Experienced backpackers, hikers, and campers know that their hikes will only be as good as the clothes that they wear during these activities. This is why you should look for the best Merino wool base layers for backpacking.
Choice of clothing in such physically strenuous activities as backpacking should provide comfort and mobility. What you wear outside should also be appropriate for the weather. When dressing for cold or cool weather, or those seasons that have fluctuating weather conditions and temperatures, it’s wise to layer up.
Layers consist of a base layer (also known as long underwear or thermal wear), a middle layer, and a top layer, but the base layer is super important because it’s the layer closest to your skin. Merino wool base layers are the best options when it comes to choosing base layers for your hiking or backpacking excursions.
Top 11 Best Merino Wool Base Layers for Backpacking
|Outdoor Research Alpine Onset||Check On Amazon
|MERIWOOL Men's Base Layer||Check On Amazon
|Alvada Merino Wool Hiking Socks||Check On Amazon
|Minus33 Merino Wool 705 Chocorua||Check On Amazon
|MERIWOOL Women's Base Layer||Check On Amazon
|Minus33 Merino Wool 718 Ticonderoga||Check On Amazon
|Icebreaker Merino Oasis Shirt||Check On Amazon
|Minus33 Merino Wool 803 Franconia Bottom||Check On Amazon
|LAPASA Long John Set||Check On Amazon
|Kari Traa Kink Base Layer Top||Check On Amazon
|Woolly Women's Merino Wool Henley||Check On Amazon
1. MERIWOOL Men’s Base Layer
This MERIWOOL shirt is midweight and made of 100% Merino wool, so it has all those benefits of the wool that you desire. The fabric density of this shirt is 250 g/m2, which makes it appropriate for the warmer months and great for the colder ones. The base layer is breathable, odor-fighting, and moisture-wicking. And an added bonus: it’s machine-washable and dryer-safe!
2. Outdoor Research Alpine Onset
This Outdoor Research shirt is made of 83% Merino wool, 12% nylon, and 5% spandex, so it has great durability and allows for a lot of bending and flexing and stretching. This base layer has a comfortable fit, and it still retains the moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and odor-fighting properties of pure Merino wool. Lastly, this shirt is lightweight, so it’s good to wear through all four seasons.
3. Minus33 Merino Wool 705 Chocorua
This base layer from Minus33 is midweight and made of 100% Merino wool. It’s warm and comfortable and great for cold weather, especially if you’re planning to camp in cold weather conditions overnight. A cool feature of this base layer is that it has a drop-tail hem for extra coverage and warmth.
4. Minus33 Merino Wool 718 Ticonderoga
This 718 Ticonderoga by Minus33 is made of 100% Merino wool, so it won’t hold odor, and it will keep you dry. A unique thing about this base layer is its crew neck design. This crew neck will partially cover your neck, which is great for insulation and maintaining warmth in cooler weather conditions. This shirt is also lightweight, which makes it wearable through all four seasons, especially the fall. Nevertheless, all these great features of the Minus33 Merino Wool 718 Ticonderoga make it one of the best Merino wool base layers for backpacking .
5. Kari Traa Kink Base Layer Top
Former Norwegian Olympic skier Kari Traa has designed this 100% Merino wool Kink Base Layer Top to provide the female body with a perfect and comfortable fit. This half-zip thermal top is warm, odor-resistant, and stretchy, so you can feel completely comfortable and confident when going on your next outdoor adventure. Plus, this turtleneck top base layer is super stylish! Getting an enjoyable workout outdoors doesn’t mean that you have to compromise style, right?
6. MERIWOOL Women’s Base Layer
This MERIWOOL Base Layer for women is made of 100% Merino wool, and it’s lightweight. This base layer is stretchy, odor-resistant, and moisture-wicking, so it will keep you warm and dry in cold weather and cool and dry in warmer weather. This top can be worn as a form-fitting base layer, which enhances its properties of keeping your skin dry and cool or warm (depending upon the weather conditions of where you’re backpacking).
7. Alvada Merino Wool Hiking Socks
You have to keep your feet cozy and dry when backpacking, and these Alvada Merino Wool Hiking Socks do just the trick! These unisex socks are made of 80% Merino wool, 15% polyester, 4% nylon, 1% spandex. In other words, these socks are durable, stretchy, and comfy.
These socks are made for backpacking and walking on rugged or uneven terrain, as they are equipped with cushioning in the foot beds to prevent foot pain and fatigue. You definitely need to consider purchasing these for your next trip!
8. Minus33 Merino Wool 803 Franconia Bottom
These Minus33 Franconia pants are a great midweight base layer. They are made of 100% Merino wool, so they offer all the benefits of pure Merino wool. These bottoms also offer sun protection, as they have a UPF rating of 50+. Nevertheless, these bottoms are a great addition to a stylish and effective outdoor wardrobe.
9. LAPASA Long John Set
With the LAPASA Long John Set, you get a base layer top and bottom. This set is made of 100% Merino wool, so it’s breathable and soft and comfortable to the skin. It also features rib-knit technology that allows a 4-way stretch, making it a great base layer for outdoor activity and one of the best Merino wool base layers for backpacking.
10. Icebreaker Merino Oasis Shirt
This Icebreaker Merino Oasis Shirt is a long sleeve crew shirt that makes a perfect base layer for not only backpacking but also for mountain climbing, running, hiking, and trekking. It can also be worn through all four seasons!
This shirt is made of 100% Merino wool, so you’ll get the odor resistant and moisture-wicking properties of pure Merino wool. The Oasis Shirt has a slim fit, but it still allows for stretching and flexibility. Lastly, this shirt has offset shoulder seams that will diminish chafing or that painful friction from carrying your backpack or gear. All around, this is a pretty good base layer.
11. Woolly Women’s Merino Wool Henley
This ultralight Woolly Merino Wool Henley is a stylish and comfortable shirt that can be worn on the trail and worn off the trail. It is made of 95% Merino wool and 5% elastane, which is a very stretchy synthetic fiber. And even though the Woolly Merino Wool Henley is not made purely of Merino wool, it still has the moisture-wicking and odor resistance properties of Merino wool.
This shirt’s natural temperature regulation allows it to be worn in all four seasons (yes, even in those hot summer months), and it has the unique feature of being biodegradable and environmentally sustainable. And to top it all off, this shirt has an adjustable neck closure, so you can basically choose your desired and most comfortable fit.
What Is Merino Wool?
A natural fiber that originated in Spain and harvested from Merino sheep, Merino wool has lots of benefits that you would be thankful for while backpacking. But you’re probably internally asking what most people assume about wool: Won’t Merino wool be itchy? To your surprise, it’s actually not itchy at all! The wool of Merino sheep is ultra-fine wool and super soft and not itchy to the human touch or feel.
Now that you feel better knowing that Merino wool won’t give you an annoying itch, let’s explore the other benefits of Merino wool.
Merino wool is very warm and cozy. It resembles the feel of cotton. The warmth of the wool makes it a perfect base layer for backpacking in cold weather or cold climates.
Merino wool fibers are perhaps one of the most breathable fabrics out there. Merino wool is also a wicking material, with each strand of the wool being able to absorb up to 30 percent of its weight in moisture. This is why you want to avoid clothing items that are made from cotton because cotton retains moisture. So yes, . . . because Merino wool is a wicking material, you can even wear it during the summer! Cotton. . . not so much.
Merino wool has a natural resistance to odor-causing bacteria. Let’s discuss a little animal science to explain this antibacterial capability: The glands of Merino sheep produce lanolin, or wool grease that behaves as a wax. This lanolin lines the fibers of the wool, so it saves the fibers from getting odor-causing bacteria. Therefore, clothing made from Merino wool doesn’t typically stink after those sweaty backpacking adventures. The natural odor-control properties of Merino wool clothing also means that they don’t need to be washed as frequently as materials that may retain moisture and odor like cotton or synthetic fabrics. How convenient!
Merino wool provides natural protection from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. In fact, most wool clothing has an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating of 30 or higher.
Because Merino wool is naturally crimped, it has some elasticity that allows for lots of bending and stretching without incidents of tearing. To further increase durability, clothing made from Merino wool may also contain synthetic materials like nylon.
Let’s face it: Sweating outdoors is inevitable. And we all abhor that icky feeling of being soaked in sweat. Not only is being wet with perspiration uncomfortable, but it can also dampen (wink, wink) your outdoor experience.This problem is eliminated with Merino wool clothing! Along with its moisture-wicking abilities, Merino wool has thin fibers that can be finely spun and woven into a lightweight fabric that dries very quickly.
Now that you know some of the benefits of Merino wool, let’s go over three very important things to consider when choosing the best Merino wool base layers for backpacking.
Typically, clothing made from Merino wool is classified by fabric density. Fabric density is labeled as a number g/m2 (like 250 g/m2, for example), and it refers to the number of grams of Merino wool in every square meter of fabric. Fabric density of Merino wool clothing is described as being ultralight, lightweight, midweight, or heavyweight. These weights depend on the activities you’re doing and the weather conditions during the time of these activities.
Ultralight Merino wool base layers (150 g/m2 and under) are great for doing outdoor activities in hot weather. It keeps you dry and odor-free while providing UV protection. Lightweight Merino wool base layers (160 to 190 g/m2) are good to wear through all four seasons. They’re not too hot, and not too cold. They’re just right! They can be worn alone in warm or hot weather or underneath an insulated jacket in cool or cold weather.
Midweight Merino wool base layers (195 to 250 g/m2) are perfect for those freezing winter months. Make sure to wear well-insulated and warm outer layers to pair with Merino wool base layers of this weight. Heavyweight Merino wool base layers (greater than 250 g/m2) are very dense and great for cold weather, especially if you plan on being outside for a long time. Merino wool base layers of this weight are very warm, so really consider if they’re the best option for any strenuous activities you may do. You don’t want to overheat.
Clothing made purely with Merino wool is not cheap. Not only this, but 100% Merino wool is vulnerable to breaking and not always being able to withstand large amounts of bending and stretching. To combat these potential issues, you may consider buying Merino wool base layers that are blended with other fabrics like nylon, polyester, or polyamide. These wool blends are typically very durable and affordable, and they still have most of the benefits of pure Merino wool. Just be sure to look for Merino wool base layers that have at least 80% wool in order to reap these benefits.
Most Merino wool base layers have a slim fit so that they can be worn under other layers of clothing, but there’s a large assortment of base layer styles out there that are made from Merino wool. You may consider the climate or weather conditions when deciding on what style to wear while backpacking. For example, Merino wool long sleeve and zippered shirts are the best Merino wool base layers for backpacking in cold weather conditions. Short sleeve Merino wool shirts are great for warm or hot weather.
The fit of a base layer is very important. The way any base layer fits will affect its performance. You want to be sure to buy a base layer clothing item in a size that gives you mobility. Also, base the fit off of the weather: tight- or form-fitting base layers are ideal for cold weather conditions, but base layers with a regular or loose fit are best for warm weather conditions, as these true-to-size and loose sizes provide ventilation.
After exploring the benefits of Merino wool and the clothing items that contain it, you should be convinced that Merino wool is a must-have material in your outdoor wardrobe. Your backpacking journeys should not be negatively impacted by uncomfortable clothing. Your outdoor adventures should be fun, memorable, and, above all, safe. Wearing the best Merino wool base layers for backpacking will provide you with these great outdoor experiences.