or Connect
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Ski Gear Discussion › 100% Merino Wool Vs. Synthetics and blends?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

100% Merino Wool Vs. Synthetics and blends?

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 

Hey,  I'm new on here so I'm sure this has been discussed a lot, but I'm hoping someone could weigh pros/cons and value proposition.

It sounds like pure merino feels warmest against the skin, breathes well, protects from wind and is odor-free but that it doesn't last long and gets holes/is sensitive.

 

Sounds like synthetics aren't as warm or wind-proof and smell easily, but are much more durable and should last much longer and are easier to care for.

 

I am going to order a short sleeve t-shirt, a longsleeve lightweight shirt, a midweight longsleeve, a midweight longjohns and a midweight hoodie, so I'm interested in just hearing people's arguments for/against pure merino vs other synthetic blends and merino-synthetic hybrids.  Thanks.

post #2 of 29
Are you talking about use as a base layer?
If so, windproof is not reaaly a consideration as your shell should stop the wind.
My kids and I use merino for base layers nowadays. Not as stinky for sure but I wouldn't go as far as saying odourless when used as a base layer.

I haven't noticed any durability issues but I expect tht synthetics might be a bit hardier?

I have a midweight longsleeve which I havent used whilst skiing yet as it would be too warm with my insulated resort jacket. However, this year I am ditching the resort jacket and using a hard shell. I expect I will use the midweigtht as a midlayer combined with my lightweight base layer.
post #3 of 29
Wow, OP, you're going totally nuts with base layers.. :-)

I have both. I prefer my merino, but it cost a lot and apparently I have a bigger problem with moths than I realized. So, when the hospital gets to work, they're going to see lots of holes...

The synthetic I've had forever, it's my first layer just because with all the holes, I don't like to wash the merino so often.

I think a case can be made either way. I keep putting merino layers on my Christmas list in hopes of some replacements, but don't really have money to burn until they have washable, mothproof versions.
post #4 of 29

To all you wool lovers, what is the difference between merino wool and other wools?

post #5 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet View Post
 

To all you wool lovers, what is the difference between merino wool and other wools?

afaik, the fibers are finer and softer. So it breathes more and itches less. 

post #6 of 29

There must have been some kind of technological breakthrough with regard to wool processing, roughly around the time that SmartWool socks came onto the scene. I've owned wool clothes my whole life, but only relatively recently has there been wool that was truly comfortable next to the skin, never mind what advertisements may have said back in the day. I have a SmartWool longsleeve t-shirt that I love. Got it for half price and it was still $40. Would love to own more stuff like this, but as others have said, it's pricey when not on deep discount. When worn as a base layer, the wool is not prone to a specific kind of chill that I occasionally experience with synthetics.

 

EDIT: I guess my point is that it can't just be about "Merino," because Merino sheep are not a new invention, I don't believe.

post #7 of 29

Synthetics melt and burn, Wool smolders, id rather be in wool but use both.

 

I meet a guy who often tele skis Tux, and only in Wool Outer Layer's. He said if you fall dressed in Goretex (synthetics), you'll rocket down the steep headwalls, in wool you have a chance of coming to a stop much sooner. Obviously not a issue with base layers. 

post #8 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

Wow, OP, you're going totally nuts with base layers.. :-)

I have both. I prefer my merino, but it cost a lot and apparently I have a bigger problem with moths than I realized. So, when the hospital gets to work, they're going to see lots of holes...

The synthetic I've had forever, it's my first layer just because with all the holes, I don't like to wash the merino so often.

I think a case can be made either way. I keep putting merino layers on my Christmas list in hopes of some replacements, but don't really have money to burn until they have washable, mothproof versions.

Hah, yea, I'm just getting different stuff for different activities.  Would like to have midweight tops and bottoms for skiing for skiing and maybe lightweight top for just around the house warmth.  Just picked up a pair of minus 33 midweight bottoms and they're thinner than I thought they'd be, maybe it's just the weight of them versus under armour and nike tights that makes them feel kind of thin.  I also like to travel a lot and figured it would be nice to have things stink less and not reek up by bag.

post #9 of 29

Someone called? Best thing about wool is that it dries from the inside out so always dry next to your skin. All wool is not the same. I have wool sweaters, shirts, pants and socks older that the folks I ski with.

post #10 of 29

I own both merino and synthetic, and I wear both........but in different conditions/circumstances.  Here's my take:

 

-Synthetic: It's comfy and comes in a variety of weights to suit your body type (do you run "hot" or "cold" typically?) and weather coldness.  They are definitely insulating.  It's sood if you run cold and aren't terribly sweaty when active. Can be pricey for what you get, depending on the brand (ie-UnderArmor vs no-name).  Tends to stink quickly, can get static-y against body hair.

 

-Merino wool:  Wicks sweat, reasonably insulating for lightweight, well insulating for mid/heavyweight. Definitely feels heavier in the mid-weight when compared to synthetics.  Soft to the skin (not like traditional wool) and can be used to regulate body temperature in cold or mild weather. Highly resistant to odor, does not smell at all if you're out in the backcountry for a few days without a shower. The fit can be "snug" or "relaxed" depending on the brand and style.  On that note, I've tried Icebreaker and Smartwool. Both are expensive but I'd give the definite advantage to Smartwool; they have better design details (particularly in critical areas at wrist, neck, and crotch), generally have better attention to sizing, and slightly more affordable because they tend to go on sale a bit more than Icebreaker. Come in various weights, I prefer the lightweight stuff.

 

Since I tend to run hot in the torso, I typically use merino if I'll be working harder on the slopes.  If I'm out with my kids and taking it easy at the local hill and it's really cold out, I'll go with the synthetic because I won't be sweating and the synthetics are better insulating and feel more "snuggly" when I'm standing around.  The merino is better suited when I'm on bigger slopes and will be charging and working hard and won't be cold at all, and will be sweating.

 

Different strokes, as it were.  Both are good, but pros and cons to each.

 

My suggestion?  Get the Merino for the lightweight stuff, and get the synthetic for the mid-weight stuff.  Then you'll have the best of both worlds to suit variable conditions, and ultimately you'll find you may prefer them for different conditions as well.

post #11 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by qcanoe View Post
 

There must have been some kind of technological breakthrough with regard to wool processing, roughly around the time that SmartWool socks came onto the scene. I've owned wool clothes my whole life, but only relatively recently has there been wool that was truly comfortable next to the skin, never mind what advertisements may have said back in the day. I have a SmartWool longsleeve t-shirt that I love. Got it for half price and it was still $40. Would love to own more stuff like this, but as others have said, it's pricey when not on deep discount. When worn as a base layer, the wool is not prone to a specific kind of chill that I occasionally experience with synthetics.

 

EDIT: I guess my point is that it can't just be about "Merino," because Merino sheep are not a new invention, I don't believe.

Me too. The smart wool long sleeve is my favorite. Had it for about six years and it is as good as new.  

post #12 of 29

Merino is a finer and smoother fibre - there's an explanation here and smartwoool has a similar one

 

http://nz.icebreaker.com/Why-Icebreaker-Merino/why-wear-icebreaker-merino,en_NZ,pg.html

 

In terms of wear, we've found that our icebreaker has lasted exceptionally well - we still  have some of the original icebreaker from before they had mens and womens and when they were a small local company.

 

What you do have to be mindful of is how you wash merino. Wool (and silk) are protein fibres (like human hair) and the enzymes in ordinary laundry powder breaks the fibre down, so you do need to use a wool wash, or when travelling I have used the shampoo you find in your hotel room. And air-drying works best. I've used all sorts of hotel and condo washing machines and not had any problems and it drys overnight

post #13 of 29
They still haven't come up with a sheep (or llama or whatever) that produces a fiber that doesn't make me want to tear my skin off. Except for merino socks and gloves, for some reason.

Thanks to the Patagonia outlet, I recently started using Patagonia long underwear. It feels much nicer than any other synthetic I've used, the base layer stays dryer, and so far the stink is minimal about the same as natural fibers. I just pray the merino craze doesn't convince them to discontinue their synthetic layers!
post #14 of 29

I use Duofold which is a wool cotton double layer. I have two pairs over 15 years old and still no holes or problems. I also have pure silk and I use them under the duo fold  for super cold days and on warm days I use only the silk.

post #15 of 29
Merino wool is a good insulator but not a great base layer. Merino holds a lot of moisture so you always have a damp layer next to skin, not good. If you want the best mix of hydrophobic polypropylene next to skin and the warmth of wool on the outer layer of your long underwear go for Helly Hansen Warm. It is the best of both worlds and is proven to be the best base layer in the market. Nothing else comes close in performance. They also have a satisfaction guarantee. If it's not the best base layer you have ever used you can send it in for your money back.

Wool is best reserved for a mid layer, polyester is fine as a base layer and is used by everyone from Patagonia to Under Armor and is the most common material used.
But only polypropylene is hydrophobic so you never have moisture next to skin...this is the most important factor when selecting a base layer.

The numbers don't lie. Helly Hansen base layer is 33x driers 53% warmer, 73% lighter than a polyester competitor. Wool, I'm sorry, is just plain wet, heavy, slow to dry, because it holds so much moisture. Fine for a mid layer but but not next to skin.
post #16 of 29

^^^ ... and your affiliation with Helly is what, exactly?

 

I'm a long-time HH base-layer user, going back to the first polypro stuff. It's gotten a lot better in the last 10 years, but there are still big downsides, IMO.

post #17 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blueaction View Post

Merino wool is a good insulator but not a great base layer. Merino holds a lot of moisture so you always have a damp layer next to skin, not good. If you want the best mix of hydrophobic polypropylene next to skin and the warmth of wool on the outer layer of your long underwear go for Helly Hansen Warm. It is the best of both worlds and is proven to be the best base layer in the market. Nothing else comes close in performance. They also have a satisfaction guarantee. If it's not the best base layer you have ever used you can send it in for your money back.

Wool is best reserved for a mid layer, polyester is fine as a base layer and is used by everyone from Patagonia to Under Armor and is the most common material used.
But only polypropylene is hydrophobic so you never have moisture next to skin...this is the most important factor when selecting a base layer.

The numbers don't lie. Helly Hansen base layer is 33x driers 53% warmer, 73% lighter than a polyester competitor. Wool, I'm sorry, is just plain wet, heavy, slow to dry, because it holds so much moisture. Fine for a mid layer but but not next to skin.

Huh, I would have thought to do merino wool next to skin and synthetic for mid-layer, because wool doesn't get smelly like synthetics and so I figured have the stinky synthetic away from the skin.

I really just need something superwarm for around the house,under jeans outside, etc. and baselayers for skiing, running outside, hiking, etc. What would be warmest and adequate for around the house/under jeans/not sweating?  Minus 33 expedition weight merino looks awesome but if I can just wear $15 cotton thermals that are just as warm, that'd be good too.

Thanks

post #18 of 29
Don't get them started on cotton..:O
post #19 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

Don't get them started on cotton..:O

 

Yeah, I already almost went there when levy1 started talking about Duofold. I always end up getting at least a little sweaty at some point in the day, so whatever I wear has to really wick. Stuff like the old school Duofold - which, let's face it, is almost all cotton - is precisely what made me so grateful for the synthetics (and now wool) revolution. I suppose if you're one of those people who doesn't perspire, it might work okay, but that's not me.

post #20 of 29
Thread Starter 

anyone tried merino wool gloves, like the icebreaker coronets?  any good?  are the lightweight, 160-200gm merino long sleeve shirts worth getting?  it seems like if its cold enough to need wool long sleeve might as well be midweight, 230-260g?

post #21 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by qcanoe View Post

^^^ ... and your affiliation with Helly is what, exactly?

I'm a long-time HH base-layer user, going back to the first polypro stuff. It's gotten a lot better in the last 10 years, but there are still big downsides, IMO.

Downsides, such as?
post #22 of 29

I find merino itchy, even the super-fine stuff, so I wear a silk t-neck as my next-to-skin layer whenever I wear a merino top. 

 

I find that both merino and synthetics do a good job of wicking sweat away from my skin.  I have not had problems with merino staying damp.

 

The problem with synthetics is that they get stinky fast.  Otherwise, they work great.

 

STE

post #23 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by epicskigeorgec View Post
 

Huh, I would have thought to do merino wool next to skin and synthetic for mid-layer, because wool doesn't get smelly like synthetics and so I figured have the stinky synthetic away from the skin.

I really just need something superwarm for around the house,under jeans outside, etc. and baselayers for skiing, running outside, hiking, etc. What would be warmest and adequate for around the house/under jeans/not sweating?  Minus 33 expedition weight merino looks awesome but if I can just wear $15 cotton thermals that are just as warm, that'd be good too.

Thanks

Go to the sports store.  

Try on the base layers made for all these other sports. Nike, reebok, underarmour, addidas etc etc.  They all make "base layers" now.  What fits the best and most comfortable is what you should get.  

post #24 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by raytseng View Post
 

Go to the sports store.  

Try on the base layers made for all these other sports. Nike, reebok, underarmour, addidas etc etc.  They all make "base layers" now.  What fits the best and most comfortable is what you should get.  


the whole underarmour compression stuff, and the stuff like it is crap propped up by marketing and sadly has displaced a lot of good base layer. Hot, sweaty and terribly uncomfortable, even the likes of Pearl Izumi have had their heads turned by this crap.COmpression for bottoms is nice, IF it can also be strong wicking; but for tops its a total FAIL.  Fine if breaking a sweat is a rare event. Thankfully, there is still some decent stuff out there, hard to find, but out there. Craft, LG, some others...

The reason a lot of it because stinky is because of poor transfer. I have cycling base layer which rarelty gets stinky, except on real humid 4-5 hr rides. My go-to stuff for skiing also.

Merino stuff definitely has it's place, If I can find some I like in Mid-layer, I'd be pretty set - so hoping to read some good recs for mid-layer merino in this thread...

post #25 of 29

Merino wool is proof god loves us and wants us to be happy.  I DO like the compression of UA and if you take reasonable care it is not that stinky.

post #26 of 29

I love merino wool and wear a lot of it. I generally wear an Under Armor Cold Gear compression top as my baselayer, but I'd like to get a merino baselayer. I wear merino t shirts while hiking in the summer and really like them.

 

One tip for merino mid-layers: If you have a nice thrift store around, stop in and see if they have any merino sweaters. Often people will toss out sweaters if they get a few pills or a small hole, but for a skiing mid-layer, that's no problem. I have some outdoor specific versions, but my two most frequently worn mid-layers are J Crew and Banana Republic sweaters I got at the thrift store. I don't really see any major differences in performance vs. the outdoor brands and they look less tech-y.

post #27 of 29
A lot has to do with personal preference. I use both and agree that merino is warmer, synthetic definitely gets stnkier. Merino one has to be more cognoscent of taking care of it, i.e. turn inside out to wash, don't use harsh detergent, etc. the compression stuff is fine and I have an UA that sits at the bottom of the pile and use it when that time comes and usually signals for a round of laundry for base layers, but it gets too hot I think.

I also agree on not scrimping out and buyin no name stuff b/c in the end you will end up spending more money.

Feelwise wool feels better to me, but as some have said it might feel itchier to others. The stinkiness is my main gripe on synthetics, but after a long day of skiing and everyone is stinky doesn't really make a difference.

Salud,
post #28 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by epicskigeorgec View Post
 

  are the lightweight, 160-200gm merino long sleeve shirts worth getting?

 

Yes.    Especially if you have a relatively warm shell.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by epicskigeorgec View Post
 

 it seems like if its cold enough to need wool long sleeve might as well be midweight, 230-260g?

 

Bad logic.    If you overheat, you *will* be both cold and tired later.

 

 

post #29 of 29
I typically use a 150gm merino baselayer combined with a light synthetic mid layer and a resort jacket and have never had issues with the cold in Central Hokkaido.

this Winter, i am ditching the resort jacket and using a hard shell. i'll use a polar fleece as a mid but keep the 150gm merino baselayer.
I have a 230gm merino layer but it would be way too heavy as a base layer. I may try it as a mid layer with the shell but it's a bit snug.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Ski Gear Discussion
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Ski Gear Discussion › 100% Merino Wool Vs. Synthetics and blends?