Warmth and Temperature Regulation
Wool is the ultimate insulator, it kept early polar explorers and mountain climbers warm and safe from frostbite long before synthetic fabrics were invented. But lightweight wool can also keep you cool on a hot day, how can one fiber do so much?
Merino Wool uses a process called “heat of sorption” to absorb and release moisture. As wool absorbs moisture from the atmosphere a natural chemical process in the wool releases heat, warming the wearer. In cold weather the natural crimp in wool fibers creates tiny pockets of trapped warm air that act as insulators, holding in heat next to the body. This same process has a cooling effect in warm weather, as wool releases moisture it absorbs heat from the wearer and the tiny pockets of air created by the crimp in the fiber trap cool air and insulate the wearer from warmer outside temperatures. As wool pull moisture away from your skin to evaporate you feel cool and dry even in hot weather.
Moisture Wicking and Breathability
Nothing will keep you dry and comfortable in wet conditions like wool, but how does wool wick moisture away from the wearer without relying on the chemicals used in synthetic fabrics?
Wool fibers are naturally hydrophilic, meaning water-liking, they attract and absorb water molecules. Wool can absorb up to 30% of its weight in water and still feel dry to the touch. As wool absorbs water molecules it pulls moisture away from the skin to the surface of the fabric where it evaporates. Wool is able to release moisture into the air more efficiently than most fabrics. Not only can wool wick sweat from the wearer, wool can move water vapor before it even turns to sweat! Wool is able to release moisture, not just through holes in the fabric, but through the fibers of the fabric itself. Wool’s ability to absorb and release moisture from the air makes it one of the most breathable and therefor comfortable materials available.
Wool is the best fabric to keep you smelling good after a long hike or a hot day out in the sun, you can even wear a wool garment day after day without developing a serious stink. What is it about wool that deters odor so well?
The natural wax in wool, lanolin, has antimicrobial properties which kill the bacteria in sweat that creates odors. And because wool manages moisture so well, surviving bacteria don’t have the damp environment they need to thrive. Without the buildup of odor causing bacteria wool garments not only smell better at the end of the day, they don’t develop a permanent stink that can’t be washed away like so many synthetic fabrics are prone to do.
We all know wool garments are durable and hold their shape far longer than other fabrics, but what is it about wool that resists wear and tear so well?
Wool Fibers are primarily made of Keratin, the same protein molecule that makes up human skin and hair. The interlocking structure of these molecules allow wool to be bent and stretched in multiple directions tens of thousands of times without causing damage. By comparison silk and cotton can only withstand fewer than 5,000 bends without breaking, and nylon only 75! The natural curl of wool fibers also adds to the elasticity of wool garments, they can be worn and washed many times without losing their shape.
Merino Wool is one of the softest fabrics available, as comfortable and luxurious as cashmere. But how can wool, a fabric long known for being itchy, now be so soft?
The smaller and smoother the fiber, the softer the fabric. Fibers greater than 30 microns in diameter are stiff enough to poke and irritate the skin. Traditional wool came from sheep with course coats whose wool fibers were thick and rigid, causing itching and irritation. The smooth fibers in the wool from Merino Sheep are considerably different. All Merino wool is considered Very Fine, meaning that the fibers are smaller than 24 Microns in diameter. Superfine Merino Wool, like the kind we use to make Woolx (18.5 Microns for our midweights and heavyweights and an even softer 17.5 Micron wool for the lightweights), is even finer, creating a fabric that is soft, smooth, and comfortable enough to wear right next to the skin.
The inherent properties of the Merino Wool fiber allow us to create an all-natural material that performs as well as any technical performance fabric. A base layer made from 100% Merino Wool is the ideal performance gear to keep you comfortable, dry and smelling great all day!