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The Best Merino Wool Shirts of 2023-2024

Looking to upgrade your wardrobe? Check out our favorite merino wool shirts for summer and fall hiking, biking, and more.

Ridge Merino Solstice Lightweight Pullover in IcelandMerino wool has an incredible capacity for breathability, a soft hand, and funk-avoiding properties; (photo/Erika Courtney)
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Merino wool is a pretty magical fabric. It’s lightweight, it wicks away moisture and odors, and it helps thermoregulate (that is, it’s breathable). When it comes to outdoor wear, it’s dang near tough to beat.

That being said, there are some tradeoffs for this wonder textile. It can be more fragile and less durable, both in wearing and washing, which is why we considered both 100% merino wool layers and merino wool blends (with a majority of merino greater than 60%).

It’s not easy to find that perfect, comfortable yet functional, fits-great, do-it-all layer, but merino comes pretty darn close.

We tested dozens of merino wool shirts to find the best on the market, wearing them in all kinds of conditions and pushing the shirt’s limits. Here are our staff’s favorite merino tees — as well as some honorable mentions.

At the end of our selection, check out our in-depth buyer’s guide, comparison chart, and frequently asked questions section to guide you to your next wear-all-day shirt.

Editor’s Note: We updated this guide on September 8, 2023 with two new worthy merino wool shirts: the Ridge Merino Solstice Lightweight Pullover Hoodie and Minus33 Ossipee/Chocorua Crew, and added additional information on our testing processes and sustainable wool sourcing.

The Best Merino Wool Shirts of 2023-2024


Best Overall Merino Wool Shirt

Icebreaker Tech Lite Crew II T-Shirt

Specs

  • Material 100% merino wool
  • Weight 5.3 oz.
  • Special feature Underarm gussets for added mobility and reduced discomfort
  • Size range XS-XL (women’s); S-XXL (men’s)
  • Fit Regular
The Best Merino Wool Shirts of 2023-2024

Pros

  • UPF 20 protection
  • Odor resistance
  • Moisture-wicking properties

Cons

  • Thinner than other comparable tees
Best Budget Merino Wool Shirt

Patagonia Capilene Cool Merino Shirt

Specs

  • Material 65% Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) certified merino wool, 35% recycled polyester
  • Weight 3.1 oz.
  • Special feature Side vents with a subtle backdrop
  • Size Range XS-2XL (men’s & women’s)
  • Fit Slim
The Best Merino Wool Shirts of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Reasonably priced
  • Odor resistant
  • Good for various temperatures
  • Breathable

Cons

  • Signs of pilling and snags after washing
  • Marginally rougher than 100% merino wool
Runner-Up Best Merino Wool Shirt

Ibex 24-Hour Short Sleeve Tee

Specs

  • Material 100% 18.5-micron merino wool
  • Weight 5.1 oz. (men’s small), 3.2 oz. (women’s small)
  • Special feature Requires fewer washings
  • Size range XS-XL (women’s); S-XXL (men’s)
  • Fit Regular
The Best Merino Wool Shirts of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Moisture-wicking
  • Lightweight material
  • Odor-resistant
  • Soft

Cons

  • Fits tighter than expected
Best Merino Wool Shirt for Running

Allbirds Natural Run Tee

Specs

  • Material 45% merino wool, 36% recycled polyester, 19% TENCEL Lyocell
  • Weight 4.9 oz.
  • Special feature Integrated drop pocket on hem
  • Size Range XS-3XL (men’s & women’s)
  • Fit Slim, hip length
The Best Merino Wool Shirts of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Anti-chafe sewn seams
  • Ready for the temperature swings of an all-season run

Cons

  • The thin weave is liable to snag
  • Sheer fabric won't be for everyone
Best Merino Wool Shirt for Hunting

KUIU ULTRA Merino 120 LT SS Crew-T

Specs

  • Material Nuyarn merino (70% merino, 30% nylon)
  • Weight 4.3 oz.
  • Special feature Increased durability without losing breathability
  • Size Range S-3XL (men’s)
  • Fit Slim
The Best Merino Wool Shirts of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Nuyarn construction; increased durability and stretch over typical merino
  • UPF 50+ sun protection
  • Available in different camouflage prints

Cons

  • No women’s cut is currently available
Best Merino Wool Shirt for Travel

Unbound Merino Crew Neck T-Shirt

Specs

  • Material 100% merino
  • Weight 5.6 oz.
  • Special feature Sustainably sourced wool from independent, mulesing-free wool in Australia
  • Size range XS-XL (women’s); S-2XL (men’s)
  • Fit Classic
The Best Merino Wool Shirts of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Classic design that can be dressed up or down
  • Soft to the touch
  • Excellent odor resistance
  • Ethically sourced wool

Cons

  • Can’t be tumble dried
Best Merino Wool Sun Hoodie

Ridge Merino Solstice Lightweight Pullover Hoodie

Specs

  • Material (m)Force Merino – 87% merino wool, 13% nylon
  • Weight 8.7 oz. (men's medium), 7.5 oz. (women's medium)
  • Special feature UPF 30+, thumb holes, loose fitting hood
  • Size range SM- XXL (men's), XS – XL (women's)
  • Fit Loose and airy
The Best Merino Wool Shirts of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Comfortable drop hem and loose fit
  • Helmet-compatible hood
  • Thumb loops keep sleeves in place

Cons

  • Not impervious to holes
Best of the Rest

Smartwool Merino Short Sleeve Tee

Specs

  • Material 87% merino wool, 13% nylon
  • Weight 3.6 oz.
  • Specific feature Comes in plant-based tie-dyed options
  • Size range XS-3X (women's); SM-XXL (men's)
  • Fit Slim (women’s); Body enhancing (men’s)
The Best Merino Wool Shirts of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Durability from nylon spun core
  • Moisture management
  • UPF 20+ protection

Cons

  • Slightly odd sizing

Minus33 Chocorua and Ossipee Crew

Specs

  • Material 100% merino wool
  • Weight 8 oz. (women’s medium), 9.6 oz. (men’s large)
  • Special feature UPF 50+
  • Size range XS – 3XL (women’s) XS – 6X (men’s)
  • Fit Standard with room to breathe
The Best Merino Wool Shirts of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Super soft fabric
  • Comfortable, flattering women’s fit
  • Wide size range, especially in men’s model

Cons

  • Not ideal for active use in warm weather

Bombas Merino Wool Crew Neck Long Sleeve T-Shirt

Specs

  • Material 50% merino wool, 50% TENCEL Lyocell
  • Weight Unavailable
  • Special feature Thumb loops
  • Size Range S-3XL (men’s); XS-2XL (women’s)
  • Fit Regular
The Best Merino Wool Shirts of 2023-2024

Pros

  • UPF protection
  • Incredibly soft
  • Flattering color options

Cons

  • Tight-fitting in arms and chest
  • Lighter colors are see-through

Ridge Merino Journey and Wander Merino Wool Shirt

Specs

  • Material 87% merino wool, 13% nylon
  • Weight 5.2 oz. (men's medium)
  • Special feature Super-smooth 17.5-micron merino
  • Size range XS-XL (women’s); S-2XL (men’s)
  • Fit Relaxed (women’s); Regular (men’s)
The Best Merino Wool Shirts of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Cozy soft to the touch
  • Generous cut
  • UPF 50+ sun protection

Cons

  • Will shrink up a bit in the wash
  • Sizing gives some people trouble

Voormi River Run Wool Hoodie

Specs

  • Material 100% merino
  • Weight 7 oz. (men’s large); 5 oz. (women’s medium)
  • Special feature Full-cover hoodie
  • Size Range XS-XL (women’s); S-2XL (men’s)
  • Fit Athletic (women’s); Relaxed (men’s)
The Best Merino Wool Shirts of 2023-2024

Pros

  • Built-in thumb loops
  • Versatile
  • UPF protection
  • Ultralight weight
  • Soft

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Prone to snagging

Merino Wool Shirt Comparison Chart

Merino Wool ShirtMaterialWeightSize RangeFit
Icebreaker Tech Lite
Crew II T-Shirt
100% merino wool5.3 oz.XS-XL (women’s); S-XXL (men’s)Regular
Patagonia Capilene
Cool Merino Shirt
65% merino wool, 35% recycled polyester3.1 oz.XS-2XL (men’s & women’s)Slim
Ibex 24-Hour
Short Sleeve Tee
100% 18.5-micron merino wool5.1 oz. XS-XL (women’s); S-XXL (men’s)Regular
Allbirds Natural
Run Tee
45% merino wool, 36% recycled polyester, 19% TENCEL Lyocell4.9 oz.XS-3XL (men’s & women’s)Slim, hip length
KUIU ULTRA Merino
120 LT SS Crew-T
Nuyarn merino (70% merino, 30% nylon)4.3 oz.S-3XL (men’s)Slim
Unbound Merino
Crew Neck T-Shirt
100% merino wool5.6 oz.XS-XL (women’s); S-2XL (men’s)Classic
Ridge Merino Solstice Lightweight Pullover Hoodie
(m)Force Merino (87% merino wool, 13% nylon)8.7 oz. SM- XXL (men’s); XS-XL (women’s)Loose and airy
Smartwool Merino
Short Sleeve Tee
87% merino wool, 13% nylon3.6 oz.XS-3X (women’s); SM-XXL (men’s)Slim (women’s); Body enhancing (men’s)
Minus33 Chocorua and Ossipee Crew100% merino wool
8.0 oz.XS – 3XL (women’s); XS – 6X (men’s)Regular
Bombas Merino Wool Crew
Neck Long Sleeve T-Shirt
50% merino wool, 50% TENCEL LyocellUnavailableS-3XL (men’s); XS-2XL (women’s)Regular
Ridge Merino Merino
Wool Shirt
87% merino wool, 13% nylon5.2 oz. XS-XL (women’s); S-2XL (men’s)Relaxed (women’s); Regular (men’s)
Voormi River Run
Wool Hoodie
100% merino wool7 oz.XS-XL (women’s); S-2XL (men’s)Athletic (women’s); Relaxed (men’s)
Merino Wool Shirts
Our closet has never been so soft; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

How We Tested Merino Wool Shirts

Folks at GearJunkie have been dyed-in-the-wool fans of merino since well, forever. Merino wool has been the premium activewear textile of choice for many GearJunkie testers, and we’ve used shirts made from the material for years. In order to find the best merino wool shirts, we raided our closets, pulled out our most trusted tops, and put them to work.

On top of that, we also surveyed the market for the latest and greatest merino wool options — finding new technologies like Nuyarn — and added them into the mix. Our search for the best merino wool shirts available today began with eight woolen tops in 2021, which we selected for their broad appeal and availability, and then set about wearing them threadbare in our search for the softest, most breathable, and hardiest merino wool shirts out there today.

In 2022, our horizons broadened when Senior Editor Nick Belcaster and contributor Rebecca Ross brought in a new slate of five additional merino wool shirts and added an award-winning choice for hunters. Our most recent testing saw merino wool shirts used across the planet, from the backs of professional climbing guides in the granite crags of the North Cascades to the world-famous Laugavegur Trail in Iceland. Our awards once again expanded to include a merino wool sun hoody, as well as a handful of other exceptional shirts from upstart companies focused solely on merino.

Our testers included outdoors folk from across the country, who hit the hills and trails decked out in merino in order to test fit, comfort, style, and durability. We paid special attention to finding layers that had a perfect balance of the softness of merino while still maintaining some strength over the long run. Our longest-running merino pieces now have three years of use on them, and we’ll continue to test them to learn more about their ultimate longevity.

From travel to the office to our current boulder project; we put these merino wool shirts to the test; (photo/Katie Griffith)

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Merino Wool Shirt

What Is Merino?

Merino wool is a natural fiber that is grown by Merino sheep, which are thought to be the oldest breed of sheep in the world and have adapted to thrive in harsh environments, such as the highlands of New Zealand, Australia, and South America. Their wool is much finer and softer than other strong wool breeds, and when woven into garments provides a number of other benefits that we all can appreciate.

For one, merino wool has a unique scale-like structure that aids it in wicking moisture away from the skin — something that synthetic fibers aren’t great at. These structures are also the reason merino wool is so good at temperature regulation, with sweat being transported away when it’s hot, and insulating air being trapped next to skin when it’s cold.

Merino wool also isn’t bogged down by the typical funk of synthetic garments, and is amenable to being layered over top of due to its breathability. There are some tradeoffs, however, which come in the form of overall durability (full merino weaves can develop holes over time), and price. It isn’t cheap to produce hard-working fabrics, and you’ll certainly fork over the dough for the good stuff.

Ridge Merino Solstice in Iceland
Merino performs best in harsh environments, and Iceland was a perfect test of that; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Sustainable Wool Sourcing

Merino wool comes from sheep, and since we want to treat our woolen friends with all of the respect they deserve, the vast majority of merino wool garment manufacturers are now demanding wool that has been produced in sustainable and ethical ways. One practice of concern has been mulesing, which removes skin from the hind end of sheep to limit infections, and has been banned in New Zealand. Thankfully, many manufacturers now guarantee their merino to come from mulesing-free farms.

Because of this demand for sustainable wool, a number of different non-profit entities offer certifications and audits of the merino wool supply chain. One such is the Woolmark Company, which is an Australian non-profit that tests merino wool to ensure quality, durability, and traceability. Another is the ZQ Program, which ensures that merino sheep under their certification are treated ethically, are never mulesed, and that the environment is taken into consideration at all steps of the fiber-production process.

Finally, the Responsible Wool Standard, or RWS, is another global certification that ensures that the entire supply chain from beginning to end upholds the tenets of animal welfare protection, land preservation, and working conditions, and is all audited by third-party certification bodies.

Icebreaker and Allbirds Merino Wool Tees
The Icebreaker Tech Lite is a 100% merino weave, while the Allbirds Natural Run Tee is a hybrid of merino, polyester, and TENCEL Lyocell; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

100% Merino and Merino Blends

The decision to go full-merino or with a blend will be a personal preference. That said, there are certain things that 100% merino wool is hands-down good at. First, 100% merino wool provides a more next-to-skin feel than a merino blend, especially those that have a higher synthetic content. Second, merino wool offers natural antibacterial, UV protection, and moisture-wicking properties that synthetics don’t naturally have.

However, when it comes to a merino blend, there are certain beneficial features, such as tending to be cheaper and easily outlasting their more fragile counterparts. Simply: adding smaller percentages of synthetics can help to shore up the deficiencies of merino, without totally stripping out the benefits.

If you want a merino layer for hiking, hunting, or just spending time outside, consider all the uses 100% merino wool has to offer. And if you’re investing in a merino shirt for, say, a rugged backpacking trip or rock climbing, or if durability is of high importance, then go for a merino blend.

Also, if you are brand new to merino and just want to try it out and see what all the fuss is about, a merino blend can be a bit more wallet-friendly the first time around.

KUIU ULTRA Merino
The KUIU ULTRA Merino 120 LT uses a merino/nylon blend to bulk up on durability while retaining all the benefits of merino wool; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Polyester: Polyester is a manmade material that has much better dry times than merino wool and resists shrinking in the wash — something merino wool struggles with. A blend can offer a textile with components that complement each other so you end up with a garment that works for many situations.

Most merino wool shirts tend to use as high of a percentage of merino wool as they can get away with while still receiving the benefits of polyester. We prefer at least 75% merino wool in our blended fabrics. In our testing, it was no surprise the 100% merino shirts were the softest of the bunch.

Nylon: Another manmade fiber, nylon can add impressive durability to fabric blends. Garments like the Ridge Merino Journey Merino Wool Shirt incorporate a percentage of nylon into their weave and gain strength in return. It doesn’t take much to move the needle in terms of added durability, and we found a 20-30% nylon blend to be preferable.

Technologies like the Nuyarn used in the KUIU ULTRA Merino 120 LT SS Crew-T draft merino wool around a nylon core in order to offer the benefits of nylon while avoiding compressing the merino wool. Many other brands also offer similar nylon/merino blends, and all with the same effect.

TENCEL Lyocell: A branded fiber that comes from the pulp of eucalyptus trees, Lyocell is similar to rayon in construction but offers a highly sustainable process where both solvent and water are recycled during the weaving.

Garments that use Lyocell in their blends have high-strength properties due to the high tenacity of the fabric.

smartwool's performance hike light cushion ankle socks
The Smartwool Merino Short Sleeve tee; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Thickness and Weight

Another important aspect to consider when shopping for a merino wool layer is thickness and weight.

When it comes to weight, you’ll come across something written as GSM or g/m² — the weight of the material. Simply put, the lower the number, the thinner the material. For all-year-round layers, you’ll want something on the lower side, like around 120 to 180 g/m². And for extra warmth, you’ll want to go higher.

As for thickness, it’s all about the microns (µm) — the diameter of a single wool fiber. The lower the number, the thinner it is. It also means it’s softer and more expensive. In our opinion, the lower the micron, the more you’ll want to live in it, but you’ll need to take extra precautions due to its delicateness. For reference, the average human hair is about 70 microns thick, while the average merino wool fiber is between 15-20 microns.

Fine merino: Fine merino represents the division between true merino fibers and fibers that are sourced from merino sheep that have been crossbred with another breed for enhanced durability (but greater itchiness). These fine fibers are typically between 20 and 18 µm, and are the greatest portion of wool shorn from merino sheep. Durable shirts like the Ibex 24-Hour Short Sleeve Tee are made with merino in this tier.

Superfine merino: Superfine merino fibers take the softness up another notch, and are typically 16-18 µm. These fibers rival cashmere for its plushness, and will come with some additional cost for garments made with it. Some of our favorite merino shirts like the Unbound Merino Crew Neck and Ridge Merino Solstice Lightweight Pullover Hoodie are made with superfine merino.

Ultrafine merino: The most premium merino wool, these fibers are sub 16 µm and are rather delicate for true everyday wear for outdoors folk. But for the money ($$$), this is the best stuff you can get your mitts on.

KUIU, Icebreaker, and Allbirds Merino Shirts
The Ibex 24-Hour Short Sleeve tee uses 100% 18.5-micron merino wool, while the KUIU 120 LT uses a NuYarn blend of 70% merino wool and 30% nylon; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

Fit and Styles

We included a variety of shirts on this list: tees, long-sleeve tops, and even some hoodies. Each has advantages, depending on the type of activity you intend to engage in.

For those who need something for primarily cold temperatures, a layer that is tighter-fitting with loads of mobility that won’t feel restrictive under an extra one or two layers is recommended. Others who want something that can be worn all year, like our staffers, should go for something looser with a more relaxed fit.

However, we did not include all of the merino wool layers under the sun. We focused on shirts because they are versatile for a variety of weather conditions and activities. Some of the layers we tested are a little more sporty, while others, like the Unbound Merino Crew Neck, have a classic cut that’s a bit more versatile. If you are looking for winter-specific merino base layer sets, zip-up merino layers, or merino underwear (yes, it’s a thing!), we’ve got separate coverage on that, too.

Ibex
Made with 100% merino wool, the Ibex 24-Hour Short Sleeve Tee has excellent stretch throughout the shirt; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Color

Layers that come in an assortment of colors are always welcome — they mix things up from the monotonous black and gray we often see. However, while we love mixing things up, our testers have routinely noticed layers that come in pastel colors tend to be sheerer than navy, black, and dark gray.

Keep this in mind if you don’t want your undergarments showing through, unless you strictly use them as a base layer and will always be covered.

Patagonia Cap Cool Merino
The Patagonia Capilene Cool Merino Shirt is bluesign-approved, meaning it uses environmentally friendly dyes in the production process; (photo/Rebecca Ross)

Price

When you buy a merino wool shirt or garment, you aren’t just buying, you are investing. Investing in a higher-quality, naturally odor-wicking, and hopefully much longer-lasting layer. Synthetics are great, and there can be high-quality synthetic blends that have the same properties, but many folks swear by merino.

If you know you want a natural fabric that comes with all the soft, cooling, and wicking properties that merino has, keep the price in mind ($80 for a tee?!). It sounds ridiculous at first, but the price does truly reflect the quality of merino wool fabric.

Why the higher price in the first place? Merino wool is a more expensive fabric — more time-intensive to produce, expensive to import, and more fragile to work with compared to thicker synthetic yarns. So, we always weigh that factor when purchasing anything made with merino.

$80 will be about the entry fee for most merino tees, but know you’re buying an investment piece; (photo/Katie Griffith)

FAQ

What’s so special about merino wool?

Merino wool is a natural material, meaning it doesn’t come from manmade plastics or synthetics. It’s lightweight and soft to the touch. It wicks away moisture and odors, and it helps regulate body temperature. All of that wrapped into a single fabric. No wonder humans have been using and wearing wool since 10,000 BCE.

However, because of merino’s great properties, it is in high demand and usually more expensive than other fabrics. The narrow sourcing and supply chain of merino wool also contributes to its market value. The majority of the wool on the market is produced in Australia, Argentina, and New Zealand.

Ridge Merino Journey Tee
A good merino wool shirt, like the Ridge Merino Journey Merino Wool Shirt, will quickly become your new go-to; (photo/Erika Courtney)
Is merino wool better than cotton?

In simple terms, yes. When it comes to exercising or spending lots of time in the outdoor elements, double yes. Merino is better in the sense that it is a natural and porous fiber. So, if you are sweating, that sweat can escape — this is what makes merino a natural at regulating moisture and body temp, wicking away odor, and cooling.

Cotton is an especially thick synthetic fabric, much different than lightweight or nano-spun synthetics, and much different than merino wool.

Is merino wool itchy?

Heavy wool blankets or wool-lined slippers might evoke ideas of itchy, coarse fabric, but put those thoughts aside — merino wool is different. Merino wool is notoriously fine — with fine, fragile, and soft fibers.

Merino garments are even measured by the tiny diameters of the fibers, called microns. Most merino wool shirts we tested used merino wool that measured between 17.5 and 20 microns.

And the smaller the microns, the finer the fabric. If you are looking for the softest merino layer money can buy, you’ll want to look somewhere in the 15- to 17-micron fabric range.

How does merino wool keep you warm?

Merino wool (wool from a sheep) naturally traps air and retains heat to keep you warm. But, thanks again to its porous fiber nature, it’s still breathable at the same time.

Icebreaker Tech Lite II
Cold in the morning and hot by afternoon, a late autumn day tested the temp-regulating power of the Tech Lite II Crewe; (photo/Erika Courtney)
How does merino wool keep you cool?

The fact that merino wool both retains heat and wicks away sweat — it works to both warm you up and cool you down — is one of its best properties. Wool keeps you cool by letting sweat escape through the fibers and away from your skin and body. This means you won’t get clammy or chills, and it also helps with wicking body odor.

Other fibers — synthetics or plant-based fabrics — are not as fine, porous, or breathable. They’ll do the job, but not as good a job. (That being said, our staff has a great time testing the latest in bio-based fabrics — unique layers sewn with everything from bamboo to hemp to corn.)

How often should I wash merino wool shirts?

You’ll want to treat your merino shirts and layers with care. Because merino is a natural fiber, you also don’t want to use bleach, scents, or fabric softeners that can clog up the wool and prevent merino from doing all the things it does naturally.

Washing every few wears — sometimes even just once or twice a month — with cold or warm water and a mild soap is all you need. Even when we wear a lot of merino wool when outdoors, we try to wash sparingly. And we always air dry or hang it to dry.

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