ALPACA VS MERINO VS CASHMERE
Published Nov 27, 2018 | Updated September 23, 2020
WHICH IS THE BEST WOOL :
ALPACA, MERINO OR CASHMERE?
These three types of wool are all famous in the clothing industry for being soft and non itchy. Cashmere and Alpaca have long been used in luxury clothing, while merino relatively recently became the fibre of choice for many outdoorsy folk. So what's the difference between alpaca, merino wool and cashmere, and why are they used for such different things? In a nutshell:
- MERINO is among the finest types of wool, known for its great advantages for keeping the wearer warm and dry.
- CASHMERE is desirable because of its softness and feel, meaning excellent warmth, comfort and breathability to the user.
- ALPACA'S unique and marvelous molecular composition combines the advantages of Merino and Cashmere, leading to distinct advantages in outdoor performance, while maintaining luxurious comfort.
Alpaca vs Cashmere vs Merino: the Showdown
|Thermal Capacity||5 x Warmer||3 x Warmer||Warm|
|Water Retention||Absorbs 10% of weight||Shrinks in water||Absorbs 30% of weight|
|Single Origin||Yes - PERU||No||No|
The amazing benefits of Alpaca wool are derived from their millennia-long breeding in the high altitudes of the Andes Mountains. This environment called for a fibre that could handle drastic shifts from sub-zero temperatures at night to high solar radiation during the day. Because of this, alpaca wool adapted naturally in the following ways:
- Microscopic pockets formed in the core of fibres, allowing alpaca fleece to be lighter, yet be warmer than merino.
- The smoother scales on the alpaca fibres stay soft while wicking moisture away from the skin, whether that's rain or sweat.
Merino sheep were originally bred in Spain and were later introduced to Australia, New Zealand, the US and other countries. Considering that Spain and Australia have relatively mild climates, these sheep do not have to endure a harsh winter. This means their wool fibers are considered finer and softer than other sheep, which can cause their wool to be less durable than other merino sheep bred in harsher climates (such as the Southern Alps of New Zealand). Regardless of the origin of the animal, all sheep – including merinos – produce a wax called Lanolin. This wax protects the sheep’s wool and skin from the rain; but it can cause an itchy, allergic reaction in people. The finer the merino wool, the more the lanolin the sheep produces to protect itself. Read more about the comparison between alpaca and merino wool here.
Cashmere derives from a species of goat originally found in Mongolia. It is very warm and soft to the touch and is generally considered a non-itchy fibre, as the goats don't produce lanolin. However, cashmere is not used for active gear, because its fibres are too soft, so they break easily. Cashmere is not a very durable fibre, so is unsuitable for outdoor adventures like trail running, rock climbing or intense hiking.
Alpaca wool is warmer, lighter, softer and stronger than merino wool
After looking at all these aspects, it seems obvious that cashmere doesn't have the right properties to be used in outdoor gear. But in the alpaca vs merino debate, we feel like alpaca is a clear winner!