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The question we were asked the most in 2020: is wool vegan? Here’s the answer (and more advice on vegan questions we regularly get asked!)

Since the creation of Veggie Vagabonds, there are a few questions we hear all the time about vegan clothing and materials.

Whether it’s for finding vegan outdoor gear or advice on what materials are considered vegan-friendly, we thought it would be handy to put all the regular Q and As into one post!

A quick note: this article isn’t here to tell you what you’re wearing isn’t vegan! It’s here to answer questions, share advice and help you find the right clothing you know is 100% cruelty-free for your vegan adventures.

Oh, and we’ve tried to keep this info as objective as possible. There might be an opinion or two, but we’ve kept it to a minimum.

If you’ve got any more vegan questions, make sure to leave them in the comments and we’ll get back to you!

This article may contain affiliate links, they will never cost you more money but helps Veggie Vagabonds keep making content like this – thank you!

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Is wool vegan?

Wool isn’t considered vegan because it’s the fur taken from animals. Typically it’s from sheep but can also be from goats, alpaca or other furry, non-consenting animals.

The animals are often kept in poor conditions and the shearing process causes stress and harm. Within wool production, tail docking or mulesing is common and very cruel.

What is wool used for? Fleeces, coat lining, insulation, hats and gloves.

Vegan alternatives to wool? Yup, plenty, but opting for eco-friendly alternatives is best.

What about Merino wool?

Merino wool is taken from a specific breed of sheep and is popular for hiking baselayers and socks because of its wicking properties. Like regular wool, it’s not cruelty-free.

Vegan Merino alternatives? I’ll be honest, this area still has a way to go. Still, you can find synthetic vegan baselayers (men / women) easily and also vegan hiking socks, though there isn’t a huge variety.

What is down? Is down cruel?

Down is used as an insulating material and it’s actually the under-feathers from ducks, geese and other birds.
Similarly to wool, the birds are often kept in cruel conditions and some are live-plucked. It’s cruel and unnecessary as there are brilliant alternatives.

What is down used in? Down jackets, insulated coats, sleeping bags, thermal products. It’s also used in bedding products too.

Vegan alternatives to down? Lots, check out the Q below.
Girl wearing a Vegan insulated jacket

Is synthetic insulation a good down alternative?

Nowadays there are plenty of synthetic vegan down alternatives (and they kick ass!).

Not only is synthetic insulation cruelty-free, but it’s often cheaper and keeps insulating once wet (something down fails to do). Notable types of synthetic insulation are Thinsulate (3m), Thermoball, Primaloft, Climashield, Polartec & Thermal R.

Where can I find synthetic outdoor gear? We put together awesome guides to vegan sleeping bags, synthetic insulated jackets and outdoor winter coats which all use synthetic insulation.

Can you get vegan hiking shoes? Are they worse?

Yes, you can find lots of vegan hiking shoes and boots, the range is always increasing!

Nowadays, vegan options can be just as good as leather (if not better), sometimes using faux leather or synthetic materials instead.

Leather shoes are typically more expensive and will stretch so might require a breaking-in period. Synthetic materials are often lighter but some may not be as hard-wearing.

Are all synthetic materials vegan?

Yes, synthetic materials are all human-made and animal-free.

However, a product might be sold as a synthetic sleeping bag, synthetic hiking shoes etc. but this normally refers to the main materials and not smaller elements, like glue or dye. More info below.sheep in field overlooking reservoir

Are wool, fur and leather-free products vegan?

Unfortunately not. Like with synthetic products, the primary materials might be vegan-friendly but smaller elements might not be.

For example, a pair of non-leather hiking shoes might contain animal materials in the glue or sole. A synthetic insulated jacket might use animal products in the dye.

How do you know if glues, dyes, sole etc. are vegan?

This can be harder to find out (a nightmare if we’re honest). Unless a product is marked as vegan-friendly or 100% synthetic, the best option is to contact the manufacturer or check out our vegan outdoor gear section.

So what clothing materials aren’t vegan?

This isn’t an exhaustive list of non-vegan clothing materials, but some of the main things to look out for:
Fur – buy faux fur instead
Leather, suede & skins – buy vegan faux leather instead
Wool (lambswool, cashmere, angora, merino, alpaca, llama) – any of the alternatives listed in the section above
Down – any of the alternatives listed in the section above
Silk – these cruelty-free options
Glues, dyes & smaller elements – opt for certified vegan-friendly products or check with the manufacturer

Image via
Vegan certifications

What is vegan leather?

This is a leather alternative made from completely vegan-friendly materials.

Vegan leather has become very popular and is typically made from polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). They replicate leather surprisingly well but suck for the environment as they’re petroleum-based products (regular leather also sucks for the environment but it’s always good to be open about the pros and cons).

Nowadays, there are also lots of innovative ideas for making leather from organic materials that are vegan AND eco-friendly, like from pineapple, mushroom & apples!

It’s important to note that faux leather is not always vegan. Look for a vegan certification or PETA-approval products.

What products use vegan leather? Not many outdoor products use vegan leather and it’s more commonly found in fashion clothes.

Is vegan fashion sustainable? And aren’t synthetic materials bad for the environment?

Being vegan doesn’t automatically make it sustainable.

Animal-based products, like leather, can have a nasty eco-impact but synthetic materials are also oil-based, less biodegradable and can cause microplastic pollution. Though, it’s great to know that many outdoor brands are now using recycled or green materials.

The key is to steer well away from fast fashion, opt for eco-friendly clothing brands and buy good quality items that use sustainable materials. Going second-hand is a great step too.

You can find out more in our Guide to Ethical Outdoor Gear.

What if the animal materials are by-products, is that better?

This is a big argument from clothing manufacturers and animal-product wearers.

For example, leather might be a by-product from cows which are killed for food. Brands, like North Face, claim some of their down is a by-product from the meat industry.

Most vegans would argue that this is still contributing to animal cruelty, that in lots of cases it can’t be guaranteed as just a by-product and many would not choose to wear products taken from animals, by-product or not. Vegan cycle tourers

Is cotton vegan? And what is organic cotton?

Cotton is completely vegan and organic options will avoid using harmful pesticides or fertilizers in products.

Unfortunately, cotton has a big environmental impact too and requires 20,000 litres of water to make just a single t-shirt and pair of jeans!

Sustainable alternative to cotton? Bamboo and hemp clothing are both vegan and more eco-friendly!

Is second-hand or recycled outdoor gear vegan?

Buying second-hand outdoor clothing and equipment is 100% an awesome way to lower your environmental impact.

In terms of whether second-hand clothing of an animal origin, like a down jacket, would be considered vegan… probably not.

Some people may opt to be more strict with buying animal products and others might want to choose the most sustainable option. It depends on where your personal morals lie.

Should I throw away non-vegan clothes now I’m vegan?

Personally, we’d say HELL NO.

The environment is crucial for us and animals, so throwing any clothes away to buy new ones is a crying shame. We’d say, give it a good life and then you can opt for vegan alternatives once it’s worn through.

What are the best outdoor clothing brands for vegans?

Nowadays, you’ll find completely vegan outdoor clothing brands, like Save the Duck and Plant Athletic who only sell vegan-approved products.

You’ll also find regular outdoor brands with good vegan labelling and product guarantees, like Inov-8 and Merrell.

We put together a full Guide to Vegan Outdoor Clothing Brands here.

Remember, this wasn’t written to say this and that is/isn’t vegan, it was written to help you make the decisions you want to make.

At Veggie Vagabonds, our stance is that any step towards veganism is a step in the right direction. We’re here to help you take those steps and fill life with adventure!

If you’ve got any more Qs, just drop us a comment at the bottom 🙂 Or sign up for our newsletter to receive our latest articles straight to your inbox!

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