Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Gear Report (first installation)

Every now and then I run around waxing ecstatic about a product or an object that has somehow improved my life. Most of my consumer tendencies run towards photography, communication or outdoorsy whatnot. Today I'm putting Smartwool under the microscope.

Smartwool is not a spaceage concoction whipped up of recycled plastic bottles (sorry Patagonia, a standup store that makes very nice clothing, but not the subject of today's wanderings) a spaceage polymer or other meltable, fusible fibers. It's wool. Shorn from the backs (and bellies) of baaahing sheep. They do some magic mojo to it, and turn it into the softest spun wool clothing you will ever have the joy of putting directly against your skin.

I owe a shout out to my ex-almost sister-in-law (got that?) for getting me started on Smartwool socks. They are cushiony joyful no-sweat prettily colored foot cocoons in every style from below the ankle to below the knee. For mother's day this year, I bought my mom a pair of Smartwool socks that go up to the knee, and in her words "these are the most comfortable socks I have ever worn." The socks are pricey, but last nearly forever, and come out of the dryer as shmabulous as they went in.

Other smartwool items I have worn and loved include a longsleeved long underwear top, a pair of long underwear bottoms and a neck gaiter which I always (charmingly) refer to by it's translated name from Spanish: neck (cuello).

There is so much truly inferior "sports" clothing out there masquerading as the next great thing. There's also so much said clothing that over time accumulates a legion of your body's bacteria, over time generating smells even you don't want to go anywhere near. Then there's the clothing that claims to keep you warm and doesn't.

I've just come back from the most arid desert in the world (the Atacama), where my clothing and I were subjected to 5 degrees Farenheit at 14,000 feet, and then up to 70 Farenheit just a few short hours later. As a baselayer, I wouldn't wear anything but Smartwool or another softly spun wool garmet, ever. And on top, don't get me started about how much I love my Mountain Hardwear down jacket. See? It's all about the animals, sheep and geese. They want you to stay warm.

Also while on this trip, I started hatching an idea for a trip up to the Bolivian and Argentine Altiplano, and possibly into Peru as well. Anyone got a couple of free weeks and a penchant for freezing at night, boiling during the day and having sheaves of dry skin detach from your hands and face at any time? You know where to find me. And you know what I'll be wearing.

(Smartwool and Mountain Hardwear have not a clue who I am, don't read this blog and won't pay me a dime for hyping them. And Patagonia feels the same way, especially since I may have hurt their feelings talking about the malodorous synthetic stank).

2 comments:

Pam said...

SmartWool has known who I am in the past, I reviewed their stuff for a magazine, but in spite of that, I STILL think they're the bomb. I reviewed some other stuff from OR that was supposed to be all non-stinky ... no go. I never pack for travel without including my SmartWool hoodie, socks, and, if I'm going somewhere cold, long underwear. I LOVE THEIR STUFF. Ibex makes a nice alternative, FYI, but SmartWool socks? My fave.

Eileen said...

oh no! Smartwool makes a hoodie? Danger! Must find. Click. Click. I actually have another merino wool shirt that I like and think is prettier than my smartwool stuff. Icebreaker, from New Zealand. I've never tried their socks, but the baseball-jersey style long-sleeved shirt I have in light blue and grey is lovely.

They also have some environmental and ethical policies that are feelgoody and worth a look. Also they don't allow mulesing, which I had to look up and, ew.