- Merino fibres promote excellent temperature regulation: When it is cold, the fibres keep you warm thanks to their finely crimpy structure which retains insulating air. When it is warm, the wool has a cooling effect due to its high breathability.
- The surface of the fibre is dirt- and water-repellent whereas the inside of the fibre can absorb water without feeling wet. And in comparison to down, the wool retains its thermo-regulating property even if it is wet.
- Merino wool is a natural, renewable commodity and therefore bio-degradable.
- Merino wool inhibits smells. Keratin, the protein the fibre is made of, breaks down bacteria which cause smells. A further advantage is that the surface of the fibre stays relatively dry which inhibits bacterial growth. On the one hand, it is enjoyable to wear (and good to companions' noses too), and on the other hand it is environmentally friendly and practical: Merino products have to be washed less often and can be used several times on multiple-day tours.
Australian Merino wool is the remarkable result of millions of years of evolution. It is rich in natural properties that inspire some of the world's leading clothing designers. And its unique benefits flow through to the luxuriously soft and stylish clothing crafted from it. Read about these benefits below.
SOFT AND COMFORTABLE
The secret to Australian Merino wool's softness is its exceptionally fine fibres.
Merino fibres are extremely fine, enabling them to bend far more than traditional, coarser wool fibres. This makes Merino wool feel soft and luxuriously gentle next to your skin
Natural elasticity helps Merino wool garments stretch with you, yet return to their original shape. So Merino wool clothing is ideal to wear when exercising.
Merino fibres can absorb large quantities of moisture vapour then move it away to evaporate into the air. So Merino wool clothing is extremely breathable and less prone to clamminess.
WARM AND COOL
In contrast to synthetics, Merino is an active fibre that reacts to changes in body temperature. So it helps you stay warm when the weather is cold, and cool when the weather is hot.
Because Merino wool can absorb moisture vapour, it tends not to create static electricity, helping it to drape beautifully and be less likely to cling uncomfortably to your body than other fabrics.
EASY TO CARE FOR
Gone are the days when woollen garments had to be hand-washed and dried flat.
In contrast to synthetics, Merino wool can absorb moisture vapour which means less sweat on your body. Merino wool even absorbs the odours from sweat, which are then released during washing.
Merino fibres have a natural protective outer layer that prevents stains from being absorbed. And because Merino wool tends not to generate static, it attracts less dust and lint.
Recent innovations mean many Merino wool garments can now be machine-washed and tumble dried. It's very elastic too so requires less ironing than other fabrics.
At a microscopic level, each Merino fibre is like a coiled spring that returns to its natural shape after being bent. This gives Merino garments a natural resistance to wrinkles.
The whole family is safer wearing Merino wool clothing.
You are safer in Merino wool because it is flame retardant and doesn't melt or stick to the skin.
A NATURAL BARRIER TO UV
Merino wool is much better at protecting you from UV radiation than most synthetics and cotton. So the whole family will be safer wearing it on sunny days.
Merino wool regulates body temperature and heart rate to so that it actually improves sleep.
Australian Merino wool is an entirely natural and renewable fibre.
Merino wool is grown year-round by Australia's 70 million Merino sheep, consuming a simple blend of water, air, sunshine and grass.
When Merino fibre is disposed of, it will naturally decompose in soil in a matter of years, slowly releasing valuable nutrients back into the earth.
Every year Australian Merino sheep produce a new fleece, making Merino wool a completely renewable fibre source.
Designers love working with Australian Merino wool for a variety of reasons.
SLEEK AND ELEGANT
Merino wool benefits from what designers call excellent handle and drape. To the wearer, this means clothes that effortlessly, elegantly and beautifully follow the form of the body
When Merino wool clothing is dyed it is colourfast, and newly developed colouring techniques give designers full scope for their creativity.
Australian Merino wool is lively and flexible, coming in a wide choice of textures, weaves and weights. It can be woven or knitted and worn in every season.
EASY TO TAILOR
Merino wool is a delight to tailor. It cuts cleanly, doesn't fray and isn't marked by pins. It also responds instantly to ironing and won't crush with handling.
Merino wool fabric can be permanently set by the use of temperature and moisture, giving designers the freedom to create a wide range of shapes and styles.
Clothing designers can choose from a range of innovative treatments that allow them to create unique textures and finishes on Merino wool garments.
Merino wool is a powerhouse natural fibre. Exceptionally warm and super-soft on the skin, merino is packed with a huge range of high-performance benefits for wherever your adventure takes you.
Merino is incredibly comfortable to wear
Not all wool is prickly, heavy and lumpy. Merino is the world’s finest wool and feels seductively soft and lightweight, which is why it’s often used in next-to-skin clothes – like thermal base-layers, underwear and socks. Kathmandu enhances merino’s super-soft and anti-static qualities with advanced spinning, knitting and finishing technology.
Merino keeps you exceptionally warm
Thanks to its natural crimp, merino cleverly insulates by trapping body heat in air pockets, keeping you warmer for longer. For extra warmth, you can layer a merino base layer over another merino item, which increases the warmth trapped around the body.
Merino regulates body temperature
What really sets merino apart, however, is its breathability — it's able to release warmth as needed to prevent overheating and to cool you down when conditions heat up. Merino’s natural knack for regulating body temperature means you can pack fewer clothes and keep comfortable in any weather.
Merino soaks up moisture to keep you dry
Merino wool can absorb up to 30 per cent of its weight in moisture and still maintain its ability to insulate, keeping you dry, warm and cosy when you’re out in the elements. It’s also naturally moisture-wicking — able to draw perspiration away from the skin so you stay dry when working up a sweat.
Merino has ‘no stink’ odour-resistance
It’s not perspiration that pongs, but rather the build-up of bacteria that creates an unpleasant smell. Unlike synthetic fibres, merino wool naturally resists bacteria and odour retention.
Merino is easy to wash and look after
Because merino resists odour, bacteria and stains, you don’t need to wash it as often or as rigorously as synthetics. Airing your merino overnight will usually freshen it for the following day. Kathmandu’s merino clothes are machine-washable, so you don’t have to worry about shrinkage or pilling — simply follow the care instructions on the tag.
Merino keeps its shape for longer
Due to its fine fibre, merino wool is incredibly elastic and able to retain its shape after years of stretch, wear and repeated washing. Whether you wear your merino running, skiing, rock-climbing, horseriding or while doing yoga (or all the above!), merino will stretch with your body as needed and then bounce back into shape.
Merino is a great all-rounder — you can wear it every day
The many natural benefits of merino wool — its moisture-wicking, insulating, temperature-regulating, odour-resistant, breathable and elastic qualities — provide exceptional comfort and protection in the outdoors. But it's great for everyday wear too. Kathmandu’s merino range includes slim cuts, fashionable colours and various styles that are perfect around town or while travelling.
17 Benefits of Merino Wool for Outdoor Clothing
If the survival skills of merino sheep aren’t enough to convince you of the benefits of merino wool, this is why it makes such good base layers and other clothing:
As highlighted by merino sheep themselves, merino wool is an extremely warm fabric that can keep you protected in cold environments. It’s responsive to your body’s temperature, so it keeps you warm in freezing environments such as mountainsides but doesn’t feel too hot when it’s not that cold or the temperature suddenly rises.
Ever seen a merino sheep looking cold? I thought not!
But also cool
Merino wool is a responsive natural material that adapts to your body’s temperature, unlike synthetic fibres. This means it keeps you cool when you’re hot and warms you up when you’re cold thanks to lots of tiny air pockets. Magic! As a result, your body temperature and heart rate stay better regulated, so it’s actually good for your health. This quality also makes it wonderful for adventures where you’re likely to encounter a range of weather conditions. A lightweight merino wool T-shirt like the Icebreaker Tech Lite Range is perfect for an intense climb up and over mountain tops with a heavy pack because even when you are dripping with sweat, merino keeps going and somehow feels cool.
As well as being warm, merino wool is able to absorb up to 35% of its dry weight from moisture vapour while still feeling dry, known as ‘wicking’. This means you experience less of that wet, sticky feeling you often get with cotton or other fabrics, making it great for outdoor activities where you work up a sweat. It will keep you cooler and drier when exercising or other physical tasks and means fewer sweat droplets on your skin.
Benefits of Merino Wool for Outdoor Clothes
Unlike synthetic fabrics, the wicking properties mean that merino wool takes sweat away from your body. It absorbs the sweat and locks away the smell-causing molecules, which neutralizes the smell. This means you’ll smell less like sweat when pursuing strenuous activities and exercise, which let’s be honest is just more pleasant for everyone. It also means your clothes stay fresher for longer. Then you simply wash your clothing and voila, the sweat molecules are gone.
I have personally put this to the test and can testify that the material definitely does not hold odour, however, it still doesn’t mask 8 days of hiking without a shower!
This wicking ability also makes it static-resistant, so your clothes won’t stick to you and cause that annoying fingers in the plug socket hairstyle. It also means fewer bits of dust and other annoying fibres sticking to your clothes.
Unlike other types of wool such as lambswool, which can be notoriously itchy, merino wool fibres are extremely fine, so they feel delightfully soft and unlike any wool, you have worn before. One great tip I learned in New Zealand that if you use raw merino wool in your boot next to your skin, it helps to reduce friction and prevent blisters. You can buy raw merino wool in its natural form for this such purpose or you can also get balls of merino wool so that you can knit your own hats, gloves, and scarfs etc.
As well as being comfortable in terms of softness, merino wool is also very elastic. Each fibre is like a tiny spring, meaning it’s stretchy rather than restrictive like other types of wool. It also returns to its original shape after being stretched, meaning it lasts a long time and retains its shape without wrinkles. This makes it ideal for outdoor pursuits such as climbing, which require a high level of elasticity. (It also means less ironing, woohoo!)
As demonstrated by merino sheep and their mountainside environment, merino wool is very lightweight, enabling mobility. Unlike other heavier fabrics, it won’t weigh you down in terms of wearing it or carrying a stack of merino items in your backpack.
The harsh environments that Merino sheep live in mean that merino wool is extremely hard-wearing, which makes it a great fibre for outwear such as coats and jackets. It’s also got water-repelling properties that mean your clothes won’t absorb water if you’re caught in a rain shower while hiking.
Benefits of Merino Wool for Base Layers
One of the unknown benefits of merino wool is that it’s naturally hypoallergenic. This makes it ideal for children or those with sensitive skin as it won’t cause (or irritate existing) allergies, which is great news for those who suffer from eczema. Some research also suggests merino is antibacterial which might also have something to do with its anti-odour capabilities.
Another of the incredible benefits of merino wool is that it is fire-resistant, so should you get too close to the campfire it won’t catch a spark or shrivel up! It’s also flame-retardant, so it won’t stick to your skin should you accidentally put yourself fully into the campfire.
Merino wool has better UV protective properties than cotton or synthetics, so it protects you against the sun’s harmful rays when you’re outdoors. This makes it great for all of the family in combination with sun protection lotion on exposed skin. With New Zealand getting higher than average doses of UV, merino wool is a fantastic choice for clothing that has cleverly evolved from nature and been adapted from the local environment.
Hooray, I hear you say! Wool that’s machine washable! Most modern merino wool items can be washed as normal and tumble dried without shrinking to the size of dolls clothes. Not to mention, the natural outer layer protects the fabric from absorbing stains, so your clothes end up less grubby to start with, especially when climbing mountains or trekking. This makes it great for backpacking as cleaning your clothes while staying in hostels can sometimes be a mission and drying them without heat just takes too long.
As merino sheep naturally grow this fleece each year, it’s a renewable and sustainable fibre. As there plenty of merino sheep (for example, a staggering 70 million in Australia alone!). It’s made of a natural protein similar so is biodegradable. This means it’s good for the environment as it provides nutrients as it decomposes into nitrogen-rich soil within a few years after being disposed of, re-fertilising the earth.
As merino wool comes from sheep, it’s a totally natural product. The free-range sheep live on grass and water, and nothing is added to the fibre. This means it’s brilliant for those who are conscious of reducing their environmental footprint.
Unlike other less stylish fabrics, such as fleece, merino wool is so high-quality and hangs so well that it’s actually a fond favourite of high-fashion designers such as Armani and Hugo Boss, as well as being used for outdoor clothing. This means it’s ideal for those travellers and outdoor adventurers who prefer more fashionable choices, rather than traditional outdoor clothing. As it’s colourfast, it can be dyed and won’t leak to other clothes or lose its colour, meaning it’s also available in a wide range of colours.
As well as its obvious use for outdoor gear and activewear, the versatility of merino wool means it’s even used for fine Italian suits and top-quality jumpers. It’s brilliant for accessories such as socks, hats, scarves, and gloves. It can be knitted into a range of patterns and weights, providing many more options for clothing than traditional wools.
You can get super thin base layers in thin knits to wear underneath other items, short-sleeved t-shirts that look like cotton and are great for day hikes – all the way up to thick-knit cable-patterned jumpers or cardigans to wear over the top of other layers. Basically, it’s so versatile that you can build almost an entire wardrobe from merino wool clothing!
Benefits of Merino Wool for Base Layers
What to look out for when buying merino wool
The most important thing to look out for when buying merino products is the % of merino wool on the label as it guarantees all of the natural benefits listed. Real merino wool products do tend to be slightly more expensive than synthetic products, but it’s worth paying extra since the benefits really outweigh the costs. There are plenty of merino wool blends that use a variety of other materials, sometimes improving performance but more commonly to reduce cost. 100% merino wool is best in most peoples opinion.