Is Merino Wool Clothing Worth It? The Low Down

Merino wool worth it

If you are a regular traveler to the tropics, then you would be very familiar with that wall of hot, humid air that greets you at the aircraft door when disembarking. I’ll be heading to West Africa this summer and you can bet that I’ll be wearing my Unbound Merino V-neck for those 22 hours from gear-up to gear-down.

Merino wool clothing has a lot going for it. It is great for certain applications but not necessarily for others. I figured that I’d dig into the pros and cons of Merino wool clothing so you can make a more educated decision as to whether it is for you or not.

Are Merino Clothes Worth It?

Merino wool clothes are worth the extra cost for specific applications. For example, the cost is very justifiable for multi-day long-haul travelers, motorcyclists, or lightweight backpackers who need to stay fresh and cool in hot weather. However, since Merino T shirts tend to be lightweight they won’t stand up to heavy wear and tear activities. These are leisure travel garments and should be air-dried only.

If you need a really tough t-shirt, consider a cotton Carhartt Tshirt.

Merino socks are not as delicate though. For example Darn Toughs are extremely durable. I’ve worn them for years(see my review). They are unconditionally guaranteed for life even if you wear them out. They are totally worth it whether you travel or not.

How Much Does Merino Wool Clothing Cost?

High quality, 100% Merino T-shirts start around 75$, Underwear around 45$, and Socks around $17.

That’s a lot of money to part with. Like I said, it’s best to view Merino wool apparel as specialized garments for specific applications like air-travel, hot destinations, multi-day wear and odor control.

Speaking from experience, spending 10 hot hours on a bus in the tropics is plenty enough justification to wear Merino. My fellow passengers would heartily agree too! Merino wool has a remarkable ability to stay odor free for hour after sweaty hour.

There are varying grades of Merino Wool and many, so called, “Merino” garments are actually heavily blended with synthetics to save on costs. The best quality merino garments use 100% ultra-fine Merino.

Money-Saving Tip: Buying a bundled set like these ones to start off can save you money if your kitting yourself out for your next adventure.

Pros and Con’s of Merino Wool Cothes

Uncanny Odor-resistancePremium Cost
Cool moisture wickingAir dry only
Multiday wearableShirts are light-duty
Very comfortable, Non-scratchyNot Available in Pure White

Top Recommended Merino Clothing Brands

Unbound Merino, based out of Toronto, makes some excellent ultra-fine merino travel wear. It’s worth considering one of their bundles if you’re kitting yourself out for your next big travel adventure.

Duckworth is based out of Montana and all their apparel made in the USA with US sourced materials. In fact, much of their Merino wool comes from their very own ranch! I’d recommend having a look at their best-selling Maverick Line.

Icebreaker is probably one of the most well-known brands within the Merino wool apparel space. They’ve got a huge storefront on Amazon which is convenient.

Mission Workshop produces seriously rugged luggage and urban apparel. Have a look at their 100% merino pullover it’ll keep you warm and comfy during your next 8 hour trans-Atlantic.

Filson takes quality and durability very seriously. You can expect top-tier quality and comfort from this time-tested Alaskan outfitter.

My recommendation: the 210G Merino T

Patagonia has been a longstanding trusted brand I’ve recommended here at Their Merino wool line of apparel is world-class although they tend to employ technical synthetic blends in their Merino products. These guys take the environment very seriously all of their Merino is ethically sourced.

How could I omit Darn Tough Merino wool socks? Yes, they are tough. Yes, you should replace your whole sock drawer, and yes, they will Darn Tough will replace them if you ever wear out a pair.

It’s a no-brainer.

Merino Wool: Important Stuff To Know

Merino wool is classified as “fine wool”

It is Not Itchy

Merino wool is worlds away from that bulky, itchy Christmas sweater that grandma knitted for you. Unlike normal sheep wool, merino sheep wool is ultra fine and much more smooth. It is very similar to cashmere and can be woven into very light fabrics.

Insane Odor Resistance

Merino is some kind of a miracle fabric in this regard. Odor resistance is, hands-down, the greatest reason to buy a piece of Merino wool clothing.

I must confess that without a daily shower… buzzards start circling me and my wife start making sharp remarks. Trust me, I speak from experience.

My conversion to the cult of merino wool began several years ago with a pair of merino Darn Tough socks. I’m telling you, I was shocked, no…startled, at how odor-resistant they were!

My Unbound Merino T-shirt is the same. I’ve tested it for three straight days and no smell…even asked my wife to smell because I thought I was going nose-blind! Nothing!

Still Insulates When Wet

Wool, in general, has this amazing property of keeping you warm even when wet. Wool Blankets kept many a drenched soldier alive in the frigid trenches of WW2. Having a merino long sleeve base layer will help keep your core warm on those cold and wet winter runs.

Low Abrasion Resistance

Be warned. The lighter the merino fabric is, the less resistant it is to abuse. If you’re going to be bombing through the woods on a mountain bike, rappelling, or playing rugby then, at least put another layer on or you’ll likely snag and tear your nice t-shirt on a branch. Merino has great thermal regulation properties for outdoor sports and its fine for jogging but steer clear of abrasive surfaces, branches etc.

Since it Merino is a “fine wool” you can expect a little bit of felting, but not much if you avoid abrasions or rubbing.

Not Available in Pure White

Don’t ask me why, but science has not figured out how to dye Merino wool to a perfect pure white. The closest you’ll get are T shirts like this one, which look pure white in sunlight but off-white under indoor lights. Not a huge problem, but still something to mention.

Merino Wool Fabric Weights Explained

Merino fabric density is measured in GSM(grams per square meter.) Every brand has a slightly different classification of what “lightweight” vs “midweight” is.

Generally speaking, Merino T-shirts are very lightweight at 160-190GSM. Midweight fabric(+200GSM) is usually found in long sleeve base layers which can run the whole gamut from lightweight to midweight.

190 GSM V-Neck T: Unbound Merino
250GSM Crew Sweatshirt: Unbound Merino

Midweight Merino tops are warmer and more durable but are harder to find in T-shirt form. The only midweight merino T-shirt over 200GSM I’ve found so far is Filson’s 210GSM T-shirt. That’s no surprise to me since Filson makes tough stuff.

Washing Merino Wool Clothing: Do’s and Don’ts

Can you Machine wash Merino wool? Yes, it’s no problem, just keep the water on cold.

Can you use a dryer? No, it’s not a good idea. Merino can shrink in the dryer. I must admit my Darn Tough merino socks have gone through the dryer plenty of times just fine. But, I wouldn’t gamble an expensive merino t-shirt on it.

If you are traveling, I highly recommend the FlexOLine travel clothesline (on Amazon)to hang dry your merino clothes with. It’s an ingenious design.(look it up on Youtube.)


Are Merino Wool T-shirts and Base Layers Worth It?

For multi-day travel, merino wool T-shirts and base layers are hard to beat as base layers. They stay fresh, don’t stink, have good moisture wicking, and stay cool even in tropical climes. Merino wool t-shirts also dry out very quickly similar to cotton.

If you aren’t a traveler, merino T shirts still make great casual wear for those summer nights on the town or for just lounging around the house.

Is Merino Underwear Worth it?

The stinkier an article of clothing is likely to get, the more it makes sense to buy Merino. That’s why I think the case for buying Merino underwear is even greater than t-shirts and base layers, but only IF the underwear fits well and is comfortable.

In my opinion, when it comes to underwear, the type of fabric comes second to the comfort and fit of the underwear. I’d suggest buying a good pair of merino underwear to see if the fit is right for you.

Would I replace my whole underwear drawer with merino underwear? Not necessarily. But, if you are already wearing premium underwear brands like SAXX or EX-Officio then Merino underwear is only a slight step-up price-wise.

Are Merino Wool Socks Worth It?

Heck yeah!

If there are any articles of clothing that could benefit from merino’s miraculous odor resistance, it would be socks and underwear.

I’d go so far as recommending slowly phasing your cotton socks as they wear out with merino ones.

Not all Merino socks are made equally, mind you. You can check out this article on the most durable socks for my top recommendations.

Wrap Up

If you are still on the fence about spending the extra money for a Merino wool shirt, I’d suggest that you test the waters by picking up a pair of Darn Toughs for under $20 or a pair. It was only after I had experienced the difference that I was ready to step up to Merino T-shirts.

Anyway, thanks for sticking around and I hope this post has helped you decide for yourself if Merino wool clothes are worth for you.

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Don Longworth

Don was born and raised in sub-saharan Africa. Now based in Canada, his extensive experience in non-profit work has served him well over multiple deployments in Africa. Don's experiences have made him a practical "to-the-point" type person. He is a no-frills, low-key guy who appreciates quality and simplicity.

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