Hello fellow adventurer! I know for sure that when you checked out some packing lists of travellers that you noticed merino wool is mentioned on every list. Or you’ve heard a friend talk about their new merino sweater or jacket that has been a game-changer this season.
But did you know that one of the biggest benefits of Merino Wool is that it’s also perfect to wear in warmer circumstances? If you’re like me, you want the best material in your pack or on your skin and that you are sure it’s the best item for all elements. I’m confident that these 10 great benefits of Merino wool will help answer your questions or pain points around performance materials. The main goal when we’re going outdoors is to enjoy it, so what we wear can make or break our experience.
For some, packing is the best part, where the excitement starts to build. For others, it’s filled with dread and anxiety on picking the perfect items to fit for all occasions. I have been there and Merino wool has been my answer to slimming down my pack, staying fresh, and keeping my temperate no matter what adventure I get into.
In this article, I’ll walk through what exactly Merino wool is, the difference between normal wool, the advantages and benefits, and why brands & people are obsessed with wearing Merino wool.
Buckle up, by the end of this blog post you’ll be a merino wool expert and may even feel inclined to get yourself a pair of merino wool socks to get you ready for the winter-y months ahead or a base layer for those hiking desert days.
The million-dollar question: what is merino wool and where did it come from?
Merino wool comes from a specific breed of sheep, yep you guessed it, Merino Sheep in Spain and since have been introduced in Australia and New Zealand. They’re quite tough breeds, thriving in scorching summers and freezing winters. Merino Sheep produces the finest and smoothest fibers of all wool making it more comfortable to the skin and less prone to holes.
Traditional wool is thick and coarse. Great for keeping us warm, but it is extremely itchy, bulky, and well…not stylish. By comparison, Merino wool is soft, smooth, light, and fashionable, all thanks to Australian farmers who’ve perfected the quality with selected breeding. Better than anything built in a lab, natural Merino Wool is the perfect performance fabric for the 21st Century that surpasses materials like cotton or synthetics. Merino wool marries style, comfort, and performance perfectly.
FAQS about Merino Wool
Is merino wool a good base layer?
Merino wool is my base layer for all my trips, it doesn’t matter if it’s warm as 35 degrees celsius or minus 20 and freezing cold. This base layer is naturally breathable, insulating and last but not least odour-resistant. What I also really like about merino wool is that it’s super soft and lightweight so it really feels like a next-to-skin layer. I know that some people avoid merino wool as base layer because the price tag, but did you know that merino wool is 8 times stronger than cotton. So in the end it’s better for your wallet to invest in the right gear at the beginning of your trip.
There are so much more reasons for me to go for merino wool and one of the facts you really have to know is that merino wool is naturally UV absorbing.
Merino Wool vs Cotton
Merino wool contains a chemical known as lanolin, this a natural wax found in sheep’s wool that repels rain and other moisture as cotton absorbs smells and moisture. Cotton is also more heavy than merino wool. To give you the best indication watch this short movie:
How to wash merino wool?
Merino wool can be washed in the washing machine, always make sure that you turn the item inside out and place it a meshing washing bag. Most of the washing machines have a special wool program and if not make sure to pick a cold water temperature(30 degrees celsius) and pick a low spin. You can use a mild soap, but make sure to avoid bleach and softener. As this is not good for the fibers of the merino wool.
You don’t have to wash merino wool after every wear cycle, my personal advice is to wash it after let’s say after about 5-15 wear cycles.
One thing I really want to mention about is that after your wash is finished you never hang your wet woolens. Instead you lay the items flat so the structure of the merino wool is in it’s natural shape. Another thing never put your merino wool on heather such as radiotor or direct sunlight as it can damage the wool structure. I know it really sounds difficult now to wash your merino wool, but believe me it’s not! I just wanted to make sure you treat your merino wool the right way, as you can enjoy it for years.
What does the weight or GSM mean in terms of merino wool?
I will never forget the first time when I was walking in the Decathlon to shop my first merino wool and I was really confused about all those numbers which were noticed on the merino clothing. So to make sure you don’t have the same as what I had, I will explain you what those numbers mean.
To inform you about the grams of merino wool per square meter most of the brands indicates a number like 500 and you will notice GSM or g/m2 on the clothing label tags. So this means the lower the number, the lighter the fabric. But I know in or minds we will always think that thicker is warmer than just a thin layer of merino wool, but really this is not true. That’s why I prefer to wear two lightweight wool layers instead of one thick base layer. But keep in my mind you really have to know how base layers work! Allright let’s dive into the numbers!
Lightweight (150-180 GSM): Most of the base layers are made of lightweight merino wool as mentioned between 150 and 180 GSM. During the summer I have a lightweight long sleeve t-shirt to protect my skin and to regulate my temperature.
Midweight (190-250 GSM): When you go around 200 it will be more like a mid layer or for winter temperatures I would recommend this as a base layer.
Heavyweight (260 – 320 GSM): I use this heavyweight merino wool during my breaks while hiking or on a cycling trip, so when I relax and don’t do any activity. As it is not that breathable anymore, I won’t recommend this weight during your activities.
Outerweight (330 GSM or up): This is used for the coats underneath your wind and water proof layer.
The Decathlon indicates the merino wool as follows: 100 beginners use, 500 more use, 900 intensive usage. You can also find information about the weight and the grams per m2 in the product information on their website.
10 benefits of merino wool
There’s a lot to love about Merino wool, so we’ve compiled a list of our 10 personal benefits that we’ve experienced with the material over time.
1. It helps to keep you cool in warm environments
If you think wool can only keep you warm, you’re wrong. It’s perfect to wear in warmer environments as well! In the warmer months, the wool fibers keep you cool and dry. A great benefit of merino wool is that it’s hygroscopic, which means it can absorb moisture, so sweat is drawn away from your skin where it can evaporate into the air outside the fabric. As the moisture evaporates, heat is released, cooling the air between your skin and fabric.
2. It helps to keep you warm in cool environments
Traditionally, wool is thought to be the perfect fiber for winter. The crimped composition of the fiber provides unbeatable insulations by condensing moisture and air inside the fiber, providing heat to your body. Merino wool is also a great material for the first layer when you want to stay warm with the layer-system.
3. It has an antibacterial effect which helps to keep odors away
Merino wool is unique in that it absorbs odor caused by bacteria—trapping their smell and keeping them from building up all thanks to the natural wax, lanolin. Merino wool is great for traveling or longer treks when you may not have as much room to pack, or the means to wash your clothes every day.
Wonderful news for all people dependent on deodorant: merino wool absorbs all odor molecules and only releases them upon washing. No matter how hot it is, you’ll feel fresh all day long. On top of that, you don’t need to wash it each time you’ve worn it. Just hang it in the open air and enjoy it again the next day.
4. It has anti-static properties
Since it’s one of the benefits of wool that it can absorb moisture, it tends to not create static electricity, which means it’s less likely to cling to our faces when we go to change our tops.
5. It’s wool, but it doesn’t itch
What is Merino wool better at than traditional wool? It’s super-fine and soft. A single Merino wool fiber is ⅓ the diameter of a human hair. It’s so fine, actually, that when it brushes up against the skin, it bends out of the way. It can’t be prickly like other wool fibers because it can’t stand up to the weight of itself. So it’s soft. Really soft.
6. It’s moisture regulating
Wool fibers are naturally hydrophilic, which means water-liking, they attract and absorb water molecules. Wool can absorb up to 30% of its weight in water and still feel dry to touch. When wool absorbs water molecules it pulls the moisture away from the skin to the surface of the fabric where it evaporates. Wool is able to release moisture into the air more efficiently than most fabrics.
7. It is easy to take care of
Already sold on Merino wool? It gets better. This fabric is quite easy to take care of since a huge benefit is that it is naturally antibacterial, which requires less washing than cotton or synthetics. On the road, this is crucial since it can be challenging to find a laundromat.
When you do wash Merino wool, you can just throw it in the washing machine on a delicate or wool cycle with color and fabrics. Another bonus for its easy-to-care-for scale- is drying is optional. Because of its elasticity properties, Merino wool retains its shape, which means you can throw it in your pack or carry-on and it comes out ready to wear.
8. It is sustainable
Merino wool disappears after about 12 months in the ground. That means that, when you’re done with your gear, the earth will take back this fibrous protein composed of amino acids—releasing carbon and nutrients back into the soil.
Synthetic fibers and cotton demand a great amount of manipulation and processing. Merino wool, however, is made of grass, water, and fresh air. The merino sheep that provide the wool graze the hills of New Zealand and Australia freely, delivering a new fleece harvest twice a year.
9. It provides UV protection
Depending on how they’re spun and dyed, Merino fibers help block out harmful rays from the sun (UPF 20+). Wool absorbs radiation throughout the entire UV spectrum. Cotton and synthetic materials only absorb at low wavelengths.
And since the sun typically does more damage in the mountains, it’s good to have all the help you can get.
10. It is easy to take with you
Merino is one of the best travel fabrics out there. Packing one Merino wool shirt is almost the equivalent of packing five cotton shirts when it comes to freshness. Because of its natural regulating properties, you can cut down on the variety of layers.
Meet the brands who LOVE Merino wool as much as we do
We’ve compiled a list of our favorite Merino wool brands in no particular order. These brands range in their Merino wool-based products. Don’t see an item you’re looking for or we missed a must-mention? We’re always interested in finding new brands, so please drop us some below if you have any additions!
Based out of New Zealand, Icebreaker is one of the leading Merino wool brands out there. Their range of Merino wool products spans from hardcore outdoor wear to casual lifestyle t-shirts. They also offer more formal Merino wool that can be worn in a business setting as well as sportswear.
Smartwool makes merino wool socks and apparel designed for the outdoors. Personally, we love their base layers. They are a go-to, especially on those crispier fall days or down right winter storms, I always have my smartwool base layer close by.
It’s been challenging to find ethical, women-focused products that leverage wool in a feminine way until we found Wool&. Wool& is a women-focused lifestyle brand that aims to design practical, ethical products. Their best selling dress is practical and fashionable. Win-win!
Best. Merino. wool. socks. ever. This United States based company lives and breaths for adventure and Merino Wool. All merino wool products are knitted in house. They even come with a lifetime warranty that they 100% stand behind, no questions asked.
A Swiss company that focuses on technical mountain gear that includes a range of merino / Tencel blended baselayers and t-shirts. They’ve outlined their 2024 strategy, which included their goal of producing 100% Merino verified wool and enhancing their sustainable procurement processes.
Patagonia offers a limited range of merino wool clothing; however, their focus is on ethically sustainable merino wool. All wool sourced in Patagonia products is sourced under strict guidelines outlined in their Patagonia Wool Standard. This demonstrates their promise that farms that meet the highest standards for animal welfare and land management in the industry.
Pin for Later
We love to hear from you
Understanding fabrics and technical gear can make our headspin, especially when we’re looking for ethical, sustainable, and durable products. But it doesn’t have to. Hopefully, these 10 benefits of Merino wool helps you narrow down your pack and leaves you feeling confident and ready to take on anything on your travels!
If you’ve used Merino wool before, or if you have a question, please leave a comment below. Also check out our travel tips for more inspiration and handy tips and tricks.