Merino wool vs Fleece

When it comes to choosing the right fabric for outdoor activities or cold weather, Merino wool and fleece are two popular options that often come to mind.

While both materials provide excellent insulation and warmth, there are notable differences between them that can impact their performance in various situations.

Merino wool is known for its softness, warmth, and moisture-wicking properties, while fleece is prized for its lightweight and quick-drying capabilities. But deciding on which one to choose can be a daunting task.

So in this article, we will compare Merino wool vs fleece materials exploring the benefits and drawbacks of each. Also, we’ll provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision.

merino wool vs fleece

What is fleece and is it the same as wool?

Fleece was first developed in the 1970s as a wool substitute using polyester fibers that were woven together to create a dense warm material.

This means that fleece is not the same as wool since it is a synthetic material while wool is natural.

Also unlike wool which can be heavy, scratchy, and difficult to care for, fleece has a soft texture and it is lightweight but insulating and very easy to care for.

Over time, the manufacturing process for fleece has evolved. There are now various types and styles available including microfleece, polar fleece, and windproof fleece.

Merino wool vs fleece differences: Which is better?

Merino wool and fleece materials offer insulation and moisture-wicking properties, but they have distinct differences in terms of weight, care, and odor control.

By understanding these unique characteristics, you can make an informed decision on which one is best suited for your needs and the conditions you will be facing.

Feature Merino Wool Fleece
Material Natural fiber from Merino sheep Synthetic fabric made from polyester
Warmth/Insulation A warm and excellent natural insulator Warm and insulating, but loses insulating properties when wet
Moisture-wicking Excellent at drawing moisture away from the skin and allowing it to evaporate Moisture-wicking, but can retain moisture and feel damp
Softness Very soft and comfortable against the skin Soft and comfortable, but not as soft as Merino wool
Durability Durable but not as much as fleece Durable and long-lasting
Hypoallergenic Hypoallergenic Can irritate some individuals with sensitive skin
Odor control Natural antimicrobial properties help to prevent odor buildup Does not have natural antimicrobial properties and may develop a persistent odor over time
Weight Generally heavier Lighter weight and more compact
Care Requires more careful care, including hand washing and air-drying Easier to care for and can be machine washed and dried without losing its shape or texture
Cost More expensive Less expensive
Uses Excellent for baselayers, socks, and high-performance gear Great for mid-layers, jackets, and everyday wear in cooler temperatures

1. Material

One of the main differences between fleece and merino wool is the source of the material they are made from.

Merino wool is a natural fiber that is derived from the wool of Merino sheep. We wrote a more detailed article about the source of merino wool so we won’t talk much about it here.

Fleece, on the other hand, is a synthetic fabric that is made from polyester. It is made by melting down the polyester and extruding it into long strands. These strands are then woven together to create the fleece fabric.

2. Warmth/ Insulation

There is no doubt that both types of fabric provide adequate warmth and insulation but they do so in different ways.

Merino wool fibers can trap air and create pockets of warmth, which helps to regulate body temperature and keep the wearer warm and comfortable in cold weather.

Also, the wool can retain its insulating properties even when wet, making it a great choice for outdoor activities in wet conditions.

Since fleece synthetic material that is designed to mimic the insulating properties of wool, it provides some level of warmth. This is because its synthetic fibers are tightly woven, which enables them to create a barrier between the wearer’s body and the cold air outside.

So fleece can also keep you warm though it is not as effective at trapping air and creating pockets of warmth as Merino wool.

Moreover, fleece tends to lose its insulating properties when wet, which means it’s not a good choice for damp conditions.

3. Moisture wicking

Merino wool is a total pro when it comes to wicking moisture away from your skin.

This means that it can quickly absorb sweat and moisture and allow it to evaporate, leaving you feeling dry and comfortable.  This is because the wool fibers are super absorbent and can soak up a lot of moisture without getting saturated.

Fleece is also pretty good at wicking moisture away from your skin so you can wear it during physical activity or in hot weather.

However, since it is synthetic, its fibers may not be as absorbent as wool fibers. So your fleece clothing may be less effective at preventing sweat buildup and may even retain some moisture against your skin and feel quite uncomfortable. 

4. Softness

When it comes to softness, Merino wool takes the cake.  It’s often described as feeling like a warm hug on a chilly day, and it’s easy to see why!

The fibers of Merino wool are much finer than traditional wool fibers, which makes them feel softer and less scratchy against the skin.

On the other hand, fleece is not as soft as Merino wool. It can still be really cozy and comfortable to wear especially in colder weather, but it doesn’t quite have that same level of softness and luxury.

It’s kind of like the difference between sleeping on a cloud and sleeping on a really fluffy pillow.

So while both materials are comfortable, Merino wool just feels a little more plush and luxurious than fleece.

Please note that there are different types of fleece out there that can be quite soft and comfortable. Some are made with a higher percentage of polyester fibers, which can make them feel softer and plusher.

6. Durability

Fleece is generally considered to be more durable than Merino wool. This is because it is made from synthetic fibers that are known for their toughness and resilience compared to natural fibers.

Also, fleece can withstand a lot of wear and tear without showing signs of damage and this makes it a great choice for outdoor activities or everyday wear.

Despite being tough, fleece is not indestructible. It can be prone to things like pilling or snagging if it’s not taken care of properly.

On the other hand, merino wool is durable but its natural fibers may not be as tough or resilient as synthetic fibers. For this reason, it can be more prone to damage from things like rubbing or snagging.

However, with proper care and maintenance, Merino wool clothing can still last for many years.

7. Cost

Merino wool is a natural material that requires specific breeds of sheep to produce while fleece requires synthetic materials.

This means that sourcing and producing wool is a more labor-intensive process than manufacturing fleece.

As a result, Merino wool costs more than fleece and is often associated with higher-end outdoor clothing brands.

Fleece, on the other hand, is generally more affordable than wool due to the lower cost of sourcing materials and production.

It’s also widely available and often used in a variety of everyday clothing items, such as jackets, sweatshirts, and blankets. So it is a more accessible option for many consumers.

The cost of the two materials can however be influenced by the brand, quality, and specific product you’re looking at.

8. Odor control

When it comes to odor control, Merino wool has a natural advantage due to its antimicrobial properties.

Its fibers have the ability to trap and neutralize odors so even after extended wear; your wool garments won’t develop unpleasant smells.

This makes merino wool clothing a popular choice for outdoor enthusiasts who don’t have access to laundry facilities.

Fleece, on the other hand, can develop odors over time and may require more frequent washing to maintain freshness.

In some instances, fleece clothing may retain odors even after washing and necessitate the use of special treatment to get rid of stubborn smells.

9. Weight

In terms of weight, fleece is lighter than merino wool because it is made from polyester fibers that are often lighter and less dense than wool fibers.

Also, fleece is typically made by melting down plastic pellets and then spinning them into fibers, which are then woven into fabric. This process creates a fabric that is lightweight and has a high warmth-to-weight ratio.

The difference between fleece and merino wool

Due to its low weight and high warmth-to-weight ratio, fleece is often used as a lightweight insulating layer.

Merino wool on the other hand is heavier and bulkier than fleece because its fibers are naturally crimped creating tiny pockets of air that help trap heat and provide insulation and make it heavier.

For this reason, wool is often used as a base layer or mid-layer in colder temperatures.

10. Care

Merino wool is a delicate fabric that requires gentle washing with cold water and a mild detergent like Woolite for delicates to prevent damage to the fibers.

In fact, it is recommended to hand wash merino wool or use the delicate cycle in a washing machine.  It should also be air-dried to prevent merino wool from shrinking.

It’s also recommended to avoid using fabric softeners as they can coat the fibers and reduce their ability to wick away moisture.

Fleece is easier to care for compared to wool since it can be machine-washed and dried without any special considerations.

However, since it’s prone to pilling, it’s important to avoid washing it with fabrics that produce lint as this can cause pilling and reduce the effectiveness of its insulating properties over time.

11. Uses

Both merino wool and fleece are incredibly versatile materials and have a wide range of uses due to their unique properties.

If you love hiking, camping, or skiing, merino wool is an excellent choice as it provides superb warmth and moisture-wicking capabilities, keeping you comfortable even during high-intensity activities.

It’s also a popular choice for high-performance athletic wear because of its ability to regulate body temperature and reduce odor.

On the other hand, fleece is perfect for casual wear and outdoor gear as it makes for an excellent mid-layer for added warmth and insulation.

You’ll find it used in blankets, jackets, and other items that require both warmth and softness.

Moreover, fleece is often used as a lining material for various types of footwear to provide extra insulation and comfort making it a popular choice for colder months.


Is fleece better than wool for hunting?

Yes, Fleece can be a better choice than wool for hunting due to its lightweight and quiet nature, which makes it easier to move stealthily through the woods. But wool still offers excellent warmth and insulation, which can be beneficial in cold hunting environments.

Which is better for camping between wool and fleece blanket?

Both wool and fleece blankets have their unique properties that make them suitable for camping. Wool blankets provide excellent warmth and insulation even when wet, making them ideal for cold and damp camping conditions. On the other hand, fleece blankets are lightweight, soft, and quick-drying, making them perfect for warm and dry camping conditions.

What temperature is fleece good for?

Fleece is a versatile fabric that can be used in a wide range of temperatures. Generally, it is suitable for mild to cool temperatures, ranging from about 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this can vary depending on the specific type of fleece and the layering system used with other garments.

Is polar fleece warm?

Yes, polar fleece is warm and provides more insulation than microfleece. Its ability to trap air within its fibers makes it an effective insulator, keeping the wearer warm and comfortable in cooler temperatures.

Can fleece get wet?

Yes, fleece can get wet since it’s not waterproof and this causes it to lose its insulating properties. It is recommended to avoid getting fleece wet if possible or to layer it with a waterproof or water-resistant outer layer.


When it comes to choosing between merino wool and fleece, it ultimately depends on your specific needs and preferences.

Merino wool offers exceptional warmth, moisture-wicking capabilities, and softness, making it ideal for outdoor activities and high-performance athletic wear.

On the other hand, fleece provides a lightweight and soft option for casual wear, mid-layer insulation, and as a lining material for footwear. It is also more affordable than merino wool and a little more durable.

Therefore, both materials have their unique strengths and weaknesses and can be useful in various situations, so it’s worth considering your needs and budget before making a decision

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