6 Reasons Bamboo’s Better than Merino
Like most people with an interest in sport and the outdoors, I have a wardrobe filled with a variety of different base layers in various states of disrepair. From my faithful Helly Hansen, 15 years old and still as good as the day I bought it; through an indulgent selection of merino wool garments; and now to the latest addition: bamboo.
For performance, you cannot beat synthetic. For long trips, most people swear by merino. But I would like to present the case for bamboo-based clothes.
I have written a detailed comparison of base layer materials elsewhere but here a few reasons why I think bamboo wins when compared to merino.
Bamboo vs Merino
- It’s tougher. The sleeves on my Icebreaker top frayed and ripped within a couple of years’ occasional use. My TrekMates top (pictured above) has no such issues.
- It’s softer. Merino feels much nicer than synthetic tops but it can be itchy and it’s just not as soft and comfortable as bamboo.
- It wicks better. Merino is better than cotton for wicking but it’s not very good for intensive exercise and/or under less breathable outer layers. Other disagree but, from my experience, bamboo seems to be better (nothing beats the good old Helly Hansen Lifa though).
- It’s closer fitting. Bamboo garments tend to be mixed with elastane which means they are stretchy. That results in a closer fit and thus better warmth and wicking performance. In contrast, the woolen merino tops I’ve had don’t hold their shape as well.
- It still smells good. OK, perhaps not quite as miraculous as merino but still very good.
- It’s cheaper. Merino tends to cost a fortune (Icebreaker merino t-shirt = £49) but bamboo’s not much more than synthetics (TrekMates t-shirt = £23).
(My experience is based on using TrekMates long sleeved bamboo baselayer tops, BAM bamboo underwear, Smartwool bamboo socks, Icebreaker Merino Wool longsleeve baselayers, a Quechua merino t-shirt and Smartwool merino tops, fleeces, hats and socks. I have no association with bamboo clothing, manufacturers or fields. Critique and counter arguments welcome).