"Alpaca fleece is warmer than Merino Wool, wicks moisture off of your body at an 85% greater rate than Merino Wool, is the most eco-friendly natural fiber, is softer than cashmere and is antimicrobial."
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, breathable, 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.
Is alpaca fleece as soft as cashmere?
Merino Wool fiber has barbs that look and feel like a little fish hook. Many people believe they are allergic to merino wool but they aren’t, the wool is actually just scratching your skin causing an abrasion and then the sticky lanolin from the wool covers the scratch up and creates a bacterial micro-infection. In order to prevent this and why Merino Wool has all of a sudden gotten so much softer, is because manufacturers are putting the wool through an environmentally destructive process called superwashing. The wool goes through a vat of acetones which burn the fiber and reduce the sharpness on the fish hook barbs. Then the fiber goes into another vat of peroxide based chemicals which reduces the amount of lanolin on the fiber. However, Alpaca has minimal to no barbs in its fiber, so there is never a need to superwash or treat it in any way. We simply use environmentally friendly soap to clean the organic matter off of it before it gets spun. It’s naturally softer than cashmere because it is a finer fiber with more malleable edges, making it the perfect cozy companion.
However, the softness of the fiber 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.
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
< 18 microns
Super Fine / Baby Alpaca (not actually from a baby alpaca -- just a classification)
< 20 microns
< 25 microns
< 30 microns
30 microns +
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 fleece is warmer than sheep's wool per gram of fiber. 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 sheep wool 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?
Because alpaca is made of hollow fibers without sharp fish hooks, alpaca wool is hypoallergenic. Also, because it doesn’t have any lanolin (unlike sheep's wool), environmental allergens don’t stick to it or get processed into any of the products, ensuring that it will always be hypoallergenic, unlike Merino Wool which even after superwashing maintains some lanolin, allowing it to pick up environmental allergens that rub against your skin all day and make you itchy.
You can learn more about the hypoallergenic nature of alpaca products here.
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, which causes discomfort, odor and an increased likelihood of blisters. Ouch!
How does alpaca fleece keep me cool in the summer and warm in the winter?
Well, Merino wool has air pockets in the fiber, which gives it thermal capacity and the ability to absorb up to 50% of its weight in moisture (usually sweat). Alpaca fiber on the other hand has hollow tubes for fiber, which means that it doesn’t absorb the moisture, but instead sheds it and pushes it away. When heat comes off of your body, it works as an engine to push the moisture molecules to the exterior of the garment, through the hollow fibers meaning that it won’t become saturated, heavy or stay wet. This grants it the ability to wick moisture off of your body at an 85% greater rate than any wool product ever could. Because alpaca fleece wicks moisture away so well it is the most breathable natural fiber and therefore keeps you cool in the summer!
Is there really a difference between alpaca fleece and merino wool?
Definitely. As you can see, alpaca fleece offers equivalent softness to superwashed wool and more softness than untreated wool, more warmth and higher wicking properties than merino wool, and is also hypoallergenic and eco-friendly.
What is Alpaca Dry Fusion Technology®️?
Owner James Budd created the first certified through the government antimicrobial fabric technology: Alpaca Dry Fusion Technology®️. Watch the video below to learn more about the science behind our patented technology.