Woollen clothing for the hills and mountains.
I've searched and searched but can I find anyone talking about this topic? No I can't!
So let me ask my learned friends here.... Woollen clothing for hill and mountain work - yes or no?
Personally I like wool.. I've worn it for survival training down to about minus 10c in Sweden and Norway. Merino is popular these days but does anyone wear wool for midlayers or beyond?
Early climbers and explorers all wore wool so why don't we? Are we gear heads sucked in by modern sales hype and that ever present snobbery of the 'we know better' types or is it that modern synth fabrics are really better?
Also as a side line, what about the climate? Do we ignore the petrochemical process used to make our synthetic fabrics or do we with embrace a cleaner green alternative?
Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
Guess I'm an "early climber and explorer then"!
It's heavy, stinks, rubs you sore, takes ages to dry, lets water through and encourages sheep farming which is about the most destructive agricultural activity going.
Cheers Jim maybe not an early climber but definately a early replies.
Noted all of the above but have to say apart from 'rubs you sore' I've had similar experiences with synthetic kit as well.
I think letting water through is part of the deal... That's why God invented goretex... Then again nothings perfect not even that.
For cragging, i wear a thin woolen jumper (merino/cashmere blend) under a windproof layer. It's soft, warm, light and stretchy (and full of holes). It also ties neatly around my waist. I have many synthetic alternatives, but I keep going back to it
I quite like wool but I also run pretty hot and sweaty so I save it for slower paced days, what works really well is a byerne style string top combined with a merino layer, this keeps the wool off your skin and it drys much quicker.
Given the sales price of a fleece from farms ewed think they'd be ramming it into every type of clothing they could.
Sorry, anyway Dachstein mitts have a very specific use, but almost as good as synthetics.
Lol thanks ExiledScot, agreed. Maybe the outdoor industry is missing a trick there as I'm sure if Rab or berghaus and the like started plugging wool gear far more people would be wearing it.
Wood is a good insulator on houses. Also put it around plants, it works like a mulch to stop drying out and those evil slugs don't like it. Or put a few handfuls of trimmings on the new growth of young planted trees and deer don't nibble them.
My problem with heavier wool is care of it. Fleeces win on the easy wash and dry, heavier wool is a bit of an adventure every time. Merino is pretty widespread and available for base layers and lightweight kit, but it's hard to find tight knit or felted wool jumpers and they're a bit of an investment... which makes the tricky aftercare more of hurdle.
Generally synthetics are harder wearing.
While many synthetics and wool are still warm when wet its also been claimed that wet wool gives off heat......I can't imagine it's really enough to be useful and it must require more heat to dry it again.
Then there's wool allergies, and of course moths....
> [It] stinks...
It has a distinctive smell, but I wouldn't say it stinks compared with a smelly-helly. Wool's lack of stink makes it very attractive for multi-day use compared to synthetics.
I've used thin merino baselayers for years. They can be worn for days without stinking, and never pick up that long-term pong that synthetics get in the end. They don't dry quite as quickly as synthetic, but not far off. I've never found they rub or itch at all, and while they have a few holes in them these days they still work fine after 10 years regular use. I use synthetic layers for fleece, the only issue I've had is the wool/synthetic mix seems to get more static charge, which you notice when changing layers.
> They may be unfashionable these days, but there's little wrong with Dachstein mittens.
> Otherwise, no. Wool is best avoided.
I bought a couple of wool jumpers last winter to replace some of my fleeces because of the problem of fleece shedding micro plastic pollution into the water supply with every wash. Not sure what to replace the lightweight fleeces with, unless I find a very thin wool jumper.
> I bought a couple of wool jumpers last winter to replace some of my fleeces because of the problem of fleece shedding micro plastic pollution into the water supply with every wash. Not sure what to replace the lightweight fleeces with, unless I find a very thin wool jumper.
Merino base layers come in a range of weights. The lightest can be quite light, although possibly not quite as light as a very light synthetic base layer.
Alternatively, silk thermals are very light, popular with skiers.
For cragging, bouldering, and life I love a wooly jumper. I tried a woolpower mid layer for a bit in scotland. The extra water holding capability of wool makes a noticeable difference once you're above a few hundred grams of base layer so i sadly went back to a fleece. I use my merino base layers pretty much everywhere. And who wouldn't be without a pair of dachsteins? They are warm, stick to wet rock, and are cheap. (of course modified with wrist straps so you can pull them off quickly for cams etc.)
> A soaking wet Norwegian pullover is a different matter to poncy merino underwear, an evening in the Padarn used to smell like a sheep farm.
I had one of those oiled wool heavy "Norlander" labelled ones that I lived in for about 6 years through university mountaineering club and beyond. Practically worked like a Buffalo, though maybe my friends were too polite to tell me the downside (or all smelt the same). It eventually died of washing and I could never find a replacement. I wonder if it would live up to my fond memories of it or if I've been spoilt since by real buffalos...
If you were the guy in there in red woolly socks beside me in 1973 after I'd done Cenotaph Corner in the pouring rain then yes, the guy the other side was Cliff Phillips.
> I've searched and searched but can I find anyone talking about this topic?
Merino was a hot topic for a few years. Then everyone figured out that it wasn't robust, and went back to synthetics. Well, I did, anyway.
Yes - the iconic Guernsey jumper for the following reasons:-
1) It's made from worsted wool, so relatively resistant to pulls and pilling compared to 'normal' woollen garments
2) The wool is 'oiled' (with lanolin) which gives it DWR-like properties. It will keep you dry in anything up to light rain.
3) The commercial ones are quite a tight knit but you could knit your own even tighter.
4) It has no front or back and thus takes twice as long to wear out if you wear it different ways round. You can also unravel it and re-knit it to repair damage. Some are made as front, back and arms, so replacing a whole arm is possible for example.
5) It doesn't get smelly. I wear one daily for work and it gets washed in techwash twice a year.
Cons - relatively heavy compared to a fleece and takes longer to dry. Probably more prone to pulls than a fleece. Relatively expensive (£80+ nowadays, mine cost me ~£55). Itchy, but some people can cope with that, others can't. Long-sleeved shirt with collar underneath generally solves the problem, or if you just want one for fashion reasons you can get cotton ones. The itchiness results in some secondhand bargains from people wanting to sell theirs on. If anyone wants a genuine one then there are only 2 options - Guernsey Woollens, or Le Tricoteur are the only commercial manufacturers left in the island. They are also made in other places cashing in on the 'brand'.
Trekking in the Himalaya several of us used thin merino t shirts successfully. They didn't smell (much) after 12 days. However, we weren't working hard enough to build up a big sweat. I tried a merino base layer when sea kayaking and, once I stopped, I got very cold because it was very damp with sweat, so I've gone back to a thin synthetic. Walking/climbing in winter I use a thin, wicking, synthetic top next to the skin with a merino wool long sleeved zip top on top of that, which works very well for me. However, for casual wear I have gone back wearing wool sweaters to cut down the need for more fleeces.
> If anyone wants a genuine one then there are only 2 options - Guernsey Woollens, or Le Tricoteur are the only commercial manufacturers left in the island.
Thanks - I’ve been looking for a replacement for my ~30 year old Scottish woolly that’s looking a bit tired. Some of those could fit the bill nicely!
> Wool's lack of stink makes it very attractive for multi-day use compared to synthetics.
Even same day it can have advantages. When I cycled to work I preferred merino since sticking it back on at the end of the day was a tad more pleasant than doing the same with a synthetic top.
I asked this question a few years ago: https://www.ukhillwalking.com/forums/gear/woolly_jumpers-694036
...and on the back of it, bought "Norway's most popular wool sweater?" - https://www.ulvang.com/en/women/wool-sweaters/rav-sweater-wzip/?item=77005-10005 - and went outside in winter.
Verdict: wool is genuinely great when there's no chance of it getting thoroughly soaked. Probably at its best on cold, dry days, but works in most situations.
I'm a knitter so a huge fan of anything woolly. But I stick to commercial merino for outdoorsy stuff because it's easier to layer than a heavy worsted weight jumper and I tend to run warm. I adore my merino though. I got a really nice 250 weight smartwool top last Xmas and it's officially my favourite thing in the world - stretchy sleeves, long zip for temperature regulation and a well fitting hood. I pretty much lived in it for a week and a half on my Lewis climbing trip earlier this year and it barely smelled by the end of it. I do have a penchant for (and a large collection of) hand-knitted woolly hats as they don't have the same issues of making me overheat or being a pain to hand-wash.
P.S. I actually quite like the sheepiness of a nice woolly jumper. I knit with a lot of minimally processed undyed wool and I'm always sad when the lanolin smell wears off.
In winter I've always worn Icelandic jumpers. I knit my own. Super easy and take me less than five evenings to complete. Lightweight and don't smell even after numerous hill days. I air them after use and generally only wash once a year.
I'm in favour of sensible and suitable use of wool, while it doesn't fit every use case it has its place and I think it's under rated. I would wear it myself but I'm allergic and itch in the most urgent/painful way possible, even low prickle factor, not even if it's mixed in a little in socks, can't wear them
Was reading the thread with interest wondering if jimtitt would respond to your comments about microplastic when washing synthetic or synthetic mix clothes (which was my first thought reading this thread). Unless I missed it nobody responded his suggestion yet that sheep farming is damaging with the suggestion that it might be.. but it's also responsible for much landscape in UK that's most celebrated. If sheep farming ended how would big sections of the Lake District, Wales, Y Dales, Skye, and an enormous list of other places look in 20 years from now... bracken probably.
Problem is most people have forgotten how to properly layer natural fabrics.
With wool jumpers you really need to understand the ply of the yarn at least.
I've got a single ply Shetland jumper - as worn on the 1952 Everest jolly... Its warmer and lighter than a thin fleece.
My 60 odd year old (older than me) Arran is 10 ply.... Thick, heavy and very, very warm. Too warm most of the time.
For baselayers you need to consider the Bradford count of the yarn
Yes I read it at the time and had mixed views. Some farms have tennant farmers and are owned by rich absent landlords but many are family run over many generations. Would you like to tell someone on a multi-generation farm that you are going to (further) restrict what they can do and have done for generations? It's not like they have it easy, there's not much money in those farms, all because non farmers decided it was "better". Yes I agree that there's limited biodiversity but you could say the same of most arable farms, should we ban wheat?
I think the comparison in the article you linked to be "difficult" at best. The big US national parks have huge areas that weren't ever intensively farmed before they were established, did Muir and Whitman etc survey areas that had been intensively farmed for hundreds of years, no they were looking to preserve wilderness (and it's biodiversity). I think that incomparable to say the formation of the Peak District National Park (for example). Comparison of these areas to true wilderness in the Americas is a romantic delusion, a commendable way to think (far better than than commercial cynicism), but not actually accurate.
Felt. Boiled wool, that's where its at I feel. I've a nice rampant yak felted hoody that is basic but tough as old boots which I can layer with my mum's old M & S cashmere jumper, light as gossamer, if I feel like it (rarely I have to say ).
Personally I'm not anti farming, living in Cornwall we have recently seen a decline in farming and the result is farmers selling the land and housing estates popping up. I would hate to see areas of the lakes etc go into similar decline and turned to new housing. If that's the future then the hills we love will disappear and urban crawl will take over.
I love wool, mainstay in winter, great under a waterproof shell. Still using jumpers I've had for 20+ years. Using a silk base layer keeps the itch off, but I've got jumpers that don't itch.
Compared to synthetics, wool smells much much less. I mean some wool smells like wool, but most of it is treated to not have that farmy smell. Can't believe anyone would say synthetics smell less. My synthetic base layers reek after half a day's use, would never take them on multi-day walks.
The care is easier as well: I hand wash my jumpers maybe once a year, piece of piss. Also wool is a natural fibre, not a form of plastic.
I don't understand the anti-farming stance some have. Being anti-farming is basically like being anti-feeding yourself. And yes, intensive farming and bad practices are bad whether it's sheep or soybeans.
You are conflating a view against sheep farming with anti-farming. Ask a farmer about it, sheep are right up there with goats as the most destructive animal you can put on agricultural land, specifically due to the way they eat the grass, their feet and their herd instinct. The sheep wars in the USA were ranchers protecting the grazing lands from sheep farming.
> Yes I agree that there's limited biodiversity but you could say the same of most arable farms, should we ban wheat?
I guess the issue here is that for arable farming the amount of food produced per hectare is relatively high. So it's 'worth' the biodiversity loss. Conversely, upland sheep farming modifies a vast proportion of upland Britain but only provides a tiny proportion of our collective diet. So the economic and environmental price we pay for sheep farming - subsidies, erosion of peatlands, biodiversity loss, prevention of woodland regeneration, unacceptability of top predators - seems less worthwhile.