Best Merino Wool Travel Clothing – How To Buy Merino Wool
We are not outdoorsy people and when we travel we don’t plan real adventurous activities. That’s why we never considered buying merino wool travel clothes. I always imaged wool long johns, base layers, and hiking socks. We’ve never packed anything in this family. Recently, though, we’ve started to experiment more with wool clothing even for our city break travel. In this post, I share our tips on how to find the best merino wool travel clothing for men and for women. I also explain why this amazing fabric is great for travel clothes.
Included in this post are photos of us wearing a variety of wool travel clothing. To learn more about individual pieces, just click the image.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
What Is Merino Wool Clothing?
Merino wool fabric is a natural fabric. Most of the sheep used for merino wool come from Australia and New Zealand. It’s the type of wool that comes from this particular breed of sheep that makes merino different from regular ol wool.
Here’s the science part. The reason why we need to wash our clothes frequently is because odor-causing bacteria are transferred from our skin to our clothes (yuck). Clothes that are antimicrobial, though, prevent this from happening. This means that you don’t have to wash the clothes as often as other fabrics. Some travel clothing is treated with chemicals to give it these properties. Wool, though, has natural antimicrobial properties.
Easy care travel clothes mean less washing to do during a trip. It also means that wool is a material that is quick drying and it wicks away moisture. Here’s a little more science. The outer layer and the inner layer of the merino fiber work together. The outer layer repels water and the inner layer absorbs water. That’s why it’s wicking and absorbing.
This is also why it’s a great fabric for both hot and cold weather. This is one of the reasons why I always associated merino travel clothing with outdoors and adventure clothing more than typical travel clothing.Check Out All Our Comprehensive Travel Guides
History Of Merino Wool
People started using merino wool sheep for clothing back in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Although developed in Spain, the breed mostly grows in Australia and New Zealand now. Over time, the quality has improved and the fibers became more fine.
One of the first high-fashion designers to make merino clothing more palatable was actually Coco Chanel decades ago. When it comes to merino wool clothing for travel, this natural fiber is used for more than sweaters. The fabric is used for dress shirts, t-shirts, pants, blazers, and even underwear.
Is Merino Wool Itchy?
This is why I first balked at the idea of wearing merino for travel. To me, it doesn’t seem like the ideal travel fabric, particularly when I like to be comfortable when I travel. I just associated wool with itch.
Remember there is a difference between wool and merino wool. Most wool is breathable and water resistant, but merino wool has a softer texture, is lighter in weight, and has finer fibers. This is why it is more comfortable to wear than a typical, itchy wool sweater.
Merino wool is a much more fine fiber, which means it is not as itchy as traditional wool. It’s even hypoallergenic, so for people who react to unnatural or artificially produced fabric, it won’t be a problem.
I will say, though, that some of our merino wool clothes were slightly itchy when we tried them on for the first time. But after one or two washings, they softened up a lot.
Benefits Of Wearing Merino Wool
This is why some of the best travel clothes are made of this wonder fabric. It is a temperature regulating fabric. Wool can keep you cool when traveling to warm weather destinations. It can also help keep you warm when visiting colder weather destinations. This is why for years merino wool has been recommended as a base layer for hikers, climbers, and outdoor enthusiasts.
There’s a natural elasticity to merino that helps the clothing to keep its shape over time. This is why wool clothing really is an investment. Whereas a typical cotton or cotton blend t-shirt maybe lasts a year or two with regular wear, wool will last longer. As much as it is an investment, it can be one great investment to make if you know what to buy.
Wool is also pretty wrinkle-resistant. There’s a bit of spring to the fabric that helps it to stay nice when traveling. I will say when I pull my travel dresses out of the suitcase, they look a little wrinkled. But, when I hang them up and when I wear them, they look great.
Merino Wool For The Environment
There are also some environmental benefits to merino wool clothing too. Merino has natural sun protection built in. Natural wool can block over 90% of the sun’s harmful rays. This also means that when you wear wool to warm destinations, you can use less sun block. Less sun block means less chemicals.
Another way that wool is pretty cool is because merino wool is a natural and biodegradable fabric. Synthetic fibers can take decades to degrade in a landfill. Wool takes a fraction of that time.
Key Benefits Of Merino Wool:
In summary, what are the benefits of merino clothing that make it so great for travel:
- Natural sun protection
What’s So Great About Merino Wool Travel Clothing?
Some of the reasons why merino wool is great for adventure clothing are also the reasons why it is a good fabric for travel in general. Here are just a few. Even though merino wool can keep you warm, it’s less bulky than traditional wool, so it takes up less space in a suitcase. The same goes for merino wool accessories. Because of its odor-resistant qualities, you can pack two or three merino wool t shirts instead of five or six cotton ones. You can wear them several times in one trip.
This is a trend I’ve liked seeing – wool clothing is not just for adventure travelers. It can also be used for stylish travel clothes. It also means you don’t need to always wash clothing when traveling even when traveling for a week or two. We spent 12 days traveling in Morocco. Eric brought four merino wool shirts and never washed them. He smelled just as good on day 12 as on day 1.
Where To Buy Merino Wool
Some of the best travel clothing brands will carry a good amount of merino wool as well. But, there are a handful of merino wool clothing brands that specialize in outdoors, adventure, and travel clothing. We’ve been wearing a lot of Wool & Prince, which is one of the best wool clothing brands in our opinion. I like them because their clothing is great for travel but doesn’t look like travel clothing.
Wool Travel Clothing Brands
That’s been my biggest problem with travel clothing brands over the years. I always at least attempt to look like a local, or at least like someone who might be living in the city I am visiting. For this reason, I never want to wear travel pants that zip off at the knee or other typical travel clothing. I want more stylish travel clothes. That’s why we like Wool & Prince.
Some of the best travel clothes for men are produced by merino wool brands. I will say, though, that a good number of the merino wool brands tend to carry a wider variety of men’s clothing than women’s clothing. That’s why a lot of our recommended products are men’s rather than women’s. But, we have a few for women too.
Some other popular wool travel clothing brands include Icebreaker, which tends to be known more for its adventure and outdoor clothing. Although they’ve started to produce some regular everyday merino clothing that can be perfect for travel. Smartwool is also great, particularly for wool socks and and base layers.
Merino Wool Travel Shirts
The best merino wool shirts are ones that are both practical and presentable. We don’t like looking like bums when traveling. Eric always travels with two or three dress shirts depending on our destination and how long the trip is. Now, he travels with one button-down merino wool shirt. It’s a nice compromise between casual and dressy. If we are doing something a lot more dressy, like a Michelin-Star restaurant, he might bring one more “normal” button down. See Eric’s Wool & Prince merino wool button down shirt here.
Merino Wool T-Shirts
Eric is officially a convert. He’s always traveled with a handful of regular t-shirts and polo shirts when traveling. They were always cotton or a cotton blend. One our last few trips, including to Italy, Morocco, Georgia, and Scotland, he’s been packing merino wool t-shirts and loving them.
For him, now, he thinks the best travel shirts are his merino wool t-shirts. I can’t complain because they take up less space and he can wear them more. And I like him in v-neck t-shirts, so he still looks pretty stylish. Currently, he is traveling with three Wool & Prince merino travel t-shirts.
Merino Wool Henley Shirts
I first discovered henleys when I worked in retail decades ago. For Eric, though, they are a new discovery. He’s been really enjoying both his long-sleeved and his short-sleeved merino wool henley shirts from Wool & Prince. They are a great way to have the comfort of a t-shirt with a little more style. They also make great layering pieces when traveling in the spring or fall.
Check out the henley shirts Eric has from Wool & Prince here. They are both merino wool and nylon blend.
Women’s Merino Shirts
Not all merino travel shirts are mens travel shirts – thank goodness! I’ve tested out one of the women’s button down dress shirts from Wool & Prince. It’s been a great addition to my travel wardrobe because I can layer it and use it to dress up a little more at night. It’s also wrinkle resistant and comes out of my suitcase ready to wear. Check it out here.
Merino wool t-shirts for women also make great layering pieces when traveling. I’ve included a few recommendations below. It’s important, though, to look for “everyday” t-shirts rather than base layer t-shirts if you are looking for something that doesn’t look necessarily like travel clothing. The Icebreaker shirt, below, is a little more form fitting than the Smartwool option.
Merino Wool Travel Dress
It’s taken me awhile to add dresses to my list of travel clothes for women. For a long time, I just thought they were impractical – like heels! But, now I find that dresses, if you choose the right one, can be great options for travel wear for women.
I now travel with one of my two merino wool dresses from Wool&, the wool dress company owned by Wool & Prince. I own a long-sleeved swing dress (with pockets!) and a sleeveless wool travel dress. The sleeveless dress is actually reversible, and can be worn as a scoop neck or a v-neck. This means I can have two different looks from the same dress on one trip. Check out the collection of dresses and Wool& here. They also recently introduced a wool shirt dress, but I haven’t tested it yet.
One of the things I love about my merino wool dress is that it feels natural and flowy. It conforms to my body without feeling restrictive. The elasticity of the merino wool means that as soon as I put the dress on, it doesn’t look all wrinkled.
Other Merino Wool Travel Accessories
There are a few other merino wool garments and accessories that could come in handy when traveling. Merino wool socks are great for travel, particularly when visiting extreme temperatures. Like the other clothing, they wick away moisture and don’t get as smell as a quick as regular socks. Look for socks that are a blend of wool and lycra or spandex so that the sock conform to your feet.
Another great accessory is a merino wool buff or merino wool travel scarf. I never leave home without at least one scarf for each trip. It’s one of the main things I pack for a two week trip, a city break, or longer term travel. When trying to pack light a merino wool buff or a merino wool scarf can be a great alternative to a bulky wool or knit scarf, which takes up so much space.
Some travelers also swear by merino wool undergarments. This includes merino wool underwear and women’s layering tanks. We haven’t tested these out yet but plan to soon.
Merino Wool Washing Tips
Always check with the merino wool brand you buy. I can offer recommendations on how to care for merino wool based on our experience and research. Each clothing brand, though, might have its own recommendations.
For example, some brands suggest you only need to wash your shirts every 10 or 20 wears. Even underwear can last 5-10 wears. Eric normally wears his t-shirts and henleys around 4 or 5 times. That has a lot to do with how long our trips are and that he does laundry when we are home, before the next trip. Generally, the less frequent the washing, the longer the clothing will last.
Merino wool can absorb about 30% of its weight in water. This means when you take it out of the washing machine it feels almost dry to the touch. It feels a little strange and for the first few washes even smells a little different because there is natural lanolin. The lanolin acts like a wax like coating. This is what helps it wick water away. This can take a little getting used to.
How To Hand Wash Merino Wool Clothing When Traveling
If we have access to a washing machine when traveling, we will use it to wash our wool clothing only if we can control the temperature. We only wash our wool travel clothes with cold water. I would not recommend just sending them out to any normal laundromat because you can’t control how they wash the clothes. While in Morocco, for example, we sent other clothes out but waited to wash Eric’s wool clothes until he was home.
You can hand wash merino wool in the sink when traveling. Turn the clothing inside out. Use warm but not hot water. Try to use a neutral soap (soap with a ph around 7). Definitely avoid fabric softeners that can reduce the effectiveness of the moisture-wicking properties of the wool. Let the clothing soak for 10-15 minutes. Give it a quick rinse and you are done. It’s recommended to lay clothing flat so it retains its shape. We have hung all our merino wool travel clothes because we don’t have the space to dry flat. It’s been fine.
FAQs - Merino Wool Clothing For Travel
Most wool, like typical lambswool, is breathable and water-resistant. Merino wool, though, has a softer texture, is lighter in weight, and has finer fibers. This is why it is more comfortable to wear than a typical, itchy wool sweater.
Merino is more quick-drying and more odor-resistant than cotton. Lighter weight merino will feel more like a coarse cotton shirt than a typical wool sweater. Cotton is more breathable than merino. It does absorb sweat more, though. This means it can get smelly quicker. It requires more washing. And, it takes longer to dry. Try hand washing a cotton t-shirt in a hotel room sink and see how long it takes to dry? Merino is also a lot more durable in the long term.
Synthetic materials take forever to degrade when they are finally thrown out. Merino wool takes less than a few years. Most important, synthetic materials tend to hold odors a lot more, meaning you have to wash them after every wear. But, synthetic fibers can be more quick-drying than merino, depending on how it is made.
Absolutely! I had a little sticker shock when I first saw the price of some of the merino clothing for travel. But, it is an investment. So much goes into producing merino wool. It takes 6 to 12 months for a sheep to grow enough wool for clothing. And, because the fibers are so fine, you need a lot of it to make a shirt, for example. You will buy fewer items and they will last longer. It is one of the more expensive fabrics but it is an investment worth making.
*We received some of these products to test out and review, but all opinions are our own.