Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Gear Talk: Woolpower Merino Awesomeness

Finally I find some time to get a review out about the gear I used on the last trip, or in this case, since a lot longer. Back in September 2009 I got a nice package of Woolpower gear, and I have been wearing the contents ever since.

From Sweden with love.

The package contained a merino baselayer in 200 g/m² quality, consisting of a long john and a crew neck, as well as a pair of socks in the 400 g/m² quality. I have worn them since it got colder on every trip, sometimes to sleep, sometimes during the day, or as on the last trip, 24 h (ok, minus Sauna time =) for the whole six days we were away. I actually like it so much that I wear it also in daily life, as I don't belong to the segment of hip fashion folks who put looking good over being comfortably warm.

So what is there to report on the "Woolpower Merino Awesomeness"? Well, as you might know, merino doesn't smell. If you're only out for a night or two, that's an issue you can neglect, but if you're on the trail for more than that its good to know that once you come back into civilization that you're not smelling like crazy and people will walk a big circle around you. I have used synthetic baselayers, but since going for merino I will not look back, the no-smell factor alone is a winner for me. But there is more which speaks for merino, I find it is comfy on the skin and its obviously very warm. I do sweat quite a bit, summer as winter, so the warming while moist properties (Hygroscopic it's called) of merino are a further benefit which speak for it.

Outside of the Ullfrotté material.

However, and now comes the big twist, Woolpower garments are made of an material called Ullfrotté. Its basically a mix of merino with polyamide/ polyester and air. Yes, air. Like in the air we breath to stay alive. The secret is that the garments have a lot of what are called terry loops on the inside, and these are very lofty and thus trap a lot of air. Air is the thing you want to have around your body, as it retains your body heat, and Ullfrotté helps you with retaining that body heat. What is also nice about the Ullfrotté material is that it's Öko-Tex certified, which makes my environmentalist heart beat faster =) And being a mix of merino (usually around 70%) it has all of the above listed benefits.

Close-up of the terry loops of the Ullfrotté material, this is how the inside looks.

But where there is light, there is also darkness. The Ullfrotté material doesn't like velcro and similar materials, so keep it away from them velcro straps at all costs. Which I find easy as I really don't like velcro. And yes, that's honestly it if it comes to not so awesome things to say.

Another example of the terry loops and the outside.

You can notice the long cut of the crew neck in the back.

The long john weighs in mere 161 g in Size S. The legs have wide cuffs at the end, and on top you have a fly in case nature's calling. The crew neck is 173 g in Size S, and has the previously mentioned long cut back. It helps to avoid gaps between the two layers and also to keep your buttocks warm when you sit down. I like that. What's very special about the garments is that they are made in Sweden and that each garment has a label, which besides the washing instructions and size, bears the name of the person who made the garment. So for example my crew neck is made by Eleonor Lubell while the long john is made by Irene Wilhelmsson. In times of globalization where many companies produce in the Far East under very dubious conditions, I find this extremely praiseworthy and a great initiative of the Swedes.

Morning coffee in the sun.

I was so convinced of the Woolpower garments that for the winter I decided to get a pair of mitts, a balaclava, as well as 600 and 800 socks so I can dress in the Ullfrotté loftiness from top till bottom.

The mitts are 400 g/m² material, and are actually two mitts in one. I find them too warm when walking and only wore them in breaks or at camp, or while we were building the igloo. They kept my hands warm and dry, even without the eVent mitt I ordered to protect them. At 108 g for the pair they have an unbeatable warmth-to-weight ratio, if you have stood outside in the wind by -17°C there's nothing better than putting your hands in these mitts.

Woolpower mitts from inside

and outside.

The balaclave is also of the 400 g/m² material, and again it was too warm for me to wear during the day (I run hot very easily). I wore it thus for sleeping, and again it kept me warm and comfy during the night. The 83 g it weighs I carry with gusto during the day, knowing that in camp and at night my brain won't freeze. I have tried to wear it on my training snowshoe trips when we had around -14°C and it was very windy, but still then its too warm so that I switch to my merino buff. The opening for the face is variable, you can either look like a ninja and only have your eyes free, or you can pull it down under the chin and look less dangerous. Down the neck it has two long flaps, which I usually put under the crew neck to avoid any exposed spots.

Woolpower 400 balaclava.

The socks weigh 72 g for 400 g/m² pair, which I wear from spring till autumn. The 600 g/m² socks are my day socks in winter (night socks in the summer) and bring 116 g on the scale, and I wear them together with a pair of liner socks which are 38 g for the pair. At night in winter I slip into my Woolpower 800 g/m² socks, and those are 184 g for the pair. I might update the post later on with a photo of all the socks, but this morning I didn't feel like walking barefoot in the snow with -11°C.

If I now sparked your interest, you can check the Woolpower site for a dealer near you. In Finland you also could go and visit Retkiaitta in Helsinki, they have it on the shelfs. Finally, if you're a shop in Finland looking to carry Woolpower, contact the nice folks at Berner Sport who will help you sort out getting the gear in your shop.

The Woolpower Ninja thanks you for reading this far.

News: Titanium Goat Tenkara Rod

Titanium Goat brought out, in cooperation with Tenkara USA (the guys behind the tenkara rods) a rod/pole adapter for the TiGoat trekking pole. Let me quote their description from here:

"The TiGoat -Tenkara USA rod/pole adapter, turns your TiGoat AGP upper trekking pole section into a full blown, 10.5' 7:3 Tenkara fly rod. The pole adapter takes down to 19" long, and only weighs 1.5oz. The rod blanks are provided by tenkarausa.com, where you can find some great information, instructional videos, and other accessories. The rod comes with line, and a rod sleeve to pack your Tenkara rod in. It doesn't get any lighter than this. The prototype rod in the photos landed over 500 fish on a precious few summer trips in the summer
of 2009."

Priced at 95$ its way cheaper than the BPL Hane or Tenkara USA's own rods, so it should be an interesting option for all those who'd like to try this out cheaply. While not having tried it out myself, I like the idea and what I find excellent, and much better than the BPL rod is imo that this item is multipurpose, thus more in the spirit of UL.

Because I do not use trekking poles it's less interesting for me, and I will be getting a normal Tenkara rod (IWANA or AYU, in case you're wondering). I love the idea of it, and its going to be a fixed item in my pack lists from spring till summer, less to catch dinner but more to relax and pass time. I'm just waiting for May to come, when Spring is finally arriving in Finland and I can go out fishing again.

TUFWT 1.0 Trip Report

| Comments

The whole story started last year in September, when some of the members of the trekking-ultraleicht.de forum were looking for a destination for their inaugural winter tour, called TUFWT 1.0 (stands for Trekking-Ultraleicht Forums Winter Tour, in case you're wondering). I threw Finland into the round, the people liked it and so planning and organizing commenced.

Six black clad wanders.

Six brave UL backpackers arrived on January 29th in Tampere, and after making the last errands they all lay down to sleep in my apartment. Saturday morning I served them a good breakfast, and at 11 o'clock we sat in the bus to Kuru, from where we would start our journey. The first day we walked 12 km, and for whom this sounds not much let me tell you that if you have seven persons in total you are smart when you plan short distances, as different people have different speeds, need breaks at different times, and generally the whole process is a lot slower as if you're alone or with just one other person on the trail. Anyhow.

The first kilometers along a street were easy and quick.

But soon we were walking in the forest, and the speed decreased.

We arrived at dusk at the lean-to shelter, and quickly a fire was made and the sleeping spaces picked - all seven slept in the laavu that night! Snow was melted, some beers were opened, food was made, and laughter and chatter could be heard over the hill till late at night.

The party gathers around the fire.

Seven pairs of snowshoes!

The crew behind their backpacks, in front of the first night's camp place.

It took me a while to get them six all packed up, fed and ready to walk the next morning, but by noon we were finally on the trail. Photo breaks, re-hydration breaks, and snack breaks all took their time, and around four o'clock in the afternoon we reached a lean-to where we made a lunch break. By the time we left the lean-to we still had five kilometers to walk, while night fell. Four of the seven had a Fenix HP 10, which is a splendid headlamp if you need to walk at night - my Tikka Plus is rubbish for night hiking, and a Fenix HP 10 shall find its way to me soon.

Walking in line.

Finland Winter Wonderland.

It was around eight o'clock when we reached the campsite in the Seitseminen National Park, and pitching the shelters started. A Gatewood Cape, a Vaude Power Lizard, a MYOG Laavu and three (!) Laufbursche Tanzpalast shelters soon stood on the ice and under the trees. A fire, very welcome with the strong wind and snow we had, was made and the group huddled around the flames while food was made.

Well fed we all crept into our sleeping bags and quilts and called it a night. I was sleeping under a Laufbursche Tanzpalast, a tarp/ shelter hybrid made of silnylon. The weather forecast said that we wouldn't have lower temperatures than -6°C, so that I only packed my GoLite Ultra 20° for the trip, together with my Klättermusen Loke and Rab Microlite Vest for the torso and a MYOG down pants which I borrowed from Markus. The missing piece in this list was the VBL suit I planned to make but didn't have the time for. Around five a clock in the morning I woke up, quite cold from above (my mats kept me super warm from beneath!). The GoLite Ultra 20° had collapsed and I could feel the ice between the inner and outer layer. Realizing that I could forget about sleep now, I got up and started a fire again, which worked after the second try. Warming myself up, I watched the moon disappear behind the trees and cherished the sun which rose. A look on my small Suunto thermometer told me the temperature was around -17°C that morning.

Drying the Ultra 20° and my Primaloft clothes for the coming day.

Two brave UL backpackers pitched their shelters on the middle of the lake, on 30 cm thick ice.


Laufbursche Tanzpalast: Silynylon pitched as shelter on the left, and Laufbursche Tanzpalast: Cuben pitched as tarp on the right.

And once more the Laufbursche Tanzpalast: Silynylon from behind.

After all were up, melting snow and eating breakfast commenced, and by 11 o'clock we were again on the trail. It was a sunny yet misty day, and we walked in peace through the National Park. We made our lunch stop at the old Kovero croft at three o'clock, where my feet started to get cold from the lack of movement which kept them warm during the afternoon. Again not having VBL socks made me realize that its an important piece of equipment in this time of the year. Happily my fellow backpackers came to my aid, and gave me 6l plastic bags and a pair of dry liner & merino socks before I would have gone ahead with my stupid idea of pouring hot water over my shoes (Why is that stupid, you ask? Mpemba Effect, they told me). With fresh socks and a VBL my feet soon were warm again, and the last five kilometers to the Teerilampi Cabin we walked in a good mood, knowing that a Sauna, fresh vegetables and beer would be waiting for us.

On a snow covered lake, the sun shines down on us.

More Finland Winter Wonderland.

The next four days and nights we spent at the cottage, talking gear and trips, went ice fishing, build an igloo, went to the sauna and swimming in the icehole every night, and enjoyed the pleasant surroundings of not seeing anyone else around. Small daytrips from the hut were made, playing Carcassonne and enjoying the good food; we really had a good time in fantastic company.

Our quinzee at dusk.

Lessons learned? Skills and knowledge are more important than gear. I reckon if I hadn't been able to get a fire started after my quilt collapsed, things could have taken a turn to the worse. Fire making is an essential skill if going to the outdoors, to be able to melt snow/ boil water/ cook food/ get warmth is so important that I will practice making fire now even more.

It wasn't too smart of me to trust the weather forecast and only take gear which kept me warm till around -12°C. The missing VBL will be made asap, and no winter tour will take place without one for me in the future. Also the idea of having a Platy filled with a hot bouillon when going to bed, from which one can take a mouthful when waking up at night, will be adopted by me for future trips. At some point my body just doesn't produce any warmth anymore, and a mouthful of warm soup will be enough to keep my body going and produce more warmth for the rest of the night, giving me a good sleep.

Self portrait.

More on gear that worked and gear that didn't this coming week, when I find the time between getting healthy and work. However, most importantly, I'd like to thank the six for coming here and go hiking in Finland Winter Wonderland with me. We were strangers as we met, but left as friends. So thank you, and I hope we meet soon again for more UL madness!