I’ve been researching the warmest wool products available. Here’s what I discovered:
Qiviut (Musk Ox Down)
Qiviut (pronounced “kiv-ee-ute”) is the name for the downy hair of the musk ox. It is the warmest fiber in the world — about eight times as warm as sheep’s wool.
Muskoxen live in Alaska and Canada where temperatures sometimes drop to –100ºF (-73ºC), so they need protection. The Inuktitut name for the musk ox is “umingmak” meaning the “bearded one”.
Qiviut is an ultralight fiber and very soft fiber too. However, there is a limited amount of Qiviut produced every year, so it’s expensive.
In Alaska, qiviut is obtained from farmed animals or gathered from the wild during the molt. Unlike sheep, the musk oxen are not sheared.
Extremely warm and light. A rare, soft and luxurious fiber.
Similar to qiviut, yak down is a very warm fiber that’s also lightweight and soft. It’s a more affordable alternative to the rare qiviut.
Yaks are primarily raised by nomadic Tibetan and Mongolian families. Their wool is combed once per year in the springtime.
According to Kora (a yak performance wear company), the wool is 40% warmer than merino wool. It has 66% greater air permeability and 17% greater water vapor permeability (tested with ASTM D1518, ASTM D737, ASTM E96).
Yak Wool Summary
Extraordinarily soft, warm, and lightweight. Has some elasticity and bounce.
Bison down is a very warm, insulating fiber. It is also very durable for such a soft fiber. It has a moisture regain of about 30%, compared to 18% for sheep’s wool — this means that even when saturated, the fiber draws moisture away from one’s skin.
There is only a limited amount of fiber available – estimated at 10,000 pounds per year versus 2,100,000,000 pounds of sheep wool.
It is harvested in Colorado and South Dakota, as a by-product of the bison meat industry.
Bison Wool Summary
A short and quite fine fiber that offers unusual durability for its level of softness.
Alpaca wool is about three times as warm as sheep’s wool, and it is lightweight and durable. It contains no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic and odorless. Alpaca wool also has one of the highest moisture ‘wicking’ properties of all-natural fibers.
Alpacas are kept in herds that graze in the mountains of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile.
Alpaca Wool Summary
Delightfully smooth, supple feel. Durable fiber. Not elastic.
Other warm (and very soft) wools include llama, camel, angora, cashmere, vicuna, and guanaco.
Durability and Fineness
In terms of durability, bison is in most cases the strongest, followed by qiviut and yak down, alpaca and merino.
In terms of fineness, any fiber that has a diameter of 20µ (microns) or less will feel very soft to the touch. In the alpaca world, the labeled “royal” alpaca should indicate fibers under 19 µ, “baby” alpaca should indicate fibers that are around 22.5µ and “superfine” alpaca is 26µ.
There’s also an International Alpaca Mark that indicates the fiber is less than 28 µ.
In the merino world, look for wool labeled “ultrafine” (around 15-17 µ) or “superfine” (about 18-20 µ).
Here’s a list of fibers from finest to coarsest (in microns):
- Vicuña (12µ)
- Angora rabbit (8 – 12µ)
- Suri Alpaca (10 – 15µ)
- Silk (10 – 13µ)
- Qiviut (11-13 µ)
- Cashmere Goat (14 – 19µ)
- Huacava Alpaca (15 – 29µ)
- Camel (15 – 22µ)
- Ultrafine Merino (15.5µ or less)
- Yak Down (17.5 to 19µ)
- Bison (14 -18µ)
- “Royal” Grade Alpaca (19µ or less)
- “Cashllama” Grade Llama (20 -21µ)48
- “Baby” Grade Alpaca (22µ or less)
- Mohair (23 – 28µ)
- Superfine Merino (15.6 to 18.5µ)
- Superfine Alpaca (26µ)
- Standard Sheep’s Wool (30 – 32µ)
- Human Hair (60 – 80µ)
Based on these criteria, these are the warmest woolens I could find:
Warmest Boot Socks
- 50% Bison and 50% Merino Boot Socks by Buffalo Wool Company — a very warm sock and with full terry loop knitting — $45
- Icebreaker Mountaineer Socks — 79% Merino Wool, 20% Nylon, 1% LYCRA Spandex — $21
- Smartwool Merino Wool Heavy Cushioned Socks — 70% Merino Wool, 29% Nylon, and 1% Elastane — $22
- Time May Tell Merino Hiking Sock — 80% merino wool, 14% Nylon, 5% Poly, 1% Spandex — $15
- Darn Tough Boot Socks — 64% Merino Wool, 33% Nylon, 3% Lycra Spandex — $25
- Wayfarer Sock by Khunu — 56% yak wool, 34.5% nylon, 9.5% Elastane — £22 ($28 USD)
- 78% Alpaca Socks by Williamston Alpaca — 78% Alpaca, 20% Nylon, 2% Lycra — made in the USA — $22
Warmest Crew Hiking Socks
- Icebreaker Everday Crew Sock — 79% Merino Wool, 20% Nylon, 1% Spandex — $20
- Fox River Trailhead Heavyweight Crew Sock — 77% merino wool — $17
- 100% Cashmere Socks by Lona Scott – very soft and warm — made in Scotland – $40
- 100% Yak Wool Sock by NoosConcept — $31 USD
- 100% Alpaca Wool Socks by Gamboa — $20
Warmest Indoor Socks
- 100% Qiviut Socks by Qiviuk — musk ox wool is the warmest and softest fiber in the world — $219 (!)
- 100% Cashmere Socks by iMongol — cashmere wool is very warm and lightweight — $39
- 90% Yak Wool Socks by Yakamel — soft, inexpensive yak wool socks — $21
- Bison and Silk Blend Socks by Fox River — these socks are great for indoor use — 36% bison wool, 36% silk, 26% nylon, 2% spandex — $43
- 90% Yak Wool Socks by DoctorTM — a bit thin but still warm — $13
- 90% Bison Down Gloves — 90% Bison Down, 10% Nylon — the bison wool makes this glove particularly warm — the styling is rustic — $98
- 100% Qiviut Gloves by Qiviuk — $250
- 100% Yak Wool Gloves by Mahogany Cashmere — $62
- 100% Yak Down Gloves by Handcombed – $34
- 100% Alpaca Double Knit Gloves — very thick but warm and durable – $36
- 100% Thick Cashmere Gloves by Oxford Cashmere — $40
- 100% Cashmere Gloves by Fishers Finery — $39
- 100% Qiviut Beanie by Qiviuk — $260 USD
- 100% Yak Wool Beanie by Yakmere — €50 —
- 80% Yak Wool Beanie by Khunu — £65 — $84 USD
- 100% Yak Wool Beanie by Kora — 230 g/m2 — $45 USD
- 100% Yak Wool Beanie by Yakamel — double layer — $38 USD
- 100% Yak Down Beanie by Handcombed — $51
- 100% Yak Wool Beanie by Mahogany Cashmere — $78
- 90% Bison Down Beanie by Buffalo Gold — 90% bison down, 10% nylon – $85
- 100% Alpaca Beanie by Woop!Wear – $25
- 100% Cashmere 3-Ply Beanie by Fishers Finery — $40
- 100% Cashmere Cable Knit Hat by Fishers Finery — $33
- 100% Qiviut Scarf by Qiviuk — $629
- 90% Bison Wool Scarf by Buffalo Wool Co. — $160
- 100% Yak Wool Scarf by Simplife — 27″ by 79″ – 3.3 oz — $89
- 100% Yak Wool Scarf by Simplife — 39″ x 79″ – 10.6 oz — $130
- 100% Yak Safari Blanket by Khunu — 47″ by 74″- 3.8 oz — £310.00 ($389 USD)
- 90% Bison Down Knit Scarf — 90% bison down, 10% nylon – $125
- 100% Qiviut Heavy Weight Aleutian Scarf by Oomingmak — $275
- 100% Alpaca Scarf by Kuna — $99
- 100% Cashmere Women’s Scarf by Fishers Finery — $52
- 100% Vicuna Scarf — $1790
Wool Fiber Reference
- Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook is a good reference on all different types of wool in the world
- In Search of the World’s Finest Wools — a photographic search around the world to find the finest wools available
18 thoughts on “The Warmest Socks, Gloves, Hats and Scarves”
Your ideas is what I want to say.
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Is it really all natural hair? I want to buy a pair of fur gloves, but I am still deciding between products, I need more detailed advice on this product.
Which product are you asking about?
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Do you find the Qiviut socks to be worth the price? I always have cold feet, so the price would be worth it to me if they’re truly warmer. I suppose I’m somewhat concerned that the stats might not equal the performance. I would be using them mainly indoors.
Qiviut is the warmest option but quite expensive. I’d go for a yak wool or bison wool sock instead — these both come close in terms of warmth.
It’d be great to see some proof of which fiber is actually the warmest. There has to be an answer right? Why not measure the thermal conductivity of each fiber and have a standardized u-value rating so these fibers can be more objectively compared?
What about Possum wool?
I’ve tried Possum wool! I’d say it’s similar to merino in terms of warmth.
Interesting. It’s probably because it’s always mixed with merino wool.
That’s true — it was a mixture.
I’m never warm enough – never. This article is invaluable to me thank you!!!
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