Is Alpaca Wool Windproof?
Updated: Feb 24
Call me a minimalist, but the real reason we wear clothes is that they protect us from the elements, right? Come rain, wind or shine, I’m always wearing that alpaca scarf of mine! But is alpaca wool really windproof?
While the alpaca fiber itself is close to being windproof, an alpaca woolen item is not. The structure of knitting (or weaving) will have holes through which the wind passes. That being said, alpaca wool is very wind resistant.
It is said that alpaca wool is wind resistant. Let’s separate truth from myth and find out what alpaca wool can really do.
Windproof Vs. Wind Resistant
Imagine an alpaca, grazing some of that grass, strolling the Andean highlands… And then the wind comes and never leaves. But neither does the alpaca, it’s got to have a good reason to stay true to its natural habitat.
Windproof means that no wind will be let through, in other words, that it is impervious to wind.
For something to be windproof, it needs to be seamlessly sealed or shut off.
Wind resistant means that it blocks some wind, while it still lets some wind through.
The tricky part of wind-resistant labels is that there is no black-and-white definition of how much wind is blocked. This means that companies have the freedom to decide what is wind resistant and what is not.
Wind resistant can therefore always end up letting some wind through, once it gets strong enough. This is the most important difference between windproof and wind-resistant.
Fiber Vs. Knitted Garments
The alpaca fiber itself (before it is turned into sweaters, scarfs, and hats), is very close to being windproof. That means it doesn’t let any wind through. The animal needs its warm fleece to stay warm in the very harsh climate of its home. Now, if you’ve ever seen an alpaca (or touched, you lucky, lucky you…!!!), you can imagine that hair lets wind through.
Alpaca fleece is pretty dense closer to its body. The main goal of the alpaca’s fluffiness is to keep the skin and body warm and protected from the wind. Mission accomplished.
When the fleece is shorn and spun into threads of yarn, it can be used to knit or weave items like hats, sweaters and scarves. When the yarn is used for knitting, the fiber doesn’t lose any of its windproof-ness, but the structure of a knitted item will leave holes for the wind to play with.
That’s why alpaca wool is not windproof, but only wind resistant.
The level of wind resistance of an item will depend on the stitch that is used, the thickness of the yarn, and the technique that is used (woven items tend to be slightly tighter, leaving less room for the wind).
Another great feature of alpaca wool is the breathability of the fiber. Normally, you’d expect that the more wind resistant something is, the less breathable it will become. That’s not true for alpaca wool. The special fiber guarantees that any alpaca woolen item will be breathable while being highly wind resistant.
The breathability of alpaca wool is thanks to the special fiber: with airbag-like bags inside the fiber, alpaca hair is hollow, and not solid.
Trick or Breathe
Unlike an alpaca living in the Andean highlands, you might want to wear a wind-resistant scarf or hat in a different home somewhere else in the world. You may not need windproof equipment, but might be looking for something that keeps out most of the cold on a windy day.
I found this awesome wind-resistance trick that you can use to see whether or not something is wind resistant (enough).
Your breath can simulate a fresh breeze. If you breathe out as hard as you can, you will breathe at a speed of 20 mph, similar to what a fresh breeze would be (19 to 24 mph).
Now if you do this with the fabric against your mouth, you can feel with your hand how much wind/breath comes through. It will give you a rough estimate of how wind resistant the fabric is.
Practicality Vs. Necessity
To put this in perspective, in the Netherlands, where I’m currently located, the average wind is 15.5 mph during the “windiest” time of the year (January - a.k.a. now). That is SUPER windy! I almost fell off my bike this morning (when it was about 22 mph)!
In Ireland (acceptable to assume that Ireland is a very windy country, right?!), the common wind speed in the North is 18 mph.
Compare this to Wellington, New Zealand, which is apparently the windiest place on Earth: with 36.7mph being the yearly average. I definitely won’t be riding my bike there!
Whether you are riding a bike, strolling down the beach, or hiking a trail, I totally recommend using alpaca wool as a part of your outfit. Of course, it will depend on what you’re wearing, though.
What Are You Wearing?
Alpaca woolen socks might be super warm and comfy, but they’re not going to stop much wind while being tucked away in your shoes. Unless you’re wearing flip flops (hot!), socks won’t really protect the rest of your body from the wind.
Scarves or Shawls
On the other hand, a scarf or shawl can protect you lots more, especially a nice big and long scarf, that you can wrap around your neck and shoulders several times (totally my style). The thicker the scarf, the better it will protect you.
For this reason, I love the Alpaca Woolen Scarf XL: it is so long I can wrap it around my neck twice, giving me a double layer of protection!
Collar or Tube Scarf
Now, I would wear this type of scarf on a hike, but I would also consider sleeping in it and many other things that you may or may not do… SOOOO, here’s my point: if you’re looking for something warm on a cold hike, you might want to consider wearing a tube or collar kind of scarf, which might be more functional.
Hats and Headbands
HATS! My head is my favorite thing to be protected from the wind. I HATE it when my head gets cold and the wind just seems to be beating it up. Alpaca woolen hats are great :) Of course, headbands will protect your ears, too, but a little less the rest of your head.