backs wool for ‘stop-go’ sports
A new AWI-funded study provides the scientific proof to sports brands and consumers that 100% natural wool fabrics provide better thermal comfort than other natural and synthetic fabrics during outdoor ‘stop-go’ sporting activities, especially during the resting phases when the potential for chilling is greatest.

Note that AWI funded the study, which always leaves room for bias. However, the fundamental results were revelatory—and they helped explain some of the nuance that was completely misread by our Outside author.

To be fair, the magazine editors have since redeemed themselves by letting dogsled champion Blair Braverman share her top three wool garments you can wear year-round.


Darn Tough and toasty toes

Decades-old sock veteran Darn Tough Vermont recently was invited by the Pacific Coast Trail Association to share some words on the benefits of wearing Merino wool in the backcountry. They did a fine job of explaining wool's role in wicking, thermoregulation, odor control, and even blister prevention.

Photo from Darn Tough Vermont
In our 40 years of sock-making experience, we’ve concluded that nothing beats Merino Wool when it comes to comfort, durability, and performance. And as the many hikers among us will testify, the reasons that make Merino Wool the top pick for hiking socks hold true for other clothing items as well.

Trail-hopping in Tasmania

Speaking of "other clothing items," men's clothing and gear retailer Huckberry recently took their "72-hour Merino T-shirt" (along with a video crew) to Tasmania to film the shirt in action.

Yes, it's marketing. But still, it's a fun video—and you get to see beautiful scenery and sheep and wool in action.

After seven years of perfecting our 72-Hour Merino T-Shirt, we decided it was time to challenge its limits like never before—and that meant going straight to the source: Tasmania, Australia. It's home to the family-run sheep farm where the legendary Merino wool for our shirts is created. Along for the ride was Sunny Chang, PROOF Senior Apparel Designer, and our very own Brand Marketing VP, Ben O’Meara. After some wool-on-wool time with the flock, they hit the trails to test our shirt’s mettle on a three-day journey through its own backyard. After 72 hours of non-stop wear through sun, wind, sea spray, and a brutal climb, let’s just say it over-delivered at every turn.

Protecting an Icelandic Legacy

Finally, what better place to honor wool and the great outdoors than in Iceland, where the rugged Icelandic sheep (and sweaters made from their coats) have helped define a national identity—to the point where the term "Icelandic sweater" was given Designation of Origin status in 2020.

Iceland Review recently did a fine job of summing up the history and allure of the Icelandic sweater.

Icelandic Wool | Lopapeysur
Icelandic wool is a world-renowned product known for its outstanding insulating and water-repellent qualities. The Icelandic lopapeysa…
Photo from Kormáks & Skjaldar

And speaking of history and allure, I was excited to discover that Reykjavik men's clothier Kormáks & Skjaldar has an Icelandic tweed fabric that it uses for both men's and women's clothing. Anyone fancy a Dömubuxur or perhaps a Yfirskyrta Fjárhirðirinn?

On that note, I'll let you go. Thanks as always for your readership and your support.

Until next time,

Clara

News

Clara Parkes

Wool is life. I make The Wool Channel go.

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