Mark Ellis wrote:As I get older my immunity to cold is diminishing (Dammit!) so I am testing new layers, looking for maximum warmth for minimum weight and bulk. I have always been impressed with and relied on high tech stuff (polar tech, gortex, etc.) but recently I have gone old school: wool. Ya know that stuff from sheep which is as old as, well, sheep.
I remember wool from my childhood (roughly the middle ages) as being itchy as hell. Wool has come a long way. Some wool blends are not itchy (smartwool) and some of the more expensive wool products (cashmere, merlino) are not either. Itchiness is less of an issue for a layer which doesn't come into direct contact with skin as well. Since my dabbling in wool is still recent I'm not sure how adaptable it is to different conditions but I'm initially encouraged with the socks, hats and sweaters/windshirts I am testing.
Polar Tech (spun polyester) seems to be much worse at blocking wind but much better at breathing/temperature moderating/not overheating than wool. Polyester is also bulkier but lighter than wool. We have not yet had bitter cold this year so more tests await.
-13F on Friday with little wind and i've never been as warm thanks to new gear. This was not playing only commuting and since i did not need to wade in the snow getting sweaty was no problem. Plastic breathes more and wicks better than wools of different types. Since i needed to wait for the bus there was little point in wearing skin cooling plastic base layer. It is great for staying _warmer_ when sweating like on the rounds.
Standing in place alone wool, Merino in my case, is great for staying warm. I had Swedish made Woolpower socks of 100 % Merino wool weighing 800 grams per square meter and long johns weighing 400. I had a thin Merino beanie under a thick Thinsulate reinforced beanie and a hood of the jacket on with gloves inside of Halti mittens and i was not cold at all anywhere but the nose and upper cheeks. The hood has a flap that goes in front of the chin and lower lip reducing wind chill more than you'd believe.
The plastics do not always wick and breathe well there are huge differences so ask around but i hear that Underarmor has good cooling base layer stuff. Normally wool does not wick and ventilate well. When playing i avoid some of the wool problems by using a golf vest out of Merino wool so the large arm openings ventilate well and Norwegian army uses the same Merino wool polo neck net shirt from Aclima that is on top of the vest.