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A lot of people know that wool has terrific insulating qualities, many know of its breathability, and some even know of how it can keep you warm even when it is wet. But what few people, at least here in the UK, have realised is that this insulation and breathability works to create a natural air conditioning effect, keeping you cool on hot days.
It might be hard to image; a fabric that can both keep you warm and cool you down. It does sound too good to be true. However, when you think about it, who are the world’s premiere users of wool? Sheep of course. These animals need their wool to protect them from the elements – no matter the season. So maybe it is not so hard to believe the magic of wool when you consider the range of temperatures a sheep in New Zealand or Australia has to endure.
In clothing, insulation is achieved through trapping small pockets of air against your body. Merino is ideally suited to accomplish this. The natural qualities of the merino fibre is like a coil, making it very crimpy. This creates a lot of pockets, where air from your body can be trapped. In winter, when the temperature outside is a lot lower than the temperature of the air leaving your body, this has a warming effect. In reverse, on warm days this exact function will actively work to cool you off, protecting you against the outside heat.
Of course, on hot days you will most likely be sweating. This is where the breathability of the merino comes into play. Merino wool breathes through absorbing the vapour moisture released by your body, and then letting it evaporate into the air. As simple, and effective, as that.
Of course, you shouldn’t wear the same thickness of merino wool all year. Not even then sheep do that. In the summer, their thick winter wool that was meant to protect them from the cold is sheared, leaving them with a lighter coat that cools them down and protects them from ultraviolet light. This is nature’s own version of a layering system.
Wool clothing manufacturers like Aclima have their own version of this system. Thicker and higher density weave products as an added layer of insulation in the winter, and lighter baselayer products that can be used on their own in the summer.
The Aclima LightWool range, as it is called, is made from very fine merino wool. The most common way to measure how fine merino wool is, is to look at the diameter of a single wool fibre, measured in microns. The LightWool range is made from wool fibres of 17.5 microns. That means it is a fine fabric. When considering that one micron is 0.001 of a millimetre, most can see this.
What is perhaps more easily lost in the technicalities is what that actually means when you use a garment made in the fabric. The benefits, in real terms, is a very light and soft fabric. Ideal for use in the summer, whether as an everyday shirt or for working out. The odour resistant qualities of wool being a mere bonus.
Bergans of Norway are no strangers to the merino wool fabric and adapt it with creative functionalities. Their thick men's ulriken jumper features an extra high collar to protect the skin from chafing, whilst, the Bergans Women's Ceciie jacket with hood can be worn all year round for different levels of activity and temperatures.
Maybe that wool sitting in the back of the closet doesn’t have to wait until November for an appearance. Maybe it is time to reconsider and dig it out. After all, the summer is here in full force and there’s few better ways to stay cool than with wool.