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#251926 - 10/19/12 04:23 AM Re: Wool clothing [Re: Teslinhiker]
Roarmeister Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 09/12/01
Posts: 960
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
Originally Posted By: Teslinhiker
Originally Posted By: Greg_Sackett
Wool absolutely has a place in the backcountry. Synthetics have there place (especially for things like baselayers and waterproof outer shells), but in the winter one of the primary advantages of wool is that it still keeps you warm when wet, and will not catch fire from embers. This means that when it is really cold you can get really close to your fire and not worry about your clothing melting on you or catching fire.

Really? I cannot recall one documented case where a campfire caused synthetic clothing to catch fire enough and melted on a person. Yes if you are careless and doing dumb a$$ things such as playing jump the fire and fall in, then you deserve to be burnt...

Really? I suppose polyesters aren't included in that history of yours. I have a few poly shirts with multiple melts (usually pin holes from sparks, etc.) I've never melted poly onto my skin but I've always heard warnings about polys causing more severe burns because it melts onto your skin and therefore retains the heat next to you longer.

I use both synthethics and merino wools. My preference as of this year is merino wool for my base layer. My synthetics are lighter and are slightly better at evaporating heat but overall, the wool is the better performer. I'm switching to add more merino to by closet but I don't have much outer layers of wool yet and I wear merino and smart wool socks 100% of the year.

#251930 - 10/19/12 04:41 AM Re: Wool clothing [Re: Outdoor_Quest]

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 1853
bacpac brings in a very good subject,what sort of wool?
i have seen some that is like wearing cardboard and other wool that is soft and drapes over you.some of the best i wore was the Army issue in Korea.
i have a Filson double mac thats great for wet cold,sleet kind of weather but put on a down parka for the sub zero stuff.
having said that i don't think you could go wrong with good quality wool clothing.back in the old days a wool mens suit that had gone shabby,lost it's shape,was used by fishermen and campers all over the East.i'm talking heavy wool here the sort wore in semi-heated workshops and homes and on long walks to and from a trolly stop and not a "dress up" getup..
now i'll turn around and say they did that because thats all they had.i have done sub-zero snowshoeing wearing light weight poly fluff top and bottoms under a gortex rainsuit and was very warm.
hard subject to really get a handle on..German Army wool pants with the plastic in the knees and big pockets would be just the thing to stand guard in but i don't think i would want to hike around in them....
have a easy winter folks---

#251941 - 10/19/12 03:56 PM Re: Wool clothing [Re: Outdoor_Quest]
Denis Offline

Registered: 01/09/09
Posts: 631
Loc: Calgary, AB
I like the idea of the new breed of merino wool products, primarily the base layers. However the cost is still to high for me to pull the trigger on it; I'll likely be staying with mostly synthetics for the foreseeable future.

Regarding wool & fire, one place I've been thinking the fire-resistant properties of wool would really shine is in a simple pair of liner gloves. I've only recently started doing a little winter camping and noticed last year at one camp that I was melting little holes in the fingers of my liners by tending to the fire. Obviously this wasn't an injury concern, but I started thinking a pair of wool liners might be more durable in this respect.
Victory awaits him who has everything in order luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck. Roald Amundsen

#251942 - 10/19/12 04:44 PM Re: Wool clothing [Re: Outdoor_Quest]
Greg_Sackett Offline

Registered: 12/14/01
Posts: 225
Loc: KC, MO
Like Roarmeister I have also had a few synthetics that got pinholes on them from blown embers. And you don't have to get defensive teslin, I don't have anything against synthetics at all. I own and use synthetics that I wear and really like.

I just like wool as well. Smartwool is very nice. I have a couple baselayers that I wear for cycling in the cold that are thin smartwool, and they work great.


#251946 - 10/19/12 05:57 PM Re: Wool clothing [Re: Outdoor_Quest]
ducktapeguy Offline

Registered: 03/28/06
Posts: 358
I've switched from mostly synthetics to merino wool for general purpose use. Technically, I still think synthetics are better, so if I was backpacking long distances, synthetics would probably be my first choice. They are lighter, dry faster, non-allergenic, and feel better for most people. But the one reason I switched has nothing to do with survival or performance. Wool just doesn't stink as much when you can't wash it. This doesn't seem very important until you have to smell yourself after a few days of not showering. So for traveling, desert camping, or anywhere else you might not be able to wash regularly, that's a pretty big plus. I've heard some of the newer synthetics are better in this regard, but the wool clothing I have beats all the synthetics I've used.

Also, I have been careless and dumb at times, and have had nylon burn my skin. It is not a fun experience, because the natural reaction is to pick it up or brush it off, which only results in two burns instead of one. Luckily it was only dumb enough to teach me a lesson, while not being stupid enough to cause serious injury. It doesn't stop me from wearing synthetic clothing, just taught me to be a lot more careful around hot objects with it. So something as simple as putting on tire chains near a hot exhaust, or having to reach into an engine compartment with a hot manifold, or even cooking around a liquid fuel stove, causes me to stop and sometimes change clothes just to be safe.

#251947 - 10/19/12 06:00 PM Re: Wool clothing [Re: Outdoor_Quest]
Outdoor_Quest Offline

Registered: 08/17/09
Posts: 305
Loc: Central Oregon
I too enjoy the Marino wool products. Part of my baselayer.

While elk hunting (temps in the mid 40's) I had shifted my pants to a ploy blend (REI product, no cotton). After working my way through bogs, creeks beds and getting thoroughly wet all I needed to do was wring out the wool blend socks and allow my pants to air dry.

Light wool pants today as I head out for an afternoon elk hunt.



#251950 - 10/19/12 07:14 PM Re: Wool clothing [Re: Outdoor_Quest]
Am_Fear_Liath_Mor Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/03/07
Posts: 3078
I know wool is very versitle but does it still have a place in the back country

Perhaps wool clothing is even more important not only in the back country but even in everyday use due to the greater dangers for transport and the potential for suburban and city fires within the home, office and workplace.

There are some really high performance synthetic and wool garments available for the wilderness. Just choose what works for the conditions and your preference.

For example a Merino Wool Sweater such as a Harkila Clifford Cardigan with a Goretex Windstopper lining makes an excellent replacement for Windproof Polyester fleece. Keeping both wool and synthetics dry is important to keep insulation properties. This can be achieved with a Umbrella in rainy ambient wind conditions and a Goretex Shell in rainy windy conditions.

Even a Merino sweater such as the Columbia Sportsware Exploratory Sweater combined with a Cotton Ventile Windproof will work over quite a range of temperatures.

I do like Merino Wool as I find it tends to regulates body temperature over a wider range of weather conditions than synthetics. Wool can be very comfortable and warm just like cotton. To keep it dry is the trick to keep warm just as with the synthetics and down feathers.

When conditions are very dry such as 0F then even down feathers start to become very useful for insulation.

For cold weather I also like my Laksen Knitted Wool Hat with Goretex lining.


A thin merino wool glove liner is nice to have as well even under a waterproofed synthetic glove.

There are some really nice comfortable and functional high technology wool clothing out there. Synthetics do tend to somewhat lighter in weight though but also a lot more stinky when worn for a time in the back woods. wink

Edited by Am_Fear_Liath_Mor (10/19/12 07:18 PM)

#251973 - 10/20/12 06:43 PM Re: Wool clothing [Re: Outdoor_Quest]
wileycoyote Offline

Registered: 03/01/11
Posts: 296
Loc: eastern Oregon & west TX
i've worn merino wool socks year 'round forever, and 30 years ago wool was all i wore in winter. i was one serious Filson fan (in wool and canvas).

that was until i took a rafting trip down the Snake with two close friends (also traditionally in wool), and a bunch of younger folks all in modern fancy "plastic" clothing (yuck!).

in wool, we could never dry out. we felt clammy and awful all the time, always very cold. everyone in plastic dried out in minutes, they were always warm and comfy.

for the entire trip we were wet, even big evening fires didn't help.

so yes, wool is much much better than cotton (or cotton canvas) when wet.

wool is much safer around fire.

wool is better smelling than poly. (i'd rather smell like a wet dog than a horrible men's locker-room)

wool is tougher and longer lasting.

but poly can keep me much warmer if wet.

poly dries out very quickly.

poly is lighter weight.

poly shells can be made more rainproof.

thus, there is room for both, depending on conditions.


#251974 - 10/20/12 07:05 PM Re: Wool clothing [Re: Outdoor_Quest]
spuds Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 06/24/12
Posts: 822
Loc: SoCal Mtns
Well balanced thread,I say this a lot,thank you for the education.

#251994 - 10/21/12 06:42 AM Re: Wool clothing [Re: hikermor]
MostlyHarmless Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 06/03/09
Posts: 982
Loc: Norway
Originally Posted By: hikermor
My impression is that wool absorbs more water than synthetics and becomes significantly heavier.

Yes, it does. Wool attracts water. Wring it, bash it - there's still plenty of water in it. Similar treatment to a fleece or most other sythetic fabrics will give you a semi-dry result.

Wool IS heavier than, say fleece. Wet or dry. I'd say how much more weight you add for a wet piece of material really depends on what kind of garment you're talking about. I can wring my wool socks or long johns pretty much to a semi-halfway dry state where the weight difference really isn't what I call significant. But a big bulky wool sweater is close to impossible to wring out properly.

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