I've been doing the outdoor thing - backpacking, canoeing, rock-climbing, XC skiing - since the seventies. We prided ourselves on our wool knickers and Wilderness Experience Klettersacks, but when fleece products came along, we jumped on board. (Patagonia was the first fleece jacket I remember. Pilled like crazy, but really warm and tough.) In fact, gear-junkies that we were, we jumped on all the technological improvements that came along.
But now I miss a good pair of Dachstein wool mitts and thick wool sweaters. It used to be easy to pick up these things up at the local gear shop, but now they're tough to find in quality good enough for hiking, etc. With the environmental problems associated with synthetics, isn't it time for the outdoor industry to return to the sustainable and natural wonder-fiber - wool?
C'mon REI, lead the way. Bring back the knitted sweater.
By the way, I still have those stylin' wool knickers. They even still fit!
I started out years agowearing wool. It was, and still is, pretty good, but over time I have switched to synthetics - more durable,as warmer if not warmer, easier to care for. As for the enironment, I still have and use the Patagonia fleece I purchased in 1981. I would have worn out several wool garments in that time.
Go wool if you like, but I wouldn't lose any sleep over the issue...
I second this. I bought an Eddie Bauer fleece wind breaker jacket about the same time (early 1980s) that's still going strong. The jacket's been in the washing machine 100s of times. The nylon has faded from exposure to the sun. The zipper has been repaired a couple of times. But the jacket remains fully functional.
Some years later I bought a similar jacket on sale as a spare to use when the original wore out. It's still in the closet waiting to be deployed.
I like wool too and I still have some wool sweaters, including an expensive Peter Storm oiled-wool British military style. But I find that I never wear them because they take more effort to put on and far more care to keep clean. They're also not nearly as warm as fleece when they're wet.
For me it's fleece for the win, er, long run.
@TomIrvine Thanks for the post!
I, too, find that wool is the best performer in all conditions and that the extra investment in cost and care in laundering is well worth the investment. I'm including some links to a few items you might like as wool is still as high a performer as it always has been, it just might be in a little bit different form than you're used to. If you haven't checked out some of REI's Power Wool items I think you'll appreciated them as much as I do!
and a few of the classics:
Unfortunately the last two are on clearance as they were last year's styles. But if you keep your eye out you may find that another brand might bring the style back.
Thanks for the great topic!
I wore my wool climbing/skiing knickers out years ago but still have and use my Dachsteuns. I picked of a British military grade wool sweater at a thrift shop in Oban, Ireland about ten years ago and love it. What I really want to see in contemporary products is a longer length, as recommended by Paul Petzoldt, long enough to sit on and long enough to bend over without it exposing one’s back.
I was looking for a light fleece with reduced bulk in mind for urban travel. I'm a thrift store aficionado and found a Merino wool long sleeve polo shirt that layers up like a dream and works as well for urban dress as it does for outdoor activities. I have found Brooks Brothers, Banana Republic and Nordstrom for $12 each. I'm in search of the perfect cardigan and I don't care if I do look like Mr. Roger!
I found a nice 80/20 wool/poly German Comando sweater in new condition. Perfect. It's a nice hefty wool blend. I even like the color (olive drab). It has a convenient pocket for pen and glasses. The German flags came off the shoulders with some careful work with a seam-ripper.
Totally relevant comment. Emerging science on micro-plastics is troubling. Even Lake Tahoe has micro-plastic pollution problems, likely from synthetic materials like polar fleece, polyester, neoprene, gortex, and other synthetic, plastic-based fabrics which shed micro-fragments of plastic as they age.
Wool Sweater Alert!
Here are a few more options that I recently found on our website.
Hope you have a chance to #optoutside today!
Yeah, I saw that REI now has a good page-worth of wool sweaters to choose from. Some of them looked pretty good!