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Merino wool and polyester are two of the most common and popular materials people wear as base layer clothing outdoors. These moisture-wicking materials are critical for keeping sweat off your body and avoiding getting hypothermia while outdoors. But because these materials are both popular, it can be hard to decide which is right for you. To help you stay warm this season, this article will review polyester vs. merino wool so you can decide which is the better base layer for you.
The Pros and Cons of Merino Wool
One of the main draws of Merino wool is how soft it is. This is because Merino wool is considered a “fine fiber” wool, with the individual hair being less than 20 microns. It is a common misconception that its softness is due to the amount of lanolin; while unprocessed Merino wool contains 25 percent lanolin, the garments you wear contain about 1 percent of unaltered lanolin. But because of these thin fibers, Merino wool is very absorbent, dries quickly, and is naturally odor resistant. Due to these qualities, Merino wool can regulate the temperature of your body and reduce moisture naturally.
While this may sound perfect, this material is not without its drawbacks. The biggest drawback is how expensive Merino wool is because it takes a long time for the wool to grow and caring for the sheep is hard work. Because of this, the wool is scarce, and you’ll have to pay the price for it. Additionally, the durability of the fabric isn’t great as it pills and thins over time, which will eventually lead to holes.
The Pros and Cons of Polyester
Polyester, overall, is the most affordable material you can access when it comes to base layers. Much like Merino wool, it’s moisture-wicking and dries very fast. So in terms of temperature regulation and moisture control, both are evenly matched. Additionally, some polyester can be woven to specifically mimic the moisture-wicking properties of wool. This material is also much easier to wash than wool and will last much longer.
However, if you want to buy polyester that mimics wool, it will be much more expensive, and polyester just isn’t as warm. So, if you’re looking for a material that will keep you warm during extreme weather, polyester may not be the right choice.
Which Base Layer Is Right for You?
Both Merino wool and polyester are popular layering systems that can keep you dry and comfortable. So, which one is better? Ultimately, it depends on your needs and how much you’re willing to spend. While Merino wool is expensive, it’s worth the investment if you’ll be in extreme weather, and even in inclement weather, it can dry quickly. Polyester is cheaper and more durable but won’t do as well in extreme weather, but it’s useful during cooler hikes or early winter activities.
Now that you know the differences between polyester and merino wool, you can decide which base layer is best for you and protect yourself from the dangers of cold weather.