Wool is warm, right? Well, it was definitely hot at this year’s ISPO exhibition in Munich. We counted more than 20 providers of woolen-only apparel, excluding the Chinese brands. There is a good reason behind this sheep wool lovin’ revolution. Wool is just a wonderful material.
Walk intensively for 20 minutes on an inclined surface, such as a hill, with a backpack on, the sun shining above you, and tell me what is it that your body produces the most. Sweat. Lots of it. This is also true in winter, because we tend to overdress for winter adventures. (Remember, Momma always used to say you will be cold no matter how many sweaters you put on.) Then, stop for a rest, on a ridge, feeling the slight breeze. Next thing you know, you are shivering.
You might wonder: what is this guy talking about? Of course I will be shivering. My 50 euro technical T-shirt is all wet and I just need to change it with the spare one I’ve got in my backpack. In reality, you need to do that only if you are wearing a cotton or synthetic garment.
How wool breads
Wool is different. It is a hygroscopic fiber. Wool takes up moisture in the form of vapor. It can easily absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp. The capacity to absorb moisture makes wool a temperature regulator because it can protect the body in both cold and warm conditions. Wool absorbs moisture and releases it to a drier environment as it creates a balance in moisture conditions.
Why is it important to to stay dry? Water transfers heat a lot more effectively than air does. If your body is wet, you’ll feel colder. As water is transferred from your body into the wool fiber, energy is released in the form of heat. This has a warming effect to your body. In summer, as the air around wool fibre is heated, wool releases the moisture from within the fibre as vapor, absorbing energy in return, which has a cooling effect. In fact, wool thermal properties are so brilliant, it is used also for building insolation (New Zealand’s Terra Lana is producing wool bland insolation for buildings).
Some excellent information on wool properties is available on the Canadian Co-operative of growers FAQ page.
Scandinavian wool brands
Back to ISPO. Skisharki managed to talk to some of the really cool brands that produce woolen outdoor apparel. Many of them Scandinavian. Aclima, Woolpower, and Northern Playground all offer some pretty innovative woolen products that will catch your attention.
Where is all the wool used in these nice Scandinavian products coming from? Only a small fraction of the wool needed for the production is originating in Scandinavia. The largest wool producers worldwide are Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.There are over 200 breeds of sheep in the world, and most of these are results of cross breeding. You may be familiar with merino wool? The name comes from Merino sheep, which is a Spanish sheep breed. Over half of the world’s sheep are pure Merino or a crossbreed of Merino – which yields excellent wool. Merino wool is very fine-fibered wool, so fine in fact that the wool does not itch.
In addition to extensive winter lines, lightweight merino wool products are also offered for summer activities. The below chart illustrates the versatility of wool in different temperatures:
We also tested some of Northern Playground’s zippered products and found them very practical and ground breaking. These clever garments are easy to remove without the need to take your over-pants or ski boots off. So when your booty gets wet, you can be in a dry pair in no time (you just have to find a place to hide and change – you don’t wanna do it in the middle of a ski run).
Kids are thought of as well
Kids garments are also something you have hard time finding in Bulgaria. Even large retailers such as Decathlon are running out of kids items in no time. More and more people are recreating outdoors with their little ones. Making sure your offspring is warm and dry is essential. Take Aclima or Didriksons for example. These brands have more kids items than all the stores in Sofia combined.
Even before going to the ISPO we had the idea to concentrate on importing quality woolen sports clothing. Seeing, feeling, and testing the technical woolen apparel strengthened our decision. Skisharki advocates practicality. Our philosophy is to never offer something that we wouldn’t personally buy. We own too many fancy technical synthetic first layers that scrub the bottom of the shelves. Wool is the supreme material for outdoor activities. It is sustainable, durable, and comfortable in all seasons. I am getting to like this wool revolution even just by writing about it. What do you think?
If you are interested in more cool facts about wool, you can download a fact sheet here.
Skisharki is about to open it’s first shop in Sofia this autumn.
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