Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Women's Wednesdays: In search of the perfect wool sweater!

After our last tour, the third in a row, of being quite cold at night, I realized there was a serious flaw in my logic that I didn’t need a heavy layer because I live in Southern California. Layering three or four lightweight wool shirts, I came to realize, isn’t warm enough in 30-degree weather. Nor does it seem particularly economical, space-wise, to pack a half-dozen shirts over just one decent sweater.

So I set out on a mission to find the Perfect Wool Sweater. I wanted something that was not only really warm, but versatile enough to wear with everything else. Brownie points for a bit of style.

With an image in my head of what I wanted, I started trolling the internet. I ended up plunking down the money for two different sweaters that I had been eyeing (in part because it’s that great time of year when everything is on sale). The first was the Ibex Shak Full-Zip. The second was the Icebreaker Glider 320.

The Ibex Shak Full-Zip was the first to arrive. After chuckling to myself about my lesson learnt to read about the color in the description and not rely solely on the internet picture, I jaunted off to try it on. The thing that I was most excited about with the Shak Full-Zip is the decorative stitching, which creates a much more tailored look. It has one front pocket that is quite big and a collar that zips up without choking you. All positive aspects, in my book. Unfortunately, I have long arms and a long torso, and this sweater does not. So, when I tried it on, I was disappointed to discover that, when I stretched out my arms, the sleeves pulled in just enough to not fully cover my wrists (and to really bug me). And, yet, despite the not-quite-long-enough sleeves and torso, I really wanted to make this sweater work. I had been so very excited about the stitching on the sweater when I pulled it out of the packaging. But, when I tried it on, I felt a bit like I was wearing a track suit jacket (which may work for some folks, but just isn’t my style). With a long, heavy sigh, I realized that this was not my Perfect Wool Sweater, and I opted to send it back.

The Icebreaker Glider 320 was the second sweater to arrive. Unlike the Ibex Shak, the Icebreaker Glider is a pull-over sweater, with a quarter-zip. Also unlike the Shak, the Glider has no decorative stitching, which makes it more of a sweatshirt sort of shape (albeit a well-fitting, feminine-looking sort of sweatshirt). At first, I honestly wasn’t sure if I wanted to hang onto it. But then I tried it on. Not only is the Glider noticeably softer than the Shak (it’s really extraordinarily snuggly), it has wonderfully long sleeves which end in a thumb loop to help keep your hands warm (a huge plus for me, as my hands are always cold). I decided to hang onto the Glider, even though it didn’t quite meet my criteria for the Perfect Wool Sweater, because it’s so fantastically comfortable. But, it doesn’t just sit in my house for me to snuggle into on cold evenings - it’s a wonderful layer for riding. I’ve worn it with layers underneath, as well as just the sweater by itself, and it keeps me toasty warm, while allowing a huge amount of breathability.

Despite keeping the Icebreaker Glider, I feel like I haven’t yet found my Perfect Wool Sweater, so the hunt continues. I’ve ordered the Smartwool Hahn’s Peak Half-Zip Sweater, and I’m hopeful that the third time’s a charm. (I’ll let you know…)


dafew said...

when I moved from the East to the West the best advice I got was "you need down". I am with you on layering wool.... but for post ride warmth and easy/tight packing a down sweater is the way to go... all the usual outdoor suspects offer them...


Dottie said...

Sales! Sales! That might be the most "Women's Wednesday" aspect of this particular post. I was thinking, "Oh, nice wool sweater, too bad spring is coming on." But then I read about it being a good time to get things on sale and now I'm thinking,"Looks like I need a perfect wool sweater, too." :)