Wool has been keeping us warm for centuries. Today we are seeing it increasingly used in a wide range of sport and outdoor clothing.
Its breathability and moisture management abilities, and subsequent temperature regulation support, make it a natural choice for activewear. From yoga to cycling and skiing, wool’s qualities provide comfort and style for active lifestyles across all seasons.
When it comes to dressing for outdoor activities with different levels of intensity, layering your garments is considered the general rule of thumb. Whether it's hiking, climbing or skiing, the wool layering system will help you avoid overheating when working hard, and yet keep you warm and dry when you stop.
Here are the different types of layers that help you adapt to variable conditions and activity level:
Wool base layer
Worn next to the skin its main function is to regulate your body temperature so you stay dry and comfortable, because wool insulates even when wet. Tight fitting garments that move with you are ideal.
Wool mid layer
Worn in the middle as the name implies, this layer helps to keep you warm. A thick wool layer is exceptionally breathable – it captures warm air and prevents sweating underneath your outer layer.
Wool insulation layer
Worn on top, this wool insulating layer shields you from external moisture while allowing body heat and perspiration vapour to escape. Water and wind resistance outer shell fabric are perfect for outerwear.
Using wool products for each layer creates a synergistic layering system, as one of the key attributes of wool is its ability to absorb moisture and vapour. No other fibre can equal the moisture buffering of wool.
Also, wool’s weight-to-warmth ratio offers the most insulation with the least amount of weight, minimising bulk.
As an insulator, wool is excellent at keeping cold out and managing the moisture produced by an active body. The difference between synthetics and wool is that wool absorbs condensation, whereas synthetic fibres hold the water on the surface of the fibre, which dramatically reduces the insulation capability of synthetics.
Wool vs. Synthetics
Wool is a complex fibre, which is naturally hygroscopic. It’s composed of proteins that bring natural flexibility and unmatched performance characteristics – something that simplistic inert synthetic fibres are unable to reproduce.
Additionally, thanks to wool’s antimicrobial properties, wool layers create an environment in which odour producing microbes are less likely to thrive. After high activity, simply ‘air’ the wool garment and the natural action of absorption and desorption of moisture will help cleanse the fibre as opposed to most synthetics which need washing after every use as they collect body odour fast, and it never seems to go away…
There is also a negative side-effect of washing synthetics - the production of micro-plastics pollution. These tiny strands (microfibres) are released when synthetic fabrics are washed, which results in these microscopic pieces of plastic ending up in our water systems, and, ultimately our oceans. It is estimated by Greenpeace that between 15 – 30% of marine plastic pollution comes from micro-plastics.
Increasing consumer demand for natural, high-performance fashion means that advances and innovations in wool technology are likely to continue.
Combined with wool’s natural properties, that synthetics simply can’t match, especially when it comes to moisture management and odour control, we’ll see more cool, lightweight fabrics suitable for active sportwear enter the market.
More than ever before, wool will be a true trans-seasonal fabric.