Natural Outdoor Gear: Smartwool Merino Wool
Merino sheep wear nature’s best outdoor gear—their own wool! While the sheep graze through a huge range of weather, their wool warms them in the brisk winter, cools them in the hot summer, resists water absorption, and keeps them clean. For centuries, sheep have benefited from their wool’s:
- Breathability, for comfortable air flow
- Moisture management, for better temperature control, as Merino wool absorbs and holds up to 30% of its moisture while still feeling dry to the touch
- Warmth, thanks to a natural crimp texture that keeps warm air close to your body
- Coolness, by evaporating the moisture between your body and your gear
- Wicking abilities, which removes moisture before sweat can give you chills
- Durability, because wool’s structure is very similar to the heating and cooling capabilities of human skin
- Clean scent, thanks to wool’s antibacterial qualities
- Comfort, due to the smaller fibers of Merino wool
- Natural SPF, which keeps your skin healthy and free of sunburn
Why not use all of these attributes, which occur naturally, to create outdoor gear for humans?
Smartwool partners with sheep farmers to create lasting relationships—the company knows its growers by name! These important partners choose the rams used to breed Merino sheep, and they guarantee that the sheep are healthy. Because of the long-term relationships between the company and the growers, both parties benefit from well-managed flocks and stable sources of wool at predetermined costs.
Smartwool’s Merino sheep freely range in what is arguably the most beautiful place on the planet. This beautiful environment also affects the quality of the wool fiber—gorgeous, natural settings produce happy sheep, and happy sheep produce high-quality wool.
By “Shear” Creativity
All Smartwool products begin when sheep get their regular spa days: sheep shearing. After Merino sheep have spent months grazing on nutritious grass in rugged mountains, these happy, healthy sheep—which haven’t dealt with any of the stress of predators—are sheared for their valuable wool. Their thick coats have grown through the best wool-growing weather conditions: hot, dry summers, moderate rains, and cold winters. Perfect Smartwool material!
After shearing, the wool is greasy, due to lanolin that sheep produce naturally, and dirty, with dirt and plants tangled into the wool. Through scouring, carding, and combing, the wool is transformed into soft, clean material. During this process, nothing goes to waste—lanolin is repurposed in soaps, ointments, and cosmetics, vegetable matter becomes fuel, and short wool fibers are used for billiard cloths and carpet pads.
The second washing smooths the fiber scales, which prevents the wool from shrinking. Then workers apply a soft resin to keep the wool pliable.
Later in the process, the yarn is prepared, spun, and wound. Lastly, the yarn is twisted for extra strength and put through hundreds of computerized knitting machines to create the end product—the Smartwool apparel you love!
Socks are knitted more quickly, but for other apparel, designers use patterns traced onto fabric, cut, and sewn on a machine.
Smartwool uses fair, sustainable practices to produce each item, and finding partners who uphold the same standards is crucial to the Smartwool process. The company develops relationships with trustworthy partners, keeping those relationships with nine out of 11 partners for more than a decade. The health of the supply chain greatly impacts the end product and cost.
Smartwool partners with New Zealand Merino Company, which has created ZQ, the first Merino wool accreditation program in the world. This program guarantees that the welfare of the sheep is socially, environmentally, economically, and sustainably cared for. Merino wool is renewable, natural material, enabling the company to reach new standards of production integrity.
Smartwool Socktober At Appalachian Outfitters
For the month of October, Smartwool is running a promotion called “Socktober” that will knock your socks off. For every pair of Smartwool socks we sell at Appalachian Outfitters, they will donate five dollars to the conservancy for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park up to $1,000.
So when you purchase a pair of Smartwool socks, you’re not only investing in a warm and high quality pair of socks, you’re also helping your local parks!
Stop by Appalachian Outfitters to shop Smartwool or contact us for more information.