/ Benefits of Merino
No smell after being on for a week?
I've found it doesn't dry too quick and much prefer synthetic but if you're travelling light in winter, for me, it's the way to go.
I was given one from Howie's of all places as an unexpected gift and love it. I just find it keeps me comfortable in a wide range of temperatures and hate the feel of synthetic baselayers against my skin. It takes plenty of abuse in the washing machine and doesn't take that long to dry. Going to get another in the sales :)
I have icebreaker tops 160g/m & 200g/m, they're my go-to active layer. Comfortable, warm, and in my experience wick pretty well (though I tend to avoid getting too sweaty in them).
Also, no smell after wearing for 8 days hiking, (genuinely felt like a waste washing them!)
I can't stand putting on a stinky synthetic layer on day 2 of a trip.
I'm not a big fan of merino base layers. I find they tend to get damp too easily and then get heavy and saggy, also the don't dry as quick.
One of my favourite base layers was an untrendy make of synthetic one that cost a tenner and has lasted me years and years......
I wonder if some folk have skin flora that is naturally inclined to make synthetic base layers minging? Maybe anti-ming treatments have come on a fair bit in recent years, but my polyester and powerdry baselayers have never been unpleasant.
Just as well really; I'm a delicate little flower and my skin is too sensitive for merino
I have a range of base layers and find the merino icebreaker and smartwool tops to be by far the most comfortable if not the fastest wicking or drying. Added to this that they don't smell anywhere near as bad (although my old icebreaker has developed a bit of a perma-wiff).
The old smelly helly lifas are ok but the new super lifa tops really don't fit very well (really tight under the arms and across the chest yet baggy in the arms) and the static you get from them is crazy.
"my skin is too sensitive for merino "
Oh yeah I forgot to mention my other gripe - they also tend to make me itch both whilst wearing and afterwards.
As a slight thread hijack, does anyone know how to get the smell out of old helly hanson lifa tops?
"the fastest wicking or drying"
come on you know thats not true, wash a merino and synth base layer and hang them out to dry I think we all know which will be dry first!
I have noticed that Ariel Actilift is very good at getting the smell out of clothes. If you are generally finding your clothes aren't washing as nice smelling as you like its work doing an empty boil wash on your washing machine with no detergent to kill any bacteria and wash out powder residues, and occasionally using DAZ powder (not on your delicate base layers!) on your normal washes, the bleach also helps here.
> "the fastest wicking or drying"
> come on you know thats not true, wash a merino and synth base layer and hang them out to dry I think we all know which will be dry first!
''find the merino icebreaker and smartwool tops to be by far the most comfortable if not the fastest wicking or drying''
Perhaps he means they're *not* the fastest wicking or drying? Could depend on how you read it.
> ''find the merino icebreaker and smartwool tops to be by far the most comfortable if not the fastest wicking or drying''
> Perhaps he means they're *not* the fastest wicking or drying? Could depend on how you read it.
It looks like someone has missed out the word "not". Read it again CurlyStevo.
Ahh yes my bad.
Try either Napisan or the near-mythical sort of milton fluid that you can put in your washing machine. Both germicidal.
As for the merino vs. synthetic debate - I found that cheap synthetics from Decathlon have mung less than a Helly, but that merino thick (the heavier-weight Howies ones) and thin (I was given an Icebreaker 150) seem to ming less than synthetics overall.
You've reminded me - I inherited a (never worn) synthetic baselayer from my brother, a Marks & Spencers 'viewfrom' one with some sort of silver fibres in it. Worked a treat, didn't ming.
> As a slight thread hijack, does anyone know how to get the smell out of old helly hanson lifa tops?
White vinegar spayed into the pits and left to soak for about 20 minutes before a normal wash should do the trick.
You need to ensure you're comparing like with like, and not apples and oranges...
The US site backpackinglight reviewed a number of different base layers, and concluded that merino took longer to dry. However, they'd neglected to consider the basic fabric weight; the merino was heavier than the synthetic. When the drying times were normalised to account for the fabric weight, there was little difference.
Fundamentally, a fabric will hold water in the weave interstices, and there isn't really a significant difference between the structure of a merino and a synthetic fabric. Thus, the dominant factor in the amount of water a fabric will hold is determined largely by the thickness, and this in turn is determined largely by fabric weight (g/m^2).
Much is said of the absorption of water into the merino fibre itself, but, realistically, this is a tiny fraction of the water held in the fibre bundles that form the spun thread, and the weave or knit structure forming the fabric.
Merino plus sides are the no pong and warm feeling.
Downsides are cost, care and fragility.
Synthetics are cheaper, easier to wash with standard washing detergents, and more robust to abrasion and snagging. But they sure can pong...
Oh, and merino doesn't wick as well as some synthetics, IME.
> Merino plus sides are the no pong and warm feeling.
> Downsides are cost, care and fragility.
> Synthetics are cheaper, easier to wash with standard washing detergents, and more robust to abrasion and snagging. But they sure can pong...
oh yes, fragility. I now have a lovely howies merino tshirt that is peppered with holes around the belly button after a struggle with a grit top out. The holes don't seem to get any bigger with wear or washing though
I hate merino. My favourite baselayer is a 10+ yr old powerdry top bought in the sales for £25. I have had various merino tops which have either been itchy, fallen apart in the wash, or generally annoyed me by being soggy and damp. Synthetic all the way for me - at least they won't get holes in after a few goes in the wash!
Agree with you 100% in all but this statement:- merino baselayers can be washed in mild NON-BIOLOGICAL detergents and indeed this will increase their wicking abilities due to the hydrophilic (attracts water) nature of detergent residues.
As an aside this fact is incidentally the reason that washing a waterproof coat in detergents will induce the 'wetting out effect'
I have to disagree with you there, synthetic fabric is made of a solid non permeable, hydrophobic plastic fibre and wool is like all wool, made of natural hairs with hydrophilic cores and scaley surfaces. In terms of structure you can't really get much different.
I get what you're saying that merino is often thicker than synthetics but synthetics still hold way less water. Think about it, each synthetic fiber of weight x holds zero moisture on it's own, each wool fiber holds a third of it's weight in water. Times that over a garment. Wool also doesn't let the moisture go very quickly, hence why a lot of people don't like it. Also even if it were true, in practical applications merino garments tend to be thicker anyway due to the fragility of the fabric. You can make a hardwearing thin synthetic but not a hardwearing thin merino so it makes sense to test the garment and not the fabric. i.e. a test that tests the drying weight of a thicker merino top and a thinner synthetic top tells you exactly what you need to know, a test that tests the same thickness fabric tells you nothing because you probably wouldn't use the same thickness fabric. Well, not unless you like spending £60 on a new base layers every month.
Next time you take a wool jumper our of the wash compare it to a similarly heavy synthetic jumper. Or do it with socks, the results are easily observable in that a wool sock will dry slower than a synthetic sock of the same thickness. Wool holds more moisture and saying that the only reason people think that is because it's tested against thinner synthetics is odd. It's like saying a larda would beat a porche in a race if only it had the same sized engine.
The main reason I wear wool base layers (not just merino) is because they're anti-bac, you can go on a trip for a week and only take one base layer. It's not just the smell they inhibit, I find they make me feel cleaner. When I take a synthetic base layer off I feel sticky and sweaty, when I take a wool layer off I feel clean.
I can't say I'd ever buy a smartwool/icebreaker type top as it would get ruined pretty quickly but I really rate the helly hansan warm stuff, or the older lambs wool ones of which I have a pair of longjohns and zip top which are still going strong. I wouldn't pay much attention to the hype about lifa being woven in and transferring moisture better but the main advantage of being woven together is they're tough as old boots. I've used mine running, climbing, fighting through brambles, managed to go headfirst down a rocky hill and scraped my arm in one but the top is as good as new, unlike my arm.
I've also been swimming in one and it's true that once you squeeze the moisture out it doesn't actually feel that wet. Obviously if you are definitely going to get saturated then a synthetic will be the better option but all isn't lost if you get a wool top drenched.
Still prefer synthetic for wearing in general tho.
Everytime I see Ice Breaker I think "a fool and his money are easily parted" The prices they charge are hilarious.
Ye've never shopped in Leckies Of Falkirk then... ah fool a a wee drop of his money were parted there. £22 for a super fine Icebreaker, marvellous top.
Well done for getting yourself a bargain (in your own head) though
'sheeps' :) I got an Icebreaker from Sports Persuit for £40 (exl p&p) with 1/2 zip. My first merino baselayer, I love it. Feels warmer when wet, wicks just as fast, no smell yet and is natural. Still, wouldn't pay £70 for one!
You can get very thin Merino T-shirts, as thin as synthetics...
I have one of these T's and was amazed that they could knit something so light and thin.
I use mine for running and they do dry quickly depending on conditions.
They are expensive though.
As regards washing: 40 degrees C max, no fabric softener just ordinary laundry detergent.
As regards durability - I've been wearing merino for the last year: I love the feel, the look, the warmth, and the no pong - I haven't had any problems as regards holes. although I know some people do.
Never had problems with the durability of Icrebreaker merino - think my oldest 100 weight tops are over 10 years old now and still going strong. I bought one Howies top in their sale which developed a hole after a couple of washes. The Icebreakers have been heavily used every winter since I bought them, including 'old whiffy' which managed 3 weeks of commuting into Glasgow every day, 2 weekly sessions at the gym and some weekend mountain biking and hillwalking before my wife intervened and insisted it was washed.
When I bought them, I don't recall them being any more pricey than a HH Lifa top to be honest.
Merino is a bloody good manager and a probable shoe in to take over at Man Utd in time.
They won't suit everyone though, some people are just too sensitive to the itchiness.
And I also won't buy icebreaker as I've seen them disintegrate sooooo quickly and for the money it's disgusting!
I did spend a bit more nice on a thick merino mid layer by Ortovox and that was definitely worth the extra bit of cash. It's amazingly comfy and warm!
Enough rambling thoughts from me...
My icebreaker things (and smartwool) have lasted really well. The embers merino stuff I bought though has virtually disintegrated despite being less than a year old and not used all that much in comparison.
> Finisterre also do more reasonably-priced merino, iirc.
> Bamboo - mmmm, lovely stuff. Nice and soft against the skin. My mum's just given me a catalogue for these people and I want to try their baselayers: http://www.bambooclothing.co.uk/
Bamboo feels so nice against the skin - the baselayers are really good. The only downside is that they take a long time to dry when they're washed - much longer than either wool or synthetics.
Very true. For normal non-'outdoor' use, bamboo socks do take some beating.
Entertaining press conferences and a charismatic leader. The downsides can be a rather defensive style of play and one eyeed view of the world.
I throw stinky Hellys at them :-)
Ha, good one!
I wonder if it's something to do with the way they're washed. I have a few Icebreaker tops, some quite a few years old, and none of them have holes.
Nothing new or clever, aside from the marketing... just a reaction to rising cotton prices. Not massively green or sustainable either, despite the claims; it needs a hell of a lot of nasty chemical processing to go from grass to fabric.
> Well done for getting yourself a bargain (in your own head) though
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
£19 for some lightweight Icebreakers in TKMaxx.
£27 for another ( heavier weight) merino make, in cracking vivid colours!
All well hidden, in the ladies keep fit accessories section!
Good point about the regulating your temperature. Used my merino base layer last week for a fun run as was stood about in the cold for a while beforehand. Didn't overheat when I was on the move, whereas got v sweaty in my usual lightweight fleece the year before.
Can't wear the baselayers though due to my delicate skin :)
> I wonder if it's something to do with the way they're washed. I have a few Icebreaker tops, some quite a few years old, and none of them have holes.
I think the Brynje website had something about detergents damaging wool fibres.
Might also be something to do with small beasties - moths or (if I remember what someone on here told me a year or two ago) carpet beatles or similar?
Moths do like wool. Putting cedarwood balls in the drawer you store woollen things in can help.
> Still prefer synthetic for wearing in general tho.
I've had my merino for about 2 yrs and love it. It gets chucked in with the other washing, no special treatment and sometimes gets washed at 60 with no shrinking. Prefer the feel of it to my synthetic base layer.
Note that I was discussing fabrics, not the individual fibres from which yarn is made, and then used to make a fabric.
The problem I have is that people say 'merino is slow drying', when, what they generally mean is 'a thicker garment takes longer to dry'. I don't think it's a fundamental property of the wool fibre, but rather of the entire fabric assembly.
Now, call me a sad gear geek, but I have done tests where I weighed three similar design, but different fabric base layers into a rinse & spin cycle, weighed them when they came out, and then set them to dry, weighing them at regular intervals. I recall that I found that all three fabrics gave similar amounts of retained water following the spin, as a percentage of the garment mass, and there was little difference in the slope of the drying curves, again expressed as retained water as a percentage of dry garment mass. Sadly, I can't seem to find the data, and my memory may be defective. I might have a go at repeating the experiment tonight; the initial, post-spin water mass will be interesting, given the oft-stated '30% water absorption into the wool fibre'. However, in the mean time, this paper might make interesting reading:
It seems they did pretty similar test to those I did, only using specially-constructed fabrics of similar weights and thicknesses, and different fibre mixes. The drying times are quite interesting, especially those of a wool/synthetic blend, which gave a drying time longer than either of the consituent fibres... Their wicking results are no surprise: wool is pretty poor.
Water absorbed into the fibre core (as opposed to stored mechanically in the yarn fibre bundle and the knit/weave structure) will take a long time to evaporate off. This means that the cooling effect of this residual water is low; once the mechanically-stored water has evaporated, the main cooling power of the fabric is gone, just like for a synthetic. Of course, the faster a garment dries (assuming a similar water load), the larger the cooling power, so the faster drying will chill you; thus you get a shorter, more intense thermal shock from a faster-drying garment, compared to the longer duration, but less intense thermal shock from a slower-drying garment. Both of these situations can be considered beneficial, and detrimental, depending on the application...
As you rightly say, to get similar absolute drying times from a merino garment and a synthetic garment, they need to be the same weight, and it's easier to make a thin, robust synthetic than it is to make a thin, robust merino base layer. I commented that the downside of merino is the fragility.
Carpet beetle larvae (woolly bears) are a common culprit for holes in wool items:
Them's the ones - it was probably you who mentioned them previously, too.
merino is great for wearing for a day or about town, but as a serious multi-day thing, nah.
its only redeeming quality is the odour thing - something other textiles are getting good at (bamboo, silver, copper weaves). and really, tho unpleasant, the odour element isnt top of my list for a baselayer.
i think wool does several things ok but none of them well (except the odour thing mentioned).
i dislike it because it loses its form fast, and with that goes part of its wicking capacity, which other fabrics do better ayway.
its not as warm for the weight (partly because it doesnt wick, partly because its a heavier fibre to get the same degree of structural integrity).
that said, new wool fabrics are entering the mix - combined with a well known synthetic to form a fabric, backed by another well known fabric to create a bi-layer thing. both resolve much of the issues and are a big step forward.
benefits? the NZ economy more than anything else...
I wouldn't wear my merino on trips where I value technical ability over comfort, but for things like multi-day walks in places where you might actually meet normal people it's unbeatable. I've worn my merino tops and pants for 3 weeks straight without washing and they don't keep any smell at all.
Haven't noticed any ill effects.
Noticed the odd small hole, presumably from wear, in the older items.
My most committing experiment was wearing a pair of merino underwear for 4 days. Was worried about itching, but you know, it never happened. Was great.
> I've worn my merino tops and pants for 3 weeks straight without washing and they don't keep any smell at all.
While generally a merino fan, it might be worth pointing out that the smell resistance is limited to the clothing itself - it won't stop your body from smelling!
Elsewhere on the site
WINTERFEST 2014 at Outside in Hathersage 6th and 7th December 2014 Outside's ever popular Winterfest event is back... Read more
Everybody who has used a gas cartridge stove in cold conditions knows the lower the temperature, the poorer the performance of... Read more
Nick Livesey discovered the mountains of Snowdonia over a decade ago and finally moved there a year and a half ago, quitting a... Read more
I am Matthew Phillips, I'm nearly 14 and I was born without my right arm below the elbow. I started climbing at taster... Read more
As a long-standing name in the UK rockshoe market, Scarpa have a loyal following and many much-loved models. As a fan... Read more