I have been using Woolpower socks, long johns, turtlenecks and head gear for about 8 years now as my base layer, mid layer and part of my outdoor sleep system, in both professional and recreational outdoor settings. To say that I'm a fan is an understatement. During that time span, my garments have seen some serious action in all of the 4 seasons. They contributed a lot to my overall comfort level and ability to get or stay warm while being outdoors for a living.
Learning about the qualities and capabilities of this Scandinavian brand also increased my understanding and practical application of outdoor clothing systems and the advantages or disadvantages of using certain fabrics in certain environments, under different and challenging circumstances. To this day, my Woolpower gear and garments have never let me down and I am really impressed by this. All the items I've bought are still performing as expected, keeping in mind the countless times they have been through a washer/dryer cleaning cycle. They are of course no longer new. A few socks have had some holes fixed and garments have some wear and tear showing but, they still have a lot of life left in them. That kind of longevity is pretty remarkable and that's why I'm an even bigger fan now, after all those years of use and experiences with both Merino wool and synthetic layers, then when I first started using this brand.
My turtleneck 200 in the original green color has been out and about, but still performs flawlessly. As mentioned earlier, it has been washed and dried on almost a weekly basis in the colder months of those years, and is still wicking away sweat and keeping up it's thermal insulation capabilities. Most of my less costly merino wool and other synthetic thermal undergarments didn't survive this long at all. Over the years they have been gradually phased out in favor of the longer lasting Woolpower garments. I also love the fact that there are different thicknesses (200, 400 and 600 gr/m2) available. I got my turtleneck 200 in sizes small and medium so I can easily layer up or down and be more adaptable to the circumstances than if I would have bought a 400 for instance. Depending on which one I use, the other is part of my sleep system or functions as an extra layer when in need.
During this time span I've used my Woolpower gear in my last season as a Park Warden in Algonquin, patrolling my area by canoe from ice out to mid-October. It was also with me for several seasons from September to mid-December as a gun dog handler during guided upland bird hunts and as a White-tailed deer hunting guide, both for a privately owned hunting club in Southern Ontario. On a recreational level, I've guided canoe trips during spring and fall, and undertaken winter snowshoe and toboggan trips. However, my Woolpower really showed it's worth over the course of several winters on a 200 acre maple syrup farm West of Trout Creek Ontario. Living in a off-grid cabin, spending long days on snowshoes, tapping trees and walking/repairing vacuum lines from mid-February until the sap stops flowing early spring.
Cold, wet or windy, in deep snow, sleet, rain, uphill, downhill and all while hauling a drill, spare batteries, a couple hundred taps, repair gear and a water/snack kit. I always remembered Les Stroud's saying; "If you sweat, you die!". You can ventilate, layer down and even remove shell layers all you want, you will still sweat doing this. It's a little more manageable when you're on recreational outings, but when you're on the clock, you can't really afford to continuously fiddle with your clothing to be as comfortable as possible. You just need it to work.
If it rains or snows and you keep going, you will eventually get wet, or damp at the minimum. In very cold conditions, your outer shell layers may not always function optimally and in combination with a high level of physical output, you will build up moisture on the inside. Anyone who's ever spent some active time outdoors has probably experiences this effect, even if the temperatures are still above freezing. Portage a canoe and gear in the rain while wearing a Gore-Tex jacket for example and you'll find out. Haul a fully loaded toboggan with a week's worth of supplies up a hill mid winter, and you'll find out for sure. This happens even if you have a highly breathable outer layer. The difference however will be made by how fast and efficient this moisture/sweat can evaporate out of your clothing and how this process impacts your level of comfort. This essentially comes down to the capabilities of the clothing fabrics used in your base, mid and outer layers and whether or not the input of moisture into those fabrics continues on an elevated level.
I found that especially in cold, wet and damp conditions, even if you sweat, Woolpower layers kept me more comfortable. Intrigued by the difference in comparison to my other thermal undergarments, and the knowledge I had at the time in regards to clothing fabrics, heat loss mechanisms and the onset or causes of hypothermia, I did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions. I learned that Woolpower fibers can absorb up to 30-ish percent of their weight in moisture without feeling damp. The looped, terry style knit, creates a lot of dead air pockets, providing excellent heat retention while an integrated mixture of polyester in the merino wool fabric, assists in the vapour wicking and drying of the garments when moist. It's all working together and due to the wool's incredible nature and it's ability to absorb moisture both between and in the fibers, it leaves those fibers next to your skin feeling dry. In addition, when moisture is absorbed, a phenomenon known as 'absorption heat' occurs. It's a reaction which produces warmth due to moisture getting absorbed into the fibers.
All this contributes to wool not instantly becoming compromised when moist or damp (like cotton fabric in cool or cold temperatures) and losing body heat through conduction (water vs. air density). This 'feeling' dry and thus comfortable is the outcome of these processes and reactions whereas a result, impulses from thermo-sensitive receptors in your skin, which normally would react to the cooling effect of sweat or dampness in your clothing next to your skin, are not yet triggered. Consequently, you won't experience a chilling effect because of the creation of a micro-climate next to your skin. That's the 'power' of Woolpower.
Once I started educating myself about fabrics, their qualities and capabilities, clothing systems use in challenging environmental conditions and the body's thermal stress response mechanisms, I came to recognize the benefits of wool, and Woolpower Merino wool base and mid layer garments specifically. From my experiences so far, I found that Woolpower clothing can better deal with and react to a wide range of temperature and weather changes because of its natural ability to wick, ventilate and even regulate in response to my output level. It also withstands sparks from softwood campfires and even has antimicrobial properties, keeping my garments smelling less over a longer period of time. This hugely improves my comfort level and also lowers the amount of packed spare clothing if washing my outfit is complicated due to the time of year or circumstances faced in the field. The only thing Woolpower doesn't like is sharp twigs and the Velcro hook closures on jackets or sleeping bags. I've got a couple holes and pulled treads to show for it.
I'm very pleased with all of my Woolpower clothing. They are and have been a worthwhile investment. Granted, they are costly, but after 8 years, my garments are still going strong and far outlasted other similar products. You really do get what you pay for in my honest opinion. The pricing represents more than just product quality, something which is shared by other Scandinavian brand manufactures who, like Woolpower, have put an emphasis on conscious environmental practices, while sourcing materials and manufacturing their products. This in turn benefits land management practices, animal welfare standards, production processes and now even, with the introduction of Woolpower's Woolcare washing liquid, the customer's ability to maintain and prolong the life and use of the end product. In addition, the sizing tags of Woolpower garments for instance make mention of the person who made it. Talk about taking ownership as a company and as an individual who's taking pride in potentially sewing together your future garments.
When my wife was running low on cold weather gear earlier this year, we made the decision to upgrade and invest in a complete Woolpower outfit for her. Born and raised in the Southern hemisphere, with some Indian and Maori blood running through her veins, she's very susceptible to the cold here in Ontario and thus setting up for comfort in and outside is a must. We experience on average 5 months of snow on the ground where we live and this creates it's own set of challenges for her. Smart choices in regards to clothes and how to use them is a part of life now. I decided to surprise her with Woolpower long johns 400 and a pair of knee high socks in the 600 range. A Full zip jacket 600 was next on the list.
So, what does my wife have to say so far about her new Woolpower clothing?
"I often personal train clients in my fitness studio, where the temperature is not that comfortable when you're not the one that's exercising. In the past, I would wear spandex and a cotton t-shirt or hoodie which didn't keep me particularly warm when outside temperatures started to dip down. Switching over to Woolpower socks, long johns and this 600 jacket has been a real game changer for me. My jacket is really warm and has an athletic fit without being overly tight and I really like the longer back. As an added bonus, I also think it looks really sharp in combination with jeans or other casual outfits. I'm now feeling enthusiastic and encouraged to spend more time outdoors in the cooler months because of the comfort that Woolpower provides. The other day we went for a canoe paddle and I really enjoyed being able to take in the beautiful fall scenery without getting chilled after a short time. This Woolpower stuff is right up my alley!"