Tuesday 18 March 2008
Musto merino wool vest
Over recent weeks I've been testing Musto's new merino wool vest. I've worn it in a variety of conditions, from the foreshore at Cellardyke, to a mild day on the North Downs in Surrey. I won't inflict a picture of me wearing it on you, so here's a photo of a merino sheep instead.
Notice how warm and cosy the sheep looks. This is because merino sheep discovered long ago how to keep comfortable outside in all weathers. Us humans still can't get it right, and we keep turning to the petrochemicals industry for enlightenment - not always a good idea.
When we encounter a problem, it's often a good idea to look around and see how nature has solved it. There's a whole science based around this - it's called biomimicry (or biomimetics), and it led to ideas like Velcro, termite-inspired air conditioning etc etc.
The merino sheep grew its own woolly jumper, but not just any woolly jumper. Its wool is cunningly designed to be extra warm, comfortable and breathable. The wool fibres are extra long and fine. They have a complex structure with a hydrophilic centre and a hydrophobic exterior - so merino wool can absorb water without feeling damp. All in all, it's pretty clever stuff, and just the job for wearing when you're out shooting - or so the manufacturers say.
So... is it all a sales yarn, or does the stuff really work? In short, yes. It was great. I own a variety of high-tech base layer garments made of poly-this and micro-that. They're all frightfully clever - but I hardly ever wear them. They just don't feel all that comfortable, to me anyway. They get too hot, or sweaty, or itchy, or whatever, particularly when I'm slogging up a steep slope. So I usually wear a cotton T-shirt as a base layer instead. Not ideal, at least in theory, but it works for me.
I found the merino vest better still. It was warm and cosy in cold conditions when I was standing still. But, equally important, it stayed comfortable as it got warmer, and even when I was walking uphill with a heavy camera on my back, getting hot and bothered.
Apparently merino isn't a good choice for watersports, due to its tendency to hold water. But for my usual mix of land-based shooting and fishing, I've found it great. I tend to grab it every time I'm off shooting now, in preference to my usual T-shirts. So it's probably a good thing that merino wool resists human body odour much better than synthetic materials too!