WHAT MAKES ALPACA WOOL BEST FOR HIKING?
Published Feb 18, 2019 | Updated October 08, 2020
Alpaca wool hiking gear is something of a new concept in an outdoor industry that is used to synthetics and merino wool. But on closer inspection, alpaca wool has characteristics that mean it makes the best hiking clothes. Being super versatile, you can also take advantage of your alpaca hiking apparel year-round and for a variety of activities: making the most of base layers and thermal leggings for winter sports as stand alone in Spring and Autumn, while the shirts, jackets, sweatpants and accessories are staples for outdoor adventure, camping and traveling, year round.
Technical properties of alpaca wool
Well known as a fashion fiber, alpaca wool actually has similar characteristics to merino, which makes it the perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities. Here are a few reasons why:
Alpaca wool has air pockets within each fiber and traps air pockets within the knit of the fabric because each fiber is wavy instead of straight. Your body heats up the tiny pockets of air, making alpaca wool feel extra warm. This makes our mid layer fleece jackets and hoodies perfect for use in cold conditions.
- MOISTURE-WICKING & BREATHABILITY
Alpaca wool doesn't absorb water easily - whether that's sweat or light rain - but instead moves it away from your body. This feature makes clothing made from alpaca wool super breathable, keeping you drier when you sweat and cooler in warm weather. Our all-season base layers are perfect for hiking in spring and autumn, as well as for use as your next to skin layer in the winter and for cool summer evenings at camp.
Since alpaca wool fibers are partially hollow – or “semi-medullated” in science-speak – it’s actually significantly lighter than other woolen fabrics. With our variety of fabric weights from 110gsm to 420gsm, you can adjust the weight and reduce the bulk of your hiking clothing.
- ODOR RESISTANCE
When you hike, you sweat and when you sweat, you smell. Why? Because bacteria and other microbes break down the particles in your sweat, causing an unpleasant smell. Because alpaca wool is very breathable – helping moisture to evaporate – and is naturally anti-microbial, bacteria don’t have the chance to multiply, leaving you odor free, even after heavy exertion. If you wear alpaca wool socks, you do not need to worry about stinky feet after a hard hike.
- WIND RESISTANCE
Like sheep’s wool, alpaca is not very permeable to air. Further, our thicker fabrics are created with a tight knit, so alpaca wool garments can act as wind shields. Unless you’re expecting rain or super high winds, you won’t need to carry a separate wind-proof jacket.
- SUN PROTECTION
Since alpacas are adapted to living in the Peruvian Andes mountains, where solar radiation levels are high, their wool offers natural sun protection. Our alpaca wool neck gaiters and long sleeve shirts can help you to cover up naturally without causing you to overheat.
- FLAME RETARDANT
Due to its chemical composition and microscopic structure, alpaca wool doesn’t ignite very easily, doesn’t sustain the flame if it does, and, unlike synthetic fabrics, doesn’t melt when heated. These are important features when you’re cooking on a camp stove or an open fire out in the backcountry.
- STAIN RESISTANCE
As mentioned, alpaca wool doesn’t absorb water very easily and since most staining elements are carried in water, alpaca fiber doesn’t soak up stains easily. A great feature when you’re backpacking for a week with just one pair of alpaca wool thermal leggings.
Is Alpaca Wool Only for Winter?
If your only experience of wool is a Christmas sweater or the thick alpaca wool sweaters and hats you see on the high street, you might think that alpaca wool clothing is only suitable for the winter and playing in the snow. In fact, the properties of royal alpaca wool, particularly its lightness and breathability, mean that alpaca makes the best hiking clothes for spring and summer too. Our heavier alpaca wool fabrics are great for winter sports or travel and combining our different products in various layering configurations gives you versatility for all seasons and all activites. Below are some ideas of how your alpaca wool wardrobe can work throughout the year.
SPRING & FALL
Spring can bring a mixture of weather: some days are very warm while the chill of winter remains in others; snow can linger, and rains can bring temperatures down. Because of this, hiking in spring and fall means you need to be ready for a variety of conditions. Our lightweight alpaca wool leggings are the perfect base layer for your legs and can be worn under rain pants or on their own. If you want something looser, women’s wool hiking pants like our alpaca wool joggers are a great option. For your top half, the combination of an alpaca wool base layer and alpaca shirt gives you flexibility as the temperature and your level of activity change during the day. You might need to bring a wool mid layer for extra warmth in the evenings or in early spring/late autumn in northern states.
Summer is where our alpaca wool shirts come into their own: our 110 fabric is ultra-lightweight and super breathable, so won’t feel stifling even in the heat. Use our long-sleeve shirts to cover up from the sun, while our short sleeve t-shirts work as well for hiking on hot days as for days on the beach. Wool underwear is a great option for summer hiking, since alpaca wool helps to wick sweat away from your body and actually helps you to feel cooler. Of course, evenings in the summer can be on the cool side, so a lightweight alpaca wool base layer is a great addition to your pack for camping during backpacking trips, or if you’re making most of the long daylight hours.
Dressing for winter hiking and snowshoeing is all about the layers, which is where alpaca wool hiking gear excels. Depending on the activity, you might be ok with wool thermals under your waterproof ski pants, but for winter camping or hiking in really cold conditions, pairing the leggings with alpaca wool joggers will keep you toasty warm. On top, you can combine our shirts, base layers and mid layers in the combination that works for you, depending on your level of activity, the weather and how much you feel the cold. Our alpaca wool beanie is designed to stay put under a hood or helmet and our neck gaiters work as face coverings or head bands as well as scarves...without the loose ends!
Alpaca wool is lightweight, breathable, warm and odor resistant, which makes it the perfect fiber that you can use year round and for a variety of activities, such as hiking, skiing or running.