Sep 5, 2008 at 12:39 pm #1231035
@sewing_machineLocale: Yorkshire, England
I'm allergic to wool and am concerned that I am missing out with not being able to wear merino? I guess in terms of odours, and 'warm when wet' (say when you take your rucksack off and have a drenched back).
Would silk do the job as well as wool? Are there any synthetic materials that are as good? Or should I just get used to constant itching and wear merino?Sep 5, 2008 at 12:52 pm #1450141
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
My experience is that silk isn't as good as wool or the better synthetics. I think that there are several synthetics which have excellent performance characteristics. There are two things you raised: odor resistance and "warm when wet". In my experience, synthetics with sufficent X-static or VisaEndurance (basically putting silver into the material) is as odor resistant as wool. There was a thread here about odor resistance which you might find useful.
As to "warm when wet"… I have found that several synthetic base layers work very well at moving moisture away from the skin. They have an advantage over wool in that they tend not absorb less water, so they will completely dry more quickly. The best material I have found is Powerdry. Marmot Driclim seems to perform well (better than several other materials I have used) but I haven't used it enough to say how close to Powerdry it it.
–MarkSep 5, 2008 at 3:07 pm #1450160
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> I am missing out with not being able to wear merino
Australia – land of the Merino sheep…
Me, I wear synthetics. last longer, dry faster, warmer imho.
Roger from AustraliaSep 5, 2008 at 3:17 pm #1450162
@mikefaedundeeLocale: Under a bush in Scotland
Australia, land of the merino sheep and Roger.
One of them keeps you very comfortable as a base layer, and the other…..? :)Sep 5, 2008 at 3:48 pm #1450166
@creachenLocale: East Bay
Don't leave out the mighty Patagonia Capilene. Highly breathable, drys easy, feels great on the skin and you can go quite a few days before you stink. Mens large 5.5 oz.Sep 6, 2008 at 1:29 am #1450202
@ptcLocale: The Scottish Highlands
I'd rather wear merino, but there are synthetics out there that don't feel like clingfilm on your skin.
X-Statc fabric is the one to look for, it repels odour very well. I've had a Paramo Cambia baselayer on test and it's a very good fabric in use but after a long day it stinks when it dries.
The lightest weight of Polartec Powerdry is good, the heavier versions feel immediately clammy to me.
As said above Capeline is great against the skin, but Patagonia don't design for tall skinny Euros.
Haglofs, Mammut and Gore Bike Wear use a similar silky smooth synthetic on base layers that is very nice in use, it might be the same fabric rebranded, I should find out. Whatever, it's very good.
I don't use silk becasue nobody makes it to fit me!Sep 6, 2008 at 1:57 am #1450206
Recently I tried out wool and it seems to breathe sooo much better than synthetics.
However, I've found that for similar (mid-weight) products, wool weighs more (while synthetics can be warmer at less weight) AND they don't pack down as easily as a synthetic baselayer can. Synthetics really do seem warmer for the weight and size… but wool just breathes so much better, probably better for sleeping.Sep 8, 2008 at 7:59 pm #1450550
I love the stench resistance of wool and the 'warm when wet' aspect, which I find better than synthetics, but if I were allergic I would definitely go with an odor-resistant synthetic. They are lighter, but in my experience not as warm when wet.
Silk has always seemed cool to me when wet – personally I avoid it for colder conditions, except for activities of short duration where the risk of getting wet is minimal.Sep 9, 2008 at 3:52 pm #1450660
I do find the merino gets a lot more 'humid' than synthetics. So, yes, warm when wet but as others have pointed out this means it also absorbs more moisture.Sep 10, 2008 at 3:25 am #1450716
It is actually the size of the wool fibre that gives Icebreaker etc their silky feel and non-itchy property. At 17 microns or less wool stops being itchy to humans. Merino happens to be the main breed of sheep involved. I love garments and use them the t-shirts during the day and at the end of a long day I change into long sleeved t-shirts with wool long johns and thin wool beanie at night. It is warm, it is nice to get out of my walking clothes, it keeps my bag cleaner but the best thing is – no smell!Sep 10, 2008 at 12:05 pm #1450755
Dan, those of us that are sensitive to wool can't even wear Ice Breaker UltraFine!Sep 10, 2008 at 3:45 pm #1450786
@tarasbulbaLocale: Rocky Mountains
Allison, I didn't know there was an actual allergic reaction to wool…thought it was just a result of pre Merino, scratchy, old school wool. My comisserations.
Silk should not be considered in this day and age, as it loses its structure when wet (sags), holds water much like cotton, and is slow to dry. Hypothermia city in the cold but very comfy in the heat. It was standard fare in the kits of 19th and early 20th century mountaineers (Mallory wore lots of silk). For a long time I used Terramar silk longjohns mostly to keep my sleeping bag clean, but now use SUL merino from BPL, both for this reason and as a base layer.
It seems I alternate between synthetic and merino depending on the length of the trip in order to manage the stink factor. I haven't yet tried capilene, so I still might become a convert to synthetic.Sep 10, 2008 at 3:56 pm #1450787
Monty, you are correct RE: allergic vs sensitive. Most people are sensitive to varying degrees. Some of us are Ultra Sensitive…!Sep 11, 2008 at 10:08 am #1450870
If you are concerned about the environment (and human health), you might want to think twice about base layers that are treated with silver. Patagonia has a little bit of info regarding the issues here: http://www.patagonia.com/web/us/patagonia.go?assetid=10161
Both wool and Capilene synthetics have odor protection that is more environmentally friendly. Perhaps other synthetics manufacturers as well?Sep 11, 2008 at 12:18 pm #1450886
Environmentally friendly seems a difficult thing to quanititate. When I think about the habitat destruction and methane (carbon) emmissions from merino farming, as well as all the pollution and water wasted in obtaining and processing the wool, then add on the shipping etc…I would suspect merino would not be a good choice either!Sep 11, 2008 at 12:37 pm #1450892
I agree. My point was that the environmental impact of odor protection on outdoor clothing is often something that people are not aware of.
At risk of sounding like a Patagonia salesman or employee (I have no ties to them whatsoever other than being a devoted customer), I love the transparency of Patagonia. If you haven't already seen it you should check out their footprint chronicles where they track the environmental impact of a number of their different products: http://www.patagonia.com/web/us/footprint/index.jspSep 11, 2008 at 12:53 pm #1450896
Nice. Thanks for the link and tip Damien.Sep 11, 2008 at 12:58 pm #1450897
@tippymcstaggerLocale: North Texas
Merino v synthetic base is a good question. Even organic cellulose is less than stellar. A similar question has been floating unanswered in my head for years: Down v Polyfill?
CO2 equivalent is fairly easy, but I don't know of a way to weigh this against other values (water use, toxicity, lifecycle, habitat pressure, etc.) I'd think an outdoors-enthusiast group would be very concerned with these other values.
My personal choice (without claim to superior information) is to buy very few cellulose textiles and fewer animal fibers. My synthetic garments last much longer and I am less tempted to put them in the dryer. Now if I could just get them without dyes…
Moderators: if this triggers another discussion on scientific method (or worldview), please delete or edit my post quickly.Sep 11, 2008 at 1:00 pm #1450898
Personal body chemistry maybe, but I do sweat a lot. I've tried Patagonia Capilene, and by the end of a warm day, I can smell myself. By the second day, I can't stand my smell. With Ice Breaker/Ibex/Smartwool, I can go for days and have no offensive smell. It does take longer to dry, as mentioned. But that's a small trade off I can live with. And for me, the wool is much warmer then the synthetics when it begins to cool off.Sep 11, 2008 at 1:10 pm #1450900
I agree Patagonia is making an attempt to be more transparent, but looking just at their wool2 product, I see that even there they are stretching or bending the real environmental costs. To imply that New Zealand's high country merino farmers keep "ratio of head to hectare" low for environmental reasons is just plain wrong. They keep them low because that is all the depleted land can sustain. And most of that land has historically been "reclaimed" from native forests and tussocks lands, displacing native plants and animals. Then there is the carbon emmission from the sheep. A classic illustration of this is the sheep farmer who has sheep on the back of his truck to harness the methane they produce as fuel to run the truck! That's a lot of flatulence!!!! They actually considered charging sheep and cattle farmers a "flatulence tax" at one stage. The farmers were not amused, but it illustrates that it is not a trivial environmental issue.
I am not picking solely on wool, as I know that it is difficult to truly count the environmental costs of most things we make and buy. It's just that I know more about merino manufacture than I do about most synthetics.Sep 11, 2008 at 1:59 pm #1450903
@tippymcstaggerLocale: North Texas
Rangeland policy is very resistant to change in the US as well. The legends are too strong. Few voters live there. Fewer hike there.
Land reclamation: one of my favorite examples of newspeak. It ranks up there with making captured peoples productive.Sep 12, 2008 at 1:53 pm #1450984
@freeradicalLocale: Central TX
Like my subject line pun?
Just wanted to throw another great option into the ring:http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___33509
This is one of the last remnants of Duofold's 85/15 poly/cotton blend. I've tried Capilene, PowerDry, and a bunch of other synthetics; plus Ibex, Icebreaker, and Minus33; AND Outdoor Research's and Zoic's respective poly/wool blends. I've found things to like about all of them, honestly, but what I've linked to above is my all-time favorite. Here's why:
1) Cheaper by a mile
2) Low-maintenance / low-worry (see #1)
3) Fairly odor-resistant (much better than Cap and PowerDry, not quite as good as merino)
4) Feels/looks like cotton (less techy-looking)
5) Breathes and dries as well as I've seen any of them
I'm left not wanting anything more, see? It does everything I need it to. It also gets away with all this feeling pretty sturdy and soft–similar to OR's Sequence series (which get high marks too). Now, I'm a heavy sweater like a lot of you, and I must add the disclaimer that at really high exertion levels and/or hot climates, I have never met a base layer that I haven't completely overwhelmed and soaked. These guys are no different, but they're far and away the cheapest best thing I've found yet.
I'm VERY sad that Duofold doesn't make these anymore.Sep 13, 2008 at 11:43 am #1451033
Ian, I have no doubt the Duofold garments are superb, but they appear to be true "base layers", without collar, snaps, cuffs, etc…in hot weather a lot of us prefer the looser fit and flexibility of a woven rather than knit outer layer. Pockets and collar are a definite must must for me, and if the weather turns cold, then I add an inner layer such as the duofold. Knit clothes as an outer layer are also a no-go zone in rough brush where the snagging is intolerable…
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