Recent Comments

Alternatives to wool

Q. Dear Gear Guy. My Scout leader says that when hiking in the winter you should always wear wool because it keeps you warm even when wet. But I am allergic to wool. Any ideas?
—Sneezy Scout Parson, Havelock, N.C.

A. Your Scout leader is right about wool being a great insulator that keeps you warm even if it gets wet. But lucky for you, there are plenty of synthetic fabrics that work just as well — and they are often more affordable. Every clothing brand has its own name for it, but most are made with some type of polyester fabric. They are all pretty similar in that they wick moisture away from your skin and keep you warm when wet.

For winter hiking, you should always dress in layers. Start with a tight-fitting, synthetic base layer (a.k.a. long underwear). They come in a wide a variety of fabric thicknesses. The lighter weight is best for outdoor activities where you sweat a lot; heavier is better for colder conditions. Layer over that with a thicker fleece sweater or jacket and if it’s windy or raining/snowing, your top layer should be a water-resistant shell jacket.

Here are a couple good synthetic base layer options:

Ask the Gear Guy

Not sure which gear to buy? Need tips for maintaining your equipment? Click here to send in your questions for the Gear Guy. Selected questions will be answered here and in the printed magazine.

3 Comments on Alternatives to wool

  1. I’m mildly allergic wool. You might be like me, and lucky enough to be able to wear a thin wickable non-wool layer next you your skin and then wool.

  2. Polypropylene, aka … Nylon.

  3. im not gear guy..but you should wer sevrel skiny [thin]shirtsand maybe wer a small jacket….lds

Leave a Comment

Please don't use your real name.