Despite the prevalence of new high tech synthetic materials, one of the best performance fabrics is a textile that’s been around for thousands of years: wool. You might be breaking out in hives just imagining working out in an itchy Aran-knit sweater, but that kind of wool is a little different from merino wool. Merino wool, which comes from merino sheep, is soft, temperature-regulating, and moisture-wicking. It can be great for workouts, and it’s a great insulator. It can be a perfect base-layer for cold days or brisk morning runs.
You might not be thinking about layering right now, but fall is around the corner. The moisture-wicking and temperature-regulating properties of merino wool are great for those days that start off blisteringly cold then get surprisingly hot. Best of all, wool is one of the most sustainable fabrics; it’s less water-intensive than cotton and less polluting than plastic-based textiles.
If you’re looking to get a jump on winter weather, or you want a good performance layer for outdoor hikes, consider one of these merino wool base layers.
1. Minus33 Merino Wool Men’s Bottom
Most layers seem to go on the top half of the body, leaving legs to fend for themselves with only a pair of jeans between them and the outside world. These merino wool bottoms are pant-length and designed to be worn as a base layer. The cuffed ankles keep warmth in and prevent unwanted bulkiness.
Pros: Comfortable, soft, thin but warm.
Cons: Some found the waistband thicker than they liked, which could lead to bunching.
2. Minus33 Merino Wool Men’s Midweight Crew
This merino wool long sleeve shirt from Minus33 is available in several understated colors and has a crewneck design, so it can be worn on its own or as an undershirt. The stretchy cuff is designed to be flush with the skin, so it doesn’t ride up when putting on a sweater or jacket.
Pros: Midweight layer that works well for transitional seasons, reviewers recommended wearing it with the Kancamagus Midweight Bottom (featured on this list as well).
Cons: Some had difficulties with the sizing.
3. MERIWOOL Mens Base Layer
This merino wool long sleeve shirt is available in four classic colors: army green, charcoal gray, navy, and black. It can be worn by itself or as a base layer, and it has ribbed sleeve cuffs for comfort and insulation.
Pros: Affordable, 100% 18.5-micron merino wool, odor-resistant.
Cons: Some found that the waist is short, so it’s hard to tuck in.