Merino is most commonly known and used as a base layer, however the fabric lends itself well to many things. Options when choosing merino accessories are increasing, so let’s look at what’s available and how they might be useful to you.
I’ve already written in some detail about this fabric and why you should choose merino for outdoor activities – as it happens, I’m an ambassador for UK manufacturer EDZ Merino so will be featuring their gear here. Still, I’ve been wearing this material for years and have long been an advocate.
Part of the benefits of merino is that it can be used as both lightweight wicking layers in Summer and thermal layers in Winter. Above base layers we are also seeing more choices and types of heavier mid-layers.
Personally, I wear a light 135gm t-shirt and pack a 260gm head-over top as my Summer warm layer, which works well on cooler evenings and will happily work as a layer in any system for colder seasons.
Wool is a traditional fabric for hats and gloves – but usually in thicker, heavier items. Still, merino is particularly fine and also works really well in thinner products.
I always like to have a small ‘cool pouch’ when out trekking for longer times and especially if I’m at higher elevations as it gets cold quick up in the mountains. So, I pack a beanie, a pair of gloves and a buff (known sometimes as a multi-tube). This all packs small and is super lightweight.
I’d recommend much heftier insulation in Winter; the thinner merino accessories work really well in Spring and Summer. It’s also worth remembering merino isn’t the toughest of materials, so don’t expect the gloves to be great as work gloves or for skiing etc.
You can use really thin merino gloves as an under layer in colder seasons – it’s a quick way to increase warmth and you can wash them easily. I keep a pair to go under my cycling gloves in Winter and they work a treat.
Merino proves to be a great choice for socks as it’s a fabric that doesn’t take on odours. Again the anti bacterial properties help you take care of your feet and the fine fibres help reduce friction.
As with other merino accessories you’ll find that merino socks are commonly not 100% merino. This isn’t anything the manufacturers are doing to save money, it’s because of the need for them to fit snuggly to your feet.
The merino mix in socks varies and can include acrylic, nylon and elastane depending on which type you choose. I like the all-climate boot socks from EDZ and have worn them in hot conditions over several days.
There are also trainer socks, which are ideal for, yes, trainers… I find them a little thick so keep mine for cycling esp. in cooler months. They do also work really well as camp socks – like slippers, but their fine fabric can take a beating if you’re for shuffling around hostels and bunk rooms.
I have to say I was sceptical… woollen underwear just sounds wrong to me. As with all layers that are so close to your essentials, you need to look at fit as much as fabric.
Merino lends itself well to close fitting products, so it does make sense it would be good for underwear. Merino is anti-microbial,absorbent, and it wicks moisture and dries fast.
I usually wear fairly snug fitting trunks but I’ve been using the merino briefs on a long hot trek and road trip and I really like them. I did need to get over the style – briefs are just not my thing – but after that they’ve proved excellent.
Maybe buy just one pair to start with and see how you go? I’ve yet to try merino trunks/ boxers so will switch to those later this summer and see what I prefer.
When you’re choosing merino accessories you need to take a little care with how you wash them. If they are constructed with a merino mix (they include other fabrics) you might get away with throwing them in a general wash. High content merino should be washed separately as a wool wash, on 30C and you should avoid fabric conditioners and dry them naturally.