There are a lot of misconceptions about wool still flying around in the outdoor world: rumors that it’s hot, scratchy, or generally uncomfortable. However, these assumptions are the farthest thing from the truth. People in cold climates have worn sheep’s wool clothing for centuries. Now, modern technologies allow manufacturers like Minus33 to create new fabrics out of this time-honored material that can stand up to warm weather and cold weather alike.
Using the finest fibers of Merino wool, Minus33 creates layers that are not only incredibly soft and comfortable to wear, but also naturally resist odors and wick moisture. Plus, these wool clothes are environmentally friendly.
Years ago, Merino wool transformed the sock market. Now, Merino is revolutionizing all types of athletic apparel, from shirts and leggings to socks, beanies, and underwear. From the cool Northeast to the hot, sunny South, athletes are swapping out synthetic and cotton clothes for durable Merino wool.
Still not convinced that wool is the way to go? Here are seven reasons this natural fiber is truly exceptional for working out in any weather.
1. MERINO WOOL IS SOFT AND COMFORTABLE
When you’re working out, you don’t want to be distracted by uncomfortable clothing. Modern clothes made of lightweight Merino wool feel soft against the skin, and they’re not itchy. That’s because the fibers in Merino wool have a small diameter. In the past, some wool clothes were made with larger-diameter fibers, and they felt itchy. But, today’s Merino apparel feels nothing like those wool garments of old.
2. FLEXIBLE FABRIC MOVES WITH YOU
Merino wool fibers have a natural crimp that makes fabrics bend and flex with movement. This gives Merino wool products a subtle elastic feel that doesn’t restrict your body’s motion. Because the wool is flexible, your clothes will keep their shape season after season, since “stretching out” is never an issue.
3. IT WICKS AWAY MOISTURE
Keeping moisture away from your skin is the key to staying comfortable during a workout in both warm and cold weather. When it’s warm, wet skin and soaked clothes will not only make you uncomfortable, but they can cause painful chafing. In cold weather, damp skin and soggy clothes can rob your body of warmth and reduce your core body temperature. Fortunately Merino wool has a natural ability to work as a thermostat and regulate moisture and your body’s temperature.
Wool does a great job of absorbing sweat and other moisture that’s on your skin. Plus, wool is extremely breathable and allows air and moisture to pass through it. If you wear lightweight wool in warm conditions, your skin will cool off as moisture moves away from the body, passes through the wool fabric, and evaporates.
Also, as wool absorbs and moves moisture, it feels dry against your skin, especially compared to other fabrics. That’s because wool can absorb up to 30% of its own weight before feeling wet, while many other fabrics feel wet after absorbing only about 7% of their weight.
In addition to being breathable, wool is also a natural insulator. If you wear wool clothes as a middle layer to stay warm, the wool will help your body retain heat. At the same time, the Merino will allow some air and moisture to escape so you won’t get overly warm and sweaty.
One of the amazing things about wool is its ability to insulate when it’s wet. If you’re exercising outdoors and you get caught in a downpour, your wool clothing will continue to keep you warm even if it’s soaked. In an emergency situation, wool can help maintain your core temperature until you’re able to get dry.
4. YOU CAN LAYER UP WITHOUT ADDING BULK
Any athlete heading out into the elements will benefit from an effective layering system. Combining a next-to-skin base layer, a warmer mid-layer, an insulating layer, and weather-resistant outer shell keeps you warm and dry in a wide variety of conditions. Merino wool clothes are ideal for your baselayer and mid layers because they can provide excellent insulation and fit comfortably without adding bulk.
Because they aren’t bulky, lightweight Merino layers are easy to store when you’re on the go. If you need to remove layers while you’re working out, you can easily stash a scarf, hat, gloves, and balaclava without overstuffing pockets, a pack, or a bag.
5. MERINO WOOL FIGHTS ODORS & BACTERIA
Nobody wants to get back in the car after a long run, bike ride, or ski tour smelling like the inside of a gym locker room. Merino wool naturally resists odor by wicking away sweat and moisture that carry bacteria. This means that after working out while wearing Merino, you can go straight from your activity to grabbing a coffee without sporting an odor that clears the room. This bacteria and odor resistance also saves you from having to wash your whole outfit after each workout, saving you time, money and water usage.
6. IT PROTECTS YOU FROM THE SUN
Compared to most other fabrics, wool has a greater ability to protect skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Some lightweight wool pieces have a UPF rating of 25 or 30, while some midweight and expedition-weight pieces offer a UPF rating of 50+. If you protect yourself from the sun while playing outdoors, you’ll be less likely to get overheated. Plus, you’ll avoid the damaging effects of sun exposure.
7. WOOL ADAPTS TO MANY TEMPERATURES
Contrary to old beliefs, wool isn’t just a cold-weather fabric. Merino wool can be used in both lightweight and heavier fabrics, making it suitable for a wide range of weather. This adaptability means fewer items cluttering up your closet. You can use the same shirt as your next-to-skin layer in your ski outfit and your stand-alone top while running on a summer day.
Some experts say that wool garments were used as far back as 400BC. For thousands of years, people have recognized wool’s unique properties and relied on it for durable protection from the elements. In the modern age, Merino fibers have made wool more popular than ever as people have realized that this is not the itchy stuff from the old days. The latest wool apparel feels great and still offers technical performance. If you’re looking for an edge to help you push harder during workouts in all conditions, update your wardrobe with Merino wool.
Written by Jenna Herzog for Matcha in partnership with Minus33 and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image provided by Scott Webb