The Wool Basics You Need to Keep Cool this Summer

When the temperature rises, Merino wool keeps our bodies cool as well as keeping us warm in cold climates.

Choosing outdoor fabrics for hot weather requires a few key characteristics: moisture wicking properties, quick drying, good breathability, sun protection, and the ability to move with you. Something that is odor-resistant is the ultimate benefit. All these boxes are checked by Merino wool, but how?

Summertime Merino Wool Benefits

This means Merino wool will interact with the external environment as well as changes in your body temperature, and that’s why it’s ideal for outdoor activities.

Wool is an excellent moisture wicking material due to its composition. Water beads off the fiber’s outer surface as it is hydrophobic (similar to the coating on a rain jacket). Upon contact with water (in this case, your sweat), the fiber’s core attracts water to its core, keeping it from falling into the skin, and allowing it to hold up to 30 percent of its weight in liquid before it even feels wet. It keeps you drier for a longer period of time. During the day, evaporative cooling occurs when this core saturates and releases moisture.

Wool is very odor resistant; this is due to the properties of merino wool, which is antimicrobial (it resists bacterial growth). You can sweat into a merino garment for hours, hang it to dry, and the next day it’s likely to be stink-free. Since the fabric stays cleaner for longer, you can wear it multiple times before washing it, which means that the fabric lasts longer and you can use it for longer.

There is no substitute for the stretch and return of Merino wool (how well it bounces back to its original form), which are ideal for sportswear. This fabric offers much better wear than elastane or Lycra, which lose their shape after a period of time. Mercerize it with a bit of a fixative for anti-microbial properties to make it last longer. Merino wool is naturally UV resistant, so it helps protect your garment from sun damage.

You now know why merino wool is a great choice for the summer. Here is the wool underwear, undergarments, bra, and socks that I’ve been wearing when the weather has been unusually hot.

Brief natural for women by Ibex ($35)


(Photo courtesy of Ebony Roberts)

Wool and spandex blend, 94 percent merino wool, 6 percent spandex

Underwear made from natural fibers is healthier, since bacteria cannot grow on them. In spite of cotton’s softness, breathability, and ability to wick moisture, it tends to retain a lot of that moisture (once it gets wet, it stays wet), making you feel clammy, and over time cotton tends to lose its shape. Merino wool is advantageous in such a situation. The first time I wore Ibex’s Natural briefs, I understood why it had its own dedicated fan base.

The Ibex product line consists of classics that can be worn on the trail and out at night. Neither this undergarment nor any of the brand’s garments are flashy. Undies of this quality are comfortable, lightweight, quick-drying, odor-resistant, and incredibly durable.

Despite being made of superfine merino wool, Ibex’s Natural brief does not feel as soft as cotton. After you wear it, you can hardly tell you are wearing anything on your body. This classic-fit bottom rests just below the belly button and covers your bum completely, neither high-rise nor bikini style. Because the material is slick and a bit stretchy, hiking or running shorts slide right over the brief, and it won’t bunch; along with the thin elastic waistband, it will stay in place while you’re active. In peak summer temperatures, I have worn these undies without complaint. You can definitely wear them over the course of an overnight trip. By the morning, you’ll be able to put them back on after hand-washing in cool water and letting them dry.

There are no mulesings in Ibex wool, and you can see where the wool is sourced, who is making the clothes, and the providers’ certifications.

Crop bras from Ibex ($70)

(Photo: Steve Redmond)

Mercerized wool is 70%, nylon, 20%, spandex is 6%

Since I became pregnant five years ago, I have worn a merino wool sports bra to hike. Heat and humidity in the summer forced me to change up my old ways if I was to remain comfortable. In addition to a great fit and technical design, the ibex balance crop bra provides greater support than the Icebreaker Tiki bra that I have worn for years. It keeps the girls securely in place while I jump, run, hike, and work out. As a result, there will be no hot spots or pressure points. As the two-inch band does not roll up, and the straps fold over each other, the bra fits snug without digging into any pressure points. In addition to providing support and ventilation, various knit patterns are used throughout. Despite the shirt, it looks great on its own as well.

Consider the pared-down Balance bra if you live somewhere hot and you don’t need two layers of support. It has the same top layer, but ditches the second layer, and has a simplified back.

Socks made of ultralight merino wool from Swiftwick ($18).

(Photo: Ebony Roberts)

The fabric contains 46 percent wool, 27 percent nylon, 18 percent olefin, and 9 percent spandex

Warm, sweaty summer feet are no match for Swiftwick’s Ultralight merino wool socks. You will be grateful to your dogs. My running and hiking shoes have kept my feet dry and comfortable in temperatures over 110 degrees. The Pursuit Ultralight socks are some of the most breathable socks I’ve tested in the field, thanks to channeled uppers (think: ventilated groves atop your foot) that are effective at dumping heat. Mercino wool is a natural moisture wicker, so they help prevent blisters and regulate the temperature of your feet. The seamless toe box and reinforced heels and toes provide durability to high-wear areas in addition to excellent breathability. They are also made more comfortable inside footwear thanks to other thoughtful details, such as a Y-shaped heel and a flexible weave near their ankles.

Pursuit Ones are available in four-inch, seven-inch, and no cuff versions, as well as with one-inch cuff height.

Garments made from Merino Wool: How to Take Care of Them

The following tips will help your merino wool garments last longer if you’re going to invest in quality wool.

It is advisable to wash merino wool garments within the first few wears, or even before you wear them. Preventing pilling will be easier this way. In addition, the fabric will feel softer next to your skin at this point, since the short fibers have either been washed out or pressed flat. Then, wash the garment only as needed-and remember that dryers and washers are harsh on fabrics so overdoing it will shorten the fabric’s life expectancy. Avoid bleach and fabric softeners. Garments next to the skin should be washed every three to five wears; other items should be washed every five to seven wears.

As a result of its uneven surface, Merino wool allows easy water penetration, while its core absorbs excess moisture, allowing it to be easily cleaned. Cool or warm water is best, and a washing machine is better than hand washing, as you’ll want to make sure any dirt and silt is removed—that debris can cause abrasions to the fabric and speed up deterioration. Regular laundry soap works just as well, although a pH-neutral detergent is ideal. Additionally, it’s an extremely fast-drying fabric, so you can lay it flat or hang it up to dry (or tumble-dry it), and you’ll be ready for your next adventure soon.

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