Why Fit Travelers Shouldn’t Invest in a Merino Wool T-Shirt

The Merino wool t-shirt trap. One of the reasons I created Nomadic Hustle was due to a slight disdain for general travel advice. Often, you’ll find sites that focus on traveling cheaply and looking like a bum. Neither is my style. While everyone likes cheap, there’s no reason not to spend a few extra bucks to get an Airbnb apartment.

Plus, there’s truly no reason anyone should ever step foot into a club with tennis shoes or hiking boots on. Y’all give gringos a bad name!

Still, I browse general travel blogs on occasion because you’ll often find a solid tip here and a great “things to do in…” piece there. One of the tips I thoughts was gold involved travel clothes. I saw a guy traveling around with two Merino wool t-shirts. That’s all the shirts he had. And they didn’t look half bad.

Merino wool shirts never fit like this.
Merino wool shirts never fit like this.

So I took the bait. Against my better judgment, I dropped $50 USD and another $25 on tailoring on a Merino wool t-shirt. Well, a Merino wool v-neck to be exact. And I wasted every penny of it. If I hadn’t tailored the shirt, I’d be able to return it. But I did. Tailoring t-shirts is a major key.

And this isn’t the first time I’d tried to get some Merino wool clothing to look good. I’d bought Merino wool v-necks from a different company a few years back. Still looked terrible. But I thought this time would be different. The travel shirts looked so good and normal in professional photos. It wasn’t. Still shit.

The Problems with Merino Wool

You don’t see many travelers decked out in all Merino wool. There’s a reason for that. The fabric comes with a myriad of problems that ensure normal humans far prefer other blends to it. Some travelers do rock it on the regular, but they’re either committed to the traveling light game or travel blogging.

Here are just a few of the problems with Merino wool t-shirts and clothing:

  • Expensive As Heck: Not only is the cut of most Merino clothing terrible and the fabric too thin, but you’ll actually be paying an arm and a leg to look like a traveling bum. Merino wool clothing is incredibly expensive. A decent Merino wool t-shirt will run you $50-100 USD. Yes. $100 for a t-shirt. A shirt that won’t even look good. Even if you only have to buy two of them to travel for a year, these shirts are not cheap.
  • Not Made For Fit People: If you lift weights and workout regularly, you won’t like the fit of a Merino wool t-shirt. Put simply – they’re not made for people with any type of muscle mass on them. It’s nearly impossible to get a Merino shirt to lay and conform to your physique as cotton or other blended fabrics can. Thus, you’ll find it impossible to get a Merino v-neck that will show off that impressive v-taper you’ve been working so hard for.
  • Fabric Too Thin: One of the reasons Merino doesn’t work for your fit individuals is because the fabric is way too thin. Most Merino t-shirts have a GSM of around 130-150. (P.S.: GSM means grams per square meter). Basically, the term is used to compare fabric thickness and weight. Regular t-shirts typically start at 180 GSM and go up to 210 or so. This means that unless you have an inverted chest or that of a pre-pubescent boy – your nipples will protrude in a Merino wool shirt. I tried wearing my new “travel” shirt out one day, and my friend commented that the fabric looked paper-thin.
  • Lack of Durability: While the benefits of Merino wool often outweigh the cons for diehard backpackers, the lack of durability has been noted by nearly everyone. Merino clothing is not nearly as durable as other fabrics and blends. Now, this could be because many wear these shirts all day, every day. But I’m willing to bet the thin Merino wool simply doesn’t hold up like cotton or polyester. You don’t want to spend $100 on a Merino wool t-shirt only to have the thing almost falling apart three months later.
  • No White Color: Lastly, Merino wool does not come in white. You cannot get a white Merino wool t-shirt. It just doesn’t work. I’ve looked around and have yet to find a white shirt in Merino. There are some “off-white” travel shirts in Merino, but no crisp white shirts can be found. Merino comes in a light yellow hue naturally and can be dyed in a number of colors – just not white.

It’s Not All Bad

I’ve been a bit harsh on Merino wool. And while there’s a good reason for that, the fabric does have its uses. There are some benefits for individuals wearing Merino wool clothing. For example:

  • Merino wool is fast drying and dries much more quickly than cotton or polyester.
  • The fabric doesn’t accumulate body odor. While you may smell like ass after a day of hiking, the shirt will not.
  • Due to the lack of smell, you can wear these shirts for days on end with no issue.
  • No bacteria accumulate, either. This helps with the smell, as well.
  • Merino wool is not itchy and feels similar to cotton on your body.
  • The fabric insulates quite well. You’ll feel fresh in the summer and warm in the winter while wearing Merino.

A Better Traveler’s T-Shirt Option

I’m not going to throw my Merino wool t-shirt away. I’ll bring it on the road with me and wear it on long flights, bus trips, and all-day outdoor adventures. Like I said – the shirt has its uses. Just don’t think you’ll be traveling in style while rocking Merino. That’s an oxymoron, fam.

Travelers who plan to stay outdoors all the time, rarely have access to laundry facilities, and enjoy looking like they’re traveling often love wearing a Merino wool shirt. For the rest of us, there are better options out there. There are many t-shirts out there that are made for traveling around a bit, but still, look great.

Rocked the Prana V-Neck to Machu Pichu.
Rocked the Prana V-Neck to Machu Pichu.

One of my favorites is the Prana V-Neck. This shirt became my go-to t-shirt while traveling around for a straight year. The shirt is made out of a great fabric that keeps you cool while still looking good. If you like to workout, you’ll find this shirt fits amazing. The fit is so good I didn’t even have to tailor this v-neck.

Avoiding the Merino Wool Trap – Overall

A Merino wool t-shirt has its uses, but you’re much better off getting other fabrics before you hit the road. Unless you’re planning to do a lot of hiking and little washing of your wardrobe, avoid the Merino wool trap and build your travel wardrobe with other fabrics.

P.S.: Honestly, these are the best travel shirts I’ve found. By far. Bar none.