HIKING BASICS

What is Merino Wool: Benefits and Great Properties

Merino wool base layer outdoor
John C. Porter
Written by John C. Porter

Merino wool became the most prominent and renowned fabric, among other wool fabrics, due to its sought-after properties and qualities. For those who are thinking: “What is Merino wool and what properties does it have?” , you should know that these include, but not limited to, thermal properties, durability, breathability, and softness. This is actually what encourages many of us to prefer wool-designed knitwears, particularly in winter, because of the insulation properties to keep us warm.

Furthermore, Merino wool is also water-repellent on its outer layers, while other, standard wools, get clammy and damp in inclement and frosty snow temperatures, and can have an irritating itchiness when worn against the skin without any sub-layer underneath. To prevent these adverse inconveniences, the world’s leading knitwear designers use Merino wool predominantly.

To add on, you probably have seen the skyrocketing popularity of this type of wool, but weren’t aware of its indispensable properties. Some people have overlooked the garments made of Merino wool, due to their considerably higher prices, but, nonetheless, it is worth the price.

We will highlight the benefits of this material, its properties compared to regular wool, and its importance to outdoor explorers. But firstly, let’s help you understand what Merino wool is, and what are its roots?

Merino Wool breakdown

This a type of wool derived from one of the rarest, selective bred, Merino Sheep. The sheep is predominantly found in some regions such as New Zealand and Australia, which are infamous for extremely frosty weather conditions, in which normal sheep would probably die if they had been staying there.

Merino wool

The traditional sheep, found in virtually all regions, is not insulated enough to withstand the extremely inclement temperatures. The Merino Sheep, unlike others, has that ability to withstand whichever coldness exposed to. It was this special insulation property that has led to the appreciation of Merino wool in weaving and knitting of, inter alia, outdoor clothes.

Furthermore, Merino sheep produce a soft and durable fleece, which then allows designers to use it for designing their clothes solely of that wool. As a result, the same way that the animal keeps warm in frosty temperatures, outdoor explorers, such as hikers, backpackers, and campers, will be able to keep warm in a durable and soft fleece.

There are many knitwears that are made of Merino wool and these include jackets, V-neck shirts, socks and trousers. You can find such clothes, to prepare for your next outdoor excursion, from various stores, but they are heavily priced, although the price is quite justifiable considering the sought-after properties and qualities that the wool offers.

How Does It Benefit You?

Are you a frequent traveler to a wide variety of countrysides, wherein you get faced with harsh weather conditions? Then Merino wool would certainly allow you to keep your body warm. It can be a great attire in ice climbing, backpacking or snowboarding.

Merino wool benefits

Other synthetic fibers are not a match to the properties found in this wool, and neither are other standard wools from other sheep. Let’s explore the benefits of this wool and then compare with other wools.

Merino Wool vs Other Wools

Merino woolOther wools
It is breathableAlso breathable but unequal to Merino wool
Has super ultrafine fibersHave big fibers
Is relatively expensiveRelatively cheaper
Lightweight and easy to dry outHeavyweight and take long to dry
Has a greater elasticity due to extremely fine fibersHave minimal elasticity due to big fibers
Soft and not itching against the skinIrritatingly itchy if worn against the skin due to big fibers getting into the hair follicles
Odor repellant due to maximum moisture absorptionMinimal odor repellant due to inability to absorb massive moisture
Has antimicrobial propertiesNo anti-microbial/bacterial properties that help prevent odor build-up.
Great water resistant layerMinimal water resistant, which then results with clamminess when exposed to frosty weather conditions
Cool and warm: Can be worn in either summer or winterOften worn in winter due to minimal breathability

These are a few yet important benefits of Merino wool compared to other wool fibers. Let’s elaborate on them below:

  • Breathability: Although, other wools possess this characteristic, they do not surpass Merino wool with its superb and unrivaled breathability.
    It has soft and ultra fine fibers that allow the air to circulate, which ensures that the body doesn’t overheat, and that is especially useful during the scorching days of summer. Meanwhile the standard wool does not offer the same level of breathability.
  • Elasticity: Another great property of this wool is its impeccable elasticity. The knitwear made of Merino wool can easily conform to any shape draped onto. This makes it more ideal for runners because it can stretch to its original shape after use.
    Furthermore, the wool’s natural elasticity enables it to be wrinkle-free even after washing it. You can hand-wash it or use the machine and then wear the garment without the need to iron it first.
  • Softness: Unlike the coarser wool fibers, extracted from other sheep, Merino wool  ultra fine fibers are relatively soft. The fleece of its garments enables your skin to feel soft, and you don’t any additional layer to prevent itchiness.
    Coarser wool fibers, with their big fiber diameters, tend to be rough because the fibers get into the hair follicles of your skin.
  • Adaptability to Warm and Cool temperatures: This wool is versatile in that it can be worn during winter or summer. In summer, for instance, the garment can absorb moisture when your body perspires to eliminate any sweat.
    It helps manage and regulate the body heat by dispersing moisture through the fibers to the outside environment to evaporate. That being done, you won’t see the need to undress when faced with hot days when hiking or doing any other outdoor activity.
    In winter, the garment made of Merino wool will certainly keep you warm because of its unsurpassed insulation.
    The animal from which this wool has been extracted, withstands frosty weather conditions that cannot be withstood by other sheep. Having said this, you need this wool to keep you warm in case you’re planning on hiking or backpacking in harsh temperatures.
    It has a great weight to warmth ratio to ensure the unequaled warmth compared to ordinary wools.
  • Odor repellant: Other garments made of ordinary wools are infamous of odors due to their inability to absorb maximum moisture from the body and disperse it. More perspiration leads to unbearable odor, more especially if you are to wear the garment for a longer period. Merino wool, on the other hand, with its breathability, helps resist the accumulation of odor.
    The fibers absorb the perspiration odor that will be eliminated when washing the garment. You can wear the garment made of this wool for several days in the wilderness without suffering from unpleasant odors from your body’s sweat.
    Furthermore, on odor repellant properties, the wool has massive antimicrobial properties to prevent the prevalence and accumulation of bacteria that cause stinky odor when the body perspires. It absorbs any bacteria and then releases it to the outer area. As a result, no bacteria will build up in, for example, your armpits.
  • Stain Resistant: Because of the extremely fine fibers, Merino wool is capable of resisting stains in case liquids spill on its garment’s outer layer. The stains will not be absorbed, they will instead be repelled. The another interesting thing about this wool is that it attracts less dust than regular wool.
  • Fire Retardant: In the unfortunate event that you mistakenly catch campfire, for example, the Merino wool will not stick to your skin as it doesn’t get melted by the fire.
    You can quickly remove the garment in such occurrences, and get away unharmed. This property makes the wool safer compared to other synthetic fabrics.
  • Lightweight: The soft and fine fibers of Merino wool make it lightweight compared to other synthetics or other wools. Even if wet, they are still lightweight because of their ability to repel much of the water and disperse the moisture to keep you dry.
    This is an especially great characteristic for hikers and campers as their backpacks will weigh less.
  • Protection against the UV: As much as it protects the sheep against the damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun, the garment made of this wool will surely protect your body against such rays.
    Other synthetic garments are not capable of this. With this in mind, wearing merino wool garments in scorching days is never a bad choice because, in addition to keeping you cooler, it will protect you against the harmful UV radiation.

Take a look at our piece on Gore-Tex and how it helps camping gear to become water-repellent – a must-read indeed.

Which Clothes Contain Merino Wool?

Now that you know the vast majority of properties exclusively found in this wool, it is time to discover the range of garments that are made of it.

Clothes Containing Merino Wool

Below are some of clothing products made of this wool.

  • Winter Jackets: hard-shell jackets, jerseys, and other winter wear accessories, have been made with Merino wool to improve insulation. It’s all because this wool has stunning and great thermal qualities to keep the wearers warm. Mostly, the inner fleece is knitted with this wool instead of other fabric materials such as the cotton and polyester.
  • Socks: socks are also predominantly made of this wool due to its warmth and breathability. Our feet, for example, are more prone to sweating due to overheating from the shoes, particularly in the summer. A fabric material that can help deter odor and help absorb the moisture is more preferable, and Merino wool is that material because it absorbs the moisture to eliminate odor.
    As a result, your socks can be worn for longer periods without having that unpleasant odor.
  • Summer knitwear: this wool is capable of making you cool in summer’s scorching weather conditions. It is competitively breathable and disperses moisture in order to regulate the body heat. Moreover, the wool does not cause an irritating itchy feeling on the skin because of its softness.
  • Sportswear: Merino wool has a greater elasticity and anti-wrinkle property. It stretches easily to its original shape and there’s no need to iron it. This property makes it employable in most of the sportswear garments.
    Explorers who like climbing high mountains or running in the wilderness, can benefit from this wool. It will either keep them warm or cool in addition to its elasticity.
  • Inner fleece layers: some clothes can be made of this wool in combination with other fabric materials such as nylon or polyester. The wool is often made as an inner fleece because of its softness on the skin.
  • Blankets: although rarely, some blankets are made of this wool to enhance their insulating properties that correlate with winter jackets made of this wool.

For the best cold-weather gear for dipping temperatures, see our article on this topic to learn more.

Where to Buy Merino Wool Garments?

There are many “brick & mortar” and online retail stores that sell these garments. As highlighted already, you need to be prepared for the expensive prices you have to pay a bit more for such clothing. To prevent confusion with other wools, check the garments ticket to check the type of wool used.

It should be understood that many winter jackets, in particular, are made of cotton wool or other types of wools because Merino is scarce to find. Perhaps, the observation of the fine fibers can help you spot the right wool.

The Importance of Merino Wool to Outdoor Activists

Campers, hikers, ice climbers, backpackers, skiers and snowboarders, are often exposed to unbearable and extremely cold temperatures in the wilderness. As a result of that, they need warm clothing to survive such frosty temperatures. Merino wool, with its wide range of properties, emerges as the best companion for outdoor activists.

The outdoor temperatures can fluctuate at any time. If you wear other synthetics to keep you warm, you will be prompted to undress when the sun rises. Furthermore, synthetic clothes for winter are often heavy weight. That will be a burden to you, especially when you have to walk longer distances and climb steep mountains.

Merino Wool to Outdoor Activists

Merino wool, on the other hand, is light in weight making it possible to be worn regardless of the distance to be traveled in dry days. It can adapt to the fluctuation of temperatures because it is breathable, thus well designed to keep you either warm or cool. See our review of the best base layer for any outdoor activities to keep you informed.

Wrapping It Up

Merino wool is explained as a wool exclusively found in Merino sheep that hail mostly from the frosty regions of New Zealand and Australia. This wool is widely known for its unparalleled insulation, durability, elasticity, softness, and breathability properties, which make it diverse and suitable to be used either for the inclement temperatures of winter or the scorching days of summer.

Also worth noting are the decorative properties that it has hence world’s renowned designers use it because of its sleek and elegant appearance. See our buyer’s guide to the excellent merino wool base layer for more information.

We hope that our article helped you in undrestanding what Merino wool is, and what it offers so that you can use it to your advantage. Now, if you think that we missed out an important information, please feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below, or you can also leave a question if you have any. With that being said, we wish you to find the best Merino wool products and wear them in good health!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John C. Porter

John C. Porter

John is passionate about hiking long distances. His record is over 65 miles in one day with backpacking gear. John hiked over 10 thousand miles, tried over 100 hiking shoes and visited 56 countries so far. His favourite hiking route is West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.