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orthovox gear

Geartrade Spotlight: ORTOVOX Swisswool

How our German friends at ORTOVOX made a traditional fiber the cool new thing in outerwear.

If there’s anything we love around here at Geartrade, it’s gear made to last. We also happen to have a high appreciation for gear that’s smartly engineered. And with ORTOVOX, those two things go together.

The Germany-based company was founded decades ago when they developed a game-changing avalanche beacon technology. (They engineered a beacon that could search for avalanche victims no matter what wave transmission frequency the victim’s beacon was set to—people had died due to differences in frequency between searchers’ and victims’ beacons, and now there was a solution.)

orthovox backpack
Once established, the company applied its same German-engineer thinking to an ever-expanding range of mountain sports products—a 1985-era “Powder Rucksack” for backcountry skiers, an avalanche shovel, and, over the decades, an entire line of outerwear, packs, and snow safety equipment. Everything they create is meticulously considered and intentional—from their avalanche probe assembly system to the glove-friendly zipper pulls on their touring packs. Another thing they’ve made even better: wool insulation, with their invention of ORTOVOX SWISSWOOL.

orthovox jacket
Of course, ORTOVOX perfected wool. 

Many outdoor people already know that wool clothing is great for layering because it insulates well, breathes, feels soft and fuzzy, resists odors, and stays warm even when wet. But ORTOVOX found a way to make wool even better, starting with an ethical commitment to source the wool responsibly. (If you’ve ever researched the shudder-inducing practices common in sheep farms, you know this matters.) These animals are humanely treated with kindness and respect, the environment is respected, farmer relationships are valued, and there’s transparency in sourcing and reporting. They call it the ORTOVOX Wool Promise, or OWP, and it applies to every piece of wool ORTOVOX clothing, from their ski touring baselayers to their wool fleece hoodies.

orthovox coat
And on top of that, they’ve pioneered a way to pack their trademarked SWISSWOOL insulation into their outerwear, giving these items the power of wool instead of down feathers, which most other brands use. While down is a wonderful and lightweight insulator, it’s useless once it gets wet. It also takes forever to dry, which is a problem on long days and back-to-back days. By substituting fluffy wool insulation for down, the clothing is still extremely warm, yet it brings all the wooly benefits with it: breathability, quick-drying, odor resistance, and warmth even if it gets wet. (Which, how many of us get wet from snow and sweat when we’re being active outside in the cold? … Yeah, that’s all of us.)

orthovox pants
SWISSWOOL for the win. 

Ever-strategic, the ORTOVOX outerwear designers put wool-insulated panels in the portions of their jackets, vests, pants, and gloves where you’ll want more insulation from the cold, and they use lighter breathable fabric panels where you’ll be sweating more (such as your underarms). This keeps your core warm and helps you avoid swampy sweat, which is what happens with most other brands’ down-insulated outerwear. The fibers draw your perspiration away, and the surface of the fabric still feels dry. It then evaporates when you hang it up to dry. The protein molecules in the fibers destroy odor-causing bacteria, which means you don’t have to wash the items after every wear. When you do need to wash them, it’s all good—just wash gently and hang to dry.

orthovox jacket

At the end of the day, our verdict is out: we’ll take sheep’s wool over feathers for our wintry layering. Especially if that wool comes from happy sheep and fairly compensated farmers. That makes it a win-win-win we can live with—and take to the trails. Explore the ORTOVOX gear collection at Geartrade which includes backpacks and outerwear.

Beth LopezBeth Lopez is a seasoned writer and creative director who loves to tell tales of adventure and discovery—and finds writing a powerful way to give a voice to people, causes, and places. Beth runs amok in the Wasatch mountains when untethered from her computer. She believes there’s no such thing as a bad ski day and considers animals her favorite people. Don’t tell her mother about her Instagram mountaineering photos.