Wool Sweaters

11:28 a.m. on October 8, 2013 (EDT)
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They are not high tech.  they generally do not have pockets.  sometimes, they are scratchy.  most of them don't have a zippered front or a high collar.  no matter - i still hike in them sometimes, and they will remain an essential part of my arsenal.  they keep you warm even when they are damp; they don't develop odors like synthetic layers eventually do; they can last a really, really long time while still looking great, unless you encounter a hungry moth; and unlike most polartec or similar layers, they much more easily segue from the trail to the fire pit, watering hole, or other post-hike gathering spot.  a few of my favorites:

1.  the norwegian wool sweater.  an LL Bean preppy classic, but much more than that.  This is a heavyweight sweater - 80% wool, 20% rayon.  broad shoulders, stretchy.  The wool is fairly coarse and itchy, so i usually wear a long sleeved shirt under it.  very warm, more water-repellant than most.  Bean recently revived this in a 100% wool version, which i have heard fits differently.  and costs much more.   


2.  the aran sweater.  also heavy and warm, 100% sheep's wool.  not nearly as itchy as the one above.  stylish patterns.  i have had the same one since i was in high school.   


3.  icelandic wool sweater.  i will have to add a photo of mine; my mom knit it for me almost thirty years ago and has mended it a few times since.  moderately itchy, the wool feels lighter and more silky than either of the ones above.  very warm, loosely knit, so it tends to snag on things. 

4.  box store merino and cashmere - ever buy a merino or cashmere sweater for twenty five bucks? ridiculous.  but they are warm, light and super-soft.  not very durable for the outdoors, but very nice as a layer. 



12:10 p.m. on October 8, 2013 (EDT)
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Wool is still the cheap alternative for those guys who go to the goodwill stores and look thru the racks.


I even used a peruvian wool poncho (a popular "jacket" in South America) for my early backpacking trips---this being in 1982-83 on Raider Camp Creek in Pisgah NF.  It was a gift from a German student of my backpacking school who paid me in, well, wool.


This isn't a great pic but it shows me (behind Lindal) in a standard second hand (cheap) wool sweater which was my usual top layer for cold.  This was around 1990 and we're on Babaji Point overlooking the Upper Creek gorge in Pisgah.


Now of course my choice is good merino by Icebreaker or Smartwool.  These are Icebreaker zipnecks with balaclava. Recent.


And when you talk about wool you can't forget thin wool t-shirts made by Smartwool or Icebreaker.  Very comfy and not hot.

12:25 p.m. on October 8, 2013 (EDT)
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Lopi wool. My mom Sigrid knitted one of these Icelandic sweaters...

12:54 p.m. on October 8, 2013 (EDT)
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Andrew, I couldn't agree with you more. I have, and still use, a heavyweight wool sweater purchased around thirty years ago in Whitehorse. It is made by Norsewear of New Zealand and, with rare exception, has accompanied me on almost all my winter expeditions. Weighing in at about two pounds and still smelling wonderfully of lanolin I wouldn't replace it for all the fleece and fibre fill in the world. I know the current dogma is to count your ounces, but when the day comes that I have to worry about carrying an extra pound or two then it's time to stay at home.

1:42 p.m. on October 8, 2013 (EDT)
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Ugly holiday sweatters made from merino wool, and even cashmere occasionally are pretty easy to come by at thrift stores here. I admit to having a couple; good for fishing.

2:16 p.m. on October 8, 2013 (EDT)
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Army surplus is a good source. There are quiet a few websites that sell British, Canadian, French, German and other surplus clothing and much of the winter wear, especially the older stuff, is wool. I see a fair amount on eBay. 

I have two beautiful handmade NZ wool sweaters made for me by friends, but I'd hate to take them hiking and risk damaging them.

These are quite pricey, but a good example of a wool garment that is hard to beat. I don't have one, but I saw plenty of them when I was in NZ-


These show up on eBay once in a while, but even then, are not cheap.


2:58 p.m. on October 8, 2013 (EDT)
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A nice thing about wool is that it repels a lot of water and it still keeps you warm even if it gets soaked through. And unlike synthetics, it has that intangible 'cozy' feeling when you put it on. 

Can't beat that.

I like old British Army stuff. Some of the sweaters aren't bulky, and have shoulder reinforcements that are good for carrying a pack. 


2:58 p.m. on October 8, 2013 (EDT)
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Wool, whether a sweater or a wool shirt(marine officer's model is my favorite) are incredibly durable. My son wears my old Eddie Bauer wool shirt that is too small for me. It is now over forty years old. May have been made under contract by Filson.

6:45 p.m. on October 8, 2013 (EDT)
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Love wearing my wool sweater with my rag wool socks and Birkenstock sandals!

7:40 p.m. on October 8, 2013 (EDT)
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Peter1955 said:

I like old British Army stuff. 

Footnote: My second wife threw out my twenty year old RSDG sweater, just because it was a bit frazzled around the edges. I don't think she really understood that it was still good. :-(


10:09 a.m. on October 9, 2013 (EDT)
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I'm a big fan of the British sas sweaters as well

10:23 a.m. on October 10, 2013 (EDT)
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Peter wrote:

Footnote: My second wife threw out my twenty year old RSDG sweater, just because it was a bit frazzled around the edges. I don't think she really understood that it was still good. :-(

I hope you responded appropriately.

11:05 a.m. on October 10, 2013 (EDT)
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Well, SHE was getting a bit frazzled around the edges, too...!

1:10 p.m. on October 12, 2013 (EDT)
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Military grade sweaters are good on the cheap. Best place to find them is Army/Navy surplus stores.

June 21, 2018
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