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Founded in 1939, Aclima have perfected their wool textile production through three generations of Johansen family visionaries. Fast forward to 2021, Aclima continue to design among the finest sports knitwear from the very heart of Norway.
Based out of Krøderen, these merino wool specialists have pioneered their manufacturing process to give us, lovers of the outdoors, a vast range of base and mid layers; varying in wool weights, styles, cuts and colours to cater for almost all disciplines across the board.
As I dabble in a fair few outdoor activities, I was in the market for a wool garment that would tick as many boxes as possible for various sports, without being too specialized. A robust base layer that was lightweight enough for temperature regulation during high levels of exertion, but heavy enough to keep me warm with a good shell in harsh conditions. And it was with that, that I opted for the WW [Warm Wool] Hooded Sweater Net.
The big brother of the WW Hooded Sweater, it merits the same weight of wool as the old model [200gsm] and original features [built in pulse heaters, hand warming pockets and balaclava], with the addition of a net over the mouth, a half torso zip, zip pockets, and watch slot.
Purely circumstantial depending on your layering and the conditions you are in. With experience comes a sound understanding of layering. Base layer, mid layer, and shell make up your typical temperate laying system. As far as wool weights go, 200 grams per meter square sits somewhere in the middle of the Aclima spectrum, and so is a popular material for a broad range of sporting disciplines, either as a base layer or an additional lightweight mid layer.
As most of us know, wool is a spectacular material. I went into great detail about wool when reviewing the Amundsen Heroes Turtleneck. But in short, wool doesn’t just keep you warm, it helps to regulate your temperature. It is resistant to water and dirt, so sweat is wicked away, and the odours do not bind with the fibres. Works when wet, and is fire retardant [from experience this is a great quality when leaving your socks to dry by the fire and getting distracted]. We have yet to find a manmade material that merits all the qualities of wool to the same standards.
I found in the harshest conditions I was exposed to, 200gsm proved quite sufficient when paired with a good shell to break the wind; pulse heaters rolled down, zip up, and balaclava up Alternatively, when conditions were warmer, it worked well as a standalone layer; rolling the sleeves up, unzipping, and pulling the balaclava back [this is hardly noticeable when sitting between your shoulders].
It was the merits of wool, the middle wool weight, and the scalability of the garment that won me over. And it proved remarkably sufficient across the board. 200gsm is absolutely heavy enough when used as a dynamic base layer in harsh conditions. And if the conditions were right, can be used as a lightweight mid layer.
Since acquiring the WW Hooded Sweater, I’ve managed to properly test it out on two expeditions. As far as layering is concerned, on both occasions I wore the WW Hooded Sweater as a base layer, alongside the Amundsen Peak Anorak as a shell, with an Amundsen Heroes Turtleneck packed away as a mid-layer to wear for lunch or around camp.
The first outing was up the Munros of Scotland. Myself and Jonny Stage of Sandgrouse Travel, a good friend of the Nordic Outdoor family, decided to brave Storm Dennis in February. This ambitious day trip was met with confidence and caution. We were keen to get up, but aware that the conditions were not in our favour. With a safe route and brave faces, we stepped off into upwards of 70mph winds pushing a wind chill of -20C. Fine if it’s dry, which is wasn’t.
I started out wearing WW Hooded Sweater and the Peak Anorak, and not once did I need to need to stop to re layer. Largely as we didn’t stop for long enough to justify layering up. The conditions were horrendous. The higher we climbed, the harder the rain fell, and the faster the wind blew. With every 50m of ascent I felt certain that the rain would yield and turn to ice, preferable as it meant we would not get wet. Instead the water permeated everything that wasn’t waterproof to 20,000mm. Boots, trousers, gloves. My torso stayed bone dry with the Peak Anorak, and comfortably insulated with the Hooded Sweater.
We pulled into the most sheltered patch of open ground we could find about 100m from the summit to talk strategy. Referencing the map over a hot flask of Jonny’s Ginger Tea, we agreed that conditions would only get worse as we get more exposed. The decision was then made to remove ourselves from the hill. The mountains aren’t going anywhere, but the pub may close shortly.
The second excursion was a week skiing in France shortly after. The course we were on consisted of developing our off piste skiing abilities, ski touring, and avalanche drills. Very dynamic skiing elements that at times require a fair bit of graft.
I applied the same layering system as before, wearing only the base layer and the shell. And this worked will all elements of the skiing. The only occasion I layered down to the Hooded Sweater on its own was when skinning up the hill on a warm day, and as the temperature climbed I was quite easily able to scale it all back.
As with scaling the Hooded Sweater up, it was quite an easy process when the weather closed in. Fitting my hands through the pulse heaters and donning my gloves. Zipping up the front. Removing my helmet and pulling up the balaclava. On that subject, the neck of the balaclava can be worn independently of the hood, and fits quite nicely under a helmet. The WoolNet feature works remarkable well at offering both protection and insulation over the mouth, even when wet from condensation.
But the key feature, that was the envy of all my team, was the watch slot. On the old model, with the pulse heaters rolled down, you would either have to roll them back up in order to reference your watch, or wear your watch over the material. The newer model simply has a baffled slot sewn in the material at the cuff that allows your watch to protrude through. This meant that I was offers complete protection with the base layer, shell and gloves, but still able to view and operate the device.
The 200 gms Merino Wool is spun from Total Easy Care [TEC] treated wool, this means that so long as you follow the care instruction, the fibres won’t tighten up and shrink. And on the off chance you get it marginally wrong, there is extra length built into the sleeves and torso. Largely for comfort, but also an additional life in case it sneaks into your 60C load.
And with that, machine wash inside out at 40C with wool friendly detergent [such as Aclima Wool Wash], and air dry flat away from a source of heat.
On an interesting note, I was able to push the garment for daily use over the period of a week, with no washing. All my kit was then packed into my duffel bag, which then took the long way back to the UK. I did not see it for two weeks. And so after a week’s hard skiing, and two weeks festering in a confined space, I expected the worse. Remarkably, the wool smelled quite fresh. As mentioned before, this is because dirt and odours do not bind with the wool fibres given their natural resistance to dirt. Ideal for prolonged use where washing facilities aren’t available.
As mentioned at the start, I was in the market for an all-purpose robust, wool base layer. I can confidently say that I have gotten my money’s worth. This wonderful garment ticked all the boxes, works for a broad range of sporting disciplines in both temperate and extreme conditions, and requires very little care.
My only criticisms are firstly, that as I don’t have a Scandinavian build, it’s not the most flattering fit. But this is by no means a deal breaker as you will be wearing it under a shell most of the time. Secondly the light structure of the knit catches on stubble after a day’s growth when pulling the balaclava up over your mouth. The solution to this is to either grow a beard, or get on top of your morning routine!