Alpaca Thermal Properties
Much of today's high-end winter apparel for winter sports, such as hiking, camping, hunting etc.
is made with synthetic fibers that have semi-hollow cores. That's because hollow core fiber
weighs less than the same diameter of solid core fiber, such as wool. Because
air is trapped in the core, the fabric warms up very quickly. As a result, outdoors people
know that clothing made from semi-hollow core fiber is light
weight and much warmer than the solid core equivalents.
Alpaca fiber is a natural semi-hollow
with a wonderful fineness
that outmatches many of the micro-fiber synthetics. Unlike
synthetically engineered micro-fiber, alpaca fiber production is gentle to the environment
and is a sustainable process. Because alpacas are shorn once a year, no animal is killed to collect
its fleece (such as in goose down), and alpaca manure is a valuable fertilizer by-product
that can enrich the soil.
Much of today's high-end thermal clothing also boasts moisture wicking properties.
Wicking and absorbing moisture are two different
things. Absorbing moisture is what a sponge does. It keeps taking in moisture until it becomes
saturated and the whole sponge feels wet. Wicking is when the fabric transports moisture away
from its source to the outside of a fabric where it is able to evaporate. Wool and cotton are
very absorbent but do not have very good wicking properties, which is why many people complain
that their feet sweat or feel wet wool or cotton socks. Alpaca on the other hand, has low
moisture absorbency with great wicking properties resulting in better comfort and warmth.
Alpaca socks will keep your feet much, much warmer in winter than wool socks.
Alpaca Fiber is Hypoallergenic
Unlike wool, alpaca fleece contains no lanolin, and requires no chemical-scouring agents
during processing to remove fatty lanolin. This, combined with its natural hypoallergenic properties
and softness, makes alpaca clothing comfortable, even for sensitive skin. The softness of alpaca over wool of the
same micron count is due to a scale height of 0.4 micron for Alpaca versus 0.8 micron for wool.
If you compare an alpaca fiber to a wool fiber under a microscope, you will find the surface of
the alpaca fiber will be smooth where the wool fiber will appear to have scales. The lower scale
height creates a smoother, slippery feel with a less scratchy surface. Alpaca has a much less
prickle factor than merino wool of the same fineness due to the flatter scales on the alpaca fiber.
Many people who cannot wear wool can wear alpaca clothing in comfort.
This page was last updated on June 10, 2009.