Merino Wool: The Warmest Fabric

For several years I have relied on SmartWool’s Merino Wool layers to provide winter warmth.  I am not an avid winter sports girl, in fact, I can barely stand being outside for an hour in the dead of winter.  I am paralyzed due to a spinal cord injury.  One of the side effects of my injury is that I get cold easily.  In fact, I can be cold even when my body is truly warm.  I know it sounds like an oxymoron but you just have to live the life of someone with a high level spinal cord injury to understand.  Starting in October I count the months until April and cherish each warm day.  In September, I brace myself for the blowing of cold winds and prepare for the winter chill – even in my moderate southeastern U.S. climate.194

I’ve searched high and low for every kind of heater, warm weather gear and warmth gimmick, and I seriously don’t care much about the electric bills in the winter.  I’d rather sacrifice other things to keep warm.  Once the air dries out and the temperatures drop there is nearly a constant background noise in my head whispering, ” I’m cold”.  It can be a rather annoying.

I discovered my favorite find for cool weather clothing a few years ago when I read an article about how wool keeps you warmer than synthetics and why wool is such a great fabric.

smartwool micro

People say it’s itchy, but they haven’t experienced fine merino wool made by companies like SmartWool, Icebreaker and Ibex.

I wear wool all year.  In the heat of the summer I have a couple lightweight wool tee shirts that I use as the perfect shirt.  It keeps me comfortable in the air conditioner and cool outside in the heat.

The Pros and Cons of high quality merino wool

  1. Warm:  It is by far the best solution I have found to keep warm!  In the winter I always layer with a lightweight SmartWool or Icebreaker shirt and add a mid-weight merino wool top over that.  I consider these my base layer and then if needed I put on the sweater or shirt I plan to wear on the outside.  I don’t do well with coats because they are binding on my arms, so this is what I wear all day inside and out with the exception of adding a vest occasionally.
  2. Odor resistant: Whether you perspire or not, this fabric is extremely odor resistant and does not need to be laundered often.  I wear my shirts for a couple weeks at least…  And I mean I wear the shirt underneath whatever I’m wearing for two weeks straight without washing it!  It may sound gross, but I promise even if you perspire you will be surprised how long it takes before it smells!
  3. Soft: You’ll never know you’re wearing wool!  This fabric feels a lot like cotton with stretch.  It is very comfortable and soothing.  I’ve been known to wear my lightweight wool to bed in the summer!
  4. Durable: These pieces do not wear out quickly.  They are high quality and well made.  If you have a few, you can wear them every day for multiple winters!
  5. Requires minimal care: Like I said above, you don’t need to launder them often.  My recommendation is not to launder them unless needed.  Give them the sniff test.  They are machine washable and can go in the dryer!   Sometimes I don’t put mine in the dryer and they will hold up better with fewer washes!  I have, on occasion, taken a piece that is a couple years old to the cleaners to have them freshened up.  The dry cleaners have a way with wool and can remove any pilling.  For every day care I simply lay my shirts out at night!  They can be folded or hung up for storage.
  6. Worth mending: Because I wear one of three light weight shirts next to my skin all  winter I have taken a couple to the dry cleaners to mend an elbow hole.  I’m always leaning on my elbow!
  7. Temperature regulating:  Choose the right weight and they will keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.



  1. Limited selection of color and styles.
  2. Price: Find a sale!  I buy most of my merino wool on sale.  At first I paid full price for a couple pieces, but now that I know I love the product, I buy on sale and clearance!  I often get it as gifts!  There is nothing like a great pair of warm wool socks for any cold nature friend!  Price is probably the reason every cold natured person doesn’t buy high quality merino wool.  Full-price for a lightweight item like a long sleeved shirt is $70-90.  A mid weight ¾ zip shirt can run $90-120.  A wonderful pair of socks can run $25-30.Smartwool Women's PhD Snowboard Medium Sock

If you are not convinced to make an investment in high quality merino wool clothing, treat yourself to a pair of SmartWool socks, then decide on your next piece.

Stay warm and share your tips for beating the cold below.


Hawaii – Blast on the Big Island

As colder weather invades the northern hemisphere, I’m drawn to thoughts of balmy beaches and caramel colored sunsets like the ones we relished on the Big Island of Hawaii a few years ago. Year-round the temperatures range from the 60’s at night to the 80’s during the day. Climate perfection! My disability and wheelchair are obstacles in travel situations, but thankfully with focused effort, they can usually be overcome. We’ve trekked across the Pacific several times for both business and pleasure. We were blessed with great situations that made the Hawaiian paradise an affordable excursion each time.

Transportation is an extra challenge with a heavy non-collapsible power wheelchair. When our plane arrives at most destinations, we wait for the chair to be brought to the gate, or I get off the plane and use an over-sized airline wheelchair while we wait for airport staffers to bring my chair. The airline’s ‘manual’ wheelchairs make my small frame feel like a floppy Raggedy Ann doll. Thankfully, I didn’t need to use the airline’s chair when we arrived in Kona. Other passengers disembarked via the stairs while I anxiously waited for a makeshift jet-way/lift-truck that raised my chair to the plane and lowered me to the tarmac. It was the first time I’d felt like merchandise in Home Depot. See the Orange and White on the lift-truck? Home Depot colors, too!

Our next challenge was a short wheelchair accessible ride to our condo on the Kohalo Coast. We splurged for the ramped van rental during our stay to make sight-seeing more convenient.

Pre-planning and research is definitely a must. There are merely a few rent-able wheelchair vans on the island!

We settled into the fully equipped timeshare unit that Brent’s sister and brother-in-law let us use…did I say blessed? Beaches are fabulous for relaxing, but we needed adventure.

We booked a wheelchair accessible snorkeling tour out of Kona. The boat had a ramp for my chair and extra men to help lift me in and out of the water for snorkeling.

I made a superb cart for snorkels, masks and fins, too.  And in case you are wondering, no…I don’t use fins, and Brent shouldn’t need any with his size 15 feet!

The snorkeling excursion was a little choppy, but I managed not to suck water in through my snorkel and afterwards we enjoyed the cruise back to Kona together.

When we took a gander above us, we only saw the feet of fellow snorkelers on the upper deck. Darn. It was not accessible!

We employed a not so accessible mode of transportation in a helicopter.

Only the brute force of several men could get me in the ‘Madge-sized’ seat!  ‘Blue Hawaiian Helicopter’ staff were exceptionally helpful and accommodating.

On our two hour tour we got a bird’s eye view of the lava fields. They were accessible by helicopter, but too dangerous for walking or four wheeling!

Hot lava flowing into the sea.

We headed up the coast toward the fertile Waipio Valley. Note the other helicopter in the distance for perspective of the valley’s enormity.

We marveled at the stunning waterfalls.

Hawaii is truly a paradise. Winter is a lovely time of year to visit not only for the perfect climate, but also for the peak whale watching. Whether you are walking or wheeling, Hawaii is a destination for a bucket list.

Waiting for warm weather,


Comfort in Cold Weather

Autumn is unwelcome weather in my life.  I don’t mean to be a grinch because I realize many people love the cold weather. I’m all for the temperature to cool from 98° to 78º, or maybe even 72º, but once we drop lower than that, introduce a few showers and cool winds….ugh!  I’m such a wimp. And autumn is a sign of the inevitable upcoming winter! I try to be positive about cold but just need a little time to vent. As the cool blows in, clothes become cumbersome and it is nearly impossible for me to stay warm. Sometimes it’s hard to sleep because I’m cold. It’s just a side effect of most high level spinal cord injuries. Often, the brain is not able to correctly interpret thermostat signals from the body.  I think I’m cold even when my temperature is actually fine.

Things I dislike about fall…
– I’m nearly always cold…well I think so anyway and that’s what counts.
– Fall is the beginning of cold, yikes! Winter is coming!
– More layers of clothes makes getting dressed/undressed more difficult and time- consuming.
– Tahoe wants to play outside, but it’s cold so we play less.
– Every year I burn myself trying to stay warm.
– I get obsessive about searching for ‘warm’ solutions. It wastes time.
– I buy more wool socks, shirts and sweaters even though I have enough.
– Wool is expensive.

Enough rant.  I have hope.  My medicine of adding gratitude is in order.

Things I love about fall…
– Our wedding anniversary.
– Trips to the beach…if it’s warm!
– Trips to the mountains.
– Pumpkins.
– Bonfires.
– Tahoe loves cool weather.
– Children love to play in the leaves.
– Snuggling with Brent and Tahoe.
– The air is crisp and clear.
– Trees are extravagantly colorful.
– Stars are bright.
– Wool. The soft kind.
– Two of my nieces birthdays.
– Hot soup.
– Hot water.
– Heat.
– Pedicures are unnecessary.
– Online shopping for wool.
– Did I say I love wool?


Today I’m thankful for fall and glad I’m alive to experience another one. It’s therapeutic for me to realize that all the reasons I don’t like cold weather stem from my perceived temperature and comfort. I let cold impact me more than I should. Maybe I’ll find a new way to enjoy the cold weather this year. That’s my resolve.

Are you warm and cozy today?  Got any ‘keep warm’ tricks to share?