The more I've traveled, the more I've realized that Merino wool is the fabric of choice among avid travelers.
Not only does it look great and tends to wrinkle less, it also contains many natural properties that support an adventure or travel based lifestyle. I've found that merino wool t-shirts are the best fabric for anti-odor properties.
The bottom line is that whether your destination is amidst the snowy Alps or in the heat of the dry season in Thailand, merino wool has characteristics that naturally regulates temperature. It will keep you warm in the cold and cool in the heat.
That's exactly what you want when traveling---a versatile fabric that you can use in many different situations and climates. And after all, the last thing you want is to be the smelly foreigner in the crowd and even for your own sake, it's nice to smell as fresh as possible.
Comparison Table of the Best Merino Wool T-Shirts
|Icebreaker Men's Tech Lite T-Shirt||87% merino / 13% nylon core spun||6.1 ounces||$$$||4.5|
|Ibex Outdoor Clothing Men's OD Heather Tee||100% merino wool||4.0 oz||$$$||5|
|Minus33 Merino Wool Algonquin Short Sleeve Crew||100% merino wool||6.6 oz||$$||5|
|Woolly Clothing Co. Men's Merino Wool Short Sleeve V-Neck||100% merino wool||n/a||$$||4.5|
|WoolX X302 Mens Outback Tee||100% merino wool||6.4 oz||$$||4|
|Ibex Merino Wool Seventeen.5 T||100% merino wool||5.6 oz||$$$||5|
|Minus33 Merino Wool Sentinel Short Sleeve Crew||100% merino wool||10.4 oz||$$||4.5|
|Merino 365 Short Sleeve T||100% merino wool||8.2 oz||$$||5|
|SmartWool Merino 150 Pattern Tee||87% merino wool / 13% nylon||5.0 oz||$$$||4.5|
|Arcteryx A2B T-Shirt||50% polyester / 50% merino wool||5.3 oz||$$$||4.5|
|Patagonia Merino 1 Silkweight T-Shirt||65% Merino wool / 35% polyester||4.0 oz||$$$||4|
|Mons Royale Temple Tech Tee||83% Merino, 13% Nylon, 4% Elastane||n/a||$$||4|
|Odlo Revolution Light Crew Neck T-Shirt||merino wool/ polyester blend||5.1 oz||$$||4|
Why Merino Wool Is The Ideal Travel Fabric
It seems the more frequently you travel the more trends you notice among your fellow explorers. Merino wool clothing has gotten incredibly popular over the last decade.
However merino t-shirts aren't just a fashion statement, there's a reason why more and more travelers are including them in their luggage and have been for decades.
Here are some of the reasons why Merino wool is an ideal fabric for travel:
Antibacterial. The most unique factor about using merino wool in clothing textiles is that it just won't smell!
This is why it's a very popular choice for hikers, backpackers and travelers. Merino wool in particular has a very high resistance to bacteria and it simply cannot grow in this environment---which means no smell! You could literally wear a merino wool shirt for weeks at a time without washing it and it wouldn't retain (almost) any smell!
Wicking properties. Merino also has a natural "wicking" property which prevents any moisture being retained on the fibers next to you skin. In fact, merino wool works by swelling and absorbing the water within the fiber, instead of repelling it as synthetic fibers do. If you're interested you can read a bunch more here about merino wool.
So, whether you're caught in a downpour or sweating profusely after a long hike, any moisture will be kept away from your body, allowing the t-shirt to stay dry and therefore keeping you comfortable and warm. Wool fibers contain certain fatty acids that also help to create the wicking property.
Durability. I've also found that merino wool t-shirt's are incredibly durable and can last years of abuse. I've taken my Icebreaker merino t-shirts on several global trips and one countless outdoor adventures in harsh environments and they are still holding up exceptionally well.
Natural & biodegradable. Also to mention that Merino wool is also 100% biodegradable unlike many of the man-made fabrics produced in factories. In other words it comes from nature and goes straight back to nature!
How Merino Wool Works & Why It's Better
While the majority of other synthetic fabrics increases your body odor by allowing bacteria to grow, merino wool contains natural anti-bacterial properties. Cotton, nylon and polyester don't have the many natural properties that merino wool has as mentioned above.
Generally they're made cheaply in factories, often with chemical coatings and weaving techniques that try to emulate the properties of merino wool but perform poorly in comparison.
It's hard to beat nature and you want to work with it rather than against it. If you're active you also certainly want to be able to breath and stay dry in your clothing, it just adds that much higher level of comfort when traveling.
Of course if you're on a budget and aren't that worried about traveling in comfort then you may be better off purchasing a more affordable synthetic fabric. Many synthetic fabrics still keep moisture away from the body but not anywhere near to the level that merino wool does. Cotton in particular is still a popular choice for its affordability and durability and you don't need to worry about taking care of a cotton t-shirt as you do with merino t-shirts.
Because of the natural water-resistant properties, merino wool is the lightest available fabric out of both natural or man-made products. When you think of wearing wool products you probably think of itching like crazy with the material however, the fibers of merino wool are so fine that it won't itch or cause any discomfort---in fact quite the opposite. Merino can be one of the most comfortable of materials to wear against the skin.
Merino wool also works to protect you from solar radiation and contains natural sun protection qualities. This again makes it a great choice for travelers who will be out in the sun day-in-and-day-out during their journeys.
I'll also throw out there that I recently learned that some of the most ancient cultures in desert environments throughout the world have chosen to wear wool for their tedious expeditions across scorching hot climates.
Merino Wool Is Expensive, Is It Worth It?
This all depends on how often you travel and the type of traveling you are doing---and also how much you value a anti-odor, fast drying, and moisture wicking t-shirt. It's the kind of experience you have to try to really understand.
If you value these qualities in your travel clothing and you're always looking to explore and experience outdoor adventures on a regular basis then it's well and truly worth investing in a quality merino t-shirt.
I've purchased 20+ merino wool t-shirts over the last several years and still on a daily basis I always choose these shirts over my cotton or synthetic ones.
I'll also add that the staggering number of rave reviews available on the internet speak for themselves, merino t-shirts are unbeatable for avid travelers and explorers.
You do however need to care for merino wool garments a bit more carefully than your every day laundry.
How To Care For Merino Wool
The good thing is that merino wool t-shirts are completely machine washable. I wash mine on a weekly basis and they hold up great. I've even accidentally thrown my in the dryer a few times without any damage.
However, you should avoid using hot water wash cycles as it may shrink your t-shirt---it's best to wash on a cold or warm cycle.
As far as drying goes, it's not recommended to tumble dry but rather line dry (being merino it will dry exceedingly faster than other fabrics).
You'll also want to avoid using fabric softeners as this actually alters the natural softness of the wool and in turn creates an undesirable result.
Always check the specific label on the t-shirt for more detailed care instructions. I've found merino to be extremely durable and some of my Icebreaker t-shirts are still holding up great after 5-7 years and multiple global trips.
One specific thing to watch out for is moths... their larvae can put holes in your clothes if they are stored in the wrong place for too long.
Merino Wool T-Shirt Reviews
Icebreaker has a great reputation as one of the best outdoor merino apparel companies on the market. As the name suggests, the Tech Lite by Icebreaker is one of the lightest merino shirts available, therefore is great for packing for warmer climates. This is one t-shirt that comes at an affordable price yet comes out on top in terms of quality and reputation.
- Material: 150gm jersey / 87% merino / 13% nylon core spun
- Weight: 6.1 ounces
- Get it here: [ Men's | Women's ]
The ideal option if you frequently find yourself in the outdoors no matter the location. Available in a wide range of earthy colors, Ibex hasn't skimped out on style. This is a great looking t-shirt designed to go the extra mile.
Ibex combines good looks with performance and you get a hint that the designers at Ibex have a true passion for the outdoors. For those looking for locally made and owned companies, Ibex has no need to go offshore to produce its apparel and is 100% made in the USA!
Another great option if you're heading to warmer climates and want to stay odor free and dry. With flat-lock stitching, this merino tee is hardy and durable against wear and tear and also prevents chaffing from excessive movement -which is often the case when traveling!
Minus33 also tends to be a great price point. However, I have yet to use their products for an extended period of time and so cannot attest to the overall durability.
With 190gsm fabric throughout, Woolly Clothing Co has designed this stylish v-neck to be worn in both hot and cold climates. It's also a great all rounder whether working out, hiking or backpacking across epic landscapes.
This v-neck is aimed at those adventurers on an average budget who might be looking at buying a few different t-shirts rather than relying on one expensive t-shirt to last the mile. If you are not keen on v-neck shirts you can also get the same shirt with a standard collar.
- Material: 100% Merino Wool
- Get it here: [ Men's ]
The devil is in the details with Hardvark's merino shirts. They pride themselves with producing some of the highest quality merino clothing on the market. It all starts with high-performance merino directly sourced from Australia and New Zealand. From here the garments are fabricated with precision and care in Europe, which also means they have a European tailored fit. That said the Hudson T-Shirt tends to fit slimmer and shorter than other varieties out there.
These T's are made from 145 g merino, which is a great fabric weight for everyday use and especially traveling in hotter and humid conditions. Let's just say this t-shirt is down right comfy!
Another shirt I love from Hardvark is their Voyager Shirt, which blends classic button up style with everyday functionality. Plus its machine washable, which means you don't have to worry about washing it while on the road.
- Material: 100% Merino Wool
- Get it here: [ Men's ]
One of the most affordable t-shirts on the market, The WoolX is made from 100% Australian merino wool and available in a variety of colors. Ideal for the infrequent traveler, hiker or gym junkie due to its low cost. Flat-lock seams increase its life-span and prevent chaffing.
Although it's not the softest merino wool t-shirt, 17.5 micron fibers do keep this tee pretty comfy. WoolX designed this to be a high quality, affordable merino t-shirt. This shirt is nothing but success.
If you have never worn Merino wool before, this shirt is a great way to welcome yourself to the family. With 100% merino construction and low cost, there's no better way to dip your toes in the water, so to speak.
Ultra breathable, mega durable, machine washable, the Seventeen.5 T is the full package. It's made responsibly in North America, so you don't have to be worried about the impact of your purchases. Nor do you have to be worried about the impact of your body odor.
Made from 100% Merino wool, this all terrain t-shirt will go through thick and thin with you and still be ready for date night when you get home.
The Sentinel short sleeve crew shirt from Minus33 is a mid-weight wonder of the modern world and it's ready for just about anything you can throw at it.
18.5 micron fibers and a tight, interlock knit pattern are two of the reasons that this Merino wool shirt is one of the most comfortable and protective on the market. Ideal for the colder times of year, this shirt is a little thicker and heavier than some of it's counterparts.
Perfect for an underlayer on cold trips to the alpine this fall and winter.
Not all Merino wool was created equal. And Merino 365 has a lot to say about the superior quality of New Zealand 140gsm Merino. It was hard for me to believe such big talk about a T-shirt, even one made of Merino.
However, this super soft Merino shirt didn't disappoint. Just like all of the products produced by Merino 365, this shirt is top quality. The fit, fabric, and feel of this shirt are unlike any other shirt I have ever worn. I'll keep you posted on how it holds up to a beating.
Perfect for snuggling, and anything else involving overwhelming softness, whether you're at home or in the back country.
Smartwool is no stranger to high tech clothing designed for adventurous applications. It's literally what they are named for.
On their quest to make the best Merino wool t-shirt, they spun Merino wool around a nylon core to add durability and strength. Merino-nylon blends increase strength, durability, and fast drying properties and are becoming more and more common.
Smartwool chose offset shoulder seems so that your backpack won't rub you the wrong way when you're in the woods.
Now that's smart.
Arc-teryx specifically designed the A2B T-shirt with the city-dwelling bike commuter in mind. This shirt is cut in a style conducive to all dress codes so you can wear it to work, or to a party. A long bodied, slim fit makes it ideal for wearing on your bicycle. No need to worry about your bum hanging out.
The Polyain fabric that Arc'teryx uses for this wool shirt is one of the best wool-blends around. It captures all the best qualities of Merino wool, and is odor resistant, lightweight, and durable. However, it also stretches, and fits to form with all the grace of a poly-underlayer. Whether you're biking to work, trekking in the mountains, or going out to the bars, this is one of the best Merino wool shirts to do it in.
Although this shirt may be out of production, the lucky few who already own one are feeling pretty good right now. The Merino wool blend that Patagonia uses for this all-purpose t-shirt is breathable, durable, and easily form fitting. The sleeves on this shirt are seamless and provide you with increased range of motion and comfort. That way, you'll feel great on the trail, no matter how heavy your backpack is.
Offset side seams also increase comfort and reduce abrasion when you wear a pack or harness. Patagonia has a reputation for making the best outdoor gear money can buy. If you're a Patagonia fan, this shirt is certainly the best Merino wool t-shirt out there.
Better order one while they're still available.
The Mons Royale Temple Tech Tee is all about breathability and mobility. If you're the girl who's running trails in the hot afternoon sun, or the dude ripping down single track every morning, this is the best Merino shirt around.
Full mesh back and underarms are the peak of performance when it comes to breathability and moisture wicking. Offset shoulder seams make every backpack feel fine. And the smooth, slim fit just looks damn good on you.
All in all, this Merino wool T is the peak of high performance athletic attire.
The Revolution crew neck T-shirt makes the perfect close fitting underlayer when it's cold or all purpose outerlayer when it's warm. Odlo leverages the best out of both fabrics and it really does revolutionize T-shirts if you've never worn a Merino wool shirt before.
There's enough Merino wool in this shirt to make it warm, breathable, and extremely soft. However, the high PES content also allows it to be faster drying than even the best 100% Merino wool t-shirt. This fiber combination is robust, and makes this shirt not only comfortable and airy, it also is rather strong and can withstand a lot of heavy use.
Buying Guide: How to Find the Right Merino Wool T-Shirt
As with anything, there are many different aspects to consider when finding the right merino t-shirt for your intended activities. In this buying guide we break down everything you need to know on how to choose the best merino wool t-shirt.
As you might imagine, T-shirts this nice aren't for everyone. Shirts this nice are designed for exceptional people, doing exceptional things.
The best part about Merino wool t shirts though, is that they are the type of high-tech garment that you'll wear every day. Whether you're going skiing or to a business meeting, this will be the first layer you put on every morning.
As an underlayer, the best Merino wool shirt is ideal because it doesn't absorb or emit body odor and it wicks moisture away from your body to keep you dry and comfortable. This, combined with the incredibly comfortable feel of Merino wool makes it the obvious choice for action sports like snowboarding, mountaineering, biking, trail running, and hiking, to name a few.
However, the fashionable look and stylish fit of most of the best Merino wool shirts makes them ideal for every day casual, or even verging on formal occasions. Even when I dress up for a really classy night, my Smartwool or Icebreaker merino wool t shirt is usually the first thing I put on under everything. They're just so comfortable!
When selecting the best merino t-shirt for you, you don't want one that has a thickness designed for below zero temperatures if you're heading to a hot climate (and of course vice versa). Do your research on your destination, not only the temperature but also the season, i.e. rainy season vs. dry season and any other factors that might influence the thickness of the merino t-shirt you select.
Each of the best merino wool shirts has it's own unique fabrics and designs. Some shirts have vented backs, underarms, or torso bands. Different weights of fabrics allow different amounts of air get to different parts of your body.
If you've never bought a merino wool t-shirt before, then start with a mid-weight option. That way it won't be too heavy for summer or too light for winter. If you're not careful, you might find yourself wearing the same t-shirt every day. Your friends might start to wonder.
You can read up more on about wool fabric and how it works here.
Most of the best merino wool t shirts have an athletic fit for maximum comfort in all situations. Although each individual shirt specifies it's intended fit, slim and a bit long are the norm. That's because the best merino t shirt can switch between an under and outer layer depending on the day.
You don't want your shirt to be too big to put under your new lightweight rain jacket. However, you also don't want it to be so tight you feel uncomfortable wearing it at work. If you intend to frequently exercise in your merino wool shirt, then go for a long fit so it won't ride up.
But hey, I'm not your momma, and I can't tell you how to dress. If slim and long isn't your thing, then try checking out Minus33 or Wooly Clothing's offerings on this list. Or hey, maybe you just want the softest tall T around...no judgement.
Comfort is composed of so many elements. Fortunately, since every t-shirt on this list is made primarily from merino wool, we're off to a great start. However, there are lots of details to pay attention to when considering overall comfort.
Obviously you should consider the fabric. Different people like different things. However, my favorite material is either 100% merino because it's just that good, or the elastane-nylon blend that Mons Royale uses in their Temple Tech Tee. Personally, that's because I like the semi-spandex feel and fast drying capabilities of their fabric.
You may also be asking yourself "does merino wool itch?" Nope! It is comfortable and super soft against the skin so you never have to worry about having that itchy wool feeling.
The golden rule of comfort though is always 'when in doubt try it out.' You're sure to find a couple of these merino wool t-shirts at your local REI to try on.
Style is pretty damn important. I mean, a wise man once said "have fun, look good, and safety third."
Now, style being more important than safety is debatable. However, the style points you'll get when you walk into school wearing a brand new merino wool t-shirt are undeniable.
Style comes in two parts: the way you look and the way you feel. The best merino wool shirt will take care of both. There's no better feeling than a soft, perfect fit for your next date. You might even forget to be awkward because you just feel so good!
No matter the style of your favorite merino wool shirt, your date is sure to notice. From the moment you walk through the door, to when you hug her good bye, she's sure to be checking out your threads. And after she smells your odor-free fabric, she's sure to call you back.
Although 100% merino wool is an incredible experience that everyone should get the chance to feel before they go, it's not the ideal material for all situations. That's no secret. It's hard for anything to be the best in all categories.
That's why most companies have created their own unique blends of merino wool with other fabrics to enhance certain qualities of each.
Merino wool and polyester blend to provide better stretch and recovery than pure merino. Polyester blends will also dry faster and feel more active than the average merino wool t-shirt. These features make merino-poly blends ideal for activewear and sports shirts that get wet frequently and are pushed to the limits.
The most common fabric used with merino wool is nylon. Spinning merino wool with nylon fibers can increase the merino's durability dramatically while softening the feel of nylon. Many companies use nylon in a variety of ways in their merino wool t-shirts.
Using fabrics like elastane with merino wool makes for an exceedingly comfortable shirt that can stretch during activity and chill during down time. Usually these fabrics are a little more expensive and a bit more specialized. Personally, I love my elastane blend merino wool shirt. However, that doesn't mean that all high-tech fabric blends are superior to more common fabrics.
Although merino wool is incredibly comfortable, anti odorous, anti microbial, breathable, and lightweight, it is not the most durable fabric on it's own. If comfort is your only concern, than 100% merino is hard to beat.
However, for maximum durability, look for a merino/nylon blend. Nylon is one of the toughest and most versatile fabrics on the market. Some of the toughest combat gear and weather resistant fabrics are nylon.
To give you an idea how strong nylon really is-- Most slacklines are nylon. A one inch wide piece of it can be strung hundreds, even thousands of feet across a canyon, stretched with thousands of pounds of force and then walked across.
When the strength of high quality nylon is combined with the superior qualities of merino wool, the result is one of the most comfortable and durable fabrics on the market. Most companies use special weaving technology and custom blends in pursuit of making the best merino wool t shirt on the market.
Ultimately, merino wool doesn't come cheap. If you're looking to save some money, you're going to have to shop carefully. With most merino wool t-shirts costing at least $80, this is no way to build a budget wardrobe.
However, what most people don't think about when they're reading price tags is the true value of a product. After all, the best merino wool t-shirt can do the job of three regular cotton ones. It won't take on odors after days of heavy use, and when all your cotton tees are soaked through, your merino will be dry as day one and ready to rock.
It's hard to quantify the value of such high quality clothes. Sure, they cost a lot, but you'll find yourself buying and washing far fewer shirts once you start wearing merino wool.
Besides, you can't put a price on having a shirt that keeps your body odor at bay. That never happened before you wore merino!
The Bottom Line
Merino wool t-shirts are my go-to option for t-shirts to pack on almost any trip. Merino offers some incredible benefits such as antibacterial, super fast drying, and ultra-wicking properties that make it superior to other fabrics.
The selection of merino t-shirts included above are some of the best reviewed shirts on the market, but each person may find that one brand works better for them over the other. This ultimately boils down to size, cut, and the price/quality ratio.
In terms of performance, merino wool t-shirts are invaluable in comparison with other synthetic fabrics and it's obvious why so many travelers can depend on their trusty merinos. They truly are built for performance and whether your heading out for outdoor adventures or just cruising cities, once you try a merino wool t-shirt you'll never look back.
What is merino wool?
Merino Wool is a type of wool made from from Merino Sheep. It's know know to be highly antimicrobial, breathable, and wicking.
Does merino wool shrink?
Merino wool is prone to shrinking if exposed to high temperatures, especially when it is wet.
Are Merino t-shirts worth it?
Merino shirts do cost a pretty penny, but they are some of the best travel shirts around. They have properties that out perform synthetic materials to keep you more comfortable during your travels.
Does Merino dry quickly?
Yes, Merino wool dries incredibly quickly.
Is merino wool better than regular wool?
Merino wool is softer to the touch than most regular wools. This makes it more comfortable to wear as a first layer on your skin.
Can you wash merino wool?
Yes, Merino wool is completely machine washable using cool or cold water.
Is merino wool waterproof?
No, Merino wool is not water proof.
Does merino wool really not smell?
Merino wool has a very high resistance to bacteria and it simply cannot grow in this environment. This helps keep your garments smelling fresh and ward of funky odors.