For Christmas, my parents, who want me to stay warm, gave me a base layer set - an undershirt and leggings - from Icebreaker, a New Zealand company that makes Merino wool clothing. I got the mid-range base layer (200) - which should stand me in good stead through most Ontario winter days, especially if I'm on the move. We'll see: can't wait to test it out on the bike. I've already worn it cross-country skiing and it performed just fine.
Merino's pretty nifty stuff - it insulates, it breathes like crazy, it's super lightweight (you'd never know this stuff was made from wool: it feels almost like cotton, just warmer), and when it does wear out, which won't be for quite some time, you can compost it. This stuff is really thin, and it's surprisingly soft. In our family we listen, every Christmas Eve, to A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, and the narrator talks about "aunts who always wore wool next to the skin" and who give "mustached and rasping vests that made you wonder why the aunts had any skin left at all." This is not that wool. Far from it. I wore it out skiing on Christmas Day and most of the day on Boxing Day. So stretchy, so soft, so warm.
So, I'll have to try it out on the roads, when I get back to Ottawa and Mike. I'm really looking forward to having the leggings to wear under my jeans - what is it that makes denim so very very cold?
I found a tag on the shirt that gave me a unique "BAAcode" that, presumably, allows me to trace the wool in my item to the sheep stations it was grown on in New Zealand. I don't know if I believe that or not, but I did go check it out on their site, entered my code, and found out where my shirt was when it was on the hoof. And then I spent a while just clicking around reading about merino, checking out videos of the station owners, looking at pictures of herds of wooly sheep. Great website design. I was totally sucked in.
Now... I get to find out if a New Zealand sheep can grow wool that can hack an Ottawa winter. Hah!