Merino Wool for Base Layers

wool-sheep-by-BaseballGouverneursThe history of the word “merino” itself should tell you what kind of quality merino wool is—it’s derived from the word for the man who inspected sheep’s wool to determine quality or possibly another word from Latin for someone who was the leader or head honcho of the village. Of course, only the highest quality was good enough for our inspector friend, so that’s how merino probably got its name. Merino wool is considered the highest quality wool because of its fineness and soft texture.

Wool — and all animal fibers — has scales, much like fish but too small to see. These scales are part of the waterproof nature of wool, so they’re important. However, the smaller the scales, the softer the wool, and merino wool has the smallest scales.

Wool is a natural wicking material that takes moisture away from the body but also still keeps the wearer warm, whether four or two legged. Merino has a low overall dry time compared to wools in general and can often match synthetic fabrics.

Because merino wool is a natural fiber, it’s more sustainable than artificially produced fibers. However, some wool descaling processes use chlorine so it’s always a good idea to check into the business practices of companies you’re considering for merino fabrics if that’s important to you.

Merino wool makes a great base layer for all kinds of activities because it keeps you warm or cool as needed as well as dry. Running, skiing, hiking, camping you name it, merino wool is likely to be suited to it. The only downside of merino is there’s a potential for shrinkage if it’s not cared for properly and it’s more pricey than other options. But it’s performance can’t be beat by anything but high-tech synthetic materials.

We carry a wide range of base layer options in merino wool, so come in to Uncle Sam’s and check out the fabrics we carry. If you’re on the fence, try some merino socks and see how they feel on your feet after a long hike.

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