Nepal – Tested first-hand, part 1
Merino – a travel necessity
My wardrobe is full of T-shirts and sweatshirts made from modern functional materials that most probably won’t go anywhere any longer. They can thank Merino for that.
But let’s start from the beginning. When Ondra and I were preparing for our biggest and, more importantly, highest mountain adventure in our lives – trekking in the Himalayas – at the end of September, we were offered to test merino clothes. Of course, we knew the material as such, but hadn’t used it much until then. I didn’t wear it at all, and Ondra had one T-shirt that he wore during a full-day sports load mainly because he suffers from a rash on his arms and he read somewhere that merino could help him with that. And simply because it is a natural material.
Photo: Ondra and Jitka
Although merino has many more useful features, I was most attracted by the purely practical thing, namely that you can sweat it through for several days in a row and the T-shirt won’t smell. You have to admit that this is useful not only when you travel in remote areas. But since I had little experience with merino, I wasn’t sure to what extent it was true, not just marketing. Given that, unlike most tourists, we decided to complete the whole trek on our own and without porters, I had no choice but to believe.
The goal was clear – the lightest backpacks we would carry on our backs at high altitudes over 4,000 metres for almost two weeks. So we had to minimise everything we would pack. Given the length of the trip and the expected physical intensity, I would normally take at least four long-sleeve and short-sleeve T-shirts, at least two tops and a sweatshirt. Plus a special sleeping T-shirt. This is a total of twelve pieces of clothing just for the top, not counting a waterproof and feather jacket. Finally, only two long-sleeve merino T-shirts, two summer merino T-shirts and one merino sweatshirt travelled with me in the mountains. I’m almost ashamed to write it, but I didn’t use one of the short-sleeve T-shirts at all. The fact is that when I suppressed my girlish need to beautify myself with a different piece of clothing every day, there was no other reason. With merino T-shirts, you really can’t smell that you’ve been wearing it for several days, and this is for me, as a traveller, the greatest benefit, because it isn’t always possible to wash things.
A short-sleeve thin merino plus a sweatshirt were with me on the plane to Nepal, which included a several-hour stop-over in Dubai, and that combination also proved to be ideal for the first days in Kathmandu, when we explored local landmarks and gastronomy. Later, in my “urban tourist” model, I just changed my trousers for those for trekking, put on hiking boots and went to the mountains. The first six days of our trip, including two days of hiking in the mountains, were over, and I only needed one T-shirt.
Photo: Ondra and Jitka
In the Namche Bazaar, the Sherpa capital and the gateway to the Himalayan giants at an altitude of three and a half thousand metres, we both changed short sleeves for long ones. And during the remaining ten days of the trek, we both used two long-sleeve merino T-shirts. One for trekking, the other mostly for our evening tea and for sleeping. Depending on the weather and time of day, the long-sleeve thick merino proved to be a very practical piece of clothing for the whole day’s trekking, either as a single layer or, in the colder parts of the day, combined with a waterproof or warm jacket.
Every description says that merino is thermoregulatory. That’s something I couldn’t quite understand. How can it make me feel warm in winter and cool in summer? You won’t realise and really understand this feature until you’ve walked the first hill. Do you know that feeling when the surface starts to rise sharply and the relaxed walk become more and more difficult? Your heartbeat flies up, your breath accelerates, your body warms up, and here it comes: you realise that instead of becoming uncomfortably hot, which is replaced by a feeling of cold on your sweaty back under your backpack in the necessary pause to draw breath, there is no overheating or cold T-shirt.
Photo: Ondra and Jitka
Merino can perfectly regulate your subjective body temperature and when needed, it feels warm even when wet, unlike synthetic materials. A priceless feature, and you don’t even have to climb five and a half thousand metres above sea level like us to appreciate that. We enjoy this feature both on the roof of the world and during brisk walks with a dog at home. Merino has since become our companion virtually on all trips, whether a few hours’ walks or trips lasting several days. And what did the T-shirts look like after we trekked over 130 kilometres in the mountains, with total elevation gain exceeding 9,600 metres? Fresh, unlike us, so that they could manage it easily once again.
How did merino perform not only in the Himalayas? Pros and cons of merino wool as seen by HER. You can read the next part HERE.
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