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Infolettre de la Fin de semaine des courses Tamarack d'Ottawa
Current Issue: December 2012

Gear

December 2012

Naturally High-Tech: Get Your Merino On

Last issue we broke down the basics of layering for a winter run: base layer + mid layer + outer layer = one happy winter runner. But when it comes to conversations about layering, it’s easy to get bogged down in talk of advanced synthetic fabrics like polypropylene, spandex and polyester, which conjure up images of space-age, Tron-style running swag. This is perhaps one reason why more and more runners are warming up (pardon the pun) to the idea that a good sheep can produce a fabric every bit as “high-tech” as a bunch of scientists in a textile lab. That’s right, we’re talking about wool – specifically, merino wool.

Merino refers to a breed of sheep developed in Spain circa the 12th century, which was highly coveted for the exceptional quality of its fleece. In fact, the Spanish valued their merino flocks so much that until the 18th century it was a capital offence to export the animals to other countries. Fortunately for us, the merino sheep’s soft, finely crimped wool is much easier to come by these days, making it possible for gear manufacturers like MEC, Icebreaker, Ibex and Patagonia to produce high-quality merino athletic wear at a reasonable price point.

In particular, ultra fine merino makes a stellar base layer because it regulates body temperature, wicks moisture, retains warmth when wet, and has natural antibacterial properties that help to keep funky odours at bay even after many hours of high-output activity. It’s like the perfect second skin – a soft, lightweight layer that keeps you toasty in the cold and wet but also helps to prevent you from overheating in milder conditions.

So whether you prefer simple, classic materials to newfangled synthetics, or you’re simply looking for a highly effective and durable base layer, there are plenty of reasons to get your merino on when the temperature drops. Indeed, wooly weather calls for wooly layers.
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