I got up one morning and couldn't find my socks, so I called Information and said, "I can't find my socks." She said, "They're behind the couch." And they were! - Stephen WrightAccording to Wear Wool For Survival, humans have been using wool since about 10,000 B.C. Ancient Greeks lined their helmets with felt, and Roman legionnaires used breastplates made of wool felt. It is great for survival wear because it retains body heat when wet. (Most fabrics suck the warmth out of a person when they get wet from rain, snow or sweat.) Wool also has breathability, water resistance, odor-resistance, fire-resistance, durability, elasticity, crease-resistance, and UV-light resistance. Wool has been used as insulation in timber-frame buildings and for making rope. It insulates better than fiberglass and is naturally flame retardant. Wool can make excellent diapers with the ability to absorb moisture almost one-third of its own weight.
One drawback to wool is scratchiness. I have a pair of warm woolen socks that I hate to wear – too itchy! Soft wool does exist but you’ll have to spend extra for higher quality. The finest and softest wool is said to come from Merino sheep. They were originally bred in Spain but now Australian raises 80% of all Merinos. They can also be found in New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa, and the Western US.
Another drawback to wool is that woolen items can lose shape or shrink many sizes when washed. Here are some recommendations from wikiHow on How to Wash Wool:
- Don’t wash! Wool is odor resistant and can last a long time with only spot washing by hand for stains and a good airing out.
- To prevent shrinking, soak wool in cold water for a few hours before washing so all the woolen fibers become saturated.
- Use only a cleaner designed for washing wool. Strong detergent and soap in large quantity can harm wool.
- Heat and agitation are the enemies of wool. So never use the dryer – instead gently roll the item to squeeze out water and let it dry flat in the shape you want.
- The agitation of a washing machine can also be harmful. A good soak in water (or mild soap) and rinse is often sufficient.
Wool is a great fabric for go-kits, hikes, and survival conditions. However make sure you are comfortable wearing it. You don’t want the distraction and annoyance of scratchy clothes when trying to cope with the stress of a disaster.