Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Little Wool-vangelism

I devote a fair amount of time, effort and money... oh yes, the money... in my quest for the perfect clothing and gear for the things I do. And I like to keep things as simple as possible. For example, I have always said that if a garment requires more care than just a quick run through the washer and dryer, then it doesn’t get to live in my closet.

It was with great reluctance that I allowed some wool to come into my life. A few years ago when I was preparing to hike the West Coast Trail, someone recommended Merino wool. The West Coast Trail is a grueling, multi-day backpack requiring that you carry as little clothing with you as possible (and, of course, no opportunity to shower). Merino was recommended for its ability to take the abuse and keep on... not stinking. You gotta do what you gotta do.

One of my West Coast Trail garments - a green sweater - became an essential item for a lot of my hikes, and even for my cycle commute in to work. I love that sweater, and since I’d already taken the plunge with allowing wool, I accumulated a small amount of other pieces.

Then, this past fall, in a moment of mindlessness, I accidentally ran the green sweater through the wash on the warm cycle. It came out... uh... small-child size. GAH!!! It was at that exact moment that I realized just how important my green wool sweater had become to me. It was perfect! Right down to its top-to-bottom direction pocket zippers. And I ruined it!! I tried to stretch it back into shape, but it was beyond hope.

I have consistently had problems with other fabrics. All the fleece and polypro and other fancy fabrics that the outdoor stores flog for proper comfort in the outdoors did not do what they purported. I know a lot of people who swear by them, but I decided that I must have magical non-wicking sweat because I consistently became chilled during events (due to the layer of sweat being held against my body by my “wicking” clothing), and especially after events when I felt like I would never be warm again.

A couple months ago, I went out snow shoeing with a wool base layer, then one of my Helly Hanson Merino hoodies, the green sweater’s replacement (a lovely, but inferior in a couple of ways, orange 1970’s-reminiscent wool sweater), then my outer shell. Wool, wool, and wool. And, to my amazement, I stayed warm and dry throughout the event AND in the vehicle after the event! Wool, wool, and wool. Wool, wool, and wool became my mantra, and the only thing I would step into the outdoors with, particularly in winter.

I love finding a solution to a long-standing problem. Even if it does require special care, I guess. Thanks to Value Village and Goodwill, I’ve added a few more wool pieces to ensure that I’m never without. My other “perfect solution” to date is Lole Traveler’s Pants, which I wear nearly every day because I can travel (or commute in them on my bike) and they still look like great business pants!

As I write this, I’m looking at the green sweater... soaked and stretched over my stuffed backpack in a second attempt to bring it back to its original size. Wish it luck... I would sure love to wear it again! And I promise to be more careful washing it in future. It can live in my closet as long as it likes.