More and more people are listening about the greatness of wearing merino wool fabrics for backpacking and hiking. But what is it, and what is so great about it? Here are some quick basics about merino wool and why so many people fall in love with this fantastic fabric.
Merino wool comes from the Merino sheep. These sheep are raised strictly for their high-quality wool. They produce the softest wool available and are bred in several countries, but New Zealand is probably the best producer globally. Their fine quality wool outperforms most other synthetic fabrics and is used primarily for athletic wear.
My most favorite company creating merino wool clothing is Icebreaker. Not only do they produce fantastic clothing items, but their company is also very ethical during every step of manufacturing right from the sources of sheep they use to their manufacturing process and to maintaining high animal welfare standards. Not only do I love wearing their products, but I feel good about buying them. And I have nothing to do with Icebreaker personally, I love their products, and I recommend looking at them if you’ve never invested in merino wool clothing before.
Why is cotton no suitable for hiking, and what makes merino wool one of the best backpacking fabrics to wear? Let’s start with cotton. Cotton feels great, is pretty durable, easy to wash and dry, and easy to care for. But for hiking, cotton really can be your enemy. Just ask my husband, who on a backpacking trip a few years ago hiked for a few hours up a mountain wearing cotton briefs. Hiking in wet underwear is miserable, and he paid for it, never to make that mistake again.
Cotton absorbs moisture. It absorbs sweat and stays wet. So, while you are sweating along your hike, your cotton clothing absorbs that wetness and stays wet. Nor does it dry quickly, and it also absorbs your body odors. Not so pleasant for those around you! If you are wearing cotton and it starts absorbing your body moisture, this can also lead to blistering (if making the mistake of wearing cotton socks) or chafing along with other parts of your body.
On the other hand, Merino wool is very lightweight and does an excellent job of wicking away moisture, which is why it is so famous for athletic wear and why hiking in a merino wool sweater makes a lot of sense. The thought of walking in wool might seem strange, but because it wicks away moisture, the fabric doesn’t make you overheat as other materials might. It doesn’t absorb odors like cotton does, which is a great feature to have when you need to wear your hiking shirt more than once! And unlike other wools, this type of wool is easy to care for. I wash all my merino wool clothing in cold water and hang it to dry.
If you haven’t already done so, then it’s time to look at investing in your first pieces of merino wool hiking clothes. Check out more information about merino wool fabric.