Wool is naturally breathable and water resistant, plus it blends well with other fabrics. But most wool types aren't very soft, so they can be irritating and itchy to wear.
Merino wool is different, with a softer feel and higher quality that makes it popular for so many varieties of clothing.
Plus, it has a few other features that make it one of the best and most sought-after wools around.
How is Merino Wool Different?
Most of the common wool types are used because they are warm and durable. They are also naturally insulating, making them warmer than other fabrics, plus they repel water to keep you drier in damp weather.
Most wools are breathable as well, so they can retain your body heat in colder weather, but not so much that they will overheat you over time.
Merino wool has all of the properties of regular wool but with a few additions that make it so much better. This type of wool is finer, which makes it much softer than regular wool.
As well as the normal breathability, it is also moisture-wicking, so you stay dry, even when sweating, which also helps regulate your body temperature. That's why merino wool t-shirts are my favorite piece of travel clothing.
And it is more durable than other wools, making it a great choice for sporting activities and younger children who wear their clothes a bit harder than adults would.
The reason Merino wool is so different is that Merino sheep are bred to withstand harsher conditions than other sheep.
They originated in Spain in the 12th century, where they were highly praised for their amazing wool quality.
The export of these sheep was even banned until the 1700's, where they were purchased by the Australians. The harsher conditions and selective breeding eventually created the high-quality Merino wool we have today.
Benefits of Merino Wool
Merino wool has so many benefits that make it a better choice than other types of wool.
These features are also part of the reason why Merino wool is more expensive than other wools but once you know just how superior it is, you may find it is well worth the price.
As your body heats up, it creates moisture, which turns into a vapor. These vapors can be absorbed by the fabric you're wearing. If the fabric is breathable, those vapors will then be released into the drier air outside of the fabric.
This not only releases the moisture, but it also releases heat at the same time, keeping you cool and dry.
Merino fiber is unique because it retains about 30% of its own weight in moisture while staying dry to the touch.
This means when you do need to do laundry on the road, your Merino wool clothes will feel dry much quicker than synthetics and cotton.
Sometimes, we sweat more than other times, like when we're working out or working hard. When this happens, our bodies aren't turning the moisture in vapor as quickly as needed.
This moisture will then be absorbed by our clothes. Rather than holding onto the moisture, Merino wool transfers it away from your body, moving it to the outside and spreading it around so it can evaporate faster.
Sheep spend the majority of their time outside, so they need to be warm when the temperature drops. Luckily, wool grows with a natural crimp in it, which helps to trap air in. This dead air is great for insulation, plus it gives you a natural buffer between you the cold air outside.
Merino wool also has the added benefit of absorbing up to 30% of its weight before it starts to feel wet. This means that it keeps the moisture away from your skin, keeping you warm even when the wool is damp.
Another great feature of Merino wool is that it stores moisture within the fiber's structure. As you warm up, this moisture will evaporate, creating cool air between the fabric and your skin.
The warmer you are, the more evaporation will occur, increasing the cooling effect. This way, you'll never overheat wearing Merino wool.
Merino wool is incredibly strong, due to its unique makeup. It is made up mostly of keratin, which gives it incredible elasticity, allowing it to be bent and stretched in all directions without snapping.
It also has that crimp in it that increases its elasticity and adds to its resilience.
Because of Merino wool's incredible breathability and ability to keep you warm without soaking in sweat, you also won't have any nasty odor to deal with. This is because the bacteria that causes those unpleasant smells don't have the necessary moist environment needed to grow and thrive. You can even wear Merino wool while playing sports or doing other intense activities for hours and still smell just fine.
Everyone has had an itchy wool sweater that they love for its warmth but hate the feel of.
The reason these types of wool sweaters are so uncomfortable is that they are made from broader fibers that aren't as flexible. This inability to bend is the cause of the unpleasant itching.
Merino wool is different, due to its finer fibers, which can flex and bend against your skin. Not only do they not itch, but they can also conform easier to your body shape, enhancing the look, performance, and comfort of that particular garment.
Another benefit of Merino wool's moisture retention is that it helps increase its resistance to static.
The moisture trapped inside the wool prevents any static buildup, so no matter how much you move and rub the fabric, you won't be feeling any shocks or hair-raising electricity.
How fast a fabric dries is determined by two things, the amount of moisture in trapped it in the fabric and the humidity and temperature of the air around it.
Thicker fibers retain more moisture, so they always take longer to dry. But Merino wool fibers are finer, so they can dry at a much faster rate, regardless of how damp the clothing is when you take it off.
Though you may want your Merino wool clothing to last forever, this isn't going to happen, no matter how careful you are with it.
Luckily, you won't have to worry about polluting the planet when you do have to toss these garments in the trash.
The fibers are made of keratin, just like the stuff in our skin and hair, so it will decompose naturally. In a few years, there will be no trace of it whatsoever.
Why Merino is the Perfect Travel Clothing
There are quite a few reasons why Merino wool is the best clothing for travel around. One of the most important reasons has to do with space in your suitcase or backpack.
When you travel, by car, plane, train, or foot, you only have a certain amount of storage space. You can try to cram items in for every possible occurrence, but most likely, something is going to be left behind.
Rather than trying to pack your entire closet, you can just choose to pack your Merino wool clothing. These items will have the ability to be worn longer, for a few days if necessary, without looking, feeling, or smelling soiled.
They will stay fresh, so a couple of shirts and pants, and even a sweatshirt or coat will last you for longer than you would ever expect.
And Merino wool can go longer between washes, so you won't need to hunt down a washing machine during your trip.
Another thing to consider is the temperature. Merino wool helps regulate your body temperature, keeping you warm in cool weather but cooling you down when nature turns up the heat. You can layer your Merino wool as well, so you won't have to pack tons of shirts, sweaters, and coats to swap as the weather changes.
Merino wool can be used to make almost anything as well. Not only do your shirts, pants, and sweaters contain it, you can also find Merino wool socks and underwear to fill out your packing wardrobe.
Another benefit of traveling with Merino wool clothing is that it is easy to clean if you do need to do so, even if you're nowhere near a washing machine. You can do a quick hand wash in a sink or bucket with a bit of soap.
And because it dries fast, you won't have to wait all day for one item to dry enough to put on or pack up with the rest of your gear.