You need a travel wardrobe that can keep up with your adventures. And believe it or not, merino wool is your ticket. In this article, we’ll delve into the advantages of merino wool clothing for travel and emphasize the importance of selecting the right brand.
I am writing this during a three-month carry-on only trip through Europe in summer. I have a travel capsule wardrobe made of only merino wool. Why on earth would I bring nothing but merino wool clothes to Europe in summer? Read on.
Stay tuned for the secrets to staying comfortable, stylish, and prepared for any travel adventure that comes your way.
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At a glance: My Top Picks for Merino Wool Travel Clothing
UNISEX: Unbound Merino – Super-fine (aka super soft) wool, sustainable brand, nice balance between fashion & function.
WOMEN: Wool& – Huge selection of fashionable clothes, creative fabric compositions such that you wouldn’t even know it’s merino!
MEN: Wool & Prince – Men’s counterpart to Wool& (above). Great selection for an entire merino wool travel wardrobe that behaves like canvas, denim, linen, and more.
The Basics of Merino Wool
Merino wool is a natural fiber that comes from the Merino sheep, a breed known for its exceptionally soft and fine wool. This is one of the key characteristics that sets it apart from other types of wool and makes it incredibly soft to the touch, resulting in a comfortable and itch-free fabric that is gentle on the skin.
In addition to its softness, merino wool is highly breathable, which helps regulate body temperature and prevent overheating. Merino wool benefits also include natural moisture-wicking capabilities, drawing sweat away from the skin to keep you feeling dry and fresh in hot weather. It also has impressive odor-resistant and anti-bacterial properties due to the presence of lanolin, which gives merino wool garments the ability to stay fresh for longer periods without needing frequent washing.
Merino wool can also be considerably more lightweight and less bulky than other types of wool, making it easier to pack and suitable for both hot and cold weather (depending on the weight of the piece of clothing, which we’ll get into later). Its natural elasticity also makes it more durable and resistant to wrinkling.
Why Merino Wool Clothing is Perfect for Travel
As you can probably tell from the merino wool basics listed above, it’s great for home use and outdoor adventures, and also for travel. Here’s why merino wool for travel is the way to go:
- When cotton gets wet (from sweat or rain or whatever), it can’t keep you warm – in fact, it lowers your core temperature. Merino wool still keeps you warm, even when wet.
- Merino wool is anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, and thus odor-resistant. Antimicrobial shirts are like magic. You can wear your merino tee for an entire week (or longer) without smelling. This means you don’t need to wash it as much, which makes it easier to care for on the road.
- It’s soft and delightful to the touch.
- It’s moisture-wicking and breathable.
- It regulates your body temperature. A relatively light weight merino wool shirt can still keep you warm, and also cool. (Magic).
- It’s easy to care for. Hand wash or machine wash on cold, hang to dry overnight. Done.
- It lasts forever.
- It’s better for the environment. Some synthetic materials that have similar warmth and moisture-wicking properties also contribute to micro-plastic pollution.
Merino Wool Terminology Explained
When you start shopping for merino wool clothing, you’ll see a lot of lingo. It’s important to understand this lingo so you can ensure you’re getting the right clothing for your needs.
Two key terms are GSM and microns, which provide insights into the fabric’s characteristics and performance.
GSM, or grams per square meter, is a measurement of fabric weight and thickness.
It tells you how warm and breathable a merino wool garment will be. A higher GSM value indicates a denser, warmer fabric, while a lower GSM corresponds to a lighter, more breathable material. When choosing merino wool clothing, consider the climate and activities you’ll be engaged in to select the appropriate GSM for your needs.
Microns refer to the diameter of individual wool fibers, with a lower micron count indicating finer and softer wool. Lower micron counts often come with a higher price tag due to the superior quality of the wool used.
In addition to GSM and microns, other relevant merino wool terminology includes anti-pilling treatments and UPF ratings.
Anti-pilling treatments help prevent fabric balls from forming on the fabric’s surface, which can be an annoying byproduct of many wool garments that makes them look older and more worn than they actually are.
UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) ratings indicate the level of sun protection provided by the fabric, which can be important for outdoor activities.
It’s also worth noting the concept of “mulesing-free,” which indicates that the wool used comes from sheep that have not undergone the controversial practice of mulesing; a treatment of the sheep that involves a painful procedure to remove problematic skin around the buttocks.
How to Choose the Best Merino Wool Clothing for Your Needs
Here are some key factors to consider when selecting merino wool clothing for travel:
Determine the purpose of your merino wool clothing. Are you looking for base layers to provide insulation and moisture-wicking properties? Or do you need versatile garments that can be worn in different weather conditions and for various activities? Identifying your specific needs will help you narrow down your options.
Climate and Weather
Consider the climate and weather conditions of your travel destinations. Merino wool offers excellent temperature regulation, keeping you warm in cold environments and cool in warmer climates. Choose the appropriate weight and thickness (measured in GSM and microns) based on the anticipated weather conditions.
Style and Design
Once upon a time, merino wool clothes were utilitarian and mostly used as base layers and activewear. Now it comes in a wide range of styles and designs. Determine the type of clothing you require, such as shirts, pants, socks, or accessories, based on your travel activities and personal preferences. Additionally, consider the fit, cut, and features that enhance comfort and functionality.
You will see a huge variety of merino wool clothing companies profiled below. Each has their own style. Not into athletic clothing? Then don’t buy a bunch of it just because you think it’s practical for travel! Find a brand that suits your style – and perhaps also the style requirements of your trip and also your destination; for example, Europe generally demands an elevated sense of style. Check out my video about Europe packing tips and mistakes for more on this.
Durability and Quality
Not all merino clothing brands are equal. Look for reputable brands known for their craftsmanship and use of high-quality materials. Consider factors like the fabric’s density, stitching, and overall construction to ensure that your clothing will withstand the rigors of travel.
Not all merino clothing is 100% merino wool, and that’s okay. Incorporating other materials can change how the fabric behaves, which might be important. For example, a pair of leggings may need some nylon and spandex to help them retain their form and resist stretching out and pilling. By strategically including other natural fibers, merino wool clothing can behave like jersey, linen, terry, and even tweed and denim.
Beware, however, of “merino” clothing that has very little actual merino wool in it. I once saw a shirt marketed as being merino, but when I looked at the composition, it only had 10% merino wool. Wool& is a company that has one of the best selections of fabric composition that I’ve ever seen; you can even shop their clothes by fabric.
Sourcing and Sustainability
If sustainability is important to you, research the brand’s sourcing practices. Some brands prioritize responsibly-sourced merino wool, ensuring the welfare of the sheep and minimizing environmental impact. Look for certifications or indications of sustainable and ethical production.
See also: My roundup of Eco-Friendly Travel Products (including clothes, cosmetics, and more).
Now that you have a clear understanding of the factors to consider when choosing the best merino wool clothing for your needs, let’s dive into a comparison of the top merino brands.
Are you as much of a nerd for Travel Gear as I am? Then check out my collection of articles about a variety of items to make your next trip a breeze!
Do you like to see these things in action? Then check out my YouTube series featuring Travel Gear & Remote Work Tools to level up your travel game.
Top Merino Wool Clothing Brands for Travel
Here are the best merino wool clothing brands for travel – each has their own style, clothing properties, etc. Use this list to find the perfect fit for you!
MERINO WOOL BRANDS FOR MEN & WOMEN
Unbound Merino offers a range of clothing made from merino wool, including T-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, pants, shorts, socks, underwear, and accessories such as beanies and scarves. Their clothing is designed with a minimalist and classic style that is versatile and suitable for a variety of occasions.
While they do offer clothes for both men and women, they are still developing their women’s line; men have a much wider variety of options.
They source their merino wool from independent, mulesing-free farms that are Woolmark certified, ensuring high-quality wool that is ethically and sustainably produced. Their clothing is also made in factories that meet high ethical and environmental standards.
Their commitment to environmentally friendly practices extends beyond the sourcing of their wool. They use only natural, biodegradable materials in their clothing, making their products not only stylish and functional but also eco-friendly.
I own their leggings – which surprisingly hold their form really well, and they’re super soft and comfy. They also have a hidden zipper pocket at the waistband, which is handy for travel. I also have their travel dress, which is super versatile, comfortable, and packable. Both of these are staples in my travel wardrobe.
Key Features/Pros of Unbound Merino:
- High-quality merino wool clothing
- They use super-fine micron wool only, resulting in very soft comfy clothes
- Sustainable and ethical sourcing
- Minimalist and classic style
- Versatile and functional
- Eco-friendly materials
- Higher price point compared to other clothing brands
- Limited selection for women (for now)
WoolX has a wide repertoire of merino wool clothing and accessories for women and men, with a focus on outdoor apparel but including styles that can take you everywhere from mountain hikes to riverside cafes.
It’s a small family-run business in New York, with a few value-propositions that include specially-designed merino wool clothes that can be machine washed and dried for easy care (though I still air-dry my merino wool clothes; clothes driers contribute to unnecessary wear & tear and an accidentally high heat setting could ruin your merino).
They source their wool from Woolmark-certified merino sheep in Australia, additionally ensuring that all their wool is certified non-mulesed. They also have a no strings attached 100% satisfaction guarantee and 100% No-Itch Guarantee! Free shipping (in the US) on returns and exchanges seal the deal for a hassle-free customer-centric experience.
I was particularly drawn to WoolX for some of their unique styles like the Charlotte Puff Sleeve Top (which I adore), cold weather pants (which are on my list), and an entire line of ridiculously soft can’t-believe-it’s-merino pyjamas (merino wool’s temperature-regulating properties make for an extra comfy night of sleep, which can be especially problematic for menopausal women and others who get night sweats). I also really like some of the colours on offer, including the heather-coloured Piper Pocket leggings, which are unique, warm, and very flattering (and have pockets!!).
Key Features/Pros of WoolX:
- Wide range of clothing and styles for men and women
- Shop by season, as well as style or sex
- Machine washable & drier-friendly (low heat)
- Ethically sourced from non-mulesed farms
- Family-run business
- 100% satisfaction guarantee (and no-itch guarantee!)
- Free exchanges/returns, postage-paid
- Only available in USA
- Higher price points
Aviator offers comfortable and lightweight merino wool tops, including hoodies, polos, and tee-shirts. Aside from merino wool, they also make award-winning travel-friendly jeans. Customers have given Aviator’s products high ratings for comfort and suitability for travel.
The wool is sourced from New Zealand, where the sheep are raised in humane and sustainable conditions. Their products are designed with travel in mind, as they are lightweight, packable, and versatile (yep, even the jeans!)
Aviator, proudly made in the USA, is committed to sustainability and ethical production practices, using eco-friendly materials and ensuring fair treatment and living wages for their workers.
I have everything in Aviator’s merino collection (at least, everything they offer for women).
The T-shirt is pretty thick, which means it resists wrinkling and holds its form nicely (some merino shirts are a bit flimsy and can show bra straps).
The First Class Merino Hoodie is a great zip-up hoodie that has a few nifty travel-friendly features like a hood that doubles as an eye mask and some mitten cuffs.
The Red-Eye Hoodie is the lightest weight of the three shirts, and is super comfy. It also has the same travel-friendly features of the First Class hoodie.
Click here to see my video review of these and other Aviator duds I have.
Key Features/Pros of Aviator:
- Comfortable merino wool tops
- A variety of different weights available
- High-quality merino wool sourced from New Zealand
- Hoodies have special travel-friendly features, like a hood that doubles as an eye mask
- Commitment to sustainability and ethical production practices
- Fair treatment and living wage for workers
- Limited selection, and only shirts
Icebreaker offers a variety of clothing for men, women, and kids. The style and purpose of their clothing is geared towards outdoor activities and adventures, with features like body-mapping ventilation to keep cool and a blend of merino wool and plant-based TENCEL™ Lyocell for unbeatable freshness in warm weather. Icebreaker also offers 100% pure merino tees that are breathable, odor-resistant, and made for wearing everywhere.
Icebreaker is an OG in the merino clothing space. These days they also use other materials in some of their products, such as TENCEL™ Lyocell. They source their wool from a variety of places, including New Zealand, Australia, and South America. They have a program called “Baacode” that allows customers to trace the origins of their garment and learn about the ethical and environmental practices involved in its production. They are committed to responsible and sustainable practices, including using natural and biodegradable materials, reducing waste, and supporting ethical and fair labor practices.
I have had a few Icebreaker tops over the years, but honestly, none of them have made the cut in the long run for my personal sense of style and multi-purpose needs on the road. When I lived in the Rocky mountains they were great for mountain treks, but not so great if I wanted an elevated look.
However a guy friend of mine who travels full-time with carry-on luggage only, wears almost exclusively Icebreaker t-shirts and boxers and socks. He likes that there is a good selection of different GSM weight options for your needs. He has the lightest GSM t-shirt for running, and heavier weights for other times of day and ambient temperatures. He says the “base layer” shirts are perfectly fine to wear as “normal” tee-shirts.
Key Features/Pros of Icebreaker:
- Super high-quality materials
- An OG in the merino wool clothing industry
- Special attention to responsible sustainable production on all levels
- One of the few merino brands that have clothes for kids as well
- Products are a bit on the expensive side
- Style is mainly limited to activewear and base layers
Smartwool offers a huge variety of clothing, including socks, base layers, mid layers, and accessories such as hats and gloves. Most of their clothing is designed to be used for outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and running, as well as for everyday wear.
They use ZQ-certified Merino wool, which ensures the wool is ethically sourced and sustainable. They also use other sustainable materials such as recycled polyester and TENCEL™ Lyocell. Their clothing is not 100% merino wool, as they also use other materials such as nylon and elastane for stretch and durability. So, while merino wool is a significant part of their overall offering and branding, it’s important to check the fabric composites closely.
Smartwool has several environmentally friendly and responsible practices, including using sustainable materials, reducing waste, and supporting conservation efforts. They partner with organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and The Conservation Alliance to give back to the environment.
I bought their Sport Fleece Wind Tights, and was all excited to have a warm pair of merino leggings that I planned to travel with and use for cool/cold-weather hikes. They are indeed lightweight and very warm and comfy and super sturdy, but despite the Amazon listing saying they’re 100% wool, they are in fact, less than 50% merino.
A male friend of mine has their everyday socks that he wears as dress socks and he LOVES them. Similarly, the listing says “100% wool”, but further down you learn it’s only 55% merino wool; granted for socks, that’s still pretty good.
Key Features/Pros of Smartwool:
- Wide range of clothing including socks, base layers, mid layers, and accessories
- Focus on athletic performance and comfort
- Even if the Amazon listing says 100% merino wool, check carefully; some items are less than 50% merino
- Limited style options
Merino.tech offers a variety of clothing made from 100% organic New Zealand Merino wool. Their collection includes shirts, socks, underwear, base layers, and accessories like neck gaiters.
Founded in 2018 in Canada, Merino.tech is a collaboration between the company and some of the finest mills and factories worldwide. They use only environmentally friendly paints in their manufacturing process.
I have their V-Neck Short Sleeve T-Shirt, which is super soft and incredibly comfortable. It’s also very lightweight and thin, which makes it great for travel packing, but if you order a light colour it will likely be a bit see-through. I have the purple (nice shade) and I use it for sleeping.
I also own a pair of their merino socks, and I really like them; they’re comfy, hold their form, resist pilling, and are 85% merino wool.
Key Features/Pros of Merino.tech:
- Offers Lifetime Warranty
- Lots of colours to choose from
- Very reasonable prices; great if you’re dipping your toes into the world of merino clothes
- Canadian company (great for Canadians who want to support local businesses)
- Limited options for women (for example, the men’s lineup of shirts has a variety of nice polos; women only have t-shirts)
Woolly offers a wide range of clothing items, including shirts, pants, leggings, socks, and underwear for both men and women. Their clothing is designed to be comfortable, durable, and stylish while providing the natural benefits of merino wool.
Woolly sources their wool from Australia, ensuring it is ethically and sustainably produced. They use merino wool as a foundation fabric and develop innovative products like NatureDry.
As a small independent business in Seattle, they support local causes and ensure responsible production as members of the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI). They donate to organizations like Recovery Café and reinvest profits into organizations that inspire them, including Black Lives Matter Seattle, the NAACP, and the Northwest Avalanche Center.
Key Features/Pros of Woolly:
- Socially and environmentally conscious business
- Some pretty low prices for some items, making it an easy intro to merino wool
- Fewer options for women (though still pretty good overall)
Ridge Merino is a small, family-owned business based in Mammoth Lakes, California. They offer an extensive collection of clothing for men, women, and children, featuring items such as base layers, hoodies, shirts, pants, underwear, socks, and an array of accessories like neck gaiters, beanies, and hats.
Key Features/Pros of Ridge Merino:
- Proud member of 1% for the Planet and the first company in Mammoth Lakes, California to achieve Green Business Certification
- You can shop by collection, including SPF clothing, merino wool + TENCEL, and 100% merino wool
- Very reasonable prices
- Not much in the “elevated style” department. Mostly activewear and underwear
MERINO WOOL BRANDS FOR WOMEN ONLY
Wool& specializes in women’s clothing, with an incredibly diverse and stylish collection that includes dresses, tops, bottoms, and accessories. They prioritize environmental responsibility, aiming to minimize their carbon footprint throughout their operations.
When it comes to crafting their garments, Wool& takes a thoughtful and innovative approach. They not only have pieces that are made from 100% merino wool, but they have created a series smart blends that are still mainly merino wool, but have a combination of other materials to give each fabric their own unique properties. They have merino wool blends that are like jersey, tweed, linen, and even denim.
I have a huge number of Wool& clothing items; in fact, they primarily made my merino wool travel capsule wardrobe for my 3-month carry-on trip through Europe possible. You can check out this video (including the links in the description) to see the full packing list in action. Here are some of my fav pieces:
- Sofia midi dress
- Poppy tank top
- Florence tunic (perfect for layering over anything for a bit of warmth and looking stylish)
- Frame ponte culotte (which I worried I might not like as much and isn’t quite as soft, but has ended up being very useful as it’s a heavier weight of fabric and a bit more durable; excellent for travel days)
Key Features/Pros of Wool&:
- Allows customers to shop based on fabric or model
- Refreshingly elevated styles available, with a ton of dresses and nice tops and even pants
- Packaging made from 99% post-consumer waste paper
- It’s not cheap, but it is high-quality
MERINO WOOL BRANDS FOR MEN ONLY
Wool & Prince
Wool & Prince is the men’s counterpart to Wool& (above). They have a diverse selection of clothing items for men, including shirts, pants, socks, jackets, vests, underwear, and accessories.
Similar to Wool&, they have created unique mainly-merino blends that result in super practical clothes that you wouldn’t even know are merino, including stretch canvas pants/shorts and denim jeans.
Wool & Prince offer a satisfaction guarantee, ensuring that if an item does not meet expectations, they will make it right. They also support thoughtful consumption and simple living through their sponsorship of the Only What Matters online community. They value customer feedback and actively seeks input to improve their products and services.
Key Features/Pros of Wool & Prince:
- Creative fabric blends that result in more multi-purpose clothing
- Refreshingly elevated styles available, not typical of what you’d expect from merino clothes
- Packaging made from 99% post-consumer waste paper
- Not super cheap
Western Rise offers versatile clothing designed specifically for men – some of which is made from merino wool. The company is known for its use of technical fabrics, premium construction techniques, and sustainable manufacturing practices. Fashion-wise it’s intended to seamlessly take fellas from mountain trails to office meetings.
I featured Western Rise in another article on my site, profiling not only some of their merino duds, but also their award-winning pants (which are not merino). You can read all about it at The Best Travel Clothes for Men.
Their range of merino products includes shirts, polos, pants, socks, and accessories. I have seen their uber-popular Strong Core Merino Tee in action, along with the Limitless Merino Button-Down and Limitless Merino Polo. In all cases I’ve been impressed with the quality and comfort, as has been the fella wearing it.
Key Features/Pros of Western Rise:
- Diverse selection of clothes that bridge the gap between active casual and dressy casual
- Multiple styles of award-winning pants and shorts (not merino though)
- Climate Neutral Certified
- Funnily enough, three of my male friends balked at the style of the limitless merino button-down – specifically the buttons on the collar!
Shop at Western Rise here!
And use PROHOBO10 for 10% off your first order.
Libertad does one thing and one thing only: 100% merino wool travel shirts. Nice ones.
The founder was inspired to create Libertad while on his own travels, noticing that most leisure travel clothes are utilitarian and comfortable but not stylish. Wanting the best of both worlds, Libertad was born.
They offer a variety of shirt styles, including single pocket, no pocket, double chest pockets, and short sleeve options.
Key Features/Pros of Libertad:
- Their shirts are crafted from 100% merino wool
- Spun tighter so the material has more dress-shirt-like structure, unlike many merino shirts which droop off the shoulders
- Convertible adjustable cuffs
- If you’re not interested in upscale collared shirts, you’ll be outta luck
Proper Cloth offers a wide range of custom-fit, made-to-order clothing for men. Their clothing collection includes shirts, pants, jackets, suits, and accessories.
They have developed fit prediction algorithms and 3D visualization tools that allow customers to create custom sizes and modify designs.
While Proper Cloth offers a diverse range of fabrics, merino wool is one of the materials they use. They source their merino wool from New Zealand and ensure that it meets ZQ certification standards, guaranteeing high animal welfare and a sustainable supply chain.
I have a guy friend who is tall and quite slim, and he has a very long torso in particular. Getting properly fit clothing within the standard “small / medium / large” clothing structure is difficult for him; he is the one who told me about Proper Cloth, and while he doesn’t have any clothes from Proper Cloth yet, but he plans to order some.
Key Features/Pros of Proper Cloth:
- Follows a made-to-order production model, which helps avoid overproduction and reduces waste. Approximately 95% of their clothing is made-to-order, eliminating the need to guess how many items to produce in advance
- Recycle returned garments through partnerships with organizations like Green Tree and Fabscrap
- By far the most expensive clothing in this article. But….that’s to be expected for made-to-order custom clothing
Tips for Caring for Your Merino Wool Clothing
Merino wool care is important to maintain its performance and extend its lifespan. Merino clothes aren’t typically cheap, so you want to make sure they’ll last. By following these tips, you can ensure they’ll stay in excellent condition:
Washing: Hand-wash or machine-wash using a gentle cycle with cold water. Use a mild, wool-specific detergent. Avoid using bleach or fabric softeners, as they can damage the natural fibers of the wool.
Drying: After washing, gently squeeze out excess water from your merino wool garments. Avoid wringing or twisting the fabric, as this can lead to stretching or distortion. Lay the clothing flat on a clean towel or a drying rack to air dry. Avoid direct sunlight or heat sources, as they can cause shrinkage or damage.
Stain Removal: Treat stains as soon as possible. Blot the stained area with a clean cloth using cold water and a mild detergent. Avoid rubbing vigorously, as it can push the stain deeper into the fibers.
Here are common mistakes to avoid:
Avoid using hot water: Hot water can cause merino wool to shrink or lose its shape. Stick to cold water for washing and rinsing.
Don’t over-wash: Merino wool has natural antibacterial properties that help resist odor. Avoid washing your garments frequently, instead air them out between uses to refresh them. Yes – it actually works! There are people who have done 100-day merino wool challenges; wearing the same shirt for 100 days without washing! While I wouldn’t go that far, I’ve worn my merino clothes for way longer than other clothes and they almost never smell.
Skip the dryer: High heat from a dryer can shrink or damage merino wool. Always air dry your clothing to maintain its shape and integrity. Don’t worry – it dries very quickly.
Avoid abrasive materials: When washing or drying your merino wool clothing, avoid using rough surfaces or materials that can cause friction or pilling.
Choose the Best Merino Wool Clothing for Your Next Adventure
Merino clothes are adaptable, comfortable, low maintenance, long lasting, multi-purpose, durable, breathable, and even biodegradable.
In order to choose the best clothing items for your next trip, remember to factor in the purpose, climate, and weather conditions of your destination, as well as your personal style preferences.
With the right merino wool pieces in your wardrobe, you can confidently face any adventure, knowing that you’re well-equipped with the exceptional benefits of this remarkable natural fiber.