Here, we’ll go over the various things to think about when choosing a Merino wool base layer.
Merino wool or a man-made fiber like nylon or polyester is typically used to make hiking underwear. It is extremely breathable, keeps you warm even when it gets wet, dries quickly, feels soft to the touch, and is naturally odor-resistant.
This makes Merino wool one of the ideal materials for base layers and hiking clothing. There is a reason why it is so well-liked in the outdoor clothing sector.
Read and find out the advantages of Merino wool base layers.
Is Merino Wool the Best Base Layer?
In fact, stop-start activities like hiking and climbing are best suited for Merino wool base layers, which are best used in mildly cold weather. You stay more comfortable in a variety of conditions, even when you slow down, thanks to the natural breathability and temperature-regulating qualities of Merino wool.
Merino wool base layers are ideal for multiday backpacking and backpacking trips because they have odor resistance (mostly to spare everyone you come into contact with!). Higher gsm Merino base layers can significantly increase the amount of warmth in layering systems for winter sports like mountaineering, ice climbing, or skiing.
Advantages of Merino Wool Base Layers
Base layers made of Merino wool are naturally insulating, breathable, and odor-resistant. They also possess some seriously cool qualities that will keep you cool and comfortable in a variety of circumstances.
Other wool fibers can’t compare to how fine Merino wool is. The wool fibers must be under 24 microns in diameter, or about one-tenth the width of a human hair, to be considered “Merino.”
Because it is a living fiber, Merino wool can adjust to your body’s temperature and environment. Wool is particularly adept at both moisture absorption and absorption, though all-natural fibers can do both.
Wool accomplishes this by absorbing water vapor into the fiber’s structure and then releasing it into the surrounding air. By evaporating sweat to keep you cool when you overheat and keeping your skin surface dry to keep you warm when you cool off, this assists in maintaining your body temperature in a similar manner to wicking.
Wool fibers are so water-absorbent that they can actually take up to 35% of their weight in water before becoming damp to the touch. Your base layer’s fibers will wick moisture in a similar way to synthetic fibers once they can no longer absorb any more.
Wool fabrics that are breathable regulate the rate of evaporation much better than synthetic ones. When your body surface is warm and damp, wool releases moisture from its fibers quickly; however, when it is cold and dry, it releases moisture more slowly.
When water molecules interact with molecules in the fiber of the wool, a clever chemical reaction occurs that releases heat. This guards against rapid cooling when you start to perspire a lot after a strenuous climb.
Wool fibers’ inherent waviness, or “crimp,” produces numerous pockets of insulating air when they are layered together. More air pockets are produced by finer fibers because they are wider and wavier. Fine Merino wool benefits from a fantastic warmth-to-weight ratio as a result.
Because Merino wool fibers are so springy, they retain these air pockets when they become damp and continue to provide insulation.
Next to Skin Comfort
The fine Merino wool fibers make them softer than regular wool and itch-free for all skin types except the most delicate. Base layers made of Merino wool also feel much nicer to wear than those made of man-made materials, though it’s difficult to explain why.
Merino wool base layers rarely feel clammy against the skin, unless you’ve been perspiring a ton. This is because the fibers can absorb a lot of moisture before the fabric starts to feel damp.
Merino Wool is Naturally Odour-resistant
Wool naturally fights odors, unlike synthetic base layers that require a treatment like Polygiene to stay fresh. Wool prevents odor-causing bacteria from growing by keeping your skin’s surface dry.
Wool, however, also absorbs odors into the structure of its fibers, releasing them only after washing the item. Additionally, studies have shown that Merino fibers are less hospitable to odor-causing bacteria than synthetic fibers.
Merino wool is a natural fiber that, given the right circumstances, will biodegrade rather than linger in the environment for a long time.
Natural flame resistance exists in Merino wool. This implies that it won’t melt or stick when exposed to fire.
Disadvantages of Merino Wool Base Layers
- Not as durable. Base layers made of Merino wool should be washed with extra care, and you should wear them five or more times before putting them in the wash. Merino wool is also allegedly more prone to snags and tears. On a through-hike, where you might not have complete control over how your layers are washed, this can be challenging.
- Pricier. Merino wool and base layers made of wool blends are more expensive due to their highly sought-after warmth-to-weight ratio. It’s undoubtedly an investment when you consider the additional maintenance these garments require.
- Moisture management. Okay, Merino is still pretty good at managing moisture (no pun intended), but it takes longer to dry than synthetics. Merino wool, keep in mind, also does a better job of retaining body heat when wet, at least partially making up for any shortcomings in the quick-dry department.
- Moths. Your wool clothing will be eaten by them, leaving you depressed and covered in holes. According to anecdotal evidence, moths favor lightweight wool over heavier (about 250g/square meter) weaves.
How to Choose a Merino Wool Base Layer?
How do you choose the best Merino wool now that you are aware of its advantages? There are a few factors to consider:
Shop by Thickness/Weight
There are various weights of Merino wool available. Wool’s fineness is determined by the micron scale, which measures the weight of the fabric. When compared to regular Merino wool, superfine Merino wool has a micron count of 17.0 or less and 19.0 or less.
It’s crucial to take your intended activity into account when selecting a Merino wool base layer. A lighter-weight fabric should be your first choice if you need a base layer for vigorous activities like cross-country skiing or running. You can choose a heavier-weight fabric for lower-intensity activities like hiking or walking.
Fit should be taken into account when selecting a base layer made of Merino wool. Base layers made of Merino wool come in a range of fits, from slim to relaxed. Choose a slim fit if you’re looking for a base layer to wear underneath your clothes. A relaxed fit is a good option if you want a base layer to wear under your outer layer.
You shouldn’t purchase any electric blue Merino Wool clothing if you’re a hunter or fisherman. Try to match even your base layers to the colors of the terrain you are in. Avoid taking the chance that your position will be revealed by a piece of clothing.
Even if you are wearing it under other clothes, it may still show through, and you’ll want to remain as covert as possible if you take off your other layers. For hikers, backcountry skiers, and climbers, on the other hand, you want people to be able to quickly spot you if your baselayer is your outer layer.
Conclusion: Merino Wool Base Layers
The natural insulating, odor-resistant, and breathable properties of Merino wool make it ideal for base layers. They also possess some seriously cool qualities that will keep you cool and comfortable in a variety of circumstances. Other wool fibers can’t compare to how fine Merino wool is.
If you know what to look for, choosing the best Merino wool base layer is not difficult. Make sure to take the activity you plan to use it for, the fit, and the color into account.
Is 100% Merino Wool Worth It?
For everyday wear, Merino wool probably is not worth the cost. Furthermore, it probably isn’t worth it for outdoor pursuits like day hikes and car camping because inexpensive synthetics will function nearly as well. However, base layers, socks, and underwear made of Merino wool are probably worth the extra money for multi-day backpacking trips.
What is the Best Base Layer for Extreme Cold?
A Merino wool base layer, which is the other more popular kind, is made of a kinder kind of wool that is less abrasive to the skin. It is excellent at controlling body temperature, making it great for extremely cold weather while keeping you from overheating in warmer conditions.
When a Synthetic Base Layer is the Best Choice?
For warm weather or high-intensity activities like trail running and cycling, synthetic base layers are ideal. Their highly wicking and quick-drying fabrics keep you cool and dry and lower your risk of chafing or overheating. The fibers won’t get overwhelmed by sweat and become heavy because they don’t absorb water.