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Is Merino Wool Really Worth the Effort?

Posted on Monday, December 7th, 2015, By London Holborn
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icebreaker-merinoMy family spent time at a cottage, but did not camp. At age 14 my first real canoe-camping trip was 5 days and 4 nights of rain. Unaware that cotton was probably the worst material for that weather, it is a wonder I did not fall victim to hypothermia as I was drenched the entire time.  If it had not been for the utterly breathtaking scenery of Georgian Bay Canada, and the satisfaction of accomplishing such an adventure in the wilderness, I may have called it quits after that trip.  I’m pretty sure I had to throw out most of the clothing I had taken, and I imagine I am not the only one to have been ready to throw in the towel after being in uncomfortable clothing on a trip.

Appropriate clothing is key to maintaining comfort while engaging in outdoor activities and I suggest investing in some versatile key pieces that you can use for a variety of conditions.  If there is a chance you will be exposed to precipitation or perspiration, avoid cotton to avoid conductive heat loss.  When it cotton is wet, it literally drains the heat away from your body into the wet cotton, and because it holds 10x its weight in water, this process could go on for ages.

The key piece of kit that I cannot depart for any trip without is my Icebreaker Bodyfit 200 Oasis Crew.  200 means 200 grams per square metre, and is an excellent all season baselayer. With comfort features such as raglan sleeves and flatlock stitching to reduce bulk aside, the wonder of merino wool can be experienced allowing you to focus on your activity! Icebreaker claims that merino wool is warm when its wet and regulates your body temperature. Sound too good to be true? I’ve tested it. When my colleagues at a camping store in Canada went white water rafting in 10° water, many of us insulated our wetsuits with Icebreaker. Merino clothing is deceptively efficient: the fibres are hollow and that’s what holds the heat, allowing for thin, but effective thermal insulation. Conductive heat loss? Goodbye! I absolutely detest wearing wet clothing, but merino makes it bearable! So much so, that I prefer to wear my Oasis Crew and a breathable nylon shell to cycle in wet weather because it keeps me warm and facilitates the perspiration process rather than building up clammy moisture inside a waterproof.

In my opinion, I can say that Icebreaker merino wool meets customer expectations promoted by the brand. If you have not yet tried merino, this is one to start what will soon become a collection with. For extreme cold conditions, you can pair a 320 layer to your 200 baselayer – you’ll be amazed at how the material works seamlessly together to create efficient warmth! At Cotswold Outdoor, we offer a range of sizes for men and women – why not test it out on your own trip and let us know how it goes?