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Clothing system synth vs wool?

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Clothing system synth vs wool?

Postby Andes6000 » Tue Sep 14, 2010 11:53 pm

Hi everyone, I'm a new member here and live and climb in Bolivia. In a few days I'll be heading for a few 6000 meter mountains (Sajama/Illimani) and going with a light/fast mentality but not solo. I've never used wool base layers before and have the option of layering a thin merino base below a synthetic mid layer (Arcteryx AR Bottom) and then a sturdy Gore-Tex shell pant. I'll find out of this is overkill or not but I sweat heaps and wondering if wool transfers moisture well or will it stay wet and heavy below a synthetic mid-layer? These climbs are usually -15/20 degrees C. Thanks much...
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Postby Autoxfil » Wed Sep 15, 2010 12:05 am

Sorry, but that depends way more on your personal metabolism, pace, the weather that day (sun?), etc. to possibly give a clean answer.

My take: overdress (slightly) on the bottom, because it's better than being too cold, and you can't easily add or remove layers on your legs once you put on boots, crampons, harness, etc.
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Postby Dow Williams » Wed Sep 15, 2010 1:15 am

Smartwool offers the best first layer and socks on the planet. Everything that touches my skin on a big alpine objective is smart wool or a product from someone simulating their product (backcountry use to do that). But please don't let me stop anyone from continuing to contribute to the dead bird organization. May the gullible be parted from their cash.
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Postby TimmyC » Wed Sep 15, 2010 3:04 am

Dow Williams wrote:Smartwool offers the best first layer and socks on the planet. Everything that touches my skin on a big alpine objective is smart wool or a product from someone simulating their product (backcountry use to do that). But please don't let me stop anyone from continuing to contribute to the dead bird organization. May the gullible be parted from their cash.


+1 for Smartwool. It does what it's supposed to, it takes a long time to get stinky, and it's durable both in wearing and in washing.

I mean, Ibex is nice, and IceBreaker is nice, but I can actually afford Smartwool.
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Postby Andes6000 » Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:14 am

Thanks for the replies. I see it's really a personal thing, seems to me like more people are choosing or going back to wool now. I wish the warmth to weight ratio was enough for just a wool layer but wearing just a thin merino at sub-zero temps regardless of metabolism and pace would be a gamble. For the wool users out there I can say the Arcteryx wool base layers seem well put together like most of their stuff but at a price. Nos vemos....
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Postby mtndonkey » Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:42 am

I've had great success with Capilene from Patagonia. Pick the weight depending on how much warmth you want, but they all breathe really well and dry quickly. I have been much happier with my Cap 3 than other synthetic manufacturers.
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Postby radson » Wed Sep 15, 2010 5:18 am

I mix and match, icebreaker always on the legs and my preferred top is now Patagonia's R1 hoody.
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Postby Andes6000 » Wed Sep 15, 2010 5:10 pm

It's overwhelming how many products are out there, there's a good youtube of Steve House describing his layering system on Nanga Parbat. Simple does it,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoACZH2N9gE
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Postby welle » Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:56 pm

I'm not sure, but -15-20C is not that cold, IMO, to wear all 3 layers especially when climbing. Don't AR shells have some fleece-like insulation? I'd go with a mid-weight wool baselayer and a shell (softshell pants if it's dry and gore-tex in wet conditions). Men especially don't get too cold on the legs. And if you add gaiters, you'll be overheating for sure. Just bring a pair of pile pants with full side zippers that you can put on quickly for standing around, wearing around the camp and the summit day.
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Postby albanberg » Wed Sep 15, 2010 8:17 pm

Smartwool is great. I use both base layers and midweight smartwool and others. I just got a new t-shirt from icebreaker I think...very nice. I use the midweight zip smartwool a lot. I also like the Patagonia wool 4 zip, which is super nice. I use all smartwool socks. For cold weather I'm using a silk top (very light) and then the wool t-shirt. On top of my zip wool tops I use a windstopper vest and then my shell over that.
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Postby Andes6000 » Wed Sep 15, 2010 11:58 pm

So it seems like everyone loves wool, haven't read one negative on it so I'm very proud of my investment thank you. I'll have on light wool top/bottom base layers for sure followed by the fleece mid layers and parka + shell pants for summit push. I climbed Sajama a few years ago and it was so cold even the Germans were complaining. The good thing about climbing here is you can reach most of the high camps in tennis shoes and shorts, I gave up wearing leather boots for good in the dry season. The porters wear sandals! Ahh they are my heroes.
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Postby sneakyracer » Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:18 am

The only negative of wool baselayers is cost. I would get some light wool boxer briefs and t-shirt + a slightly heavier weight wool Long sleve 1/4 zip shirt and pants.

I have Patagonia's Capilene3 1/4zip long sleve top and bottoms and they are awesome though, very warm for the weight. But on a multi-day climb/hike or expedition wool smells MUCH less while most synthetics develop a very nasty stench.

I love the combination of a light baselayer under powerstretch fleece. Never feel wet from sweat using this combination.
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Postby Damien Gildea » Thu Sep 16, 2010 2:52 am

chrisjahn77 wrote:So it seems like everyone loves wool ...


No, at least not for everything. I have many merino garments, mostly Icebreaker, I used to be sponsored with a huge gear budget, so price was not a problem (note past tense). They're comfortable and mostly warm, and often even stylish. But I don't feel they wick sweat as well as synth, and usually take longer to dry. I normally only use the lightest versions, as I find the heavier merino baselayers too warm/sweaty and take far too long to dry on my body after activity.

But that depends on your own metabolism, what you are doing, and where you are doing it - like pretty much every other gear question on the internet.

For expedition use, wool has the advantage of not smelling, at least not for at least a couple of weeks. On me, synth gets smelly after several days. This may or not be a problem, depending on where you are going, who you are with etc etc. For short term active use, I would have synth as a baselayer, due to its superior wicking on me.

There is a sizable fashion element to the merino segment of the industry - it has been very well marketed, especially by Icebreaker. I think Steve House mentions this in one of his videos - merino is fine for hanging out at the crag, but not for actual climbing performance. But then he's sponsored by Patagonia, who need to sustain sales of Capilene (yes, I know they also have merino).

The other point often missed is that for baselayers to work properly and do what they are supposed to do, they should be skin-tight. This is not a fashionable look on most customers, so is hard to sell in the shop. So many baselayer garments are designed to avoid this and are thus fundamentally designed to not work properly, crazy as that seems, but it's no good manufacturing a great product if no one will buy it. You can read more about that on Andy Kirkpatrick's site somewhere.

D
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Postby dskoon » Thu Sep 16, 2010 3:10 am

Yeah, I was gonna mention Steve House, but you beat me to it. As I recall reading somewhere, he said that he'd never climb in wool. Probably due to a longer dry time once sweated-out. But, as you mention, he's also sponsered by the maker of Capilene.

I do love Smartwool, but, worry about it getting soaked with sweat, and taking a long time to dry. Maybe my worries are unfounded, but, I tend to use synthetic for climbing/hiking, and wool for skiing. Maybe if it's damn cold out. . . Hmm, winter's coming. Experiment.
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Postby lost_in_nj » Thu Sep 16, 2010 3:36 am

dskoon wrote:Yeah, I was gonna mention Steve House, but you beat me to it. As I recall reading somewhere, he said that he'd never climb in wool. Probably due to a longer dry time once sweated-out. But, as you mention, he's also sponsered by the maker of Capilene.


True, but Patagonia sells some really nice wool stuff as well. So if he liked wool, I am sure he could have used it.

I recently had a chance to have a beer with really experienced alpinist/ice climber (ie. sponsored, famous, actually knows what he is talking about), and of course at some point the talk turned to gear. His opinion was pretty much the same - synthetics are better than wool when it really matters.
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