Finding The Best Comfort In Merino Base Layer

Merino wool in next to skin wear or merino base layer garments have many attributes that offer the wearer a unique experience that differs from many other fibres.

While merino wool attributes of moisture wicking warmth, summer coolness, odour resistance and fibre elasticity in the base layer merino garment are a given, finding the right merino comfort experience in your next to skin garment can be a challenge.

How do we as consumers select the most comfortable merino base layer for our activity whether running, hiking, travel or everyday wear?

What is Merino Base Layer Comfort

We begin by understanding that there are different levels of comfort that can be measured in merino base layer or next to skin garments.

Each measured wool comfortmeter (wcm) score or rating, comes with a recommended best level of activity for that garment to ensure a good user comfort experience, in another words no prickle or itchy discomfort on the skin.

There are two WCM activity groups:

  • 1. Active sports wear
  • 2. Everyday fashion wear

Each of these two activity groups has three recommended merino comfort scores allocated to each activity level.

Lets take a closer look at what is behind merino base layer comfort

  1. How is the WCM rate translate onto merino base layer garment descriptions for the consumer
  2. Understand how merino comfort is measured in next to skin wear
  3. How does merino comfort score relate to merino base layer in sport and everyday wear
  4. What other information is on the merino next to skin garment label
  5. What is the recommended merino fleece specifications for consistent good user comfort experience when using wcm score in merino base layer fabrics

1.How Does the WCM Score Translate onto Garment Swing Tags for the Consumer?

How do we find that perfect option among the fantastic new base layer merino garment styles, fabric weight and fibre combinations are regularly coming onto the market.

To gain some perspective on what information is available to the consumer, we looked at a selection of quality online merino base layer garments tested for comfort level and noted the  recommended activity type for the wcm score along side the garment swing tag or website descriptions.  These very well-made merino base layer garments were tested through AWTA on the Wool ComfortMeter in December 2016 and early 2017.

Merino Base Layer BrandMerino Base Layer GarmerntFabric WeightFabric CompositionGarment Activity Description LabelLogosWCM ScoreWCM Recommended Activity Level for ComfortMerino Base Layer
Brand Website
Product Order Description
Macpac Singlet150g/m²100 % merinoLike a second skin, lightweight superfine and regulates your temperature.Garment brand logo77Active wear-elite performanceMacpac Merino ThermalsMerino 150 singlet W 113521-BLKOO-10
Bluey Merino Singlet140g/m²90% ultrafine merino 10% polymideUltrasoft 16.3 micron luxurious sports singletGarment brand logo, made in Australia logo84Active wear-elite performance Bluey Merino baselayersWomens sports singlet SKU ext-140-WS-GA-s
Icebreaker Cami200g/m²100% merinoEveryday light weight cami bodyfit basicsGarment brand logo191Active wear-elite performanceIcebreaker Merino ThermalsWmns Eday Cami blk 101307001
Kathmandu Tshirt195g/m²96% merino wool 4% nylonNext to skin comfort natural performance temperature controlGarment brand logo277Active wear-performance enhancedKathmandu Merino BaselayerGallium Wmns Merino Top v2 sku 14456/466/10,
Kathmandu Singlet140g/m²85% merino 15% silkmerinoLINK natural performance temperature controlGarment brand logo52Active wear-elite performanceKathmandu Merino SilkTag missing bought off the hanger in store
I/O Merino Tshirt 170g/m²96% enigma merino wool 4% elastane100 %Australian merino, luxurious soft performance in urban arena. MicroMerino®Garment brand logo311Active wear-performance enhancedIO Merino Next To SkinTraverse (Altitude)Active Tee sku 14-111-59-03
Baselayers Vest200g/m²Pure merino woolPerfect layer for cooler weather soft fine micron woolBrandell logo261Active wear-active everydayBaselayers Merino WoolModel B4400(b) 1x1 rib
Dhbsport Merino Sleeveless 150g/m²100% merino woolLightweight superfine merino base layer for thermal regulation natural performance 18.5Garment brand logo152Active wear-elite performancedhb merino base layerWomens merino sleeveless base layer M_150 1608-5360113848
Cederberg Thermal Top?g/m²100% virgin wool merinoLight weight first layer undergarment, all types of cold weather activitiesGarment brand logo & Woolmark pure wool logo620Fashion everyday wearCederberg Merino ThermalsLong sleeved top Cederberg Adult's Baba Merino unisex
Ortovox Merino Long Sleeve Tee185g/m²100% merino woolRock'N'Wool developed for mountain useGarment brand logo208Active wear-elite performanceOrtovox Merino MountainwearMerino 185 Rock'n'Wool model # 333006
Mountain Design Tee150g/m²100% merino woolMerino base layer ultralight base layer or solo for travel or activityGarment brand logo, woolmark pure wool logo364Active wear-active everydayMountain Design Merino Base LayersMD 150 merino SS Tee W code 150586

2.How is Merino Base Layer Comfort Measured?

Retailers, spinners and garment makers now have access to a Wool ComfortMeter (wcm) through Australian Wool Testing Authority (AWTA) to help assist them to produce merino base layer or next to skin merino garments to a measured level of comfort for specific types of activities of their customers. This opportunity enables retailers and garment manufactures measure the fabric or the yarn to be used in the next to skin garment for a consistent comfort score rate that will give good user experience.

The flow on benefit for us as their customers, is we are able to access merino base layer garments that give no prickle next to skin experience or a good comfort level when wearing the garment for the recommended level or activity type. Research has demonstrated that the handle or feel of softness in the merino next to skin garment is not a good predictor of wearer comfort.

3.How Does Merino Comfort Score Relate to Activity

Basically, the recommended wcm scores are rated to cover two merino next to skin or base layer wearer groups known as active sportswear and everyday fashion wear.

The group names define the types of activities of the two wcm score groups and reflect the expected level of activity or exertion of individuals in those groups.

Each activity level or type of activity within these two groups has a number of wcm score recommendations for the the most comfortable merino next to skin garment for that user.

Essentially, the lower the WCM score the more comfortable the merino base layer experience next to skin when the skin temperature is raised during high activity levels or exertion.

Recommended WCM Score Active Sport Wear

Active and  sport wear group recommend the lower wcm 250-400 score range where skin temperature levels are expected to be elevated more than normal due to physical exercise and exertion.

Recommended WCM Score Fashion Everyday Wear

The everyday and fashion wear group will enjoy great next to skin experience with the recommended wcm score of 400-600 range where skin temperatures will be close to normal with little variation.

Read for more detail and tables on wcm score or rating of next to skin wear and their recommended activity type, read the ATWA and Sheep CRC: Next to Skin Wool Comfort and Handle

4.What Other Information is on the Merino Next To Skin Garment Label

Other information found on the next to skin merino labels aside from care instructions, give useful information which is helpful to understand the merino base layer garment.
4.1.Merino base layer fabric weight
4.2.Merino base layer brand
4.3.Merino logo
4.4.Merino base layer composition

4.1.Merino Base Layer Fabric Weight

Often described as grams of merino per square metre in the merino base layer garment and is usually located beside the garment brand, either on the swing tag or packaging. Typically base layer merino is next to skin or the first layer of clothing and typically the amount of merino will range between 150 to 200 gms per square metre.

4.2.Merino Base Layer Brand

Behind every brand there is description of the brands values or ethos of what they are about, what is important to them and their commitment to those values. These may also cover the micron range (ultrafine, superfine or fine), traceability of merino sourced for their merino next to skin garments, animal welfare and environmental ethics associated to their merino source.

Once familiar with the garments brand, their standing within the merino next to skin and merino wear retail sector, you will associate previous experiences of their merino garment comfort, quality and style with their company brand or logo.

Brand websites do give information on their merino base layer or next to skin garments which varies widely from specific to general. Click on the image in the table to see the base layer garment brands website descriptions.

4.3.Logos on the Next To Skin Merino Garment

Base Layer Brand Logo

Some merino base layer garments may also have extra information through the addition of an accredited body’s logo signifying further compliance of a specific sort or meaning.

Pure Wool and Wool Blend Logos

Some well-known logos including Woolmark’s merino mark apparel logos  cover the quantity of merino in the merino base layer garment from pure merino to various merino blends, fabric quality, range of micron and the activity group that the particular merino mark logo is best suited.

Base Layer Merino Traceability

Other logos include traceability from farm to finished product, an emerging story about the identity of the merino garment beginning where the merino is sourced at the farm gate.

Ethical Merino Logos

Other merino base layer garment logos include country of origin labels and where garment is made to animal welfare logos to signify ethical non-museled merino to no tail docking merino wool.

4.4.Merino Base Layer Fabric Composition

Pure Superfine Merino

As mentioned earlier the measure is given in grams of merino per square metre of the merino base layer fabric. The higher the grams the more merino in the fine knit fabric. The amount of merino in base layer merino will depend on the primary need your activity level, whether for sport comfort or extra base layer warmth.

Superfine Merino Blends

The other level of merino relates to the composition of the fabric, how much of the next to skin fabric is 100% merino or merino blend. Base layer merino blends can include other natural fibres such as silk and cashmere. The blends can also include of varying levels of specialist polyester fibres, each in balance to enhance merino garment performance and comfort level.

Merino Base Layer Fabric Description

The composition descriptions are usually found on the garments inner tag. Some merino base layer garments may also have a logo or tag that will specify the micron of the merino used or the activity the blend is designed, i.e. Woolmarks merino perform, cool wool or merino sport.

5. Recommended Raw Merino Fleece Specifications For Best Merino Base Layer Comfort

There are a number of factors that contribute to wcm score in a merino next to skin garment from the raw or greasy merino wool type sourced to factors along the wool processing line.
Briefly it appears that a major determent toward a favourable wcm score is in sourcing the right superfine merino for processing, whilst processing factors such of yarn spin quality and fabric evenness and tenacity are considered secondary contributing factors

Primary Determent of Comfort in Merino Next to Skin Fabric

When sourcing sbaregamerino ultrafine merinouperfine merino wool for a low wcm score for increased comfort next to skin, the major determents are micron and coarse edge micron (CEM).

Current recommendations are superfine merino of 18 micron or less with a CEM 30 of less than 3% in the raw merino fleece measurements.

Superfine merino by definition is 18.5 to 15.6 micron. CEM measures how far from the mean micron the stronger or coarser fibres are in the sample. CEM 30 refers to those fibres are over 30 micron identified as responsible for the prickle sensation in wool next to skin in previous research. The higher the percentage over 30 micron the more skin irritation experienced.

Merino Base Layer Comfort Identification for Consumers

There is a wide range of quality stylish merino base layer garments on the market with a comfort rating to suit a variable array of activities from everyday comfort and fashion to increased comfort need in active wear next to skin merino garments.

While wcm scores or uniform rating are yet to be translated to labels and swing tags to assist the consumer, there are some marketing label descriptions that do assist. It does seem that for consumers to confidently find the best merino base layer comfort for a specific activity level in mind, is a bit of challenge without a uniform comfort level for activity descriptions being used.

Sources

http://www.sheepcrc.org.au/files/pages/fact-sheets/pw21-measuring-and-managing-wool-quality/Practical-Wisdom—Wool-2014.pdf

Bruce A McGregor, Maryam Naebe, Henry Wang, David Tester, James Rowe. 15 October 2015. Relationships between wearer assessment and the instrumental measurement of the handle and prickle of knitted wool fabrics. Textile Research Journal.   DOI: 10.1177/0040517514551460

Wang, Henry, Quiniou, Cecilia, Naebe, Maryam and Crowe, David 2016, Predicting fabric prickle propensity by testing yarns on the Wool ComfortMeter, in IWTO 2016: 85th International Wool Textile Organisation Congress: Wool for Future Generations, IWTO, Brussels, Belgium.

Australian Wool Exchange Ltd. 2016-2018  Classing Superfine. Code of Practice Preparation of Australian Wool Clips. Pg 56