Warmth and Weight
For the amount of warmth it provides, alpaca and lambs wool are almost identical. However, alpaca weighs less than 1/3 of the amount of lambs wool. This means that it technically is warmer than lambs wool. It also means that it can provide the same level of warmth without adding bulk and excess fabric. This makes wearing clothing made from alpaca fibers much less heavy and easier to wear.
Lambs wool naturally contains lanolin. This substance is called an emollient, which is generally soothing to skin and can help to soften it. Lanolin is often harvested and utilized in hand creams, hair products, and even for breastfeeding mothers! However, this lanolin is often the agent that causes an allergic reaction to wool in some. It can also irritate sensitive skin.
Alpaca fibers naturally occur in 22 colors. This gives a wide array of color options for those who cannot tolerate dyes on their fabrics. Lambs wool typically only comes in 6 colors.
In addition to being more light weight than lambs wool, quality alpaca fibers are also moisture-wicking, this helps you to feel more comfortable while wearing them because they keep the skin dry and warm. This is an especially wonderful benefit for socks and mittens in the winter.
While alpaca is not considered water-proof (because it lacks lanolin) it is water-resistant. It is also stain and odor resistant, which makes it more durable and capable of going longer between washings.
Because alpaca wool is made of hollow fibers, it also allows it to trap air pockets and maintain constant heat. This makes it warm in the winter and cool in the summer, it also makes it extremely breathable. This makes it a more ideal material than lambs wool does not typically breathe as well. (Note - all wool is considered breathable to a certain degree.)
Lambs wool is a very common textile, and many are familiar with the thick and rough texture of items knitted with it. Alpaca wool, however, is often compared to cashmere in texture. It is smooth, soft, and incredibly glossy. This texture makes it much more comfortable to wear, enough to wear directly against the skin. Many people find that lambs wool is too scratchy to be worn directly against the skin.
Alpaca fibers do not have lanolin, so most who have irritation and discomfort when wearing lambs wool can wear alpaca wool without trouble. Alpaca fibers are also hollow and this allows them to lay differently than lambs wool. This helps with the "itchy" factor that can often accompany lambs wool.
Alpaca are similar to llamas and are sturdy, adaptable animals. They do not need an excessive amount of food and farmers can typically rotate their feeding grounds without issue. This makes their environmental impact relatively small. Alpacas often produce two to three times the amount of wool that cashmere goats produce, again making their impact minimal. Alpaca typically eat 1.5% of their body weight each day, lambs typically eat 2.5-3%. Making them require more food per animal.
Alpacas are typically sheered once per year, usually, this occurs each spring. This process is painless for the animals, who typically live for 20 years and can produce around 200 pounds of high-quality wool. Sheep are also shorn once per year and can produce anywhere from 3-30 pounds of wool per animal. Sheep typically live 10-12 years, meaning they typically provide a similar amount of wool over a lifetime as alpaca.
In addition to being naturally occurring and low environmental impacting to produce, alpaca and lambs wool are naturally biodegradable as well. This means you don't have to worry about landfills and the environmental impact of your clothing or household products when they can't be used anymore.
Why You Should Choose Alpaca Wool?
Alpaca wool is lighter weight.
It is warmer than lambswool.
Alpaca wool is naturally hypoallergenic.
It is softer and shinier.
More dye-free colors.
Alpacas live longer and produce more consistent amounts of wool each year.
Alpacas consume less food per animal (by body weight) than sheep.
While all types of wool have similar benefits - wrinkle resistance, odor resistance, water resistance, warmth, and breath-ability - alpaca wool really is a cut above the rest due to its texture and lightweight.