We’re pretty committed to Merino here, as you might be able to tell. If you haven’t tried it, why should you chose merino over a standard Lifa or something similar? After all, it’s more expensive, and surely modern synthetic materials are going to outperform some basic wool stuff?
Well in our our opinion, absolutely not, and here’s why:
1 – It Doesn’t Smell
This is the killer reason for me. Wear merino base layers for a week non stop and you’ll smell fresh as a daisy. Try this in a standard base layer and people will steer clear of you for certain!
2 – You need less of them
This is a follow on from the above – if you can wear them for longer, you need to own less of them, and take less of them on trips. One set is fine for a week’s snowboarding for instance. This means the extra cost is negated, because you’re buying one item instead of 3 or 4. It also means weight is minimised in your luggage. This is a good thing whether you’re packing ultra light for a ski touring trip on the Haut Route or just want to sneak within your 20 Kilos luggage allowance for the annual week in Val D’Isere.
3 – It will keep you warm no matter what
Wool insulates even if it’s wet. So, as well as moving moisture away from your skin, it’s also keeping you warm whilst doing it. Synthetic fibres don’t do this, they work by moving the moisture away, but there’s a limit to how much they can do this, and once wet, they become clammy and cold. Merino has to work for a sheep on a rainy mountain in New Zealand – it will do a great job keeping you warm.
4 – It’s kinder to your skin
This was the hardest thing for me to grasp before trying merino – doesn’t wool itch? Well, no, performance merino doesn’t, as long as the fibres are less than 21 microns thick (which all the base layers we recommend here are) it will be the softest thing you’ve ever worn. If you don’t believe it, check out these merino swaddles for new born babies – merino works for the most delicate skin.
5 – It’s better for the environment
This is another passion of ours. Being snow lovers we want to keep the earth cold in winter, so anything which prevents the use of finite resources and uses renewables is good in our book. Even if this isn’t so much your thing, since you’re sold on the idea of merino wool now anyway, you might as well feel good about helping the environment while you’re at it!
If you’ve got your own favourite reasons, or if you disagree, let us know, or leave a comment.
As well as all the technical performance reasons for using merino wool for your base layers, there are sound environmental ones too.
Most wicking base layers or thermals are derived in some way from oil – polyester, viscose and all other man made materials are made from oil which is a non renewable resource, and you can be your own judge as to how much impact the production of oil has on global warming – something close to the hearts of those who use the mountains as their playground.
Merino on the other hand is completely renewable. A single merino sheep can produce about 5 items of base layer each and every year. This makes merino wool a classic renewable resource – it simply regrows on the sheep after shearing.
Shearing is good for the sheep too – they’re so good at growing the stuff and it’s such a good insulator they’d get too hot in summer – Don’t worry about them getting cold without their coats either – they grow back in plenty of time for next winter
Once you’re done with your base layer, it will also biodegrade naturally, so wont leave a lasting footprint on the planet.