What Is Merino Wool And Why Do We Love It?
Something that has become increasingly popular in the world of outdoor clothing is the use of ‘Merino wool’. However, wool outdoor clothing is not a completely new idea – in their attempt to climb Everest in 1924, George Mallory and Sandy Irvine wore multiple thin layers of wool and silk clothing, with research showing that this was more sophisticated, lighter and more comfortable than many more modern clothing systems.
A lot of world leading brands have jumped on the hype of this incredible material, but what actually is it and why should you make the switch on your next jacket, base layer or jumper? Let us show you!
What Is Merino Wool?
As you’d expect, Merino wool comes from the Merino breed of sheep and is a fully natural product. Merino wool has become so in demand and valued that prices for prize rams continue to rise, in fact in 1988, one Merino ram even sold for $450,000!
The reason? This incredible wool is much finer and softer than most other types of wool, and full of so many benefits that few other materials can come close to its flexibility and versatility.
Brands such as Icebreaker for example have harnessed this wool in a wide array of base and mid layers. Also, whilst Merino sheep are generally very hardy, they can suffer if the ground is very wet, so they are limited to a few parts of the world – mainly Australia and New Zealand, although Merino production in Argentina, the USA and China has increased in recent years. Sadly the British climate is too wet to breed Merino here! This is one reason why merino is often more expensive than other types of wool; still, its amazing properties make it fantastic for outdoor clothing.
The first thing we love about Merino wool is its ability to adapt. As with traditional wool, it’s insulating and will help keep you warm in cold conditions. However, it’s much lighter than traditional wool and can also help keep you cool when it’s hot by absorbing moisture and holding it away from your body. Being an incredibly fine fabric, Merino wool also dries more quickly than traditional wool or cotton, and though won’t dry quite as quickly as synthetics, merino doesn’t feel clammy when wet, and also resists odours much better, making it great for many activities.
…That’s some pretty high tech nature right there!
Comfort Is King!
When it comes to any kind of clothing, it doesn’t matter if it’s made of the best performing material in the world, if it feels like sandpaper on the skin, it’s not that great… Luckily, however, Merino wool is much finer than other types of wool, which makes it much less itchy. The individual wool fibres are also much smoother than typical wool, so there aren’t as many scratchy flakes (think of your favourite shampoo advert demonstrating how smooth hairs can be) to catch on your skin and irritate you.
However, not all merino is created equal – being a natural material, the thickness and smoothness can vary a lot and some brands will use cheaper, coarser merino wool, which can be quite itchy next to your skin. You’ll sometimes hear merino called “superfine” or “ultrafine” although these aren’t official designations, but you can rest assured, we only choose brands which use high quality merino in their products, whether it’s clothing from Icebreaker and Fjallraven, or Darn Tough socks!
Another great point to note here is that because of its woolly nature, Merino wool is also highly odour resistant and 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! No need to walk miles away from your walking friends in their smelly synthetics, and you can save money and weight by carrying fewer clothes when backpacking! That’s a big thumbs up from us!
It’s Sustainable And Strong!
Because of its natural origins, unlike many synthetic fibres or demanded products such as cotton, Merino wool is highly sustainable and environmentally friendly. In fact, the Merino sheep grow their coats at such a rate that in 2004, a Merino sheep hid in a cave in New Zealand for six years – by the time he was found and sheared, he had enough wool to make 20 men’s suits and was nicknamed Shrek! A typical Merino sheep will deliver a new fleece harvest twice a year. All of these fibres are fully biodegradable and will naturally decompose unlike many synthetic materials.
…But don’t worry about your material ripping or decomposing on your back. Merino wool is surprisingly strong – In fact around 6 times stronger than cotton.
Finally, the material itself is even wrinkle resistant, so great for travelling! No more creases as the elastic properties of the Merino fibre make it extremely flexible ’ – simply hang your jumpers or base layers up for half an hour or so and you’re all good.
So we hope that that helps break down some of the mystery surrounding this incredible material and gives you a little more insight into what a Merino Wool sweater looks and feels like!
For more information, speak to our team today!