“It is a known fact that the sheep that give us steel wool have no natural enemies.” ~Gary Larson
It started with the socks. I heard about how awesome merino wool socks were and I started buying them. Then, I stumbled across other clothing made of merino wool and it was over. Below is why I love wearing merino wool.
Keeps you warm
Back when I was an HVAC instructor I used to ask the question, “What is the best insulator?” The answer? Air, especially trapped air. Wool is great for trapping air. That’s why is one of the best fabrics for keeping you warm. It also keeps its insulation properties if it gets wet and helps you stay dry if you happen to break a sweat. Cotton will not. It will just cling to your skin and cause you to get even colder. In a survival situation, cotton can be lethal.
Keeps you cool
What?! How does can it keep you cool if it’s such a great insulator? Merino wool garments come in different weights or thicknesses. The thicker the fabric, the more air it traps, the better the insulator it is, the warmer it is. A thin merino wool t-shirt is perfect on the hottest day of summer. Not only does it protect you from the sun, because it is quick drying, it helps keep you cool by evaporative cooling. Think of a cool breeze on a hot summer day, that is evaporative cooling. Merino wool works this way regardless of a breeze, though it would help.
If you take five pairs of cotton underwear and t-shirts and fold them as you normally would and then do the exact same with merino wool ones, you will find that the merino wool ones take up about half the space of their cotton counterparts. In a world of tiny homes and van life, space is a hot commodity. Not to mention when in comes time to travel, which I talk about more in a minute.
Wicks Moisture and Quick Drying
The term “wicks moisture” is like saying “has electrolytes,” people say it and claim it’s so beneficial but don’t really know what the hell it means. Well, wicking moisture means it pulls the sweat away from your skin. This helps prevent irritation of the material clinging to your skin and is part of the evaporative cooling mentioned above. Whether you understand this or not you have to believe it’s a big deal because all those sports gear brands have you buying the crap out of their garments because of how quick drying and moisture wicking they are. They have a fatal flaw, though. See the next benefit below.
Notice I said RESISTANT. It’s not odor proof. I learned that the hard way. Honestly, as long as you don’t wear it every day, you could go weeks without washing a merino wool garment. Especially the outer layers. I have a medium weight sweater that I have had for about three years. At the most, I have washed it 6 times. Synthetic fibers garments, however, flat out stink. Not at first but once they get an odor to them, they will always smell like that. No matter how much you wash them. If you haven’t noticed this yourself, ask around. It’s very common.
Soft as the softest cotton
Maybe you know all about the benefits of wearing wool. Your favorite hunting socks are wool or something. What’s the major problem though? The itch. Not with merino wool. Merino wool fibers are thinner and less coarse than regular wool. With normal wool you have to wear something underneath to protect you from the garment but with merino wool you wear it right against your skin. This allows the cooling and wicking benefits mentioned above to occur.
To make up a statistic, 99% of merino wool sources grow more once the wool has been harvested. I don’t have any data on how good it is for the environment but you got to assume that since the wool comes from sheep and they don’t have to die, it’s got to be considered a pretty good renewable resource. Synthetic garments are petroleum based, which we all know will some run out.
You ever go to a concert and pay $30 for a T-shirt. If so, then shut it. I don’t want to hear about how much merino wool clothes cost. $70 dollars for a t-shirt is a lot but trust me it is an investment you will be glad you made. First of all, it replaces and least three or four cotton shirts. It will last you years if you take care of it. And your utility bill will drop 25% (another completely made up statistic) because you don’t have to wash it after wearing it once.
Best uses for merino wool.
Travel- I went to Peru on a 14-day trip and took nothing but a carry-on. I had two pairs of merino wool socks and two merino wool t-shirts. I alternated shirts every there day and washed my socks in the shower. I could have carried on like this for months. Now, compare this to a 14-day trip I took to Mexico. I used my internal frame backpacking backpack. It was stuffed to the brim. Partly because I still wore “outfits” at the time but mostly because of the amount of underwear I took.
Working Out- Back before I hated Crossfit, I used to do it. My go to shirt was a merino wool tee I cut the sleeves off of. I never washed it. After a WOD, I would change shirts, wring the wet one out, and hang it up to dry. That was the only shirt I wore and I don’t remember washing it. Eventually, the salt stains may get to you but not the odor because there won’t be one.
Backpacking- Every once counts when backpacking. Take your only pair of socks and shirt off, hang them up in your tent, and put them back on fresh and clean in the morning.
Any other indoor or outdoor activity- I can’t think of a situation when cotton would be better.
As you can see I am a fan merino wool products but I have a problem. I’m too tall. The t-shirts don’t stay tucked in. This can be embarrassing and/or cold. Depends on the situation. That being said, I need to replace the merino wool t-shirts I have. I have had them for four years now and the are pretty worn down. I refuse to drop the cash on shirts that don’t fit me. That’s why I am making my own. The problem is the minimum order is 500. I can’t afford what is probably, three lifetimes of t-shirts. That’s why I started a Kickstarter for this very thing. Merino wool t-shirts for tall dudes like me. Please check it out and share with your friends. If you are over 6’3” and need one, feel free to back my campaign.