From impressive temperature regulation capabilities to odour and dirt repellency, wool has long been favoured by outdoor enthusiasts for its exceptional qualities. Though wool has historically been known to be thick and scratchy, there are now varieties that offer the same warmth and moisture-wicking benefits while feeling ultra-soft. For outdoor adventurers who prioritize long-lasting comfort and performance, wool garments are a worthy investment.


Different Types of Wool

Though sourced from different animals, different wool types share similar benefits, like high breathability and warmth-to-weight ratio. Both cashmere from goats and angora from rabbits are generally used in luxury items, and because only limited quantities of both can be sourced each year, they are expensive materials. But merino wool from Merino sheep has dominated the outdoor clothing world due to its relative affordability and ability to ethically and sustainably source the material. Found primarily in the mountains of Australia and New Zealand, the insulated yet lightweight coat sported by Merino sheep has evolved to adapt to a diverse range of harsh environments.

Wool cozy up for winter funiStock

Benefits of Merino Wool

This ultra-fine fibre is often toted as the miracle fibre and is well-loved for a variety of reasons. Merino wool garments are favoured in the summer months for their cooling effect and natural UPF properties to protect outdoor adventurers from harmful UV rays. In the winter months, heavier merino wool clothing can trap air to keep you warm, which is why it's used in base layers. Aside from its ability to adapt to a variety of environments, merino wool is also naturally hypoallergenic, making it safe for those with sensitive skin to wear without fear of causing irritation.


Exceptional Moisture Control and Breathability

Unlike synthetic materials, wool can absorb up to 30 per cent of its weight in moisture while remaining dry and insulating, making this a suitable choice for damp conditions and for activities when you’re going to be sweating a lot. Its porous fibres allow merino wool garments to regulate your body’s core temperature, working to trap warmth in cold conditions and promoting breathability in warm conditions. During high-output activities, the inner layer of merino wool moves moisture from the skin to the outer layer of the garment to prevent you from feeling clammy, even if you’re wearing multiple merino wool layers.


It Prevents Stink and Bacteria Build-up

Because of its naturally occurring anti-odour and anti-bacterial properties, wool can be worn multiple times before it needs a wash. You only really need to wash a wool garment when it is visibly dirty.

merino sheep cuteiStock

It Provides Next-to-Skin Comfort

The softness of merino wool makes it a popular choice as a base layer to keep your skin feeling dry and comfortable no matter the activity. And because of the fibre’s flexibility, merino wool garments give outdoor adventurers the stretch that they need to pursue high-output activities without feeling restricted.


Merino Wool Comes in Different Thicknesses

Merino wool is measured in microns, which refers to the diameter of a wool fibre, and generally falls between the range of 15 to 25. The lower the number, the finer and softer the wool and, often, the more expensive the garment. In comparison, regular coarse wool is about 40 microns, and human hair is generally 70 microns. Because merino wool comes in different thicknesses, the material can be used to develop a range of products, from a thin cooling summer shirt to thicker hiking socks with full cushion and insulated sweaters. Merino wool garments remain lightweight, making them the ideal choice for gram-counting adventurers. 


What Percentage of Merino Wool Is Optimal?

Garments range from 100 per cent merino wool base layers to ones that contain a blend, and the optimal percentage of wool in each product will depend on the intended use. Generally, merino wool pieces made with a blend of polyester, nylon or Tencel give more durability and elasticity than pieces that are 100 per cent merino wool. Products that contain a blend are also more affordable, but often come with the pitfall of being more susceptible to odours. Blends are more common for items that need more reinforcement, such as socks and gloves.


These wool pieces will keep you warm all winter long no matter your outdoor pursuits:

Smartwool Trail Ridge Sherpa Glove

Smartwool Trail Ridge GloveSmartwool Trail Ridge Glove

Crafted with 56 per cent merino wool and 44 per cent polyester, these gloves are reinforced with leather for more durable wear. The elastic cuffs work to keep wind and precipitation at bay, and their versatility means they’ll keep your hands warm whether you’re enjoying a nature walk or making a fire at your campsite.

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DEVOLD Merino Wool Underwear

DEVOLD Merino Wool UnderwearDEVOLD Merino Wool Underwear

Specializing in technical wool garments and timeless designs since 1853, Norweigian outfitter DEVOLD has crafted these 100 per cent merino wool underwear for avid hikers and skiers. They’re soft to the touch, thermo-regulating and provide plenty of flexibility for coasting down mountains.

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ORTOVOX Swisswool Zinal Jacket

ORTOVOX Swisswool Zinal JacketORTOVOX Swisswool Zinal Jacket

This jacket’s exceptional warmth is all thanks to Swisswool, a material ethically sourced from sheep that live in the harsh environment of the Swiss Alps. It’s also a material ORTOVOX has used in their insulation jackets since 2011. Made for freeriding, outdoor adventurers will appreciate the range of movement and versatility this jacket offers.

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Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew Wool Socks

Injinji Outdoor Midweight Crew Wool SocksInjinji Outdoor Midweight Crew Wool Socks

Designed for running, hiking, skiing and casual wear, this pair of socks reduces the friction caused by your toes rubbing together to prevent blisters from forming. These toe socks also help each part of the foot to be engaged in whatever activity you’re pursuing.

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Icebreaker MerinoFine™ Long Sleeve Roll Neck

Icebreaker MerinoFine™ Long Sleeve Roll NeckIcebreaker MerinoFine™ Long Sleeve Roll Neck

Its high neck design provides added protection against the wind and rain and can be rolled up to double as a face covering. This is exceptionally soft thanks to its 15.5-micron merino wool content. For the ultimate splurge, get the matching bottoms.

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