Picture this. It’s a hot summer day and you’re ready to hit the trails. You pull together all the gear you need for your outdoor adventure, stash some snacks in your pack, and slip on your finest wool socks and wool base layer…
If you’re scratching your head, you’re probably one of many who have not yet discovered the bountiful benefits of wearing merino wool in the warm weather months. Allow us to introduce you to a whole new world of spring and summer outdoor apparel.
Merino wool is a natural fiber sourced from the coats of merino sheep. Unlike the sheep you might see milling about in the lowlands, merinos live in extreme environments and high elevations. Their fleece is built for these extremes; insulating and warm in the winter yet breathable and lightweight in the summer.
While you might be familiar with the insulating properties of merino wool for use during winter activities, many of these same properties position the fiber as an excellent choice for when it gets hot. Here are five reasons to choose merino for your next hiking, biking, or climbing adventure.
1. You’re not a fan of overheating
When worn next to the skin, merino wool acts as a body temperature regulator. This means it keeps you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold. It’s an active fiber that reacts to changes in body temperature and can store moisture within its structure. As your body warms up, the moisture within the fiber will begin to evaporate, cooling the air between your skin and the fabric. For outdoor adventures on especially hot days, an ultra-light layer merino layer will work wonders in keeping your body temperature under control.
2. You like to breathe – and you’d like your clothing to breathe too
In the world of fabrics and fibers, breathability is the ability of a material to transport moisture in the vapor state from an area of higher humidity to an area of lower humidity. The more breathable a material is, the better it is at removing moisture (aka sweat) from the space between your skin and garment and releasing it to the drier environment outside. In the breathability department, merino wool gets a five-star rating. What’s more, it can absorb and retain up to 30% of its own weight in moisture and still feel dry to the touch.
3. You want to protect yourself from the sun
Merino wool naturally helps protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun far better than more traditional summer fabrics such as cotton. Most merino products have a UV rating of at least 30+ and many go up to 50+. With longer days and more hours spent playing in the sun, making sure your skin is protected is an often overlooked but absolutely critical factor to keep in mind.
4. You like to be comfortable
Perhaps the biggest misconception about merino wool is that it’s itchy. If you’re picturing yourself miserably scratching and squirming under what feels like a thousand fire ants crawling all over your body…stop. This isn’t your grandparent’s sweater.
In fact, merino wool can be just as soft as that worn-in cotton tee you’ve been hanging on to for years. It all has to do with the diameter of the fiber. Standard wool has larger, broader fibers that are less flexible and create a “pricking” sensation against the skin. Merino fibers are smaller in diameter and softly bend in contact with your body, giving you all the comfort you need to keep moving for hours.
5. You don’t like to stink
Let’s face it, stink happens. When you’re charging hard outdoors, you’re going to get sweaty and smelly. However, thanks to the odor management capabilities of merino wool, you can get away with wearing the same shirt twice (or three times) and not have to worry about odor. Because wool is so good at effectively wicking away moisture, odor-causing bacteria don’t have the moist environment they need to thrive. This nifty quality makes merino wool especially useful for multi-day backpacking trips when you’re trying to save space and weight in your pack.
Need more convincing to wear merino wool everywhere? Read this article to learn more about the specifics of what sets it apart from other fabrics!