Wool Keeps Coming Back

Two intriguing new entries in the layering game
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Two intriguing new entries in the layering game

We like merino apparel for a bunch of reasons: On the performance side, it works well in a wide range of temperatures, is naturally odor-fighting, warm for the weight, and durable; on the eco-front, it's a natural fiber that's sustainable. At this year's Outdoor Retailer show, we've found two merino standouts.

From a new company called Minus 33: While we love fine merino, we know it's not cheap. Usually. This company has found a source for fine Australian merino that feels like high-quality stuff (at least on the rack), yet costs significantly less than typical. T-shirts and base layers with chest zips start at $44 (pictured). And a warm, 100% merino hoody is $110. Design doesn't look quite as sharp as the pricier brands, but if the fabric is similarly high-performance, we'll risk it. Stay tuned for results from field-testing this fall.

And from Patagonia: If you think wool is itchy, better feel the Wool 1. This new T-shirt uses a merino/synthetic blend that feels soft as silk. The secret is in the ingredients: two-thirds super fine merino (16.5 microns, the finest Patagonia has ever used), and one-third polyester. The result feels incredibly soft, and we can't wait to get it dirty.

— Dennis Lewon