As summer approaches, you'll probably be hearing the words "merino wool" thrown out a lot, especially in performance product. When you hear the word "wool" your mind probably immediately thinks of it's heat retention properties during the winter but there are actually a plethora of benefits of wearing the fabric during the hot summer months. So how does it differ from plain 'ole wool? Let us explain.
For years, brands such as Smartwool and Icebreaker have been crushing their competition because of the high quality wool they have been using in their products. To explain how exactly merino wool work and its benefits, we have to explain what exactly merino wool is, first.
The merino is one of the world’s most ancient breeds of sheep. And one of the toughest. The breed origins are from Spain, but the modern Merino was domesticated in Australia, where Icebreaker's headquarters is located. The merino's fleece is built for extremes. Breathable in summer, insulation in winter, yet still soft and exceptionally lightweight. In a way, it's the ultimate field test - if nature gets it wrong, the sheep dies. Humans are clever, but nature is smarter. So instead of trying to design a better fiber, brands like Icebreaker adapted merino wool into a lightweight system of all-season garments for people. That's why we call it the 'miracle' fabric.
The benefits of merino wool over normal wool are endless. We'll explain the science behind the claims, stay with us.
According to Smartwool, breathability is the ability of a fabric or fiber to transport moisture in the vapor state from an area of higher humidity to an area of lower humidity. In other words, the more breathable a product is the better it is at removing moisture from the microclimate (the space between your skin and the garment). As your body heats up, the moisture vapors will be absorbed by the wool fiber, and released to the drier environment outside of the fabric; releasing heat and keeping the wearer dry and comfortable. A merino fiber can absorb and retain up to 30% of its own weight in moisture and still feel dry to the touch.
Once again, let's think of a sheep. When they get warm they don’t throw on a cotton t-shirt. They only get one shot at it and Mother Nature has given them the perfect clothing to keep them comfortable year round in all kinds of conditions.
Merino wool fibers do such a good job of moving moisture away from the skin that even if the fabric is soaking wet the surface area of your skin will remain dry. Merino fibers and fabrics can absorb up to 30% of their dry weight before feeling wet. Most synthetics feel wet after they absorb less than 7%. Wool has the ability to store moisture within the structure of the fiber. As your body warms up, the moisture stored within the fiber will begin to evaporate, cooling the air between your skin and the fabric. The warmer you get the more evaporation takes place and the larger the cooling effect.
You know how wool moves moisture vapor before it turns to sweat. But, what happens when we perspire faster than the vapor can be transported? At this point, wool will move liquid mechanically, just like synthetics do. Both synthetics and wool have the ability to wick, but only wool has the ability to wick away moisture in its vapor state.
Icebreaker's Cool-lite series combines merino with TENCEL® a natural fiber sourced from sustainable eucalyptus, that helps heat dumping and wicking to enhance cooling in the heat of the day. The merino component resists odor, breathes and regulates temperature when it turns cooler.
Test this as your own risk, but merino wool's ability to effectively manage moisture helps eliminate odor-causing bacteria because it doesn't give the bacteria the moist environment they need to thrive. Merino fiber, through its complex chemical and physical structure, resists the development and proliferation of odor to a much greater extent than synthetic materials or cotton.
Merino wool clothing has a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Rating) of at least 50. This is considered to be the ultimate in sun protection. A sun protection of UPF 50 is higher than cotton and most synthetics. For synthetics check the UPF rating on the label.
Most people associate wool with “itchiness”. This is because of the diameter of the fibers used. Merino wool is able to stay itch-free thanks to its fiber’s smaller diameter, or being “finer”. These fibers are more flexible and softly bend when pressed against the skin and, therefore, don’t itch like other wool.
We currently carry mainly Icebreaker apparel during the summer months while we have an array of merino wool socks from Smartwool at all times.
Knit with Icebreaker’s 145gm eyelet corespun mesh fabric, the Comet Lite Singlet and Cap Sleeve Tee are made for performance. Corespun fibers are a nylon core wrapped in Merino for extra durability. Additionally, Tencel ® is added for faster dry time.
Cool-Lite Sphere was developed by Icebreaker a few seasons back as a light-weight Merino wool option for summer. The fabric is a Merino Wool/Tencel/Nylon blend designed for both performance and lifestyle. Makes a great travel piece.