We receive lots of questions during our farm visits. Here are some of the more popular ones. If you have a question for us, send us an email or give us a call.
- What is the difference between a llama and an alpaca?
- What is your warmest sock?
- Why is alpaca so expensive?
- Why and how is alpaca hypoallergenic?
- If alpaca is so great, why isn't everything made from alpaca?
- Which are the best socks?
- What is an alpaca?
- Alpaca vs Wool
- Do alpaca socks last longer than other wool socks?
- Does alpaca fiber wick moisture as well as wool?
1. What is the difference between llamas and alpacas?
Both are from the camelid family, but each serves a different purpose. Llamas are about 300 lbs and are made for packing or guarding livestock. Alpacas are much smaller, between 120-150 lbs and are solely used for their fleece, which is softer than cashmere and twice as warm as wool. We use llamas and Anatolian guard dogs to help protect our alpacas in the pasture from predators. Click Here for a longer explanation
2. Which is your warmest sock?
This is a tough question, because any alpaca fiber sock will be really warm if it's situated in a properly fitting shoe. We recommend buying your shoes for your socks, but recognize that can be hard to do. Finding a warm sock is about knowing how socks work and the loft that the socks have. It doesn't matter how thick or breathable a sock is, if it is constricted, it won't be nearly as warm as it could be. Think about when a puffy jacket is hanging normally, the puff is loft. If you stuff that jacket into a very tight space, it compacts and the loft is decreased. That space--the loft--is what allows the sock to work its magic and provide warmth. Long story short--the warmest sock is based off of the shoe. For instance, in a tennis shoe, the warmest sock would be a light to medium sock--not a sock like our arctic sock--because the shoe would only have space for a light to medium sock. IF everything fits, our arctic sock is the "warmest" sock that we have, but you have to make sure there's enough room in your shoes for them!
3. Why is alpaca so expensive?
There are quite a few reasons that alpacas and alpaca fiber is so expensive. For starters, there are fewer alpacas than sheep and there's a lack of industrial infrastructure. There are only about 350,000 alpacas in the U.S., of which are not all high quality. The alpaca industry estimates there needs to be at least 1 million alpacas in the U.S. to support a full time mill and make it affordable. For perspective, there are 6 million sheep in the U.S. with mills able to process sheep's wool into yarn at around $18 per pound whereas processing alpaca's wool costs around $38 per pound. Additionally is costs about $35 per shearing to shear an alpaca versus $2.00 per shearing for sheep. Mills also need specialty machinery to process alpaca fiber and cannot use sheep wool mills' machinery without making major adjustments.
4. Why is alpaca fiber hypoallergenic?
Alpaca fiber lacks barbs, scales and lanolin. Lanolin is traditionally found in sheep’s wool and irritates many wearers upon contact.
5. If alpaca is such a great fiber, why isn't everything made from alpaca?
There is no perfect material – alpaca is soft, warm, hypoallergenic, wicking. But it does not have a lot of loft (so we use wool for loft), polar fleece is great, but it is not natural / biodegradable, which is why we have alpaca Dry Fusion – blending the best of both worlds. Most of our products are made of 100% alpacas, but not our socks – they need stretch, durability, coloring which synthetics add to improve the socks and make them perform better.
6. Which are your best socks?
Just like you have more than one pair of shoes or several coats, one sock cannot really do everything. Super thin…and super warm…and cool in the Summer…this isn’t really an option. Our hiking socks are the most versatile, middle of the road socks, but not our thickest and not our thinnest.
7. What is an alpaca?
Alpacas are the second newest mammals on Earth. They were bred into existence by breeding a vicuna and a guanaco. Unlike llamas, who are work animals, alpacas were created specifically for their fiber.
8. What is the difference between alpaca's fiber and sheep's wool?
Alpaca fiber is stronger and warmer than sheep's wool and holds a much greater wicking capacity.
9. Do alpaca socks last longer than other wool products?
Nothing is as strong as plastic, which is put into a lot of merino wool products and most of the socks you'd purchase at Costco or Walmart; however, alpaca has twice the tencile strength of wool.
10. Does alpaca fiber wick moisture as well as wool?
Wool has air pockets which gives it a thermal capacity that can absorb up to 50% of its weight. It can sit on the skin without creating any irritations, blisters or odors. Alpaca fiber is a hollow fiber, so it does not absorb moisture, but rather pushes water away from itself and toward the outside of the fiber, which means there is not a saturation point. For example, James can wear his alpaca socks in rubber boots (no ventilation) and sweat in the socks and the outside of the socks will be damp, but his feet will be dry.