Ok so not all the things, but lots of things. What is Merino wool? You’ve probably heard the term thrown around, but what exactly is it? Merino wool is a very fine, soft wool that comes from a breed of domesticated sheep known as Merino sheep. It is thought that the Merino breed of sheep originated in Spain, but they are now raised all around the world. Merino wool is a great material for clothing, in particular clothing that is in direct contact with your skin.

Let me cut to the chase and just list out the benefits of Merino wool:

  • Warms you up when it’s cold – traps heat but not moisture
  • Cools you down when it’s hot – it’s all in the evaporation
  • Wicks away moisture, such as from sweat
  • Is lightweight
  • Has antimicrobial / anti-odor properties
  • Doesn’t itch like other wool
  • Dries quickly
Merino sheep in a field
Merino sheep, bearers of the greatest clothing material of all time (photo credit Bernard Spragg)

The only cons I can think of are durability and price. Merino wool is not as durable as other materials, and it costs quite a bit more. But its benefits far outweigh these issues. Clay Hayes, who won season 8 of Alone (the survival show on The History Channel and Netflix), wore Merino wool the whole time. While obviously he had skills to help him, his choice of Merino wool makes it clear how superior of a material it is for clothing.

So now that you’ve been introduced to Merino wool, how do you go about trying it out? Well, lucky for you, this guide breaks down a phased approach to introduce Merino wool into your life. Trust me, you’ll never be the same afterwards. So where do you start?

Beginner – Socks

The best way to try out Merino as a beginner is to go for Merino wool socks. Contrary to popular belief Merino wool socks don’t just have to be for cold weather. A lightweight pair is perfect for wicking away your foot sweat in the summer; a heavyweight pair is perfect for keeping your foot warm as you trudge through the snow (paired with the right boots!). And there’s weights in between those, so you get the point. There’s a Merino wool sock for every season and every person. Another key benefit of Merino wool socks are that they prevent foot blisters better compared to their cotton counterparts.

Merino wool socks
Samples from my Merino sock collection, variety due to sales available. Left to right: REI Co-op Merino Wool Lightweight Hiking Crew Socks; Smartwool Classic Hike Light Cushion Crew Sock; Mountain Warehouse Merino Explorer Socks

So the best way to dabble into the world of Merino wool is to get some socks. I highly suggest you get one pair to start and see if they’re for you. If like them and you can get enough socks to rock them daily, even better! They don’t just have to be used for hikes or other outdoor adventures. You can wear Merino wool in your daily life. Want low cut socks for shoes in the summer? They exist. Need crew socks to pair with hiking boots? There’s a sock for that. You’ll quickly find yourself loving your socks and wondering – what else can Merino wool do for me?

Intermediate – Winter Accessories

You’re feeling bold and are ready to branch out from socks. So where to go next? The natural next step, to me, is winter accessories. Try out Merino wool gloves, a winter hat, and even a scarf / neck gaiter. A lightweight pair of Merino wool gloves give sufficient warmth when the temperature starts to drop. And if temperatures drop even further, those lightweight Merino gloves can become glove liners for thicker gloves.

Merino wool winter hats are made both thick and thin. Get a thicker hat for the dead of winter, for sure. But a lightweight Merino wool cap can also keep the chill off as a liner under a bike or snowboarding helmet or warm your noggin on a cool fall morning before temperatures rise again for the day.

You can maximize your use of Merino wool as a winter accessory by using a Merino scarf or neck gaiter. Merino wool traps the necessary heat on chilly days, but also keeps you dry as it wicks way the moisture from your sweat and breath. You can wear it just around your neck, or you can cover your face too for maximum warmth in winter.

Expert – Base Layers

Up your winter game with a Merino wool base layer. Purchase a pair or two of Merino wool bottom and top base layer pieces and you’ll never go back to your cotton thermals again. While I’m not bashing synthetic thermals, which have their merits, I think Merino wool thermal base layers are just the cream of the crop. Note that for extended outdoor adventures, one base layer can last a couple days because of its antimicrobial / odor reducing properties. So you really only need two sets if you’re planning outings of more than a couple of days.

Merino wool base layer
Mountain Warehouse makes some of the most affordable Merino base layers on the market. They also make kids sizes. Be patient, these often go on sale around Thanksgiving for much cheaper than at the time of posting. Pictured: Merino Mens Long Sleeved Zip Neck Top and Mens Merino Pants With Fly

After you up your game with a Merino wool base layer set, you’ll never look at your old cotton thermals the same again. Merino wool base layers do an amazing job at maintaining body warmth in the cold while also expelling any and all moisture from around your body. As a wise man – Les Stroud – once said, “You sweat, you die.” While this sounds extreme for those who might not enjoy an extended outdoor adventure, that same principle can keep you dry and happy on a less extreme outing as well.

God Mode – Underwear

You’ve reached the pinnacle of Merino wool adoption when you start wearing Merino wool underwear on a daily basis. I’m differentiating from base layers here. I’m taking about regular underwear that you’d wear any time of the year. I have to admit that I haven’t achieved this level yet. Merino wool underwear isn’t cheap, and I don’t know about you but I like to have a lot of underwear on hand to cycle through. That adds up and I’m not ready yet to drop a couple hundred dollars on my Merino wool daily underwear. But if you have the budget and you’ve tried the other stages, I think you’re ready to enter the higher consciousness that is Merino wool’s God Mode – underwear.

Never Pay Full Price!

Merino wool can get expensive. As such, I do not recommend you pay full price for Merino wool products. Shop the sales and deals, and patiently build your Merino ensemble. If you’re brave enough, buy it used. You don’t need to jump into Merino wool all at once, that’s why I created this guide to ease you into it.


I can’t stress enough how great Merino wool is, and I highly suggest you at least get some socks. Your feet will never be happier. But if the socks don’t appease your Merino appetite, then follow this guide to become a Merino connoisseur. You’ll improve your comfort during your outdoor adventures and even in your daily life. Once you jump on the train, you’ll be singing “Merino” from the mountaintops like the Ricola guy!