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Wool Midlayer
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Jan S
Wool Midlayer on 03/18/2013 19:49:38 MDT Print View

I just stumbled over an Icebreaker Sierra Full Zip for 95 € instead of 160 € and am tempted.

Does anyone have experience with wool mid layers instead of microfleece? How does it dry if wet and how does it hold up in humid conditions?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Wool Midlayer on 03/18/2013 21:18:45 MDT Print View

> How does it dry if wet
Extremely slowly.

> does it hold up in humid conditions?
Gets damp, as expected.

If wet, can distort significantly.


Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Wool Midlayer on 03/18/2013 22:03:21 MDT Print View

Don't buy an Icebreaker mid layer. It's a waste of money. You can walk into a thrift store and find light wool sweaters for almost free. I picked up two wool sweaters that weigh about 10 oz each and work well under a windshirt for $3 each. Most wool sweaters are more lofty and warm than technical wool "mid layers" which are usually too dense.
Fleece is better in most situations. It's lighter and it dries faster. But wool is a bit warmer when wet, so the only situation where it's better is in extended wet conditions where your clothing will constantly be wet. Sometimes in cold weather the slower dry time of wool prevents rapid evaporative cooling.
So really, just stick with fleece or pick up some wool sweaters from your local thrift store to try out. The only time you need to spend real money on wool is for comfortable base layers.
I really like wool and use it a lot, but this new wool trend in backpacking is just silly and a result of very clever marketing by smartwool, ibex, ect. to get you to pay much more for a product that is inferior to synthetics in most situations.

Edited by justin_baker on 03/18/2013 22:08:04 MDT.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Not Icebreaker on 03/18/2013 22:54:08 MDT Print View

I like Ibex. I tolerate Smartwool (but they have the best socks). Icebreaker falls short of both of those, in my opinion.

The only Icebreaker item I have that I like are my Icebreaker bike shorts. Everything else, I go Ibex or Smartwool.

Packman Pete
(packmanpete) - MLife

Locale: Rainy Portland
Wool base layer on 03/18/2013 23:22:14 MDT Print View

Some wool layers work fine next to skin, and the really thin ones can dry out fairly quickly if you are generating heat.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Wool Midlayer on 03/19/2013 00:39:58 MDT Print View

We used to wear wool sweaters when cross country skiing. I chuckled when I read Roger's comment on distortion. That's putting it mildly: more like wool flavored pasta slung around my arms and trunk. I wouldn't think of anything but fleece now. I like merino wool socks, but it ends there.

Edward Jursek

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Grain of salt on 03/19/2013 00:47:36 MDT Print View

Just look at Roger C's picture! Wool mid-layer advice? Really? Must be why he ditched his base layer, too . . . .

Edited by on 03/19/2013 00:48:26 MDT.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Base Layer Yes on 03/19/2013 05:57:36 MDT Print View

I like light merino wool base layers for the comfort, odor prevention and warm feeling when wet, but fleece or similar light synthetic for the mid layer.
Wool holds a little more water when wet, takes a little longer to dry and is heavier, especially when wet.

A loose light weave wool sweaters can be quite good combined with a wind shell in wet weather, but some of the more technical fleece sweaters will be lighter and a little drier.

I would be happy hiking in a light wool sweater midlayer if I got it for a good price, but if I were going to spend the money for a new item, I'd take the grid style fleece sweater.

Edited by brooklynkayak on 03/20/2013 06:49:13 MDT.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
Re hoody on 03/20/2013 06:44:50 MDT Print View

An ibex indie hoodie and a windshirt is pretty versitale.

Jan S
I'm out on 03/20/2013 07:20:40 MDT Print View

After getting my suspicions confirmed I think I'll stay with my fleece jumper. Works well enough given that it was £10 on sale somewhere in Scotland.

Cheers everyone.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Some Merino Wool Lasts on 03/20/2013 08:14:27 MDT Print View

As for noodling sleeves, my Lightweight Smartwool Merino Wool shirt noodles like there's no tomorrow. it's not fun.


My Smartwool midweight Baselayer Crew has never stretched or distorted. I'm confident in this, since, I have literally worn it every single day since October, plus frequent use throughout spring and summer 2012. I've never worn an item as much, probably ever, and it's still going strong- looks brand new. It's been underneath almost every pair of backpack straps I've ever used, every time I've used them (except one early Fall trip).

Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"Wool Midlayer" on 03/20/2013 11:16:45 MDT Print View

I am complete convert to wool base and mid layers. I don't pay retail prices, though. Steep and Cheap frequently offers Icebreaker and other Merino's cheap and I get all of my stuff there. It doesn't stink, it's anti-microbial, and I prefer the feel of it to synthetics. The only downside to wool, IMO, is that it requires some babying. I wash on the gentle cycle or hand wash, and line dry. On the flip side, I don't have to wash it often.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Good Quality Pays on 03/20/2013 11:19:57 MDT Print View

I will supplement Dena's very keen observations by saying my higher-quality wool stuff, like my Smartwool layers, have had the crap beaten out of them. I use regular detergent, regular wash cycle, high-heat drying. Nothing different when it comes out except maybe some lint if I forgot to empty the trap.

My Stoic merino t-shirt, however, shredded when it got grabbed by accident. I won't buy Merino from Stoic, just because I think the quality is lower (same with the price, though)

Mark Fowler
(KramRelwof) - MLife

Locale: Namadgi
It's a balance of good and bad. on 03/20/2013 15:53:36 MDT Print View

In the past there were not many options for warm layers and wool was the best of the natural fibres apart from fur. Back then we didn't have alternatives for warm layers that were relatively warm and handled wet conditions almost acceptably.

Lightweight base layers (<200gsm) provide the best performance because their "good" properties (odour control, warmth) outweigh their "bad" properties (holds water, slow to dry). As you go to heavier wool layers you change the balance with "bad" properties starting to outweigh the "good". More wool (heavier weight fabric) = more water retention, much slower to dry, heavier than alternatives. In relatively dry conditions heavier wool can work well but usually with a weight penalty, in damp/wet conditions this changes for the worse. Moving back to wool for mid and outer layers is like a return to the 1960's and before. Lets have a return to tweed for outer wear.

Jan S
Got baselayer covered on 03/20/2013 18:40:31 MDT Print View

I got the baselayer covered with a shortsleeve from Icebreaker that is relatively new but okay so far and merino boxers (I try to avoid long johns for some reason but have fleece tights I use in winter). The best shirt I ever owned is surprisingly a Silkbody long sleeve. Surprisingly because it's made of 72% silk, 13% merino wool and 13% cotton and for me it's great from -10 C (never got colder here) to 30 C.

I never managed to actually wear synthetic base layer clothes longer then a day and was happy to get out of them. Never liked the feeling, the too fast drying and the smell.

As for the back the 1960s thing: I'm not sure if that's a bad thing sometimes. There has been an Everest expedition that tried to climb it in clothes made the same way that people like Mallory had around 1925. No down, just silk and linen. They said they were surprised how well it worked and that from their perspective the differences between modern high tech materials and down and the old style was very, very small. I'm not saying that this is true for wool too, but I don't think that old necessarily means bad when it comes to materials and techniques.