There are a lot of options on the market in terms of the materials you choose for your apparel. When looking for options ideal for the great outdoors, whether as an outdoors enthusiast as a camper or hunter, or for military missions when your needs demand the very best options to get you through until the job is complete, the question is often raised about merino wool versus synthetic material. Let’s take a closer look at this matter.

What is merino wool?

Merino wool is a special type of wool of a high-quality grade that comes directly from New Zealand. Spun into a finely woven material, it is then used in a variety of apparel products from socks to outerwear lining.

What are synthetics?

Synthetics are not made from natural sources as in plant or animal-based resources but are manufactured or blended with other elements to create some of the most commonly used materials such as nylon, spandex, polyester, and other common materials.

When comparing the two, it is easier to compare them on individual aspects than to say one is better than the other overall because they both offer their own unique benefits and drawbacks. Let’s take a look at the biggest areas of concern when looking at merino wool vs. synthetics to help you get a better grasp on the differences of the two.

Temperature Regulation

When it comes to relegating body temperature, merino wool is exceptionally well suited to the task. It is naturally helpful for keeping you warm when you need it most. Many people choose merino wool for a base layer on cold climate excursions because it acts as a great insulator of body warmth. Synthetic materials are better suited for warmer temperatures since most options have moisture wicking properties to help keep you cool and dry. When looking at this aspect, it is better to look at the temperature and climate you will be exposed to when determining whether to choose wool or synthetic blends.

Moisture Control

When looking at the benefits of merino wool vs. synthetics, the moisture control element is important. For any outdoor adventure or task, you want to be comfortable. If moisture is accumulating in your apparel, you will be uncomfortable, damp, and there will be unpleasant odors. Merino wool is the winner in this area because it offers a better moisture control capability than synthetics. However, it is important to note that while merino wool is great for temperature regulation and moisture control, synthetics will be a better bet if you are planning on being in a location that is extremely wet and rainy since merino takes longer to dry out because it is heavier by nature. However, synthetic offers close to nothing in terms of odor control caused by moisture so if you are doing a long trip, wool may still be a better choice. It is important to look at the conditions and length of the trip when choosing between the two.


When looking at merino wool vs. synthetics in terms of comfort, wool is usually the winner. It is softer and gives more cushioning than synthetic materials which tend to be thinner in general. The only area of concern between the two is the matter of weight. While wool isn’t super heavy and bulky most of the time, it is definitely heavier than most synthetics which are designed specifically to be lightweight in nature. If you don’t like wearing clothing that is heavier, synthetic is the way to go. However, when weighing the benefits of wool against the slightly heavier weight of wearing it, if you are in a cold climate, you will want the warmth and extra layering that wool offers over synthetic.

Longevity and Durability

When it comes to which option is more durable, the answer is usually synthetic. Merino wool is long lasting and durable on all accounts, but natural fibers and materials do tend to break down faster than artificial ones such as nylon or polyester. This is not to say that merino wool is somehow inferior in this area, it is just not quite as long lasting as a synthetic blend in most cases.