Frequently Asked Questions
Is the All-Paca shirt truly 100% Alpaca ﬁber or is it blended with something else?
The All-Paca fabric is 100% Alpaca ﬁber and it is NOT blended with any other fiber.
Why aren’t there other lightweight 100% Alpaca performance shirts on the market?
The short answer: it’s hard.
A 100% Alpaca Fiber lightweight performance garment is extremely hard to produce for a variety of reasons, many that we had to learn the hard way. Alpaca fiber is also expensive. Products have to be produced efficiently with a high level of attention to detail because mistakes are costly. Most performance fabrics are made from cheap and plentiful synthetic fibers or blends of natural and synthetic fibers. They can be run at very high speeds on fabric forming equipment. Large companies can standardize the process and repeat it all over the world in massive quantities. Most large companies are not set-up to produce custom fabrics with specialized processes that require specialized skill and knowledge.
Will Alpaca make me better looking or smarter?
While we can’t make any official claims, you’ll definitely BE smarter because you’ll be wearing alpaca. And, as an early adopter of this great new product, you’ll be one of the coolest people we know. We’ll have to get back to you on the better looking part.
How is Alpaca different from Merino and Synthetics?
All synthetic fibers are basically plastic — just like plastic bottles, bags, and toys. Plastic is naturally waterproof. Synthetic fibers have to undergo chemical treatments to enable them to “wick moisture,” or transport water vapor from your body to the environment outside your shirt. If you are sweating profusely, though, the shirt just becomes wet. And funky. Most synthetic fibers in thin performance shirts do not insulate well by themselves. So, a thin wet polyester shirt on the top of Mount Washington is not very comfortable. Also, these chemical treatments wear away as you wear and launder the shirt. Once the finish is gone, the shirt feels like a plastic bag and begins to stink.
Merino is a great natural and high-performing fiber, but it has some drawbacks. First merino has scales that can cause it to not only shrink - but to stay shrunk because the scales act like “zip-ties”. The scales are also what cause un-treated merino to itch really badly. Many merino shirts have been treated with some rather rugged chemical processes to eat away the scales, and then coated with a smooth polymer in order to make it launderable and less itchy.
Merino wool also contains lanolin, a greasy oil that is a well-knonwn skin sensitizer. It is largely removed in scouring processes, but may still be present enough to cause allergic reactions. To move away from environmentally-unfriendly processing, many merino fabric producers have turned to using blends — often merino/polyester blends and merino/nylon blends. The synthetics can negate the breathability, insulating, antibacterial and anti-funk qualities of the merino.
The quality of alpaca fiber we are using is finer, more insulating, and stronger than merino. It doesn’t have lanolin that has to be scoured-off, and it is naturally bacteria resistant.
Alpaca also retains very little water even though it is a highly breathable fiber/fabric. Alpaca only retains approximately 10-11% of its weight in water, whereas Merino can retain up to 30% of its weight in water. When wearing the first All-Paca prototypes, we found that the shirt can get wet and then wrung out to almost completely dry, and it dries very quickly as you are wearing it. So if you’re in the rain and get wet, once you get back to shelter you can wring it out, put it back on, and let it dry as you are chowing on some Ramen.
Is Alpaca JUST useful for cold weather?
No way. As a protein fiber with hollow voids, it’s true that alpaca is highly insulating in cold weather. Like wool, it can keep you warm even when you are wet. But, it’s also breathable and lightweight. It will help transport moisture to keep you cooler in hot weather. It’s a great fiber, whether worn by itself in warm weather or as a layering piece in cold weather.
Can you machine wash the All-Paca shirts?
Yes. We recommend washing All-Paca products using the gentle cycle with cool to cold water and a mild detergent like Woolite or natural liquid soap (the kind you use on the trail). It doesn’t take much to get alpaca clean. You should avoid washing in over-stuffed loads, with heavily soiled garments or tough items like towels and jeans. Part of Alpaca fiber's strength and resilience is due to its characteristic “crimp” that allows it to have great stretch and regain properties. Our major goal was to produce a fabric without any crazy chemical processing, so while it is launderable, we do not recommend throwing it in the dryer. The “crimpy fiber” may cause it to shrink. It’s easy to avoid tumble drying Alpaca since it doesn’t retain much moisture, and we have found that it is damp after the spin cycle — not wet like cotton. Just hang it up, or lay it out on a towel.
Important note about Alpaca storing and washing:
As an animal fiber made from protein, there are 2 VERY important things for you to remember about alpaca. (1) Moths will eat it, so store it like you would any wool garment. While it is possible to chemically-treat it, we have avoided that option to minimize our environmental impact. (2) Protein fibers can be broken down by high PH detergents. Products like Bleach, Washing Soda (aka Sodium Carbonate), and Powdered “Oxygen Cleaners” are examples of products with a high PH that can damage Alpaca fibers.
Where do the All-Paca shirts come from?
The All-Paca fabric is produced in our facility in Charlotte, NC from yarn that is imported from Peru. We do not put it through any hazardous chemical processes. Our garment sewing is outsourced to small entrepreneurial outfits located in the United States who are also dedicated to producing high quality clothing.
Why do you import your yarn?
We did look into the possibility of starting our own yarn manufacturing plant as part of the All-Paca process. After years of research and networking, we found that we would not be able to source fiber that would meet our strict specifications in the United States.
Is Appalachian Gear company just a shirt company?
Appalachian Gear Company is just that — a gear company.
Our first product is the All-Paca shirt because it is an important piece of gear. We plan to produce other types of clothing including tops with different sleeve lengths, underwear, and heavier weight garments. But, we’ll also have some more traditional “gear” items. In addition to our Appalachian Gear Company originals, we’ll source products from other small, specialized manufacturers to bring you the best in outdoor gear.