One of the most popular and talked about fibres around in the outdoor industry is not a lab made synthetic, but a simple natural fibre, taken from Merino sheep- Merino Wool.
Although ‘fluffy’ in appearance, the fibres of a merino wool product are lighter than any other sheep’s wool, reducing the scratchy, heavy sensation that many people associate with a thick woolen jumper, which is why merino is used in next to the skin clothing such as baselayers, socks, and underwear.
Able to retain and diffuse heat as needed, merino works in much the same way as a fleece or a similar synthetic. Merino Wool Can Be Used:
Some people with sensitive skin feel less or no irritation when wearing a merino wool item of clothing.
Merino wool is so natural, it contains keratin elements, which are also found in our own bodies, giving us healthy hair and nails. It is what gives our ‘dead’ cells a glossy, silky feeling, and this is also found in Merino Wool.
The silky feel is why merino wool is often used as a baselayer fabric. Merino wool is also natural antimicrobial, which means it deters bacteria and the subsequent odour. When sweat is released, it is the bacteria that cause odour, so Merino’s natural design ensures that sweat can remain on the garment without releasing odour for a period of time, estimated over a few days, or wears, dependent on how much you put it through!
Merino wool works in the same manner as down, which is created from high lofting tendril feathers from birds and fowl. The small fibres allow air to be held in a pocket form, and merino wool retains the heat you create when moving for warmth and insulation.
However, because Merino Wool is also a breathable fibre, it can also release this heat when needed so you don’t overheat, making it ideal for use during periods of activity.
Whatever activity you use it for, merino wool has a large amount of stretch inbuilt into it. Wool is designed to be highly pliable, moving with you, and stretching back into shape after activity.
Even if it gets wet, wool springs back into its original shape. This also makes merino wool ideal for travelling because it can be packed easily without creasing.
Working differently to a GORE-TEX or e-Vent layer, Merino wool works like an efficient sponge, holding water. However unlike a sponge, merino wool can absorb around a third of its own weight before it leaves you feeling damp.
Although this adds weight to the garment, this is only dependent on how much you sweat. If it is exposed to extreme bad weather, merino wool will still become damp after a period of time.