The Warmest Socks, Gloves, Hats and Scarves


Click here if you want to jump straight to my list of the warmest garments available.

I’ve been researching the warmest wool products available. Here’s what I discovered:

Qiviut (Musk Ox Down)

Musk Ox Down: Warmest Wool
Qiviut (pronounced “kiv-ee-ute”) is the name for the downy hair of the musk ox. It is the warmest fibre in the world — about eight times as warm as sheep’s wool.

Qiviut is also ultralight. It’s expensive too — a pair of Qiviut socks will costs about $175.

Musk oxen live in Alaska and Canada where temperatures sometimes drop to –100ºF (-73ºC), so they need protection.

I’ve been testing Qiviut scarfs — and they are superlatively warm. Qiviut’s combination of intense warmth and ultralight hand is unique.

A single garment of it can make a significant difference on a frostbitten night.

In Alaska, qiviut is obtained from farmed animals or gathered from the wild during the molt. Unlike sheep, the musk ox are not sheared.

Many of these Qiviut websites are run by the knitters themselves:

Yak Down


Similar to qiviut, yak down is a very warm, lightweight and soft fibre. I like it because 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, yak fabric is 40% warmer merino wool. It has 66% greater air permeability and 17% greater water vapour permeability (tested with ASTM D1518, ASTM D737, ASTM E96).

Bison Down


Bison down is a very warm, insulating fibre. It is also very durable for such a soft fibre. It has a moisture regain of about 30%, compared to 18% for wool — this means that even when saturated, the fibre draws moisture away from one’s skin.

There is only a limited amount of fibre 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.

Alpaca Wool


Alpaca wool is about three times as warm as sheep’s wool. It is fine, lightweight and lustrous.

Alpaca is soft as cashmere but stronger and less costly. It’s more durable than merino.

It is durable, and bears no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic.

Alpacas are kept in herds that graze on the level heights of the Andes of southern Peru, northern Bolivia, Ecuador, and northern Chile.

Other Wools

Wild Kashmiri goats Capra falconeri cashmiriensis roaming the Great Orme headland in Llandudno North Wales

Other warm (and very soft) wools include 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, followed by alpaca and then merino.

In terms of fineness, any fibre that has a diameter of 20 µ (microns) or less will feel very soft to the touch. In the alpaca world, the labelled “royal” alpaca should indicate fibres under 19 µ, “baby” alpaca should indicate fibres that are around 22.5µ and “superfine” alpaca is 26µ. There’s also an International Alpaca Mark that indicates the fibre is less than 28 µ. In the merino world, look for wool labelled “ultrafine” (around 15-17 µ) or “superfine” (about 24 µ).

Here’s a list of fibres from finest to coarsest (in microns): Suri Alpaca (10 -15 µ), Qiviut (11-13 µ), Yak (15 – 19 µ), Huacava Alpaca (15 – 29 µ), Cashmere (15 – 18.5 µ), Ultrafine Merino (17 µ), Yak Down (17.5 to 19µ), Bison (18.5 µ), Superfine Merino (24 µ), Standard Wool (30 – 32 µ), Human Hair (60 – 80 µ).

Based on this criteria, these are the warmest woolens I could find:

Warmest Socks

Warmest Gloves

Warmest Hats

Warmest Scarves

Warmest Base Layers (Top)

Warmest Base Layer (Leggings)

Warmest Sweaters

Warmest Throw Blankets

Warmest Bed Blankets

Warmest Fibre Reference

Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook — I gleaned much information from this book.