Travel Gear Travel Tips

Why Merino Wool is the Ideal Fabric for Travel

I have a confession to make. Something I’ve been wanting to tell you about for a real long time… Okay, here goes…

I am in love with Merino wool.

Phew! Glad that’s off my chest. And right now, you may be thinking, “Merino wool? That’s a funny thing to be in love with.” Yes, I suppose it is. But hear me out. I’m in love with this wool, which comes from a rare breed of sheep, because it is the perfect fabric to travel with!

See, I’m a bit anal about how I pack for my trips, as I don’t travel with much space. You may remember that I’ve embraced the whole ultralight backpacking phenomenon that allows me to travel with a mere 32-liter backpack, which poses some packing challenges. Every item I take must be chosen wisely.

Packed Deuter Futura 32

Does an article of clothing dry in a few hours? Does it hold a smell? Is it sturdy enough to deal with the rigors of travel? And will it wick moisture away from my sweaty body?

People! There is a fabric out there that happily adheres to all these categories and its name is Merino! And let’s face it. You’re going to want high performance fabric for those long trips.

Case in point, previously I traveled with these athletic shirts designed for running. They were fantastic at wicking moisture away but I sweat so much that they would reek at the end of the day. While my strategy relies heavily on washing clothing frequently, there are times when that’s just not possible, and in that case, having a garment you can potentially wear more than once is very important.

Heck those running shirts would at times still stink, even after washing, and I just can’t have that!

Now there is a downside to buying Merino products; they are quite expensive. This Icebreaker T-Shirt, while absolutely fantastic, will set you back about US$75. You’re probably thinking, “That’s insanity!” Perhaps, but think about all the benefits! Think about how the fabric, unlike cotton, breathes while you move around. Think about how, despite its thin form, this SmartWool Long-Sleeve Shirt is warm when it needs to be. Think about how you’re investing in a wool product that won’t itch you either!

There is something else you should be aware of. Merino products, while fantastic, have to be washed with care. Generally its best not to stick them in the dryer. But, if you follow my washing ideology, then that shouldn’t be a problem. Think of it as a way of protecting your fantastic travel investment!

Merino Shirts

So far, my travel inventory has evolved to include the shirts listed above (I’ve found that I prefer Icebreaker products over SmartWool), as well as several pairs of Merino socks (again, they don’t smell and I’m talking about socks here…) as well as a pair of Merino long underwear. All are thin, cool when they need to be, yet warm when they need to be, quick drying and generally smell-free! What could be better than that?

What About You?

What’s your chosen form of travel fabric?


By Aaron

Hey there! I'm Aaron and this is my travel site, where I document my adventures to all corners of the world. My love for travel started at the ripe old age of four, when a midlife crisis uprooted my family to Ecuador for five years. Since then, I've been to countries on 4 different continents. When I'm not blissfully on the road, I reside in New York City, where I become the ultimate travel junkie and spend my days dreaming up my next great adventure! Read More...

19 replies on “Why Merino Wool is the Ideal Fabric for Travel”

I’ve always been under the impression that wool= itchy, until I got a pair of Merino Wool socks. They are sooooooooooooo warm but I never sweat in them. Nice to see the same material used for clothing too 🙂

You might be surprised by other Merino products. My Merino shirts are not itchy and are extremely light weight, meaning they’re actually quite cool.I just add a midweight long-sleeve layer and voila! Suddenly it feels warm without actually looking warm. But if it doesn’t need to be all that warm, then it really isn’t all that warm. Does that make any sense??

It makes a lot of sense actually 🙂 I love any type of fabric that is versatile & lightweight. I especially look into clothing that keeps you semi warm, without being too warm and bulky. AKA trying to avoid fat eskimo status.

Or we can just HOPE that Spring starts SOON so we can get into our t-shirts and jeans weather.

A girl can only wish.

Love love love merino products. I have loads. Yes they are pricey, but they are so worth it! They are especially great for trekking, as you sweat a lot whilst walking, but get cold easily when you stop. With merino that doesn’t happen.

I sweat. A lot! With most shirts, while trekking, this turns into a disaster, as suddenly my bottom layer is soaked through and I’m freezing. That’s why I was thrilled when I discovered the wonders of merino!

Absolutely right Aaron! Merino is the best – lightweight, non-itchy, super quick drying and breathes (in, and out) – Socks, sweaters… Just do it!

I love merino wool products for my kids, they are awesome! Perfect as an underlayer for the winter outdoors and great to sleep in – I know they are warm and don’t overheat like with synthetics. Our favorite obsession right now are Woolino sleep bags 🙂

I agree! I absolutely love Icebreaker t-shirts and SmartWool socks. A lot of people are under the impression that not only is wool itchy, but it only comes in very thick layers like sweaters and thick socks. I must admit though that another downside to the wool t-shirts (besides price) is that they tend to show your sweat more than the synthetic running shirts.

I haven’t noticed the sweat thing yet. But really, I’ll take that over the amazing stench that comes with synthetic running shirts…

I just discovered Icebreaker. They have a store near where I live. I bought 2 SS T shirts, one LS T shirt and a pair of boxers. How often do you feel you need to was your merino shirts? Does it vary when you are home or on the road? I am accustomed to washing (non-merino) garments after each wearing when I am home.

Well as a general rule I wash them every other wear. However, you don’t need to. Literally, just leave it airing out overnight and you could wear it again the very next day. It’s quite amazing! Key word though is airing it out. If you fold it up or dump in a laundry basket it will probably still smell the next day.

How do you wash your merino gear when you need too whilst travelling? We are going for 4 months !

Hi I should have been more specific, what do you use as a detergent? We cant really carry liquids, except maybe shampoo? Or do you take a wash powder with you?

I carry a travel-sized bottle of laundry detergent that I refill occasionally. It’s very small and fits into my liquids bag nicely. Despite what the directions on the bottle say, you really only need to add a few drops of liquid to the sink to get your clothes clean, so that one bottle last me 3 months and then some. If you’re concerned you could also pick up some of those dry detergent “leaves” that dissolve in water before you go. Here’s an example of some:

I’ve actually gotten away with just washing with shower gel or bar soap, whatever I have with me while traveling. Does anyone know if this would have a detrimental impact on merino, of course I wash it thoroughly at the end.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: