It’s not terribly often we get to go full science nerd on here, but today we’re digging into the most magical material of them all: merino wool. It’s natural. It’s renewable. And it’s oh so comfortable. But why is it so comfortable, versatile, and fantastic?

Unsurprisingly, merino wool comes from merino sheep. While we don’t exactly know how these fluffy little magical wool makers happened (they likely originated in Morocco or Spain and are definitely a domesticated breed), we do know that they are the bearers of the softest wool of them all.

The detailed science behind merino would take a lot of articles to explain, but the general gist is that the strands that makeup merino wool are much thinner than traditional wool. This means we can achieve a much finer weave than traditional wool and take advantage of all the other perks: its light weight, softness to the touch, amazing moisture management, and odor resistance.

Courtesy: CSIRO

The Merino Wool Matrix

But we have a feeling you came here to nerd out, so let’s briefly get into it.

If you were to break out your microscope (you do have one, right?) and some super cool microscopic cutting tools, you’d discover that merino wool has an exterior called “cuticle cells”. These cells have a slightly waxy coating which is what allows the strands to both shed water and absorb vapor. If you dig in further, you get to the “cortical cells.” These cells are like little tiny springs that allow merino to be flexible, elastic, and wrinkle free. And even further in, you hit the “matrix.” This contains proteins that love water molecules; so much so that they can absorb up to 35 percent of their weight without feeling wet (in your face, cotton). This region is kind of the coolest section of them all as it is why merino wool is fire-resistant, anti-static, and eats odors for lunch.

Feel smarter? Us too.

Setting up camp while wearing a merino wool shirt


Wool Mythbusting

With all that being said, it makes a lot more sense now why merino wool is the ideal material for all four seasons. But in the event you’re still not convinced that it’s the most magical material and are going but “Wool is itchy! And only for winter! And smells weird!” we’re going to bust all those myths… with science.

“Wool is itchy.” Under normal circumstances, we’d agree with you and suffer through flashbacks to those sweaters grandma knit one year for Christmas. But merino wool is different because it’s actually thinner than your own hair. And because it’s so thin, it bends out of the way when it encounters your skin meaning you just feel nice soft material from some super fluffy happy sheep instead of being stabbed by rogue traditional wool. Busted.

“Wool is just for winter.” Psh. Nope! Unless you’re in the “I don’t sweat, I glisten” crowd, we all sweat year round. And getting sweat away from our skin ASAP feels lovely all year, which is where merino excels thanks to that whole cuticle cell and matrix thing no matter the season. Removing moisture from our skin helps us regulate our temperature and keep comfortable. Being hot, sweaty, and stuck in a sticky damp material? Not so comfortable and not going to help regulate your body temperature. Interestingly enough, this same scientific aspect is why merino wool is also your safer bet during the winter when sweating. Being cold and damp is flat out dangerous (ever hear someone say “cotton kills”?), so we recommend rocking merino year round.

“Wool smells weird when wet.” We all know that musty smell you’re thinking about, but once again going back to the matrix, merino wool eats odors including whatever it puts off… and what you put off. That means that you can skip smelling like a wet (traditional) sheep and a locker room. Your friends will thank you.

And so concludes our nerd session. Give merino a try. And thank a sheep.

wearing merino wool base layers in camp