( 4.5/5 )
Woolpower's 200gsm layers are the lightest in the range.
I found out about clothing from Swedish outdoor specialist Woolpower only recently, when reading the Ray Mears blog.
Since remaining warm in winter is one of my obsessions, I was interested to see what Mears recommends when it comes to thermals. His site sells a Woolpower garment, but only in olive green, so I had a search around, found the Woolpower main website and had a shufty round.
What's special about Woolpower garments is the Ullfrotte fabric. Developed in collaboration with the Swedish military, it has a smooth outside and a terry loop inside like a towel, in a mixture of non-mulsed Patagonian merino (for warmth) and synthetic (for strength), including 2 per cent stretch. It can be washed at 60 degrees. The garment pieces are knitted in northern Sweden, on a round loom, without seams, and the sleeves are then set in, so there are few seams to chafe or weaken. Each item is hand-assembled in Sweden and signed by the worker.
The Woolpower site is well worth a look, but they don't sell direct - you have to find a stockist, and for me, that meant online, since I don't live anywhere near a retail outlet. In the end, because I specifically wanted a red garment, which are a bit rare (usual colours are black, navy, grey and olive), I ordered from Lissom and Muster. The shipping was a whopping £16 but my garment was only £59, which was a real bargain - they're normally 99 euros and above.
For my first foray into Woolpower, I chose the zip-neck turtleneck in 200gsm, the lightest weight the firm makes, and a garment that I think is very attractive. It will be obvious to anyone used to cold-weather gear that this weight is most manufacturer's mid-weight. Other weights include 400, 600 and even - for socks - 800, designed primarily for people who have to be sedentary in freezing conditions, such as when ice-fishing.
My item arrived in about a week from Lissom, and in a Woolpower box. Since I was on the point of going out, I stripped off my Finisterre Eddy tee and put this on instead. I was immediately struck by its light weight and somewhat 'spongy', soft feel.
I am a size 14 - maybe a 16 on the butt - and bought a Medium, feeling that this would be the 'safest' fit. I didn't want to risk a Small without trying it on and I figured that I could always wear a Medium as a mid-layer. This might indeed be how I wear it in future, as it is indeed a slightly loose fit. The sleeves are very long (the garments are unisex, so it has to accommodate male monkey arms) and somewhat baggy, and it feels a tad like an old-fashioned Shetland jumper in cut.
Notably, the back is very long, cut to keep your kidneys warm, and in my case, it comes right down below my bottom, which feels extremely snug. Next time, I might go for a Small as my base layer, to make it easier to tuck into trousers.
Over it, I wore my usual grey cashmere boyfriend cardigan. It was 6 degrees today in Normandy and as a coat, I wore my Burberry raincoat with zip-in wool lining (IE: a medium-weight coat rather than a warm coat). And after that, I forgot I was wearing it. This is basically what I want from a thermal or base layer - that you can put it on and forget about it, that it's warm, soft, doesn't hamper your movements, etc.
It's only day one, but so far I'm very pleased with this garment and am looking at ordering more in the future, probably a 400 vest and a 600 jacket to get a spread of the different weights.