Base layers, or long johns, tops, boxers, bras, etc. are an important part of your outdoor experience. There are many different material choices in the market, and many of us probably wonder which one is the best. Merino wool is something people tend to enthuse over, and some of them swear by it like there is no other choice available. But there is: there are so many shades of grey between synthetic technical base layers and those made of 100% merino wool. In this article, I present in outline how different materials work and which base layers are good for which purposes.
100% Merino wool
Merino wool is an extremely comfortable material. It feels cool when you are hot, and warm when the weather is cold. Merino wool transfers moisture from the skin efficiently, it dries very fast, and amazingly, keeps you warm even if it was damp. Odours do not stick in the merino products easily, and according to my experience, merino underwear (tops and johns) will wear out before they start smelling bad.
The thickness of the merino fabric is usually indicated in weight / m2. For example, 100g/m2 is a very thin fabric, while 300g/m2 is already quite a thick inner layer. Also, the thickness of the fibre might be indicated on the garment in microns.
Merino wool fibres are extremely fine and thin, and that is the secret why merino wool does not itch like normal wool. The thicknesses of merino fibres vary from 16.5 (super fine) to 24 microns (one thousandth of a millimetre).
Normal lamb wool is approximately two times thicker than merino wool, and everything over 25 microns might feel itchy. To make it easier to understand what kind of thicknesses we are talking about: the thickness of a human hair is about 30 microns.
The best thing in these clothes is the easy care. The best care is airing after use, but you can also wash the garment if you need to. If you are washing the whole garment, do it at a low temperature. Sometimes just a stain removal is enough. Check the care instructions of your garment on its laundry etiquette. Using too strong soaps / detergents weakens the features of the natural material, so pay attention to detergent dosing and use preferably detergents meant for wool clothing.
There is one weakness in the merino wool. Because it is an entirely natural product, it tends to form pills, and it is not as hard-wearing as for example synthetic fibres that you cannot break almost by any means. It is why many manufacturers have ended up reinforcing the merino wool used in their garments with synthetic fibres, which is a good alternative. Remember also that even if your merino clothes get broken, you can darn them as well as any other woollen garment.
Merino wool blends
We talk about blends when the merino wool has been blended with acryl, polyamide, polyester, or other. Materials used in the garment are indicated on the product, and naturally also in the description texts on our web pages.
Briefly, the higher the percentage of the merino wool, the closer we are to the merino wool features. The more synthetic fibres there are, the more hard-wearing the garment is, but at the same time, it has not so many good merino wool features.
What makes the merino so expensive?
Merino clothes are quite expensive, I can admit that. Sure, it depends on what we compare it with. Synthetic underwear is inexpensive, and the more there is merino wool (great natural material) and the thicker it is, the more expensive the product becomes.
We should pay attention to the production process. Harvesting merino wool is not an easy task, and caring for the lambs and their wool is quite laborious, especially when you choose the ethical alternative, or the mulesing-free wool (read more about mulesing in this Wikipedia link, if you are not yet familiar with the concept). All the merino wool we sell at Varuste.net is mulesing-free.
Why would anyone want to buy synthetic fibres after this speech?
Synthetic fibres do have their place. Nowadays the technology has developed so far that many of the features of the natural fibres have successfully been copied for the synthetic fibres, even though they are no match for the natural fibres themselves. The resistance is of course an important argument as well as the price – technical materials are often cheaper than natural ones. Some people prefer synthetic materials when doing sports, even though merino clothing manufacturers have developed this sporting side of the wool as well (Devold, for example)
Outlet prices from 37,67 €
Outlet prices from 33,00 €