What are the Best Merino Wool Base Layers?
The aim of a good base layer is to keep you dry by moving moisture away from the skin.
The base layer is pretty much an essential part of any outdoor enthusiasts kit list (see our recent post Best Waterproof Socks), and a must have purchase if you want to maintain warmth.
It’s important that the moisture is trapped by the base layer otherwise if the moisture evaporates on your skin, it will cool you down.
The last thing you want on a cold hike! Think of Base Layers almost like a “Second skin” or a second level of protection against the elements.
So sit back and enjoy our list of some of the best merino base layers on the market:
Merino Wool Base Layers – Buyer’s Guide
So if you didn’t already know, Merino Wool originates from the Merino Sheep, which is famous for having the finest and softest wool out of any sheep; in fact it’s even more fine than a strand of human hair, insane right?
Merino Wool is generally less than 24 Microns in Diameter including broad wool, medium, fine, super and ultra fine (11.5–15 μm). It’s also worth noting that not all merino wool is fine to use for making clothing, and often merino wool is combined with other fibres like silk, cashmere, nylon and others to create merino blends.
Merino Wool can also vary in terms of density, and garments with merino wool with fabric densities under 160 g/m2 are more suitable for warmer conditions with densities above this being more suitable for autumn & winter weather conditions.
Merino Wool is naturally moisture wicking, which as we mentioned means that more moisture is drawn away from the skin and onto the garment.
This is also an advantage of merino wool because it can absorb up to 30% it’s weight in moisture, means that more of the moisture is on the garment rather than the skin; thus keeping you much warmer.
Merino wool is different to synthetic fibres in terms of odour resistance because it contains a naturally occurring compound lanolin (wool wax) which resists bacteria and thus bacteria being formed.
Often products made with synthetic compounds will be treated with a product that mimics lanolin, but what often happens is that the effectiveness wears off after a while, so in essence you may as well get merino wool in the first place.
Shape & Durability
Due to the fine fibres, Merino Wool will maintain its shape after hundreds of washes, being scrunched up in the back of your backpack and everything else you throw at it.
Garments that have a higher percentage of other fibres rather than merino wool will most likely perform less well, losing their shape over time.
Merino Wool is incredibly durable and it’s worth investing in a good product that uses this incredible material. Now let’s get onto our list of best merino wool base layers!
Whats the best Merino Wool Base Layer?
Smartwool Merino 250 Wool Active Crew
The 250 Wool Active Crew by Smartwool is a 100% Merino Wool Base Laye with interlocked knitting for enhanced breathability. It features a slightly thicker merino wool so would be perfect for winter hiking, winter cycling, and colder climate adventures & outdoor activities.
it’s also “non-itch” and NTS, meaning next to skin; aka: In Layman’s terms, it’s super fine and isn’t thick and likely to itch the hell out of you.
Overall, Smartwool is a pretty well established brand, and their quality garments and usage of fine 100% Merino Wool ensures that if you purchase one of their products, it’ll be a good investment on your behalf, and something you’ll keep with you on your hikes.
IceBreaker 175 100% Merino Wool Base Layer
The Icebreaker 175 Merino Wool Base Layer (for men) is an ultra lightweight base layer made from 100% merino wool. This is a perfect garment for spring, summer and possibly even a bit of autumn hiking & outdoors adventure.
Once again, it’s non itch, and moulds to your shape when washed due to the very fine merino wool that has been used in this product.
The one thing we would advise is getting a size up when you order, as many people have reported that this particular garment is slightly too big when ordered.
Smartwool Merino Wool 250 Active Crew
Another top performer from Smartwool, this time for women. It’s made from 100% merino wool and once again made with an interlocking knitted design. It’s also made from that lovely 250g weight of Merino Wool, which is thicker and perfect for winter weather conditions.
The reason this is in our list, apart from being made from 100% Merino Wool, is that the design actually stands out a lot more than the competition. The majority of the merino wool base layers out there are typically black or grey, and really aren’t designed to look that great. Now ok, it’s a base layer so you probably wont see it, but in the summer if you want to use it, then maybe you’ll want something that’s a bit prettier, especially if you’re a woman, so this product is perfect!
Minus33 100% Merino Wool Base Layer
Minus33 have created a merino wool base layer that is made from Australian Merino Wool, with a 18.5 micron – 230/m² Interlock knit construction.
The garment weight is 9.6 oz. (272 grams) and features flatlocked seams as well as a stretchy ribbed cuff. It’s also marketed as a base layer but can also be used as a Mid Layer, so perfect for different weather conditions.
There we have it! Our list of the top merino wool base layers for 2020. It’s an essential purchase to make if you are into hiking, running, cycling, camping out, snowboarding, skiing and so much more.
You just can’t beat the moisture wicking, thermal properties of merino wool. In a world where there are all sorts of different material blends being introduced to the market, Merino Wool still reigns supreme.
Questions & Answers
Why is Merino Wool so effective?
As mentioned throughout the article, Merino Wool is so effective because it has the ability to absorb up to 30% of moisture, which means more moisture is drawn away from your skin and thus keeping you warmer.
It’s also incredibly fine, being thinner than a strand of hair compared side to side, so it’s a very delicate fibre, which means the fibres are closer together, so think of it almost like a thermal shield, it’s like the kevlar of the hiking world!
Merino Wool v Regular Wool
Merino Wool is pretty much superior in every way, unless of course you want a huge woolly jumper for the Christmas party!
Merino Wool is a lot more tightly packed, and also does not itch nearly as much as regular wool, so it’s actually superior on so many levels, perfect for hiking, cycling, running, camping, snowboarding, skiing and so many more sports!