Friend and blogger Brooke Stevenson of My Bike Myself and I turned me onto merino wool last winter, when we were away on a ski weekend and all she had in her teeny day pack was a small compression sack stuffed with a handful of clothes. Merino, of course. She raved about how fast merino dries, while I was unsuccessfully trying to air-dry that day’s sweat-soaked recycled-polyester long johns and undies.
Amazed by her multifunctional, minimal weekend wardrobe, which was pressed into service during and après XC, I gave in a few months later and shelled out for two Icebreaker merino undies (a whopping $32 each, and worth every penny) and three pairs of SmartWool hiking socks ($20.50 each at MEC) for my Camino trip. The socks aren’t merino, but Brooke swears by them, so I rationalized that my feet would thank me after walking at least 20 km a day for weeks. But even with liner socks, I immediately got blisters, having erroneously bought a size up. Fortunately, in Ponferrada there’s an awesome hiking/camping gear store a mere minute from the Templar castle, and it was with relief that I eagerly stocked up on three pairs of extra-small SmartWool socks and much-needed flipflops (and promptly shipped my too-large socks and blister-irritating Keen sandals ahead to Santiago!).
And that’s when I got greedy. I scoured the shop for merino anything, settling on a SmartWool NTS Midweight Zip T in Purple Heather. Best. Purchase. Ever. At 60 euros, it was a splurge, but boy did I get my money’s worth over the next two weeks! I wore it day and night the rest of the trip, washing it only once. You’d think it might smell, but nope. You’d also think it was totally stretched out. Also no. You’d think I’d have to roll up the long sleeves and tuck the hem under, as I have to do with most tops, which are always too long for my 5’1″ frame. Gladly, no. A nice medium weight and with a half zipper and mock neck, it also kept me cool when hiking, warm when sleeping – the perfect multitasker!
So when I returned home and readied for a 10-day camping trip, I immediately ran out to buy Best Purchase Ever No. 2.
No, this isn't me, but the SmartWool model wearing my favourite travel shirt. Though it seems to fit her long limbs, the body and sleeves are actually the perfect length for a petite frame.
Another cool thing about merino is that it packs small and stays relatively wrinkle-free. Learn how merino helped me pack light in The Way of the Lightweight Backpacker.