If you want to put together the best layering system you can’t look past merino wool base-layers. Merino wool is by far the most versatile fabric on the market. It’s cool in the summer, warm in the winter, but can it hold up as an outer layer in windy weather?
Is merino wool wind resistant? Yes merino wool is wind and water resistant. Wool clothing easily beats fleece, cotton and synthetic materials when it comes to wind resistance. With that being said, I would still recommend an outer shell layer in especially cold weather.
I really love merino wool. Wool is moisture/wind resistant, odor neutralizing, temperature regulating, extremely soft, and easy to care for. Merino wool is by far the best base-layer, but there are better options for outer layers in extremely windy/wet conditions.
How Well Does Merino Wool Block Wind and Rain?
People have been wearing wool clothing for centuries. Even today wools functionality is virtually unrivaled in the textile market.
When it comes to insulation, wool outperforms cotton, fleece, and every synthetic fabric currently on the market. You can even wear your wool gear in hot weather. It keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
So what makes merino wool so special? It’s the perfect insulator. Wool fibers have a rippled structure that allows heat to be stored in air pockets, there’s a layer of lanolin wax for wind/sun resistance, and it can absorb 35% of its weight in water without feeling wet.
Wool’s Lanolin Helps Protect You From The Wind
Make sure you understand that merino wool is wind resistant, not windproof. You need to choose a windproof outer layer in seriously windy conditions. How can a natural fabric be wind resistant?
Sheep produce a waxy/greasy coating (called lanolin) in their wool to protect them from the elements. This lanolin coating helps helps protect the sheep from rain, wind, sleet, and snow.
That same lanolin coating is what helps block wind in your wool sweater. As the lanolin layer wears away through repeated wash cycles it will slowly start to let in more wind and rain.
I recommend re-lanolizing your wool clothing every couple of months. The following section will show you how to revitalize your old wool gear with Lanolin.
Applying Lanolin to Wool to Make it Wind Resistant
I use regular ALL Laundry Detergent in the washing machine to wash my wool. It will take a few years, but detergents slowly eat away at the lanolin layer.
Luckily, it’s easy to reapply a lanolin layer to wool clothing. It’s just a few minutes of work and 2-3 of patience. All you need is a bucket, warm water, and pure lanolin.
- Before you try to apply lanolin you need to start off with dry clean wool. Just toss your wool gear in the washing machine. You can even use regular laundry detergent with wool, since you don’t have to worry about washing out the lanolin.
- Fill up a bucket/sink with warm water. Modern wool is usually pre-shrunk so shrinking shouldn’t be a problem, but avoid hot water just in case.
- Fill up a coffee cup with very hot water and add a pea sized scoop of pure lanolin. Start stirring and make sure the lanolin completely dissolves.
- Add the mixture to your large bucket of water once the lanolin is completely dissolved. Mix well and add the wool garments. Let the wool sit for 3+ hours. I usually let it go overnight.
- Take out your wool and avoid wringing or squeezing the fabric. Lay it out to dry or roll the article in a towel to get out excess moisture.
I usually reapply lanolin every 6 months or so to stay on top of it. You’ll start to get a feel for when the layer starts to wear away. When the wool starts to lose its insulating properties it’s time to reapply.
Pair Merino Wool With a Light Windproof Jacket in Harsh Conditions
Even though wool is wind-resistant I would still recommend pairing it with a windproof outer shell. I have a light Outer Shell Jacket that I keep at the top of my pack for wet and windy weather. It’s just a light Columbia Rain Jacket that I picked up at Goodwill.
You will seriously regret skipping the outer shell if the weather turns. At the very least you should carry a cheap disposable poncho. I always keep a cheap Disposable Emergency Poncho in my pack just in case. That poncho will be the best dollar you’ve ever spent in a rain/wind storm.