If someone asks you where wool comes from, the first thought that comes to mind is sheep. It speaks volumes to how pervasive the business is in fashion or winter wear.
The International Wool Textile Organization revealed that wool production in 2018 reached 1.15 million kilograms, shaved from more than 1.1 billion sheep. Despite a period when the sheep numbers suffered a decline, the population bounced back in 2018. Last year was also the highest recorded figure in terms of the sheep population since 1992.
However, the scarcity of sheep wool in the market forced manufacturers to develop other sources. One of these is Alpaca Fiber. Nowadays, the industry is comparing alpaca vs wool.
But consumers later found out that Alpaca fleece can provide more protection than sheep wool.
Here are ways why Alpaca Fiber is better:
1. The fibers are soft – The alpaca fiber industry has made several breakthroughs in terms of production. The breeding program has undergone a revolution in recent years. Because of this, they can consistently produce between 16 and 18-micron fleece, which results in very luxurious and soft fibers. To give you a little idea of how soft alpaca fiber is, the average human hair has 100 microns. Another feature of alpaca is the absence of scales, unlike sheep wool. It is comparable to cashmere in terms of velvety softness.
2. It is hypoallergenic – While still on the subject of alpaca vs wool, the former is ideal for sensitive skin. You can attribute it to the absence of lanolin. The substance is typically present in sheep wool, which can irritate the skin. Also, the texture of the wool is sharp, which can trigger itchiness and redness.
3. Alpaca is warmer – If you’re buying wool or fleece, the ultimate purpose is for warmth during the cold season. What most people do not know is that alpaca fiber is hollow compared to sheep wool, which contains some pockets of air. These pockets are vital to trap in warm air. The thermal air keeps you from getting cold despite extended exposure outdoors.
The sheep wool industry has introduced what they call “superwashed wool.” It’s a process for removing barb and lanolin from the material.
However, to do that, they need to subject the wool to a chemical process. You will find polyurethane, chlorine, sulphuric acid, hypochlorous acid, sodium hypochlorite, as well as DCCA. To be fair, the final product is deemed safe for human use. But the process puts a strain on the environment. After all, those chemicals have to end up somewhere.
If you choose alpaca fiber, you’re doing your part for the environment.
How About When it Rains?
Alpaca fibers have excellent wicking properties, which will protect you for short periods. The material will help push the water and moisture away. However, if you stay out for long periods, prepare to be soaked. That is because alpaca fiber is not 100% waterproof. However, you can say that the fiber effectively repels water.
Wool is better to alpaca when it comes to being water-repellent (remember, they are both not waterproof). Merino fiber can absorb up to 50% of moisture of its body weight. However, once you hit the saturation point, you can expect odor and blisters.