Advantages of Alpaca Fleece over Sheep's Wool | Alpacas of Montana

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Advantages of Alpaca Fleece over Sheep's Wool

  • 3 min read

"Alpaca fleece is as soft as cashmere, warmer than sheep’s wool, hypo-allergenic and almost completely waterproof."

In a world growing weary of synthetic materials and enthusiastically turning toward eco-friendly choices, alpaca fiber offers an opportunity for consumers to wear soft, warm, durable, natural garments. It’s hard to believe that wearing an item that feels so luxurious to the touch is also a fantastic choice for the earth-conscious consumer.

Do you want to learn more about what alpaca offers its wearers? Continue reading for some of our most frequently asked questions about alpaca fleece.

Is alpaca fleece as soft as cashmere?

Sometimes, though the softness truly depends on the micron measurement.

Many farms produce extremely soft fleece through the promotion of quality breeding programs. These breeding programs focus specifically on creating 16-18 micron fleece – this micron range is classified as Royal Alpaca and is quite luxurious to touch. The other feature that sets alpaca fleece apart from wool is the alpaca’s lack of scales, which causes the strains to feel smoother.

Wait. What’s a micron?

A micron is a measurement of length equivalent to one millionth of a meter. This unit of measurement is used to measure the width of a single alpaca fiber to determine its softness and fineness. 

Alpaca Fiber Classification

Royal Alpaca

< 18 microns

Super Fine / Baby Alpaca

< 20 microns


< 25 microns


< 30 microns


30 microns +

Mixed Pieces

Short fibers, 32 microns +                 (used for felting)

 For reference, llama hair measures between 55-65 microns and human hair is at least 100 microns. That’s five times thicker than an alpaca fiber!

Is alpaca fleece warmer than sheep’s wool?

Yes, alpaca tends to be warmer than sheep’s wool.  Alpaca fibers are completely hollow, whereas sheep’s wool only contains pockets of air. Much like polar bear fur, both fibers allow air to permeate the surface and become trapped inside for a warm wearing experience. Alpacas have an advantage over wool though because of the extra hollow space in the fiber. This additional space creates a greater thermal capacity and allows for more warm air to fill the textile and provide extra warmth over its sheep’s wool counterpart.

Is alpaca hypoallergenic?

Yes, alpaca is considered hypoallergenic because it lacks lanolin. Lanolin is traditionally found in sheep’s wool and irritates many wearers upon contact.

What about “superwashed” wool? Isn’t it supposed to be hypoallergenic?

Some wool clothing lines now promote their textiles as having next-to-skin capabilities by “superwashing” the wool to remove the lanolin and barbs. According to Textile Chemicals: Environmental Data and Facts, superwashed wool is treated with synthetic resins (polyamide/epichlorohydrine or polyurethane). This method can include chemicals like chlorine and hypochlorous acid, sulphuric acid, sodium hypochlorite, alkali metal salts of dichloroisocyanuric acid (DCCA) and an acid-stable wetting agent. As one might expect, this chlorination process for wool has caused many environmental problems.

Luckily, alpaca textiles offer a hypoallergenic and eco-friendly alternative within the natural fiber active wear market.

Is alpaca 100% waterproof?

No. Though alpaca does offer fantastic wicking properties, it is not 100% waterproof.

Alpaca fibers are hollow so it traps more heat and naturally pushes the water away, never allowing wet fabric to sit on the skin. The water essentially evaporates as a result of the structure and warmth of the alpaca fiber. So, while alpaca is not waterproof, it is considered water-repellent.

In comparison, wool will absorb up to 50% of its body weight in moisture, but there is a saturation point for this textile. Unfortunately, saturated wool can cause sweat to sit next to the skin. This can cause discomfort, odor and an increased likelihood of blisters. Ouch!

Is there really a difference between alpaca fleece and merino wool?

Definitely. As you can see, alpaca fleece offers equivalent softness, more warmth and higher wicking properties than merino wool, and is also hypoallergenic and eco-friendly.

When the chill of winter hits the air, turn down your thermostat, snuggle up and feel the warmth of alpaca.

man fishing in stream wearing black and green alpaca wool pullover and gray purple and green alpaca wool backcountry beanie woman smiling standing outside wearing red alpaca wool vest man standing next to golden retriever and both are wearing own it socks

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