Get Smart, Get Wool Written by Mike.G on November 23rd, 2011

Whatever form of exercise you choose to pursue, base layers play one of the most critical and intimate roles in your gear selection. Critical, because they keep you safe by managing temperature and moisture. Intimate, because they deliver comfort and are in constant contact with your skin. After years of trying various base layer options, I’ve finally settled on the unmatched performance of sustainable wool products. US Outdoor carries two of the best brands in the wool industry; Smartwool and Icebreaker.

Midweight in Wallowa's

Midweight in Wallowa's


As far as temperature management goes, wool can keep you warm when you need insulation, while maintaining the ability to cool you off when your activity level creates too much heat. This dual function comes from the natural wool fiber’s capacity to hold its three dimensional shape, thus trapping warm air. At the same time, wool is able to wick moisture away from your skin, and deliver it to the outer surface of the fabric. From there, the moisture absorbs your body’s heat so that it can evaporate away, thus cooling you off just like natural sweating is supposed to.

The neat thing about Icebreaker and Smartwool is that they have designed their clothing to fit closely to the body so that this insulation and cooling occurs “next to skin”. One of the best things about this is that wool never really feels wet. It just holds and releases the moisture as it is in constant contact. The clothing never hangs loose or sticks to itself. Additionally, the fabric naturally dries quickly, so after sweating, the clothes dry quicker than any other fabric on the market.

Microlight in Hells Canyon

Microlight in Hells Canyon


Both of these brands are newly designed to make wool feel soft and comfortable. Additionally wool is naturally antimicrobial. Sweat is a moist, nutrient source for bacteria. Sweaty clothes are a bacterial haven. This is precisely why they begin to smell bad almost immediately after exercise. Wool clothing impresses with its capability to remain odor free. This is particularly beneficial for people who spend long days working hard, or for those who spend multiple days using the same clothing.

Heavyweight on Lake Michigan

Heavyweight on Lake Michigan


When shopping for wool products, it helps to look at the weight of the products. Each company has similar language describing the thickness and warmth of their gear. Terms like micro-light, mid-weight, or heavyweight are common. Items you can find at US Outdoor include underwear, socks, bottom and top base layers, sweaters, hats, and gloves. If you are adding any of these to your collection of clothing this fall or winter, then include Icebreaker and Smartwool in your search. Simply put, natural wool outperforms synthetics when all factors are taken into account.

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