Gear

Cool Wick: 12 Best Merino Wool T-Shirts for the Outdoors

by Mac Misseldine

best merino wool t-shirts

Merino wool is nature’s finest performance fabric, able to fight odor, wick moisture, regulate body temperature, and protect you from the sun’s UV rays from sunrise to sunset.

We’re not saying merino wool is magic. But we’re not saying it isn’t, because when you weave merino wool into a t-shirt, it’s a magical experience.

Merino wool T-shirts are incredibly versatile, equally comfortable in cool and warm weather. The surface repels water while simultaneously pulling moisture into its core, creating a dry body climate that cools you down in the heat and insulates you in the cold.

Merino wool is also naturally antimicrobial. Combined with its moisture-wicking properties, that means merino wool T-shirts resist odors. There are stories of people wearing their merino T-shirt for a week without washing it, claiming it smelled just as fresh on day one as it did on day seven.

I know — magic, right?

We’re not even finished. Merino wool is naturally springy and luxuriously soft. The fabric is renewable, biodegradable, fire resistant, and hypoallergenic. Merino T-shirts also hold their shape better and don’t stretch out, so they’re built to last longer than a cotton shirt.

In short, everyone should have a merino wool T-shirt in their wardrobe. In fact, make that two — a lightweight option for outdoor adventures, and a heavier, fashionable one that you can pair with a blazer for casual Fridays at the office.

Now that you’re sold on buying one (or two), let’s talk about our favorites. Here’s a list of the best merino wool T-shirts on the market, from budget-friendly buys to luxury upgrades and everything in between.

Editor’s Choice: Icebreaker Tech Lite T-Shirt

Icebreaker Merino Tech Lite

The Icebreaker Tech Lite is the perfect merino wool T-shirt for outdoor adventures. Whether you’re backpacking, mountaineering, climbing, or skiing, this premium T-shirt delivers the breathability, odor resistance, and quick-drying performance you need for a comfortable base layer.

The Tech Lite T-Shirt features Icebreaker’s core-spun fibers — nylon fibers wrapped in merino wool for optimal durability, strength, and softness. Backpackers will especially appreciate the offset shoulder seams that reduce chafing when carrying a pack.

In addition to the standard crew neck, the Tech Lite T-Shirt is also available in V-neck, patterned, and graphic print styles. We’re fans of the Tech Lite Crewe Canoe Companions T-Shirt, a fun graphic print that’s sure to get a few laughs on the trail.

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Editor’s Choice: Black Diamond Rhythm Tee

Black Diamond Rhythm Tee

Wait, two Editor’s Choice awards? That’s right — both of these shirts deserve a place in your closet, because they each shine in different areas.

The Icebreaker Tech Lite T-Shirt is our favorite all-around merino wool shirt for style and versatility. But when it comes to high-output, sweaty outdoor activities, nothing beats the Black Diamond Rhythm Tee.

Built for freedom and mobility, the Rhythm Tee is the lightest technical merino wool T-shirt on the market. Thanks to Black Diamond’s NuYarn merino wool fabric, the shirt breathes better, dries 5x faster, and has 35% more stretch than your average merino shirt. So, if you’re looking for optimal sport performance while you’re sweating it out on the trail, this is it.

The Rhythm Tee was actually designed with the help of ultra athlete Joe Grant. Of the Rhythm Tee, Grant says, “I always try to choose gear that I can forget about when I’m out in the elements and that doesn’t hinder the experience. The Rhythm Tee is soft to the touch, very light and breathable, and has plenty of stretch.”

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Upgrade Pick: Outlier Ultrafine Merino T-Shirt

ULTRAFINE MERINO T-SHIRT

If you’re going to splurge on a merino wool shirt, make it the Outlier Ultrafine Merino T-Shirt. Simply put, this is the finest merino wool T-shirt that money can buy.

What does this shirt offer to justify its premium price tag? For starters, the wool comes from the Mackenzie Basin in New Zealand, an area with a rich history in wool dating back two centuries. The shirts are audited and certified by AsureQuality to ensure a pristine supply chain, so you know you’re getting a pure product from the farm to the factory.

Speaking of the factory, the Ultrafine Merino T-Shirt is manufactured in the San Francisco Bay area, so you’re getting American-made quality.

The Ultrafine Merino T-Shirt features 17.5 micron merino fibers that are finer, softer, and more beautiful to the touch than standard merino. Outlier uses 195 gsm fabric instead of the standard 150-160 gsm fabric so that the shirt is more durable, drapes better, and feels more luxurious.

This shirt is geared for the fashion-conscious, featuring a moderately lean cut that’s long enough to keep you covered while you’re moving. This would be our go-to shirt for the airport and casual Fridays at the office, especially if you bike to work.

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Best Value: Woolly Everyday Weight Short Sleeve Tee

Woolly Everyday Weight Short Sleeve Tee

Looking for a 100% merino wool T-shirt? Many top options on the market are a blend of wool and synthetic, but the Everyday Weight Short Sleeve Tee from Seattle-based Wooly Clothing Co. delivers 100% 18.5 micron merino wool.

The Everyday Weight Short Sleeve Tee is a versatile piece of foundation wear, equally comfortable as a standalone shirt or a base layer. The simple, classic style is great for work, play, leisure, and travel in hot and cold climates. You’ll enjoy four-season comfort thanks to the shirt’s natural stretch, moisture-wicking properties, and odor resistance.

The Everyday Weight Short Sleeve Tee is available in three styles: crew neck, V-neck, and Henley. If you find this 190 gsm shirt too heavy, consider trying the 150 gsm Ultralight Tee, which is also available in crew neck and V-neck styles.

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Icebreaker Cool-Lite Sphere

Icebreaker Cool-Lite Sphere

When you’re heading to hotter territory, grab the Cool-Lite™ Sphere T-Shirt from Icebreaker. It’s the ideal merino wool T-shirt for when you’re on the move under the sweltering sun, whether that involves trail running, hiking, climbing, or biking.

Awarded Best in Category by Ultra Running Magazine for wool running tops, the Cool-Lite™ Sphere is comfortable, quick drying, odor resistant, and highly breathable.

The Cool-Lite™ Sphere T-Shirt features the same core-spun fabric as the popular Icebreaker Tech Lite, with a lighter jersey and Icebreaker’s proprietary Cool-Lite™ technology to keep you cool and comfortable on hot days. It also features offset shoulder seams to keep your backpack from rubbing your shoulders raw.

In addition to the standard crew neck, you can find the Cool-Lite™ Sphere T-Shirt in V-neck and graphic print styles.

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SmartWool Merino 150 Tee

SmartWool Merino 150 Tee

The go-to brand for merino wool at REI is SmartWool, so you know you can trust the SmartWool Merino 150 Tee. It’s SmartWool’s lightest, most versatile layer, with enhanced durability to resist odors, wick moisture, and regulate your body temperature.

The SmartWool Merino 150 Tee features Core Spun technology, wrapping the merino wool around a nylon core to boost the durability without sacrificing merino wool’s natural comfort. The offset should seams are comfortable under pack straps, and the UPF 20+ rating means you’ll enjoy basic protection against the sun’s UV rays.

The SmartWool Merino 150 Tee comes in a variety of fun graphic prints, making it one of the few merino wool T-shirts that let you express your style on the trail. We’re fans of the Mountain Morning Tee, Llama Adventures Tee, and Bear Camp Tee.

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Arcteryx A2B T-Shirt

Arcteryx A2B T-Shirt

As the name suggests, the Arc’teryx A2B T-Shirt is made for travel. Whether you’re commuting around town, biking to the office, or catching a plane for a weekend getaway, the A2B T-Shirt will keep you comfortable and odor-free.

The A2B T-Shirt is a lifestyle tee that’s made for walking and cycling, featuring an ergonomic patterning, lower length, and streamlined trim fit that move with your body. It’s easy to layer with a button-down shirt or sweater, and you can wear it straight from the office to the backcountry.

The A2B T-Shirt is particularly popular with bike commuters thanks to the lightweight, comfortable Polylain™ merino wool blend that naturally resists odors. It’s also available in a V-neck style for men.

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Merino 365 Short Sleeve T

Merino 365 Short Sleeve T

Most of the time, merino wool comes from a foreign commodity market. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it makes it pretty unique that Merino 365 sources their merino wool directly from the farm. It’s not exactly farm to table — perhaps farm to closet?

Try on the Merino 365 Short Sleeve T and you’ll quickly notice that it’s an upgrade from your average 100% merino wool shirt. It’s made with ultrasoft New Zealand merino wool that’s noticeably more comfortable than typical merino. It also sports a trendier cut with a modern fit that looks great when you wear it.

In addition to the standard crew neck, the Merino 365 Short Sleeve T is also available in a V-neck.

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Unbound Merino Wool V-Neck

Unbound Merino Wool V-Neck

The Unbound Merino Wool V-Neck might not be the cheapest shirt on our list, but it represents an extraordinary value at its price point. It’s an amazingly versatile merino shirt that you can wear casually around town or dress up with a blazer for the boardroom.

The Unbound Merino Wool V-Neck is made with the highest quality ultrafine merino wool. It’s moisture wicking, odor resistant, anti-wrinkle, and anti-bacterial, able to control your core temperature as you move from air-conditioned interiors to sweaty subway trains. It also features reinforced stitching for improved durability.

Not only is the Unbound Merino Wool V-Neck trendy and modern, it’ll be the most comfortable shirt in your wardrobe.

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Wool & Prince 100% Merino T-Shirt

Wool & Prince 100% Merino T-Shirt

The Wool & Prince 100% Merino T-Shirt was designed for wool purists who roll their eyes at the mention of synthetic blends. It features a heavier jersey fabric than the average 100% merino wool shirt, and a finer fiber size of 17.5 microns. The result is a better drape, luxurious hand feel, and improved durability.

The Wool & Prince 100% Merino T-Shirt is built for traveling, commuting, and casual Fridays at the office.

If you’re looking for a merino shirt for outdoor adventures, we’d recommend going with the standard Wool & Prince T-Shirt instead. It features a merino wool blend that’s a little more durable, and it’s machine-washable (whereas the 100% Merino T-Shirt is hand wash only).

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Woolx Outback

Woolx Outback

The Woolx Outback is the perfect merino wool T-shirt for shoppers on a budget. It’s available for a killer price, and an even better value considering the quality.

The Woolx Outback features 17.5 micron Australian merino wool. It’s super soft, with flatlock seams to avoid rubbing and chafing while you’re on the move. Like any good merino wool shirt it’ll help to regulate your body temperature, wick moisture, and prevent odor. Woolx guarantees against pilling and itching, too.

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Minus33 Algonquin T-Shirt

Minus33 Algonquin T-Shirt

Minus33 started as a snowmobiling brand in 2002, setting up shop in the historic L.W. Packard Mill in Ashland, New Hampshire. They’ve since branched out to all kinds of merino wool products, including the Algonquin T-Shirt (labeled as the Appalachia T-Shirt for women).

The Algonquin T-Shirt is a versatile 100% merino wool shirt. It’s a great solo option on warm summer days, and makes a good base layer when the weather turns chilly. It’s soft, comfortable, and odor-resistant — everything you’d expect from a merino wool shirt.

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More Apparel Recommendations

While you’ve got your Amex card out, let’s keep upgrading your wardrobe. Check out our favorite trail running shoes, UV protective apparel, American-made watch brands, minimalist sandals, lightweight rain jackets, hiking pants, American-made hiking boots, American-made work boots, Chukka boots, bomber jackets, and waxed canvas jackets.

Looking to upgrade your commuter game? Grab one of our favorite leather messenger bags, or try a casual messenger bag you can take from the office to the outdoors.

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