WOOL: Nature's Miracle Fiber
WOOL: Nature's Miracle Fiber by Christoper Hodges
We are now firmly into winter, and, what a better time to get reaquainted
with Mother Nature's Miracle fabric, wool.
There are a number of different varieties of wool, from low-processed Ragg to the
plush and soft Cashmere, with many different varieties in between. However, my
purpose isnt to point out and rank EVERY variety of wool, but, rather to give a brief
overview of what sort of products are available, some history and how you can make
them fit into your Layering Principle.
The first trait of Wool that makes it so attractive to outdoorsman and the like is the
fact that Wool can retain your body heat, even when wet. And, like my Aran Fishing
Sweater my Grandmother brought with her from Ireland, some wools are actually water
resistant, due to the oil present in unprocessed Wool. This trait is why I absolutely
swear by Merino Wool calf-height sock liners. Not only do they keep your feet warm,
but, Merino Wool also transports moisture away from your skin. For those of you
unaware as to what Merino Wool is, its actually a breed of sheep that was originally
bred in Spain, but, is now being raised primarily in Australia and New Zealand. It is a
finely crimped and soft variety of Wool, which is not to be confused with Cashmere,
which is the undercoat fibers of the Cashmere Goat. Merino Wool is produced into many
excellent baselayers, sweaters, hats, gloves, etc. all of which are tolerated as being
"not scratchy" by most people, unlike our next textile, Ragg Wool.
Ragg Wool is defined by Webster's Dictionary as "Sturdy Wool yarns, made up multiple
light and dark, esp. cream and grey Wool strands which produces a flecked
apprearance." It should also be noted that most Ragg garments are a combination of
Wool/Nylon- they can be blended together because both can be dyed with an acid dye
and NOT run when the clothing item is made. In many ways, when people think of Wool
garments, invariably Ragg is what comes up. What people have an issue with is how
some Ragg garments are knit, causing discomfort (i.e. that "itchy feeling"). I personally
own Ragg clothing, although 90% of it is in Ragg Socks. In fact, I use Ragg Wool socks
when I'm breaking in new boots/footwear. The thickness of the socks, along with my
Liners cuts down on heat and friction, which is the main cause of blisters.
So, when I head to the outdoors, or even out-the-door for that matter,in the
Fall/Winter, I ALWAYS include some wool clothing in my daily wear. I currently wear
Merino Wool liners under Woolrich or Bridgedale Merino Wool socks. Then, my watch
cap or other headwear is usually just standard wool or Ragg, depending on the outdoor
tempurature. Then, if I'm going to be engaged in some sedentary outdoor activities (ice
fishing springs quickly to mind here), I will don my Expedition Weight Merino long
underwear with Silk longjohns underneath. Otherwise, my ensemble is usually
completed with Ragg wool mittens (if its truly fridgid) or my Outdoor Research Merino
Wool gloves. And, I should also mention here that another item I keep in my vehicle at
all times is a simple Wool Blanket. One never knows when it will come in handy, and,
I'd Rather Need and Have, than Not Have and Need, personally. Plus, every winter
camping trip I've been on has been made better by having a wool blanket- whether its
for putting over your bedding, or, under you to insulate you from the ground, its a well-
No matter which Wool garment you use, you will find that its combination of warmth,
resiliency, water repellancy and comfort truly makes Wool, in all its forms, Mother
Nature's Miracle fiber!
Chris is a customer of Barre Army Navy Store and we appreciate his input.