The changing of the seasons brings warmer temperatures, rain and end of season sales.

Outdoor retailers, no matter their specialty, still abide by the same principles as every other retailer.  As the seasons change, so does their inventory.  They need to turnover their excess stock and they do this by reducing prices on perfectly wonderful products.

A great example is REI’s sale and clearance page, which is a treasure trove of highly rated winter gear.  Choosing to sort the page by customer rating lets the cream rise to the top.  The wool buff is here for $20North Face insulated pants, perfect for skiing and snowboarding, are 50% off at just under $80.

How to Build a Functional Wardrobe Without Ever Paying Full Price


Ibex’s outlet is also prime for the picking.  100% merino wool turtle neck, an ideal layering piece is half off at $42.50  A highly rated 21 micron wool hoodie is half off, at $77.50.

How To Build a Functional Wardrobe Without Ever Paying Full Price

Check out your favorite retailers now to stock up.  Frequenting end of season sales is exactly how I’ve been able to acquire a wardrobe of wool, and other high performance pieces without ever paying full price.

 

Wool is a magical fiber.

Why Wool

photo: slightly everything

I first dealt with wool when I began knitting.  I quickly learned that the wool, or wool blend yarn, would feel a whole lot nicer on my hands after hours upon hours of working on a knitting project.

I knew wool was a “nice” fabric, but I didn’t know why.  I knew it was natural, versus the synthetic acrylic wool that would squeak between my knitting needles.

why woolphoto: Artiii

When we began camping, hiking and shopping at the local outdoor supplier I learned that not only was wool yarn expensive, but wool shirt and sweaters seemed to be VERY expensive.  Again, I know that it was a “nice” material, but I didn’t truly understand why.

why woolphoto: sarahgb

Then one day I scored a nice black wool cardigan at a discount store for a steal.  It was a great cardigan and I began wearing it with everything.  Soon enough I donated my old acrylic and cotton cardigans to charity.  Soon enough I realized I didn’t need to wash this wool cardigan as often as I had to wash my cotton and acrylic cardigans.  It didn’t seem to wrinkle, it didn’t smell, when I got caught in the rain the water just beaded up and didn’t soak in.  Let me tell you I was sold on the qualities of a nice wool garment.

Given the cost associated with such garments, I’ve slowly been stalking the sales and hunting the clearance racks for wool garments.  At this point I own several pieces of wool: Swiftwick socks, a bright red peacoat, a Chrome hoodie, a merino cardigan from Banana Republic, and a handful of Icebreaker shirts I spotted on steepandcheap.com  Next up on my wool wishlist: wool underwear.

Lately I’ve been looking into the why and how of the magic behind the wool.  What I’ve learned:

  • Wool traps warm air against your body to keep you warm.
  • Wool has natural anti-bacterial properties.  The natural shape of the wool fiber repels bacteria, allowing you to wear the garment over and over again without a stink!
  • There are different qualities of wool, with Merino being one of the nicest.  That scratchy pokey wool is a lesser quality of wool that has shorter fibers.  The merino is a finer, thin long fiber that feels soft against the skin.
  • It’s breathable, due to the structure of the fibre.  It allows moisture (sweat) to escape, wicking it off of your skin.
  • Synthetic materials are petroleum based and melt when burned.  Wool is naturally anti-flammable. (Not that we ever plan to be on fire, but hey, things happen.)
  • Most modern wool these days can be washed in the machine on gentle cycle, and hung to dry.

 

Additional reading on the wonder of wool:

 

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So many clothing manufacturers these days like to boast on their packaging or clothing tags things like “wind proof up to 65MPH” or “breathable, odor-resistant”.  So many of these claims seem to fall short.

The ExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go Boxer is one of the few pieces of technical clothing that lives up to every single claim made by the manufacturer, and then some.

These lightweight (0.3 oz) synthetic boxers are made to last.  I purchased my first pair about 4 years ago, and they’re still going strong.

They are comfortable, and breathable.  I originally purchased them to take hiking and camping, but as I acquired more pairs they have become my daily wear.  While camping or traveling I usually bring two pairs.  I can wear one and wash the other at night.  Washing these in the sink take less than 5 minutes.  I then hang them to dry.  They will be completely dry in 2-4 hours (depending on the local humidity).  I’ve hung them in front of a heater and had them dry in less than 30 minutes.

Knowing I’ve got the ability to be completely comfortable and clean while only carrying one pair of underwear (beyond the pair I’m wearing) is a liberating thing.

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