ALPACA WOOL FOR TRAVELING

Published Mar 14, 2019 | Updated August 26, 2020

Does Alpaca Wool Make Good Travel Clothing?

One question I am asked on a regular basis is: “Why Alpaca Wool?” Other than synthetics, most people have heard of merino wool for lightweight hiking and travel clothes, but alpaca wool is a novelty. Everyone's seen pictures of that goofy, fuzzy-faced animal, and has seen the expensive sweaters, scarves and ponchos in fashion stores, but not many people really know the functional benefits of alpaca wool.

Alpaca wool is mostly used in fashion clothing because of its incredible softness and texture. However, it is more than that: alpaca wool is durable, strong, lightweight, warm, breathable and quick drying. Merino wool is commonly used in outdoor clothes because of its warmth and breathability and hikers and travelers who search for clothes made from natural fibers typically choose merino wool for these reasons. Cotton loses its warmth when wet and takes forever to dry and while cashmere is another sumptuously soft natural fiber, with good breathability, it isn’t very durable and shrinks when wet.

With alpaca wool outdoor apparel, Arms of Andes is here to bring you something better than merino.

Spun alpaca wool in a roll

Why Travel With Alpaca Clothing?

We did our research and experimented with alpaca wool gear in varied weather conditions from London to Cusco, Los Angeles to Oslo and Iceland and to Amsterdam. I backpacked around these places with Arms of Andes outdoor apparel in my pack. And it turns out there are many benefits to using wool shirts for traveling. I can safely say Alpaca wool did not only prepare me for my long hikes in the sun, rain, and snow, but saved me at the cold airports and uncomfortable bus rides. Here are four reasons I think alpaca wool is great for traveling:

  • WRINKLE RESISTANT
    I am a lazy backpacker who does not fold and pack clothes carefully in a suitcase, but shoves everything in a backpack and rushes off for her next adventure. I also roll my sweaters up and use them as pillows when travelling long distances on planes, buses or trains. At my destination, I just shake out the alpaca base layer I want to wear and it’s wrinkle-free!
  • ODOR & STAIN RESISTANT
    I reuse clothes as long as I can before washing, instead of doing laundry on a particular schedule. During previous travels, I have found that my synthetic t-shirts get stinky after only a couple of uses and my synthetic fleece seemed to pick up a new stain every day. But I have worn the same alpaca tank top every day for a month, without a hint of body odor, and the characteristics of the wool fibers make the garments water resistant, so those pesky stains roll right off! Since you can wear the same garment for longer, you can pack one alpaca wool shirt for every two or three synthetic t-shirts you would usually take.
  • LIGHTWEIGHT AND PACKABLE
    The royal alpaca wool that Arms of Andes use in our garments is very fine and alpaca wool is also a “semi-hollow” fiber. This means that an alpaca base layer will be lighter than a merino one of the same fabric density (shown in g/m2). Put another way, an alpaca wool winter jacket can be lighter than its merino counterpart, but still be warmer! All this means that alpaca clothes are light in your suitcase and don’t take up much space when packed.
  • TRULY VERSATILE
    Because of their lightness, alpaca wool clothes are easy to pack, but on top of this, you can use your alpaca garments for so many different activities. Wear the tank top to a yoga class, on the beach, or layer it under a base layer for extra warmth on a spring hike. Your alpaca wool mid layer jacket works great for cold-weather strolls around town, or layer it with your alpaca half-zip base layer for extra coziness when skiing.

What Alpaca Gear Did I Travel With?

Alongside a few other items, like PJs, shorts for hot weather, sandals, a winter jacket and rain gear, my suitcase contained one (or sometimes two) of each of the following items, that served me during all the trips I took. The links are to the women's garments as that's what I used, but  don't worry, we have men's versions of everything ...except the sports bra of course!

UNDERWEAR & ACCESSORIES

  • Women's alpaca wool panties (don't worry, we have men's alpaca wool underwear too): soft on the skin, I always forget I'm wearing them. Since the fabric wicks moisture, I stay fresh and comfortable, even on the toughest of days.
  • Women's alpaca wool sports bra: this comfortable sports bra became my go to, as I went sightseeing, hiking, took a yoga class or traveled between cities.
  • Alpaca wool socks: with alpaca wool's odor resistance, one pair of these last me a week and their functional design makes them perfect for hiking or running.
  • Alpaca wool neck gaiter: this versatile piece of neckwear can be used as a scarf, a face covering and even a beanie, depending on my needs at the time!
Woman wearing a black alpaca wool sportsbra, looking over her shoulder
Woman wearing lilac alpaca t-shirt v-neck and alpaca wool leggings

TOPS & JACKETS

  • Alpaca wool tank top: my most versatile piece, I wear it on its own on the beach, under my other clothes for extra warmth and I sometimes sleep in it too.
  • Alpaca wool v-neck shirt: as well as being super functional for hot days walking around ruins, this shirt is stylish and won't look out of place in a hip coffee shop.
  • Alpaca wool hoodie baselayer: I wear this base layer all the time, next to my skin or layered with the tank top or a shirt, so I can adjust to changing weather conditions throughout the day.
  • Alpaca wool jacket: This replaces other synthetic fleece mid layers and keeps me extra warm when I need it, or acts as a great camping pillow!

BOTTOMS

  • Alpaca wool leggings: I used these lightweight tights as my everyday leggings when traveling, as well as thermal long underwear when camping or skiing. These leggings move and stretch with me, whatever I find myself doing!
  • Alpaca wool sweatpants: When I think I'll need extra warmth, I include a pain of the 420 sweatpants. These are loose-fitting and comfortable so perfect for those long, overnight bus journeys or for mooching around the ski lodge.
Woman doing yoga pose wearing alpaca long underwear and base layer

During my travels, my alpaca wool clothes endured everything from spilled food and beers, to being packed in my bag with sand from the beach, to being rolled into a ball to be used as a pillow. And after all that, my alpaca fleece and other garments did not smell, show a stain or a wrinkle, and remained softer than cashmere. 

Investing in quality, natural, and durable clothing goes a long way during your travels,
especially when you backpack light.

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