A lot of people caveat wool as a winter time fabric.
It has connotations of hounds-tooth sweaters at Christmas parties, woolen snowflake beanie caps in ski lodges, and itchy pilled scarves worn on our first toboggan runs as children. But when it comes to wool and summer, the two worlds never seem to cross. There is an answer for those of you who are seeking quality performance in your wears in the warmer months: Merino. I just returned from a sailing charter in the British Virgin Islands. It was an amazing trip with azure waters and breezy palm trees. We popped into moorings in Anegada, Virgin Gorda, and Jost Van Dyke. The temperature breached 82 during the day and sat at a balmy 68 in the evenings. Not a place for wool? I brought along my Minus33 Mid-weight crew shirt
to see how it fared against the pirate heat of the Caribbean Sea. Deciding what to pack is always a daunting experience. I knew that I would be camping for several days after skippering a 46-foot sailboat and needed to bring as little as possible to keep things easy. The woolen shirt I brought compresses down to a very small volume, much smaller than many of the honking sweaters in my collection. It is the most practical and pragmatic for storage and keeps your camping backpack open for whatever you may be finding along your way. Because the fibers are naturally strong and go back into shape, there is no wrinkle in your shirt or your step. In addition to being easily pack-able, the shirt itself keeps temperature regulated once in the warmer climate. People take for granted that body temperature is a relative experience. I have always been a "cold hands, warm heart" sort of person and my body wastes no time in drawing my heat inward as the temperature begins to drop and my phalanges begin to chill. The soft wool I wear keeps me cozy, even in the evening breezes. However, during the heat of the day, its ability to breath keeps me cool and sweat-free. When I sweat (and I sweat a lot) the fabric wicks it all away and I avoid that swampy feeling and keeps me smelling clean. The long-sleeve that I brought along on the trip also provided excellent UV protection from the sun's rays. Now, living on a boat for a week can be a stinky experience. Moving from port to port with so much to see, I was happy that laundry was something that I could take off of my list of things to do. The hollow fibers of the Merino wool allow for the best vaporization of any sweat. I did not become stinky or sticky as I often find with cotton and other fabrics. It also has the tendency to keep dry, which is a god-send in humid climates (Ever smell the luggage of a backpacker in South-East Asia? Hint: You don't want to). Many factors come into play when one makes the decision "Am I comfortable?". I like to feel dry, warm, and fresh. I refuse to sacrifice those things simply because I am travelling. Wool accomplishes that. Praise be to the sheep. -Stephen Jabaut