I am a huge fan of Merino wool as it makes the best socks and tights. I use these items summer and winter and consider them travel necessities. Why? Merino wool is soft, durable, resists odors, wicks moisture away from the body and can dry with your own body heat while you are wearing it.
Merino wool is touted as keeping you warm when it is cool and cool when it is warm. Other than 95+ degrees F temps with high humidity, it will function as described. Hot temperatures with high humidity seem to be the only conditions in which wool is not the right fabric to wear.
Socks – Merino wool socks come in knee high, ankle length and footie sports sizes. These socks are an absolute must for hiking, skiing and snowshoeing because they cushion the feet which helps minimize blisters. When I plan to walk from one end of a city to the other or explore winding paths in a large, historic cemetery, I wear the footies with my walking shoes. I can walk all day with no discomfort. When I hike trails in the Rocky Mountains, I wear thicker ankle length wool socks with my hiking boots. And when I snowshoe, I usually wear two pairs of wool socks with my boots.
Tights – Traveling in a cold climate? Layering is the way to stay warm. You layer by putting on a base layer, then one or more medium layers, with an outer shell. Wear merino wool tights and a long-sleeved wool shirt as a perfect base layer. Depending on the conditions, add a pair of heavier duty wool knee socks on top of the tights. Then add any additional layers as appropriate (e.g., long underwear) for the weather conditions. Remember, wool wicks away moisture and will dry from your body heat so you will stay warm.If instead of playing in the snow, if you are touring cold, drafty historic buildings and homes, dress up a bit by wearing the wool tights with a pair of low heeled dress boots and a casual skirt. You will be warm and stylish.
Easy Care – To wash your wool items, turn them inside out; wash in cold water with your usual detergent in a washing machine and spin dry. If washing them by hand, wash the clothes as you usually do, squeeze them to remove as much water as possible and then lay them on a towel and roll them up together to remove excess water. Hang up the clothing or lay them on a screen to finish drying. When I washed my wool tee shirts in equatorial Africa, I washed them by hand using camping liquid soap, rinsed them and rolled them in a little microfiber towel to remove much of the water. Then I put on one of the wet shirts and let it dry on me. It took about an hour or so. For a back country short cut, you can squirt the liquid detergent on the under arms and any stains. Then rinse, ring and dry.
Depending on your body chemistry, you can wear a merino wool tee shirt about 7 times between washings. Well, maybe not 7 exactly, but you can wear it a lot. Be careful, though, of scented deodorants because the wool can pick up the scent. Avoid this by using scentless deodorants or waiting a couple of minutes after you put on your deodorant before pulling on your shirt.
Brand Names – IceBreaker® and SmartWool® are the two best known brand names for Merino wool clothing. They can be pretty pricey so look for sales and online deals. Even if you end up paying full retail price for them, they are totally worth it. Their products rate five stars.