The days are getting shorter and the mercury is falling, and you’re wondering how to plug those holes in your winter wardrobe. If you want to make some of your own clothes for the cold season, you should consider which fabrics will keep you warm and dry outdoors.
We’ve saved you time with our advice on three fibre types which offer great insulation and will retain warmth even if you get soaked in a chilly winter storm.
For superior warmth and all round cosiness, it’s hard to go past polyester. A synthetic fibre, polyester rocketed to stardom in the 1950s, when it was marketed as a miracle fabric because it didn’t need ironing. Since then it has often been viewed as ‘cheap’ and ‘uncomfortable’ but in recent times; new forms like polyester microfiber have assuaged those concerns. Polyester, being a plastic-based fibre sourced from oil, is by its very nature hydrophobic (water hating). This makes it a fantastic product to ensure you don’t catch cold on a wet day.
Polyester is also an excellent insulator. If you buy a hiking jacket or jumper there’s every chance it will be made of polyester. This partly explains why it’s the most globally in-demand fibre. Polyester will keep you warm because it contains hollow fibres which retain trapped air. Once the air is trapped inside the fibre it’s then warmed by your body heat. If you have environmental concerns about polyester, there’s good news, you can now buy recycled polyester products. For example, one of the leading outdoor adventure companies in Australia has started using recycled polyester (made from plastic drink bottles, crushed into flakes) to make its popular all-weather jackets.
Like polyester, nylon is a synthetic fibre sourced from petroleum and, like its more famous cousin, it also has the ability to retain trapped air even when wet, ensuring you stay snug as a bug. Nylon fibres can absorb some water (different thread types will produce different results) but the fabric dries very quickly. Most water will simply run off because of the smooth structure of the fibre. Nylon, which is an incredibly strong fibre, can be made in such a way that air circulation through the fabric is very low, which equals more warmth for you. Interestingly, because nylon has such low absorbency, it’s not the ideal material if you know you’re going to work up a sweat. The smooth fibres actually fail to absorb the sweat, meaning you can end up feeling unpleasantly clammy.
If you’re after a natural option to keep you warm outdoors this winter, wool is your answer.
Given that sheep are often found in chilly and rainy climates (think England or New Zealand) it makes sense that their thick fleeces would have properties to ensure they stay warm no matter what nature hurls at them. So it’s no surprise then that wool, even when wet, retains warmth.
This is because wool fibres have a water repelling film on the outer layer. The fluffy properties of the fibre means rain drops tend to bead on the surface and run off rather than soak in. When moisture does penetrate the outer layer, the wool fibres can absorb about a third of their own weight before they start to feel wet. Wool also has the ability to trap air in little pockets, providing excellent insulation. Merino wool is considered the absolute best type of wool to keep you warm. It’s also great for spinning. Hence the higher price-tag!