Adventurers have turned to technology to provide the desired characteristics of mid-layer fabrics: moisture management, temperature regulation, comfort, low weight, durability, odor resistance, and performance when wet to name a few.
But sustainability has grown to be an issue and natural fibers are gaining popularity and their performance can meet or exceed what is available from synthetics. Wool is the most recognized natural fiber and works remarkably well, but Alpaca presents an option.
Appalachian Gear Company has a patented, 100% Alpaca fleece fabric dubbed All-Paca that checks all the boxes of wool and then some:
- Absorbs approximately 11% of its weight in water; wool can absorb up to 30% of its weight
- Alpaca fibers have consistent hollow voids; more insulating power with less weight than wool
- Alpaca fibers are not covered in scales, which causes the itchy sensation of wool
- Alpaca fibers lack lanolin, which doesn’t require chemical stripping and avoids allergy issues
- Alpaca fibers have a greater tensile strength
- Raising and grazing alpaca creates less of an environmental impact compared to sheep
- Made in Charlotte, NC
Alpaca fibers retain the same odor-fighting power and ability to insulate when wet as wool, but All-Paca fleece doesn’t require a blending of synthetic fibers, reducing the contribution to the microplastics issues.
These characteristics make sense considering the weather in the Peruvian Andes, where Appalachian Gear Company sources the fibers directly from the producers to ensure a sustainable and fair supply chain.
In The Field
I’ve been testing Appalachian Gear Company’s Men’s All-Paca Fleece Hoodie (MSRP $145) over the winter and can attest to all the performance claims. The hoodie has proven warm, breathable, quick-drying and durable.
It was less stretchy than my wool-blended garments, which was expected given the total lack of synthetic fibers. But it far exceeded the odor-fighting abilities of any of my wool tops. The All-Paca Fleece Hoodie also absorbed much less perspiration and dried faster.
The feel of All-Paca fleece was unique; it isn’t as smooth against the skin as synthetic fleece or thinner wool garments that have significant synthetic content, but it was less itchy than my wool tops of comparable weight. The All-Paca Fleece Hoodie also slid appropriately against other layers.
Is it a perfect mid-layer?
The All-Paca fleece has impressed; it has matched or exceeded the performance characteristics of my wool garments during the test period. Extended testing in harsher conditions will provide a more concrete opinion of the performance compared to synthetics and a better gauge of durability. Look for a full review in the future.
But for those in search adventure worthy performance from a natural fiber, All-Paca fleece may be the answer.
Appalachian Gear Company also offers short-sleeve shirts, long sleeve crews, neck gaiters, sleeping bag liners, and beanies.