When I was younger, I didn’t understand the difference between wool and cotton socks. They guys at my local gear shop insisted I would need them for hiking or backpacking, so I assumed I would. The wicking and antimicrobial properties of merino wool socks went completely over my head, and I wound up with two size small pairs of Smartwool that lived mostly in the back of a drawer.
I suppose I must’ve worn them hiking or camping at least once. They’d been washed or moved enough to disappear before I grew out of them. Like most people, I thought they’d be warmer than cotton socks. They did feel warmer after all, so I never thought to wear them in the summer or when I wanted to stay cool.
What I didn’t know is that the merino wool fabrics in these socks are perfect all year long. The fabric’s efficient thermoregulatory properties let you stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and it’s not just for socks. Merino baselayers and apparel offer those same benefits.
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The fine width of merino wool fibers distinguishes it from ragg or traditional wool. It averages between 18 and 23 microns, so it feels soft next to skin without the itch or discomfort of thicker fibers. Merino wool also gets washed to remove lanolin and prevent most allergies.
Wool takes longer to dry after a good soaking than synthetic fibers, but merino offers benefits that polyester and nylon fail to match. It wicks more efficiently, for starters, and it’s naturally antimicrobial. Inhibiting the growth of odor-causing microbes prevents nasty smells (perfect for feet, as you can imagine), and that limits the need for constant washing too. Your merino wool clothes won’t smell, and they’ll last longer than cottons or synthetics.
They say socks make the perfect gift, but some socks are better than others. When my family exchanges gifts, there’s always merino wool under the tree. Last year, my mother gave me Darn Tough running socks for Christmas. This year, I’ll give my brother-in-law hiking socks, and my father will get a merino wool sweater.
It’s been a long time since I bought my first pairs of Smartwool. These days, I couldn’t count the number of wool socks in my closet if I tried. I’ve got Darn Tough, Smartwool, and WeWool all crammed in there somewhere. And sure, my socks go missing now and then to be found in the unlikeliest of places, but that’s not going to stop me from loving them.
What More Can We Say?
Images courtesy Danielle Capri.