Thursday, November 5, 2009
Living Life Upwind
Kayaking is gradually become a cold weather - cold water activity as the season crawls slowly into winter. What we wear becomes important and for me what I wear can mean how I smell! Living life upwind can affect the lives of those down-stream, which in turn can affect you!
Paddling in Newfoundland, where one wears cold water gear all year around, presented a problem for me a few years ago. Not having easy access to places to wash out my fleecy top and pants resulted in the development of that 'paddler's aroma' we all know so well. Once, using my car to head back to the put-in, I was horrified at the odor it gave off having sat in the warm sun all day. The lady who drove with me never said anything, but I had no doubts about what she was thinking. 'Nice day of paddling, but...!'
After that trip, I began to re-evaluate my cold weather clothing choices. Now, I look at fleece differently. It's warm, easy to wash and dry when facilities are available, but rapidly takes on odors. Wool, on the other hand, is warm, easily washed, although is slow to dry. However, and this is the crux, it is much slower to pick up odors. For this reason, I have been buying wool garments rather than synthetics. I especially like the merino wool clothing put out by people like Icebreaker, Helly-Hansen and Mountain Equipment Coop. They tend to cost a bit more initially than similar fleece clothing, but at the end of the day, I'm a lot more pleasant when standing to windward!
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Wool, especially merino, is Mother Nature's super-technical fabric - can't find anything to compare to it for warmth, comfort and versatility.
I've been working outdoors around the boats for the past few weeks, and loving every minute- cold, windy, often wet weather - merino socks, sweater(s) and one of MEC's great merino watch caps, plus a light Goretex jacket and good foul weather gear, keeps me dry and warm - yes, warm! Maybe Santa will finally bring me my long-desired merino undies this Christmas!!!
Thanks for addressing the issue of our dirty little secret. This is the type of thing that deserves a Nobel Prize.
I totally agree with your assessment of the relative merits of wool and polypropylene fleece. Both are warm when damp, which is good. Fleece dries out quicker, which is good. Wool tends to smell way way better.
I like wool!
If I have one layer under the dry suit on a not-too-cold day, it's lightweight merino. If I need two (icy paddles or just not feeling too energetic), the wool's on the inside, then fleece - stops that "clammy drysuit" feeling. Wool-a-holic, me!
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