Gear: Is Wool Better Than Fleece?

Long and short hair wool at the South Central ...

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Or maybe the question should be: Is animal hair warmer and more comfortable than polypropylene? Most kids don’t think so. The jury’s still out on its superior environmental “sustainability” as well. But as Ray A. Smith writes in the Wall Street Journal, demand for merino wool has been on the rise for six years and threatens the 25-year tenure of synthetics as the most popular outerwear fabric material.
“‘Demand has increased dramatically,’ says Chris Hawson, a buyer at Paragon Sports, a large sports specialty retailer in New York that says that wool-based products now represent 50% of its base-layer business.”

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  • robert morselli

    Merino wins, hands down. Nothing wrong with poly, mind you. Here is the science, boiled down:
    Natural fibers all have specific thermal properties: cotton keeps you cool, wool warm, Merino seems to be somewhat of a chameleon – brilliantly doing whichever is required (I tested the stuff & know this from personal experience). Natural fibers also breathe, but poly does not because it’s plastic – so breathability has to be built into poly products.
    No question that a poly fleece top will keep you plenty warm, but there’s a bunch of science that has to be applied to the fabric in order to keep it from encouraging your body to sweat. So there’s got to be a balancing act with poly. Not so with natural fibers.

  • Tim Pask

    I am in both camps and have gone to Wool as my base layer and then wear fleece over that. My biggest problem with fleece is the SMELL after a few days use. In remote locations where washing daily isn’t an option the wool products really shine.
    And it seems slightly more comfortable against the skin if its of good quality. I’ve been wearing the Patagonia wool for 2 years now and I personal prefer it over the other brands like Icebreaker. But the wool is the key in my opinion.

  • Barracuda

    The only problem with wool — merino or otherwise — is that many of us are allergic, either slightly or a great deal. My wife, for example, can’t wear any wool at all, even if it’s mixed with other fibers, even if she’s wearing layers underneath the wool. I’m not that bad, but if I’m wearing wool all day, it can get to me.

  • Bill hempel

    I do not agree with the statement that wool only keeps you warm. Previous to synthetics coming along, wool was the go to fabric for year around wear for many outdoorsmen. Zane Grey wore it in many Florida fishing photos. It also happens to be quite water resistant because of the natural oils it is naturally coated with. Depending on its weave, thickness, etc. wool could and can be used in hot/warm weather. Have we forgotten about tropical wieght wool trousers and suits that many business people wear? How about those genuine sheepskin automobile seat covers many of us have installed over our cars upholstery? I have them, and I live in sunny south Florida.