Why Backpackers Choose Ridge Merino Gear

Why Backpackers Choose Ridge Merino Gear

Backpacking is one of the best ways to connect with nature and disconnect from the buzz of daily life. But depending on your route or mileage, it can also be strenuous and challenging. The gear you bring with you can have a big impact on how comfortable you are while you’re logging miles. Here’s how backpackers use Ridge Merino gear to stay comfortable on the trail for days on end.

Why choose Merino wool for backpacking?

Merino wool has long been celebrated for its natural benefits: moisture wicking, temperature regulation, breathability and odor resistance. Merino wool is the go-to fabric for mountain athletes, especially for high output activities like ski touring, alpine climbing and backpacking. Thanks to all these benefits, Merino wool clothing makes it easy to pack light for backpacking.

For sun protection: Solstice Sun Hoodie

One of our PCT Ambassadors wearing a Solstice Sun Hoodie.

Recently highlighted in Gabrielle Shallahamer’s Colorado Trail Gear List in The Trek, the Solstice Sun Hoodie is beloved by backpackers.

Her incredibly thorough list covers everything she packed for the Colorado Trail. Here’s her report on the Solstice Hoodie:

“After years of hiking in polyester hiking shirts, that after two weeks would never smell good again no matter how you washed it, I said goodbye to synthetic shirts. Last year I wore a wool long sleeve shirt and it was amazing. It kept me cool in the heat, warm in the cold, dried quickly, and kept the body odor down significantly. At one point my pits stank, but the shirt itself didn’t!”

The Solstice was also featured in Men’s Journal’s “The Only Trail Gear You Need, According to a Backpacking Guide.

“For backpacking, I look for thin, warm layers that dry quickly. No material does this combo better than Merino wool—and Ridge Merino, a Mammoth-based brand engineered around snow sports, is the Merino wool expert.”

Author Mike Misselwitz liked that the Solstice is the perfect weight to “keep warm when the weather’s cold, and cool when it’s hot,” its ability to dry quickly, and that it’s versatile enough to wear splitboarding or alpine climbing too.

For windy days and for sleeping: Pursuit Ultralight Hoodie

New this year, our Pursuit Ultralight Hoodie also works well as a sun hoodie – the darker colors have 25+ UPF. But compared to our Solstice Sun Hoodie, the Pursuit is a lighter, thinner fabric, making it a great ultralight option. It has a scuba hood instead of a drawstring and a slimmer fit overall.

As Liz Thomas, Editor-in-Chief of Treeline Review, wrote:

“What makes it notable is the thin material and a scuba style hood. This material is awesome: soft, super stretchy, and thin. It's so stretchy the scuba hood stays in place in the wind or throughout the night as you toss and turn–without a drawstring. It weighs 5 oz, which is light enough to be your base layer/sleep clothes/town clothes on a backpacking trip. … Over the years, I've tested dozens of sun shirts and base layers and the Pursuit is one that is worth writing about.”

The team at Backpacker Magazine also tested out the Pursuit Hoodie for backpacking. They liked the durability from Axio technology, a Japanese yarn spinning technique that creates super durable and super lightweight Merino wool fabric.

“This featherweight hoodie is thin enough to wear in mid-70s temps without overheating—yet tough enough for extended abuse on trail.”

They also remarked that backpack straps didn’t cause any pilling (Axio is pill-resistant!) even though the hoodie is super soft, and they liked how quickly it dried.

“The mostly Merino content smells fresh for days, gusseted underarms allow for unconstricted movement, and the snug hood and collar buffered summit gusts on Colorado’s 12,323-foot Flat Top Mountain.”

For warm hiking days: Journey Tee & Wander Tee

Women's Wander Tee

Men's Journey Tee

If you prefer to hike in short sleeves or need a great shirt to change into at camp, the Journey Tee (or the Wander Tee for women) is a great option. The Journey Tee was included in recommendations for hiking top layers on The Dyrt:

“Technical t-shirts: These are a great option for late spring, summer, and early fall hikes. If you’re going in the middle of the day, wearing a wool or polyester technical tee like the Journey T-shirt from Ridge Merino will help keep you cool and dry throughout the day.”

For sleeping and hanging out at camp: Aspect High Rise Base Layer & Aspect Top

Ridge Merino’s Aspect Merino Wool Base Layer Bottoms are another favorite among backpackers, including Gabrielle in her Colorado Trail Gear List. As she writes:

“Wearing wool pants to bed is essential for feeling clean and warm at night. … I can wear these for weeks without washing them and they still won’t stink. These were on sale when I bought my sun shirt so I replaced my Smartwool ones that had a hole in them.”

Our Aspect collection is our midweight base layer line, perfect for winter wear but also those chilly high altitude nights and early mornings in the backcountry. Our Aspect Top has been featured in The New York Times Wirecutter as the best thermal underwear:

“The Ridge Merino Aspect Midweight Wool Base Layer Long Sleeve Shirt, for men and women, is our most versatile pick, due to its breathable, Merino-based blend and understated look. This is a city-to-trail shirt because it can navigate cold-weather running, skiing, backpacking, and work (plus dinner out afterward) equally well. Also, it’s reasonably priced.”

For under your hiking clothes: Women’s Send-It Sports Bra + Boy Shorts

The Send-It Sports Bra’s moisture-wicking and odor-resistant properties keep hikers comfortable and fresh, even after long days of exertion. In Gabrielle’s Colorado Trail Gear List, she notes that she brings two Send-It Sports Bras so she can rinse one out and have a dry one to wear. We love her clothing packing strategy:

“I probably pack more clothes than most “ultralight” hikers. Even after miles of backpacking there is just a limit on how disgusting I want to feel. While I only have one hiking shirt, I have two bottoms, two bras, two hiking sock pairs, and three pairs of underwear. I rotate rinsing these out almost every day, which greatly improves my sanity.”

Hikers and backpackers also love our Merino wool underwear for men and for women, especially our Women’s Boy Shorts Underwear. As “AK Granola” wrote on a Backpacking Light forum:

“Last year I purchased a pair of women’s Merino boyshorts from Ridge Merino, and they met all of my requirements. I’ve been super impressed with the comfort – not itchy, no binding or riding up in the legs, just the right amount of stretch in the nicely flat waistband, and quick drying. Mostly I don’t notice them at all, which is what you really want from underwear.”

Ridge Staff Picks for Backpacking

Jeff, Co-Founder & CEO: I love the Minaret Hiking Socks for backpacking. They fit well so I don’t get blisters, and they’re light enough to dry fast. I also like to bring a set of Aspect Base Layers for cold mornings and nights.

Susan, Co-Founder: All year long the Send-It Sports Bra is my go-to for comfort, support and no-smell when backpacking and hiking. I love the Biker Shorts because they feel great on my skin and provide good support for long days. And of course the Solstice Hoodie for multi-day wear and no need for sunscreen. The oversized hood is great for keeping my face out of the sun too.

Paz, Marketing:
The Pursuit Hoodie is my go-to top when I’m doing a lot of miles because it’s so durable. The Aspect Balaclava Hood Base Layer Top is also a favorite for cooler weather camping/backpacking. With this top, I never have to worry about forgetting my balaclava at home when the weather turns. I love it for sleeping too since it keeps my head warm when I’m in my sleeping bag.

Jessica, eCommerce: Most of my backpacking is in the Eastern Sierra at higher elevations, and since I’m always cold, my Ridge backpacking staples are warmer pieces. My Convict Canyon Hoodie is the fleece midlayer I always bring (love that it’s cozy and never stinks). For sleeping and hanging out at camp I love my Inversion Bottoms that keep me warm no matter how cold it gets overnight.


Chris, Operations & Customer Service: The Long Boxer Briefs are the first piece I grab when heading out on the trail. They wick moisture and breathe well so there’s no chafing when putting in big miles. They stay fresh and double as a good pair of quick-drying swim shorts. I always take my Solstice Hoodie to avoid sunburn, and it works well as a mid layer when temps drop at night or in the high alpine. A lightweight Pursuit T-shirt, a Solstice Hoodie and a windbreaker are the versatile layers I bring to keep my pack light.

Merrill, Design & Product Development: For me our Neck Tube is so versatile. I use it for sun protection, and it can be folded to become a hair accessory. The Shelf Bra Cami is the perfect item to carry less. I wear it to hike, play and sleep. I love that it gives coverage around the hips too.

No matter what clothing you choose for backpacking, you can’t go wrong with Merino wool. See more of our recommendations for backpacking clothing in our Hiking and Backpacking Collection.


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