All Wool Everything

Back in January of 2015 I was consulting with my wise sage backpacker buddy GPS about what to pack for my AT hike starting that March. In his “socks” paragraph he wrote, “I am a total wool convert.” I didn’t think much of it. I took his advice and bought a wool tank top and a few other wool items. I wore that tank top just about every day for 4 months. It was thin, light, soft (not at all itchy like a sweater) and magically evaporated the sweat off my body before it could cling to me like a soggy tent fly after a weak pitch. In the summer I often rinsed it out overnight and it was dry by morning. Witchcraft, I tell you.

Black Phillip livin’ deliciously like the GOAT he is

Black Phillip livin’ deliciously like the GOAT he is

Image Courtesy:

Now I am a total wool convert. I’m a half-step from going tent to tent to ask folks if they have accepted wool as their one true backpacking fabric, while handing out Icebreaker garment tags.

Don’t buy clothes unless they wool

While taking some unexpected time off in New York I bought a synthetic tee shirt because it was half the price of the wool shirts and theoretically did the same job. I wore that shirt a few times on low impact hikes and it never smelled good again. I now use it as a coaster to rest my stink eye on. Meanwhile, my battered, discolored, summer sweat sponge wool tank top smells like nothing.

I spurn you, stink cloak!

I spurn you, stink cloak!


Lookin' good after 1300 miles

Lookin’ good & smellin’ fine after 1300 miles

Those brown stains are gypsy moths I sacrificed (squashed)

Those brown stains are gypsy moths I sacrificed (squashed)

I’m back on the trail this summer and I went a little nuts with the wool this time. Don’t believe me?  Jus watch hiker hiker hiker

Wool all in my pack

This is the clothing portion of my gear list. Ha! Tricked you- it’s a gear list! Don’t act surprised – there’s always a bait and switch with prophets.

All Icebreaker:

Sublime tank top (~5 oz)

Cool-Lite Spark Tank (~3 oz)

Cool-Lite Spark Shorts (~4 oz)

Dart Shorts (~4.6 oz)

Long Sleeve Zip Hood (~15 oz w/ thumb-holes and fold-over mittens)

Various Brands:

2 pair of Nuwool Injinji toe liners (~3 oz each pair)

2 pair Smartwool socks (~ 3 oz each pair)

Buff half-headband (~.7 oz)

1 Moving Comfort FineForm Sports Bra (~3 oz)

1 rando Hanes Sports Bra (~1.75 oz)

Mountain Hardware Super Light Plasmic Rain Jacket (8 oz)

Outdoor Research Spark Plug Gaiters (1.2 oz)

Innate Mentor 10 L Stuff Sack (2.8 oz)

Packed Clothes Weight = 46.15 oz = 2.9 lbs

Break the Ice; I’m Sweatin’! Woo!

Icebreaker has become my go-to wool brand because they have great sales (most stuff I bought was 40-50% off), and vibrant, bright colors to choose from. While on the trail I was constantly enveloped in green and brown. I really missed the rest of the rainbow. They also offer free shipping on orders over $49. I have some Ibex and Smartwool stuff, but the Venn diagram of ‘stuff I like’ and ‘affordable’ is much smaller for these 2 brands. Icebreaker didn’t donate any of the items listed here, or this other awesome dress I own of theirs, so you can trust this endorsement is based solely on my genuine opinion that they’re the GOAT of wool activewear. (Yes, wool comes from sheep, not goats, but I still think witches are involved.)

To see how my clothing choices stand up to the NY→ ME portion of the AT look for updates on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat: @hanleybadger


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Comments 5

  • Sacha : Jun 10th

    I’m planning to thru-hike in 2017, and I’m collecting all my gear. I keep hearing about the wonders of wool, but thus far, every supposedly “soft” merino wool item of clothing I’ve bought feels itchy right out of the box. Does is get softer with wear or washing, will I get used to it, or do I just have overly-sensitive skin? The polyester and nylon running gear I use feels amazing and keeps me cool in the Florida heat, but I’m scared of the stink everyone keeps talking about (though I also hear that thru-hikers eventually stink regardless of what they’re wearing).

    • HaHa : Jun 21st

      I’ve found the lighter the weight of the wool garment, the softer it feels right out of the box. So far only my zip up hoodie felt the slightest bit itchy and that has definitely softened with wear and washing. While it’s true that thru-hikers smell most of the time (mostly because the pack absorbs the sweat and doesn’t get laundered), I found the experience of finally having a shower after several days of being on the trail, and putting on freshly laundered clothes is significantly less refreshing if the the “clean” clothes have a lingering residual stink. That’s been my experience with synthetics. One option could be to have a synthetic shirt for camp, and a wool shirt for hiking. That way the wool can soak the sweat without stinking and the synthetic can provide lightweight comfort. Best wishes!

  • MG : Jun 11th

    Thanks for the turn on to Icebreaker. I have been a wool fan for years and did not know there was such a variety in the types and weights of garments.
    Take care and best wishes, M

    • HaHa : Jun 21st

      My pleasure!

  • Coco : Jun 24th

    Icebreaker forever


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