If you were to tell me your number one reason why you don’t spend more time outdoors in the Winter, what would it be? I would guess it is the same reason I would give… it’s too cold! I know, that’s not very ‘Canadian’ of me, but being cold can sap the fun out of any adventure.
We all know by now the first step to combat this is to wear multiple layers, and I’d even include my top suggestion, which is to wear baselayers. Having a layer next to the skin really makes all the difference! Over the years I’ve tried many base layers ranging from synthetics (which are nice and affordable) to Wool (which always provided the best warmth especially on really cold days). Out of all of them, I would say Wool is the best choice as it has a plethora of benefits…
- Keeps its shape
- Wicks water away from the skin (extremely handy since sweat on the skin cools you down)
- Can absorb 30% of its dry weight without feeling damp… all while still providing warmth.
- Wool’s fibres are an excellent insulator that work against both heat and cold
- Creatine in wool naturally breaks down bad smelling bacteria which makes it self-cleaning. You’re naturally exerting yourself in the wilderness and wool keeps you smelling better, for longer.
Despite being the preferred choice, I find Wool unbearable as it causes me to itch all day long. I also tried Merino Wool, which is offered as the softer solution to people who squirm around in wool and found it no better. Numerous base layer companies have all touted that their garments were anti-itch and much to my chagrin, I found all of them to be equally itchy.
While browsing the internet a while back I came across Woolpower AB, a company that was founded in Östersund (a mountainous region of Sweden) in 1969. They have a line of garments called Ullfrotté that were originally developed in collaboration with the Swedish military and are made from a blend of Merino wool and polyamide/polyester that offer great wear resistance. On the website, there was one paragraph in particular that caught my eye and enticed me to try their clothing…
(Note: Ullfrotté Original is 22 microns)
Was it marketing speak, or had I been missing this valuable hint as to why so many wool under layers ended up in the back of my closet, never to be worn again? I decided to go all-in and try the 200 g/m² Ullfrotté Original top and bottom as well as a pair of 800 g/m² socks and put them to the test on my snowshoeing and Winter camping trips. Many of the garments come in different thicknesses (200, 400, 600 and 800 g/m) and if these couldn’t keep me warm on the coldest days and nights in the wilderness, I’d give up on wool altogether.
Since your body is what is producing all of the heat, having a nice wool layer next to your skin is an excellent way to trap it there. The more air you can keep still around the body, the more heat you can retain. The stretchy Woolpower baselayer hugged my body and was form fitting.
At no point do you get that uncomfortable static 'clinging' effect you feel from synthetics. The crew top is a little longer at the back preventing drafts and there are no lengthwise seams on any of the clothing that would result in chaffing points.
Stepping into the frosty wilderness I noticed how the thicker baselayer also provided a warm buffer beneath my outer layers. Something that shielded me throughout my trips despite the dropping temperatures.
All day long they were comfortable, never felt damp, and made the outdoors in the Winter that much more enjoyable.
The main test however was to determine how itchy would it make me feel on my adventures and I must say that it was far better than I hoped. Carrying a full backpack would ordinarily cause my shoulders to flare up, but that was never the case. Snowshoeing through heavy snow would usually heat me up and cause my pores to open, another opportunity for wool to make me itch all over, but again, the Woolpower didn't cause any irritation.
There were still little niggles every now and again that would make me think I'd need to itch, but the difference is night and day. Not only was the Woolpower baselayers making the difference to enjoy the cold temperatures, my greatest proponent for choosing a synthetic went out the window. If you suffered from the wool itch like I did, I highly reccomend Woolpower.