Gear Shed

Beat the Heat with These Merino T-Shirts

One hundred percent wool isn’t just for winter’s base layers. So don’t be sheepish about swapping your synthetics for a more natural alternative this summer.

Merino wool isn't just for the winter.     Photo: Mary-Rose/Getty Images

There’s no doubt merino excels in cold weather base layers. But did you know it works pretty darn well in the heat, too?   

I love merino wool for its comfort, softness, weight-to-insulation ratio, breathability, and odor-repellency. A lightweight merino T-shirt is a seriously versatile piece of clothing. And all the extraordinary attributes that make wool great in the cold also apply in the heat.

Whether I’m hiking, biking, or out for a run, merino keeps me cool in a broad range of temperatures. If you’re on the go, I recommend bringing at least one merino T-shirt along. And there are plenty of great high-quality options on the market.

Here’s our rundown of five top-notch shirts—all of which are made from 100 percent merino wool.

Ibex OD Heather T ($88)

100 percent Zque-certified New Zealand merino

18.5 micron/150gm

Known for its excellent base and midlayers, Ibex, headquartered in Vermont, uses a lot of 100 percent merino in its line. Take the OD Heather T. The shirt is overdyed in rich, heathery tones, making it both good-looking and high performance. Available in a crew or V-neck for men and a scoop neck for women, this shirt is made right here in the U.S.  

Icebreaker Tech T Lite ($70)

100 percent New Zealand merino

Ultralight 150gm   

This 20-year-old New Zealand company was the first outfitter to launch a full line of merino performance wear. And it has sourced the merino directly from growers since 1997. (Icebreaker is so connected to its sheep, you can actually trace your garment to its woolly origins with a “baacode.”) Choose from a large selection of 100 percent merino T-shirt styles for both men and women.

Minus33 Algonquin Men’s Lightweight Crew ($55)

100 percent Australian merino

17.5 micron/170gm

Based in New Hampshire and owned by L.W. Packard, Minus33 boasts a wool-making lineage that goes back to 1916. In fact, the company still uses the old Packard mill for its offices and warehouse. The company’s shirts also tend to be relatively inexpensive compared with other merino products out there.

Smartwool NTS Micro 150 Pattern Tee ($75)

100 percent Zque-certified New Zealand merino

17.5 micron/150gm 

The Steamboat Springs, Colorado, company Smartwool has dominated the market for merino socks since 1994—something that’s kept it highly visible in most stores nationwide (as well as in my own sock drawer). The NTS Micro 150 Pattern Tee is a lot less clunky than its name might suggest. Ultrasoft and deceptively durable, this is a sharp-looking shirt.

Outlier Ultrafine Merino T-Shirt ($98)

100 percent New Zealand merino

17.5 micron/200gm

Brooklyn-based Outlier, founded in 2008, is a relative newcomer to the scene. Inspired by bike commuting and an urban-outdoors aesthetic, the company makes high-performance clothing with a sleek, clean design. The Ultrafine T-Shirt, in cool, muted colors, has a slightly heavier weight than some of the other products on this list. Outlier makes all its apparel in the U.S.

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