Uncommon Thread: An ancient fiber weaves a new story of cozy durability

Wool has been the outdoor world’s go-to material for centuries because of its natural ability to stay warm when wet. But this old-timey thread has come a long way since the days of itchy knickers and sweaters worn out of a sense of duty to grandma. With high thread counts that are silky soft combined with ergonomic fits and features that allow for unbridled movement, this fiber with deep roots is finding a second wind. Here are a few wooly essentials that are leading the herd in new directions.

Patagonia Capilene Air

A unique texture first sets Patagonia’s Capilene Air apart. These baselayers—available in crew, hoody and bottom options for men and women—are made from a 51/49-percent blend of merino wool and recycled polyester that forms little raised bumps to provide stretch and accommodate high-intensity movement. In addition to creating a hyper-cozy knit, this design is also seamless, which helps eliminate chafe during repetitive motion or when things get sweaty. The polyester/wool combo also offers the added benefit of fast wicking for unwanted perspiration. Elastic cuffs keep sleeves from riding up, and the hoody’s high collar protects against brisk breezes. $149 (hoody), $129 (crew), $129 (bottoms), patagonia.com

Ortovox Fleece Plus Hoody

Ortovox’s Fleece Plus Hoody—available in men’s and women’s options—takes comfort to the next level with a wool weave adorning its front panels, designed to beef up this merino/polyester midlayer’s warmth factor. An additional layer of Tasmanian wool lines the hood and collar to keep noggins and necks warm when the wind starts blowing. But wool isn’t just working for warmth: it also wicks and breathes on sweaty ascents or high-octane sidecountry laps. Stretchy elastane fabric on the arms and back—combined with an ergonomic cut—enable freedom of movement and extra breathability if worn as an outer layer or under a shell. $260, ortovox.com

Duckworth Men’s Snowcrest Vest

Who says there’s no room for a little class in the mountains? After all, a tasteful yet rugged wool vest like Duckworth’s Snowcrest is practically a uniform around Backcountry HQ, though many of ours are made by Johnson Woolen Mills, who’s been working in wool for nearly 200 years right up the road. Montana-based Duckworth, a relative newcomer in woolen wear, takes a fresh approach with this limited-edition vest. The outer is sourced from their Montana-grown merino that’s spun and woven into a sturdy yet soft, not scratchy fleece by the oldest continuously operating woolen mill in the U.S.—American Woolen Company—with two hand-warmer pockets and three drop pockets. What’s inside counts, too: spun wool insulation adds a bonus layer of warmth whether worn in the mountains or the office. $295, duckworthco.com

Farm to Feet Hailey Lightweight Ski Sock

You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and cold toes can ruin even a three-foot powder day. To keep digits from experiencing a day-ending freeze, Farm to Feet designed the Hailey with 100 percent merino wool, combined with nylon and Lycra, that wicks away sweat from the upward march for more enjoyable gravity-fed turns. Merino’s added benefit? Its odor and bacterial resistance, which make frequent laundering as necessary as wearing deodorant. Targeted cushion on the base of the foot pads high-impact areas and helps to avoid the typical bunching of thicker socks, and slight compression throughout the calf aims to fight fatigue on dawn-to-dark days. $25, farmtofeet.com

Skida Dash Knit Hat

Vermont-based Skida, started as a passion project by Burke Mountain Academy alumna Corrine Prevot, has always kept things close to home, sewing most of their hats, headbands and neck warmers in the Green Mountain State’s Northeast Kingdom. The exception is their cashmere line, made with fiber sourced from Himalayan Chyangra goats and knit in Kathmandu valley in small facilities that claim ethical practices. From these Nepal-made hats and accessories comes the Dash Knit, made from 100-percent cashmere, a welcome addition to any hygge party. A deliciously soft feel, combined with a relaxed fit, makes the Dash a fit for parking-lot après or a night out. $82, skida.com

Wild Rye Mauna Kea

Founded as a women’s mountain-bike apparel company in 2016, Wild Rye branched out in fall 2018 with their line of ladies long underwear made from 100-percent merino wool, knit with a high thread-count weave to produce a super soft feel. The raglan top and bottoms, sporting a print inspired by Hawaii’s one and only volcanic ski destination, boast a loose fit with unrestricted movement in mind. The pant’s wide waistband keeps chafe at bay, and their three-quarter length mates well with ski boots. The crew top’s longer torso keeps drafts to a minimum. $109 (top), $99 (bottoms), wild-rye.com

Mons Royale Stella X-Back Bra

You’ve been living under a very chilly rock if you haven’t heard the adage “cotton kills.” So why are women’s chests regularly relegated to suffering in antiquated, non-wicking torture chambers? New Zealand-based Mons Royale looked to solve this problem with the Stella X-Back Bra, made from a merino/nylon blend that boasts wicking and warmth along with wool’s natural anti-odor properties, designed for comfort on sweaty laps or weeklong hut trips. Inch-thick elastic straps aid in decreasing pull on the neck and shoulders while providing necessary support in an unobtrusive manner—because the last thing on your mind while skiing deep snow should be your bra. $50, monsroyale.com

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