Gear review

Why Wool Works

Gaston in his Wool  (photo credit: google)

Gaston in his Wool

I am not sure when we deviated from using wool in the outdoors. Many of the ancient mountaineering pictures we see have old, hard men wearing their wool sweaters and knickers. So why are we all wearing synthetics? Maybe to keep away the crowds from the horrible body odor emitting from our capilene’d pores. Or maybe it is just marketing…

I have been using wool for the last few years in the mountains and now try to wear nothing other than this amazing natural material. Some folks think they are allergic to wool, disapproving of it’s ‘itchy’ quality, like grandpa’s old sweater. In reality, this ‘itchy and bulky grandpa sweater’ wool myth has long been dispelled. Good wool products like the “Base” series from Ibex have a small micron which makes them very comfortable to wear right next to your skin. They can also be worn for multi-day activities and do not produce the odor synthetics would. As for the wicking factor, if the weave is just right, like in the Ibex “Woolies” line, it dissipates moisture better than most synthetics I have worn. So a smaller micron gauge of wool is a good base layer choice for moving throughout the day and nights at camp.

The alpine, as you may know, is an environment of extremes. I watch others change layers all day when I am comfortably regulated by the wool I’m wearing. It’s as if the fabric knows to keep me warm, or when I am too warm to turn down the thermostat. This of course makes guiding easier for me as I can worry about other things at hand.

In the mountains, we need to have rugged gear. This is where that old wool sweater comes in! Yeah, the itchy, bulky one; except now not so itchy and minus the bulk. With better weaves and perfected sizes of micron for durability yet comfort we now have the best outer layers of wool available on the market. The “Shak” is one of the best selling pieces of wool clothing due to these attributes.

Lindsay and myself cooking at high camp on Mt. Whitney with all wool layers on!

Wool is on the comeback, and new products arriving on the market this fall will be using wool in place of synthetic fill “puffy” jackets. It will have some of the same properties of the synthetics, like holding warmth even while wet. Look for these innovative products on


  • Paige


    Thanks for the info. I have some icebreaker stuff but I will definitely try Ibex.

    • Paige


      I just bought a couple if these and I'm psyched:

  • Elizabeth


    Hi-- ive been wondering about this lately- why do we all wear synthetic materials! Thanks ... Its nice to come across your blog post about this subject.

%d bloggers like this: