Merino: The All-Weather Wool

October 8, 2014

©istockphotos/JohnCarnemolla Merino wool is widely regarded as the best fabric for outdoor clothing—or any clothing in general, really—due to its ability to withstand any situation and look awesome doing it. It’s used in athletic wear, from jackets to underwear, and in everyday items like blankets and scarves. If you haven’t had the pleasure of slipping on a nice merino wool sweater, you’ll probably want to after reading this.

It Feels Amazing
Seriously, put your hand on a merino sweater and tell me it doesn’t feel like satin. Oh, it doesn’t? It feels better? That’s because merino wool is some of the softest stuff on the planet. It feels amazing, and when no one’s looking you’ll probably be snuggling up to it like a pillow in your sleep.

Merino wool is actually made from keratin, like human fingernails and rhinoceros horns – but shaved from Merino sheep – which is pretty nifty in itself. What makes that really great, though, is that keratin isn’t itchy. Unlike a lot of other wool fabrics, sweaters made from merino wool won’t leave you reaching around for a scratch at odd angles all throughout the day.

The number one reason merino wool is great for the outdoors, though, is that it actually regulates temperature extremely well. What does that mean? Well, basically it’ll keep you warm when it’s feeling a little frosty out but also keep you cool under the desert sun. Okay, maybe desert conditions and wool don’t actually go hand in had, but you’ll stay cool on a mild summer day at least. It’s perfect for long fall and winter hikes or a day out hunting.

It’s Everything-Resistant
It won’t stave off a pack of rabid wolves, but merino wool is pretty great at resisting anything weather-related. It’s extremely absorbent, so getting caught in a rain shower in merino means you’ll stay dryer longer than in most of outfits. When it does get wet, it doesn’t get cold.

On the other hand, it’s also one of the least flammable natural fibers, which is great in case you have a tendency to fall into campfires I guess. Also? It’s odor-resistant. Let’s face it—men (and some women) start to stink after a long day outdoors. The natural smell of merino wool fights off odors meaning you won’t have to throw it in the wash after every hunting trip. It also has some anti-bacterial properties thanks to the thin fibers, which make it difficult for bacteria to hold onto.

Most importantly for the outdoor enthusiast, merino wool wicks away sweat from the body helping you avoid stickiness and hypothermia.

It’s Easy to Clean
If you do, however, find yourself needing to get the stink out after a year or so of use—kidding, you should probably wash it more than that—merino wool is not hard to clean.

It’s generally not advisable to wash your wool clothes in a machine as it’s not possible to control temperatures well enough to prevent them from shrinking. You do have options, though.

Hand washing is probably your best bet. Just use lukewarm water with a gentle wool-approved detergent and squeeze out the water after you’re done. Remember not to twist it, as that’s a no-no for wool. Hang woven garments out on a line to dry and lay out knits.

For sweaters and other heavier items, the dry cleaner is your best bet. Whatever you do, avoid the dryer for anything other than knits – and only then if you keep them on a gentle cycle.

How to Prevent Pilling
With staple fibers you always run the risk of pilling–those fuzz balls that pile up and cling to your clothes— due to shorter fibers breaking loose and working their way up to the garment’s surface. Luckily, merino wool is one of the least likely fabrics to fall victim to pilling. Regardless, you should avoid wearing it every day to help alleviate the chances.

If you do notice pilling, rather than simply pulling the fuzz off try using a pumice stone. Just rub it gently along the sweater or jacket’s surface and it’ll take most of it off.

If all that is not enough to make you to give merino wool a try we don’t know what is. It’s clean, makes you smell nice and can even keep your dry in a monsoon–at least for a couple extra minutes—so what’s not to like? Merino wool is, hands down, the best fabric for the great outdoors.



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