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No offense to fleece, but wool is the true miracle fabric: It breathes efficiently, it never feels clammy, and it stays comfortable in a broad range of temperatures.
What's new is that soft-haired merino sheep, sophisticated treatments of the raw fiber, and the stealthy addition of synthetic materials have eliminated old-time wool's itchiness, while laminating technology and tighter weaves have improved wind-blocking performance. Most important, in a polyester world, wool just soothes the soul.
All prices in U.S. dollars
Woolrich is better known for a leaf-raking level of performance than for backcountry protection, but this jacket is ready for serious cool-weather hiking.
Like other garments in the company's TechnoWool X Series, the Voyager is made of densely woven, crimped yarn that will block a moderate wind and a light rain, while insulating even better than regular wool. The minimalist design includes thoughtful details such as sleeves engineered to eliminate seams from under pack straps. In a high-mountain squall, add a shell.
The Voyager comes in women's (shown here) and men's versions.
The Gothic Cardigan's color, styling, and Italian wool are so classy it may be hard to take the sweater seriously as a technical piece, but the details argue otherwise: Unlike Arc'teryx's outdoor-café-oriented Diplomat ST, which incorporates a wind-blocking laminate, the more breathable Cardigan is a true layering component, designed to provide warmth when worn under a shell.
The slim cut facilitates layering and saves weight; the synthetic lining helps wick moisture. It comes in both women's (shown here) and men's versions.
Calling these soft-shell pants a wool garment is a bit misleading. They're made of a tweaked version of Swiss textilemaker Schoeller's Skifans, which combines a merino-wool lining with a Cordura outer layer.
Skifansalong with its all-synthetic sibling Dryskinis reminiscent of the material in stretch ski pants. Here's a little secret: It is the material in stretch ski pantsSchoeller's been selling to skiwear companies for decades. But don't let that embarrass you. Wear these tough, water-resistant pants for hut-to-hut tours, ski-mountaineering trips, and more casual adventures. They come in both men's (shown here) and women's versions.
Photograph by Spencer Jones