5 Best Merino Wool Apparel (2023): Hoodies, Shirts, Pants, and Socks

Merino wool is a super fiber. Merino T-shirts somehow manage to be comfortable in 95-degree-Fahrenheit heat, and Merino hoodies will keep you warm well below freezing. Unlike synthetic fibers derived from petroleum, Merino wool is natural and renewable. One sheep can grow 4-5 pounds of wool per year.

That’s because the sheep that make merino wool drink only the purest Alpine waters and study the art of comfort under the tutelage of those slightly stuck-up Pashmina goats, who, let’s face, do know a thing or two about wonderfully, pillowy softness. Just kidding. Merino wool does come from Merino sheep, which have thinner, softer wool, making Merino much more comfortable to wear next to your skin. It’s unclear whether the Merino sheep got this idea from Pashmina goats. What I do know is that Merino wool is a remarkable, overlooked fabric that’s become the cornerstone of my winter wardrobe.

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Merino sheep don’t just live in cold climates. Their wool has evolved to keep them comfortable across a wide range of temperatures, and the same is true of made from Merino wool. I’ve worn Merino T-shirts on 100-degree days and felt fine, though this is less true if you throw high humidity into the mix—Merino sheep do not vacation in the tropics, apparently. Whatever the case, the wool’s versatility means there’s a bewildering array of blends and options to choose from. Here are our favorite Merino wool products that we’ve teste.

Ibex Wool Aire Vest

5 Best Merino Wool Apparel (2023): Hoodies, Shirts, Pants, and Socks

If you have concerns about using goose down as an insulation layer, merino wool is also a decent substitute for synthetic insulation. Vests are like the cheat code of layering if you like to keep your core warm but your arms mobile or you want to get an extra soupçon of warmth without adding too much bulk. I (Adrienne) like to layer Ibex’s Wool Aire vest under my regular wool coat if I’m going out for the night or on a long run.

While merino wool is very soft, most products in this category are blends, usually with some form of nylon. Darn Tough socks are a WIRED favorite. They’re great for skiing, hiking, climbing, and just about anything else you want to do. These blends vary by weight, but most of them are around 50 percent nylon and 50 percent merino, which makes them dry a bit faster than pure merino while remaining plenty warm and comfortable.


Icebreaker Tech T-Shirt

Icebreaker Tech T-Shirt

The most shockingly expensive T-shirts I’ve ever owned are nevertheless some of my favorites. They’re warm, yet somehow cool, and surprisingly good at stopping the wind. These shirts aren’t great in humidity; for that, I’d probably go with a blend. Note that some of Icebreaker’s T-shirts are blends, so check the details on your favorite design before you invest.


REI Co-op Merino 185 Base Layer Bottoms

REI Merino 185 Base Layer Bottoms

Don’t forget your legs! It never fails to surprise me (Adrienne) how many people put multiple layers of insulation on their top half and leave their legs completely bare. Depending on the weather, I have several different weights of leggings that I can swap in. My favorites are the classic Icebreaker leggings, which have lasted me almost a decade. However, the rest of my family (my spouse and two children) use REI’s in-house merino wool base layers and leggings, which are a reasonably priced option and don’t irritate my son’s sensitive skin.


Ten Thousand Merino Tech Hoodie

Ten Thousand Merino Tech Hoodie

If you don’t want to go 100 percent merino on your first purchase, that’s OK. There is now a ton of blended apparel on the market that gets much of the benefit of merino, with enough cotton or polyester to retain the softness many of us are used to. This hoodie from Ten Thousand is a good example. It’s 76 percent polyester, 18 percent merino, and 6 percent elastane, which gives it a soft, stretchy feel that makes it ideal for working out, rock climbing, or any other outdoor activity where you need your jacket to flex and stretch with you.

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