Ode to Merino: Reasons to Love Wool

What are your favorite panties?

A few years ago a question went around amongst the women in my yoga community—what are your favorite panties?

I think the asker of the question was having a run of bad luck in that department.  She was spending lots of money and still finding herself with wedgies early on in her day.

Wedgies not required.

But panty style is personal, and I don’t think you can necessarily trust the advice of well-meaning friends who swear by their MeUndies boy shorts.

Panty fiber, though, is a different story.

And it matters out on the trail, especially for women who find themselves, ahem, repositioning their panties many times a day as they strive to stay hydrated on a long trek.

How to pee in the woods when your panties are sweaty.

That’s right, we pee.  In the woods.   Hoping not to moon anyone (but not really caring all that much if we do).  Still envious of the boys, though, who have it so easy in the peeing-discreetly-without-having-to-pull-up-sweaty-panties department.

Peeing efficiently without getting busted means getting your sweaty, soggy drawers down (no problem), then pulling those soggy drawers back into position as quickly and smoothly as possible.

What your drawers are made of can make or break this moment for you.  Which is why…

I love my wool panties!

I distinctly remember the look of horror when I told my yoga friends that I loved my wool panties.

Are you horrified, too?

Itching and chafing at the thought of it?

Remembering that scratchy sweater your grandma knit for you years ago?  Wondering what kind of panty line you’ll have?  Thinking “bloomers, how 19th century”?

It’s not like that, I promise.

My wool panties are super-soft, finely knit merino wool and they truly are the first thing I reach for when I’m going on a hike.

Right after I reach for my wool panties, I put on my wool t-shirt or tank, my wool shorts and my long-sleeved wool shirt.  Then I put on my wool socks.

Oh, there’s also a bra.

This is sounding ridiculous even to me, but, there it is.

Merino wool…how do I love thee, let me count the ways.

  • Wool wicks away moisture.  So even though the panties are wet and you know they’re wet, they somehow feel dry when you pull them on.  Which makes it a delight to pull them up after a pee.
  • Wool wicks away smell.  I have no idea how this works, but any other fiber will stink after a few long days (or hours) on the trail.  Not wool.  It stays odor free for much, much longer than synthetics.
  • My wool panties and bra are thick enough to double as a bathing suit.
  • Wool insulates even when it’s wet and dries quickly on a warm body.  If you’re in a pickle where hypothermia is a concern, your wool wardrobe could save your ass where cotton would kill you.
  • Wool keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  Again, I have no idea how this works, but that’s why wool is a miracle fiber and why I’m a huge fan.  Merino sheep are the bomb.

Cute, cute, cute, cute, cute cute, CUTE!!!!

Okay, now for the bad news.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns.  Here’s what’s not to like:

It’s freakin’ expensive.  Here’s a sampling of what I’ve paid for some of my favorite things.  Smartwool panties$35

I love everyone of these things, so it’s worth it, but, dang!  My bank account hurts.

   On the plus side, one company, Darn Tough, offers a lifetime money-back guarantee on their socks.       And they’re USA-made.  So, there’s that.  I’ll never buy any other sock.

  • Durability issues.  I love the idea of wearing the shorts to hike in, but I’ll confess, I worry about their ability to go the distance.

The super-fine merino is delicate.  I’ve had Icebreaker panties literally disintegrate after just a few wearings.  And my current Smartwool undies have a big hole in them from where they snagged on a rock while I was swimming in them.  (Not their fault, and they’re still good even with the hole.)

I’ll be the guinea pig for using fine merino on a long hike.  But I’ll probably have extras in my bounce box just in case.  (What a sacrifice!!!)

And the companies will be on speed dial because you can bet I’ll request replacements if any of my gear fails.

So, there it is…my ode to merino wool.

It really is that awesome, and even if you choose NOT to go overboard like I clearly have, it’s worth it to have a few key pieces in your pack.

If I had to choose three, I’d invest in the panties, a long-sleeve shirt and the socks.

Seriously, though, the panties!  You’ll never look back after your first pee.

So what do you wear on your bum?  Since we’re sharing TMI today, leave a comment and let the thru-hiking world know what your favorite trail panties are (and why)!

That’s my husband, BTW, on the Ethan Pond trail. He’s going to kill me for this!

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Comments 4

  • Vicky (aka) energizer : Jan 18th

    I too love my merino wool, everything…..bra, undies, shirt. I have a skirt put not crazy about hiking in Minnesota with all the mosquitoes. Good post. Vicky

    • Deane Giordano : Jan 21st

      Thank you, Vicky, for joining me on the Merino cheerleader squad!

  • Kate G : Jan 20th

    I’m not generally someone who wears underwear in my daily life, but I decided it was necessary with my trail pants. I have become quite fond of my Patagonia Barely Hipster Briefs. I love merino wool and I’m trying out a wool-blend bra for camp clothes (I haven’t found anything wool supportive enough for actual hiking as a G cup), but I think I would get frustrated with wearing holes in wool undies and also do find even the very fine kind a little bit scratchy.

    • Deane Giordano : Jan 21st

      Yeah, I’m a little concerned that my Icebreaker shorts won’t hold up, Kate. I will definitely be reviewing them as I go along. I’ve been wearing the same pair of Smartwool panties for a couple of years now, though, and they’ve held up just fine. Probably too fine, because they’re a little funky and probably need to be replaced before I embark on my hike.


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