Wool has changed. Gone are the days that the word “wool” makes you think of a scratchy, uncomfortable garment. Merino wool is nothing new, but it is often overlooked because it is considered a cold-weather fabric because it is wool. I wised up and so should you. Merino wool is great for all climates, conditions, and purposes. Here’s why:
Odor-resistant – This is not a gimmick, and it is the first thing I mention for a reason. Merino wool does not harbor sweaty odors. Have you ever smelled your clothes after a long hot hike? Of course you have, it’s hard not to. Merino wool won’t keep you smelling like fabric softener, but it won’t linger your smells either. It’s quite amazing to experience, but it makes it much easier to enjoy the fact that it is so…
Comfortable – Whether you get the thicker winter hiking socks or the thin layers for warm days, it is all smooth, soft, and gentle. Subjectively, Merino wool is the most comfortable fabric that I currently use for outdoor activities.
Temperature Balancing – When it’s cool, wool is known to keep you warm. That’s a given. However when it is warm, merino wool also keeps you cool. This is because of its outstanding insulating properties and breathability.
Breathability & Water Repellency – Like the synthetic Goretex, this natural fabric is breathable and water repellent, which allows for many of its favorable properties mentioned here. Essentially, it likes to let vapor pass through, but not liquid, which keeps you cool while you sweat, and dry in light drizzles.
Wait a minute, if it is resistant to moisture, how does it cool you off if you are sweating?
That’s a question I had too. First of all, as mentioned, Merino wool is very breathable, which allows perspiration vapor to pass through it and cool you through evaporative cooling. Secondly, Merino wool is water-resistant, not waterproof. Merino wool will wick liquid perspiration from a sweaty body that is in constant contact with (like synthetics), which increases the surface area of the moisture and evaporative cooling as well. Merino wool is superior to synthetics in this regard because the wool favors vapor cooling to ‘wicking’ cooling, whereas synthetics are the opposite.
UV Resistant – Although it is hardly advertised on any article of Merino wool clothing, this fabric is very UV resistant. I have no quantitative data, but my experiences with it outside for 8-10 hour hikes have shown nothing but favorable results, even without sunscreen.
Durability – Although durability depends a lot on the manufacturing process, Merino wool is a very durable fabric. My garments have been hiked in, sweated in, dropped, and even sandblasted by helicopter wash, and they have shown no premature signs of wear when compared to other synthetic items that I own.
Eco-Friendly – Although I’m not a hardcore environmentalist, I do advocate and support green technologies when I feel that they can perform as well as ‘non-green’ alternatives. Merino wool happens to be an instance of this. Merino wool comes from Merino sheep, which thrive, live long happy lives, and are hardly impacted by the harvesting of their fur. Considering I am the guy who pays extra for cage-free eggs, this is just another thing to love.
Flame Resistance – This is actually what got me interested in Merino wool in the first place. My helicopter missions require that I do not have any synthetic clothing on, in case of a fire. This is because synthetic materials weld onto skin when they heat up, whereas natural fibers (like Merino wool) do not. Merino wool was my solution to the problem, and luckily I haven’t had to test this property yet.