Alpaca wool has a hollow core while merino wool has tiny air pockets.
What does that mean?
Alpaca wool’s moisture retention is almost 0% and merino holds about 30% to 50% of its in water.
It also means alpaca wool is a better insulator, breathable, and lighter in weight.
30% - 50%
Tiny Air Pockets
Merino wool has taken over the natural wool outdoor market as the high functional, natural, performance fiber. But what not many hikers and travelers are aware of is the superior benefits alpaca wool has. Let’s look back to the origin of the wool and where it derives from. The Merino and The Alpaca. Ultimately, their wool is necessary for survival and is developed for the natural environment. This means if their natural environment has harsher climates their wool needs withstand this in order to survive.
Merino sheep originated from Spain and were later brought to Australia, where most of the shearing and caring of the animal takes place. Alpacas come the high Andes of South America, in particular from Peru. You can find some Alpacas in the US, UK and other regions, but they are primarily located in the Andes until this day.
We personally visited the alpacas and discovered their life. Being from the US and living in Europe, we are used to hearing animals being kept in factories and being treated terribly. Being close to my Peruvian roots, I had several opportunities to visit Alpaca farmers and see personally the Alpaca’s natural habitat. Alpacas are brought to the highlands everyday before sunrise from them to graze freely. Their wool has to withstand the direct heat from the sunlight while withstand the strong winds from the mountains. In addition, withstanding the high altitudes of 5000 meters, rain and below freezing temperature. Their fiber, basically, has to withstand every harsh weather condition in one day. And keep in mind, the alpacas are not stressed because of this, this is their natural habitat.