The outdoor world has long been enamoured with the properties of Merino wool and proper, high-end polypropylene. Indeed, both fabrics hold impressive properties in the way of insulation and moisture management, and have been key elements in the space of garment layering. But they were never available in a single, properly integrated fabric until the Lab team at Wilderness Wear decided to do prototyping on their knitting machinery to bring them properly together.
The new material, known as MerinoFusion (or MeFu), is not a bonded material as are some other hybrid materials in the market. Rather, it is a woven material with distinct outer and inner surfaces that provide sensitive handle to skin, high-level insulation from its structure of knitted air pockets, along with superior moisture wicking capabilities and odour minimisation. And its unique weave pattern with contrasting fibers looks very sharp.
In-house testing took place via a couple of Wilderness Wear stalwarts prepared to take some punishment for the team and venture out in the cooler months for a combination of running, free-heel skiing and cycling. Some lower aerobic activities including dog walking, cruising the Queen Victoria Markets and channel surfing also found their way into the schedule, all with standout results. The garments were warm, comfortable and functional.
One of the positive factors that arose early in testing was the ability of MerinoFusion to warm up quickly upon commencement of aerobic activity and then cool down at the same rate with cessation. A measure of this was further tested with sample garments split 50/50 left and right with MerinoFusion on one side and regular Superfine Merino on the other – which verified that the new material had increased responsiveness. So, ‘responsiveness’ is the word.
Then some truly powerhouse testing and evaluation came from outdoor cycling extremist, Kate Leeming, as she prepared for a landmark ‘fatbike’ – check out the tyres! – transverse of Antarctica. Beginning March this year Kate rode a four-week training adventure through the Canadian Arctic and took some of the prototypes through their paces. An interest factor in the testing was to consider the total result of mixing up layering with a wide range of materials, including cotton, wool, synthetics and bamboo among others. Some garments were dedicated cycling items and others were general technical outdoor, including head gear, underwear, socks and gloves – all important for the gruelling temperatures that occasionally tipped -40˚C. In those conditions, the process of keeping moisture away from the skin and working at temperature regulation via layering the MerinoFusion was given as key.
The initial weight for MerinoFusion was 190gsm, but the relative warmth being experienced was akin to a 200+gsm in Superfine Merino. Then with phase two development a lighter and more open knit was configured that yielded a weight of 160gsm – the perfect weight to bring the material into a four-seasons product scenario.
The MerinoFusion range has expanded to include the following technical garments:
- 190gsm Long Sleeve Crew (men’s)
- 190gsm Long Sleeve Crew (womens’s)
- 190gsm Long Sleeve Zip Neck (men’s)
- 190gsm Long Sleeve Zip Neck (womens’s)
- 190gsm Long Sleeve Ocean Race (men’s) – with set in sleeves
- 190gsm Long Sleeve Zip Neck Hoody (womens’s)
- 190gsm Long Sleeve Leggings (men’s)
- 190gsm Long Sleeve Leggings (womens’s)
- Light 160gsm Short Sleeve Tee (men’s)
- Light 160gsm Short Sleeve Tee (women’s)
- Light 160gsm Long Sleeve Tee (men’s)
- Light 160gsm Long Sleeve Tee (women’s)
- 190gsm Single Layer Neck Choob (unisex)
- 190gsm Double Layer Neck Choob (unisex)
Best of both worlds – ‘nature-made plus man-made’
Long-standing and popular yarns, Superfine Merino wool and Schoeller polypropylene, have separately dominated the high end of technical thermal wear throughout the world with their superior performance abilities and comfort traits. Merino, particularly in its low micron versions, enables insulation in the cold (even when wet), maintains odor-free stability even after many days of constant wear and provides an ultra-soft touch to skin. Polypropylene is a highly engineered synthetic fiber that provides extraordinary insulation during physical exertion and wicks moisture away from skin due to its zero moisture retention capability, therefore keeping a person warm and dry during high aerobic activities. Materials from these fibers are the mainstay in base layer clothing used in sports and activities including skiing, bushwalking, sailing, running and cycling along with similar and related activities including travel and casual.
Wilderness Wear Merino wool is sourced from a select number of Tasmanian farm gates with yields managed by local agricultural managers, Roberts Ltd. The product from these farms is superior in every possible aspect as a result of pristine pastoral conditions and a highly ethical process of animal management. The wool is better than any of the other Merino wool that Wilderness Wear has dealt with, and the knowledge of origin and process plays well to the conscience of all involved: producers, processors, designers, manufacturers, retailers and customers.
The polypropylene used by Wilderness Wear has been provided by Schoeller for many years and continues to be the world market leader for yarn of its type.
Superfine Merino wool and premium polypropylene yarns used in MerinoFusion garments observe global ecological guidelines along the complete production and procurement chain:
- EXP – a revolutionary new process that enables the wool to remain machine-washable without the use of chlorine.
- bluesign® – approved fabric label designates textiles that were produced in compliance with especially high environmental standards.
- Öko-Tex Standard 100 – the world’s most widespread textile-label for textiles tested for harmful substances.
Wilderness Wear MerinoFusion is now in full production and available online and via a number of capital city and regional retailers throughout Australia.