Why Merino Wool is Best for Hiking Cloth

Why is merino wool so good for hiking? In this short yet informative article, we want to talk about the functions and properties of merino wool and wool in general.

Why Merino Wool for hiking?

The Merino sheep is one of the oldest and hardiest breeds of sheep in the world. Unlike ordinary sheep that graze on the plains, Merino sheep are made to survive in the scorching heat and freezing cold of the New Zealand Alps.

In summer, their light and breathable coat keeps them cool in temperatures as high as +30°C. In winter, merino sheep grow a winter coat that protects them against temperatures as low as -10°C.

Merino fibers, therefore, have a number of properties that clearly speak for their use in outdoor clothing.

If you are also looking for the right shoes to complete your hiking outfit, then please read this guide for hiking shoes!

Girl Hiking Cloth

Properties of merino wool

IMAGE: CSIROCC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Merino is a natural fiber. Wool, unlike synthetics, has a much higher thermal performance. In addition, wool still insulates even when wet. That’s ideal when you’re sweating or have had a rain shower where you didn’t have your rain jacket to hand quickly enough.

Wool Wool fibers have a temperature-regulating property so that no heat buildup can occur, and there is always a comfortable climate on the skin. Because Merino Wool is a very fine wool fiber, there is no scratching on the skin as with coarse sheep’s wool.

Another very positive property of wool is that it does not absorb odors. Thus, the shirt does not stink even after a long, exhausting day of hiking. Once briefly air out, and the next day you can continue hiking.


Icebreaker - Merino Wool Shirt

Icebreaker - Merino Wool Shirt

Shop the Best Merino Outdoor Apparel

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Why does wool warm?

Fine Wool Fiber
Fine Merino Wool Fibers

Wool has a natural thermo-regulation. The reason for this is the structure of wool fibers. Namely, woolen goods consist of up to 85% air. This layer of air insulates very well and prevents our body heat from being lost to the environment.

In addition, wool fibers can absorb a lot of moisture. Thus, wool can absorb up to one-third of its dry weight in water without feeling damp.

It is amazing that merino fibers generate heat when they absorb moisture. When moisture is absorbed, so-called absorption heat is generated in an exothermic process:

The polar molecular groups of the fibers collide with the water molecules, which release energy. This process continues until the fibers are saturated with water molecules.

Depending on the fiber quality, the temperature increase of the material can be up to ten degrees, depending on the absorption capacity of the fibers and the absorption speed.1

Why does wool cool?

What may sound a little unusual: Yes – wool cools. Merino wool cools:

In the summer in warm ambient temperatures because there is evaporative cooling. Merino wool can absorb moisture up to one-third of its own dry weight.

The fibers are hygroscopic – they bind moisture in the form of water vapor. This moisture is stored inside the fibers, therefore the surface of the fibers remains dry.

If the familiar heat occurs in summer, the moisture evaporates and evaporative cooling occurs. Consequently, even in summer, the wool is very comfortable to wear.

Merino Sheep - New Zealand
Merino Sheep in New Zealand

Queenfur Merino

Smartwool - Merino
Merino Beddings

Other usage areas of wool products

Merino Wool for Hiking
Merino Wool is perfect for Hiking and Outdoor activities

Meanwhile, wool is no longer used exclusively in baselayers or insulation jackets, even sleeping bags or even jackets that are used as a third and thus outer layer are produced from wool.

In sleeping bags, wool is used as a warming filling material. However, the fiber has hardly any advantage over synthetic or down fillings, because sleeping bags made of wool are heavier and have a larger pack size.

More interesting, on the other hand, are jackets made of wool, or more precisely, loden. Loden is an extremely tightly woven wool fabric. The density of the material makes it much sturdier than conventional wool products that we all know from stores.

In addition, Loden is windproof and water repellent to a certain degree. The wind, similar to the principle in membranes like Gore-Tex, is deflected by the “branched” fibers and directed back outside without ever reaching the skin. Of course, much more sustainable than a synthetic Gore-Tex membrane.

Nature vs. synthetics: 8 advantages of wool fiber in outdoor clothing

1. Resistance

Merino fibers can be stretched by more than 30% without breaking. Their wavy crimp makes them more resistant.

2. Thermo-regulation

Merino has the ability to either retain or release heat depending on the wearer’s skin climate and external conditions. Thus, while moisture is being absorbed, some heat is being released at the same time. In hot conditions, the reverse effect occurs, and the skin is cooled.

3. Softness

Merino fibers are so soft that they flex when they come into contact with the skin. This creates an exceptionally soft feel.

4. Odor inhibition

Merino outperforms other fibers in its ability to inhibit unpleasant odors. Odor molecules are absorbed into the fiber, so they are not detected by the nose.

5. Natural UV protection

Merino is naturally resistant to UVA and UVB rays.

6. Biodegradation

Merino is a naturally degradable fiber. Under the right conditions, merino decomposes relatively easily underground.

7. Moisture management

Merino absorbs moisture from the skin and releases it into the environment. This keeps the skin drier and more comfortable to the touch. Merino absorbs up to 35% of its own weight in water before it feels wet – far more than most synthetic fibers.

8. Flame retardant

Merino is naturally flame retardant and performs much better compared to other common textile fibers.



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  1. Felix WD, McDowall MA, Eyring H. The Differential Thermal Analysis of Natural and Modified Wool and Mohair. Textile Research Journal. 1963;33(6):465-471. doi:10.1177/004051756303300611

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