When we think of functional underwear, we have high expectations. It should protect us from cold and overheating, be breathable, quick-drying and give us a pleasant body feeling during all physical activities. Which material best serves these needs? Merino or synthetic fibre?
These kind of fine wool comes from Merino sheep. While up until the 12th century Merinos were exclusively native to North Africa, nowadays they are mainly found in Australia or New Zealand. Despite their softness and fineness, merino fibres allow garments to be made from up to 100% merino wool. Blends are also commonly used, combining the best of merino wool and synthetic fibres.
Characteristics of Merino wool
- Moisture Absorption: Merino wool can absorb about a third of its weight in moisture without feeling moist. The moisture is bound inside the fibres and the fibre surface remains water-repellent while the wool garment continues to feel dry.
- Thermal insulation/breathability: The fibers of merino wool are heavily crimped, which creates numerous air pockets. The air chambers provide excellent insulation against the cold, even when wet, and allow moisture to be transported away quickly for temperature regulation. Merino wool warms you up when it's cold and cools you down when it's hot.
- Skin friendliness: Merino wool is a fine wool. The fibers have a much thinner diameter than conventional virgin wool and are therefore very soft and do not scratch the skin, which is very comfortable to wear.
- Odour: Due to mechanical self-cleaning and an antibacterial effect, it is very difficult for bacteria to adhere to the fibres. The wool fibers do not smell unpleasant even after long periods of wear and sweaty activities.
There are two types of synthetic fibers: those based on nature, such as viscose and modal, and synthetic fibers, such as polyester and nylon. Natural raw materials such as wood or cotton fibers serve as the basis for viscose and modal. Polyester and nylon are made entirely synthetically through various chemical processes.
Characteristics of synthetic fibers
- Moisture absorption: Synthetic fibers hardly absorb any moisture and can be quickly transported away from the body through cavities in the yarn. The clothing stays dry even during greater physical exertion.
- Thermal insulation/breathability: The insulating ability can be varied during production. Depending on your needs, the focus can be on moisture transport or on thermal performance.
- Skin friendliness: The fibers of synthetic textiles are particularly fine and very well suited for people with sensitive skin.
- Odour: Bacteria adhere much better to the smooth surfaces of synthetic fibers and therefore develop unpleasant odors more quickly.
Merino is ideal for longer and extensive tours. Thanks to the antibacterial effect, it stays fresh for a long time without having to wash it. This saves space and weight in your luggage because you don't have to take as many changes of clothing with you. In addition, temperature regulation in warm and cold weather is excellent thanks to the fine fiber structure. So you don't have to do without merino even in summer.
Synthetic fiber impresses with its fast drying time. The fibers are very skin-friendly and ensure the wearer feels comfortable on the skin. Thanks to special production processes, the focus can be placed on moisture transport or, for example, heat output.