When planning a hiking expedition, choosing the right clothing is one of the key factors that can have a big impact on comfort and performance throughout the adventure. Two of the most popular material options for hiking clothing are merino wool and polyester. Both of these fabrics have their own unique properties and advantages that can contribute to overall comfort and successful overcoming of hiking challenges. In this article, we will therefore remind you more about the advantages of clothing made of merino and polyester and help you choose the right choice for your next hiking trip.
The type of fabric you choose for your outdoor clothing has a big impact on how well it protects and keeps you warm. In this article we will discuss polyester vs. wool and merino wool to understand each of these fabrics, their properties and best uses.
What is polyester?
Polyester is a general term for any fabric or fabric made from polyester yarns or fibers. The name is short for a synthetic, man-made polymer called polyethylene terephthalate (PET). It is produced by mixing ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid.
What is a wool?
People have used wool to make clothes for thousands of years. It is a natural fiber produced mainly by sheep and goats. Although sheep were first domesticated around 10,000 years ago, these desert sheep were primarily used for meat. It wasn’t until about 6,000 years ago that people started breeding them for their wool.
Today, most of the wool we use comes from sheep living in Australia and New Zealand. Wool has a thinner inner core than hair, which basically means that each fiber of wool is more like a tube. This causes the wool to shrink and retain its elasticity, which is one of the reasons why wool is such a good insulator. This structure allows the wool to retain its insulating properties even when wet. Wool is also naturally somewhat water resistant because each fiber is coated with lanolin, a natural oil produced by sheep.
Merino wool is a natural fiber obtained from Merino sheep. This breed of sheep was first developed in the 12th century and probably originated from Moroccan sheep breeds. Thanks to their fine and light wool, they thrive in hot and dry climates. Therefore, most merino wool today comes from Australia.
Merino wool is thinner and softer than regular wool, which makes it easy to wear on the skin without itching. Merino wool still has the same structure as regular wool fibers, but these fibers are much thinner. These fibers are measured in microns. The average micron of a human hair is 50 to 100 microns. Most wool is 25 to 40 microns. Merino wool is less than 22 microns, which shows how fine and smooth this wool really is. Merino still has a scaly structure on the outside of the fiber, which allows it to bond with other fibers to create a fabric that is both breathable and insulating.
Advantages of polyester
• The fibers are durable and light, creating a more durable and very light fabric.
• It is very resistant to creasing.
• Dries quickly, making it ideal for outerwear.
• Holds its shape well and does not shrink or stretch too much.
• It is very resistant to stains – cleaning is a breeze.
Advantages of wool
• Keeps you dry and warm even when wet.
• It is renewable and biodegradable.
• It is antimicrobial.
• It is breathable without any special fabrics or techniques.
• Helps you regulate your temperature well and keeps your core temperature stable.
Advantages of Merino wool
• Allows you to cool down quickly.
• It is soft to the touch.
• It is naturally odor resistant – ideal for socks.
• Is insulating without being too heavy.
• It is comfortable and ideal to wear all year round.
Merino wool vs polyester
Wool and polyester have their own characteristics and comparison, which can be summarized as follows:
Wool is one of the warmest types of fabric, thanks to its natural structure and ability to trap air pockets. Merino wool is warm but lighter and maintains temperature without being heavy. Polyester helps retain warmth, especially when layered, but does not wick away moisture as well as natural fibers.
• Water resistance:
Polyester is a water-resistant and quick-drying material, often used in outerwear. Wool is also water resistant and retains its insulating properties even when wet.
Polyester is not environmentally friendly because it is made from plastic and petrochemicals and is often not recyclable. Wool is a renewable resource, does not require the use of harsh chemicals and does not exclude microplastics during washing.
Polyester is cheaper than wool, while Merino wool is usually even more expensive due to the fineness of the fibers.
Merino wool is considered a very comfortable and soft fabric. Polyester can also be comfortable, but some 100% polyester garments can feel scratchy on the skin.
Polyester is lighter than wool and allows the production of thinner and lighter garments. Wool is much heavier, and in the case of Merino wool it is not possible to make very thin garments due to the less durable fibers.
• Odor resistance:
Wool is naturally odor resistant and dirt is easier to remove. Polyester is easy to clean, but it can smell faster.
Wool wicks away moisture much more effectively than polyester and allows for better air circulation. However, modern textile production has made it possible to create polyester fabrics with better breathability and the ability to wick away moisture. However, wool still remains more effective in wicking away moisture and keeping you dry.
After examining the benefits of clothing made from merino and polyester, it’s clear that both fabrics have their place in the hiking world. Merino wool excels in thermoregulation, moisture wicking and odor control, making it ideal for longer expeditions in colder conditions. Polyester is an excellent material for more active hiking and overload that needs moisture drainage, dry time and wear resistance.
Choosing the right clothing depends on your individual needs, the type of hiking and the weather. It’s always important to check local conditions and consider which features are most important to you. Whether you choose merino or polyester, good preparation and the right clothing will allow you to enjoy hiking to the fullest, regardless of the conditions that the trip brings.