Sierra Trading Post Explores: The Perfection of Merino Wool

There's a plethora of reasons why merino wool is hands-down the best fabric choice for base layers and socks. When merino wool is worn as a next-to-skin base layer, it not only feels super soft, wicks moisture and resists odor, but it also works as nature's HVAC system. You're hot? It breathes to keep you cool. You're cold? It insulates to keep you warm. And because merino wool yarn is incredibly flexible and durable, it's easily made into sweaters (see the SmartWool Merino wool sweater below), cardigans (see the Neve Cardigan Sweater below) , jackets (see the Icebreaker Merino Wool jacket below), and pants (see the Icebreaker Compass Pants below), as well as its better-known use in high-performance base layers and socks. So, you can (and should) easily wear head-to-toe merino wool to work, the airport, the mountains and the gym.


Why is the Merino sheep so good at growing the perfect wool?

It's become clear to many savvy consumers that merino wool is the king of fabrics — whether natural or synthetic. But its easy dominance begs the question — how does merino wool manage to tick every "ideal fabric" box? Why is the merino sheep so good at growing the perfect wool?

Merino Sheep 2 Photo by Biodiversity Heritage Library

The Merino's success story starts in the dry heat of southern Portugal, where the prized sheep are originally from. The sheep eventually made the short trip to Spain, where fine merino wool formed the backbone of the Spanish economy in the 12th through 16th centuries. Now, high-performance merino wool comes from sheep who live in areas like New Zealand's Southern Alps, where summers are hot and dry and winters are frigid. In order to thrive in such extreme conditions, the Merino sheep must grow wool that offers the ultimate in comfort and protection in any kind of weather.

A closer look at a merino wool fiber reveals its superhero secret

This super-adaptable wool fiber has a hollow center and a scaled exterior that's durable, flexible and hydrophobic. Its crimped structure and microscopic exterior scales are the secret to Merino's natural success. As moisture rises from the body, the scales open slightly to allow the fiber's core to absorb it and move the moisture to the surface, where it can easily evaporate.
Merino Wool Science The scales also work as a bacteria-repelling shield on every fiber, preventing odor from setting in like it does in smooth synthetic fabrics. The finely crimped and scaly fibers allow moisture vapor to escape for exceptional breathability and rapid dry time, as well as trap warmth for superior insulating power. As temperatures rise, the extreme breathability and moisture-wicking properties of merino wool work together to keep you feeling cool and dry. Plus, unlike other types of wool, merino wool is so fine that it can be woven into ultralight garments perfect for warmer weather. The ultrafine nature of merino wool is also what lends it its exceptional softness.

Merino Sheep Photo by amanderson2

Merino wool fan club

I never thought I could be even more of a merino wool evangelist, but now that I actually understand why merino wool is so amazing, I feel the need to spread the good word so everyone can discover the awesomeness for themselves. I've been known to give merino wool base layers as gifts, and I like to add at least one or two merino pieces to my closet every year. I think wearing head-to-toe merino wool is a pretty legitimate life goal, and I'm well on my way to achieving it, thanks to Sierra Trading Post.

Merino Wool product 2

Are you itching to get your hands on some non-itchy merino wool clothes? Now's the perfect time to start your high-caliber collection.  Icebreaker and SmartWool base layer tops and bottoms for women and tops and bottoms for men are great choices for high-performance layering. You can always find a variety of merino wool clothes for a great deal at, as well.
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