Alpaca as a natural mattress fibre
Alpaca is one of the softest premium mattress fibres used in high-end mattress manufacturer, it is an incredibly fine fibre and allows for fantastic temperature regulation. Alpaca is super soft to the touch, high wicking and requires far less processing compared to wool. It is one of the most luxurious fillings, used in high-end mattress upholstery and bedding products. To top it off, British Alpaca is the rarest of all natural fibres and can only be found from a few independent Alpaca keepers here in Britain. Let us explain why natural Alpaca fibres are now being used in top end mattresses.
Benefits of Alpaca Fibre
The benefits of Alpaca has everything to do with the beautiful creatures that produce it and the conditions they have evolved to survive in. Alpacas are native to the hills of South America where temperatures can plummet to the minus and also raise into the higher degrees. Their coat has to account for both heat retention in colder times but also be incredibly thermally efficient in warmer temperatures. They really are always dressed for all seasons with just one coat!
The wool itself has fewer scales on the cuticle than sheep wool. This means its softer to the touch as the fibre itself is smoother. You can actually see this when you compare the fibres under a microscope. If you want to know even more about wool fibres (such as what is a cuticle, cortex or medulla) then please read our post here.
This makes Alpaca hypoallergenic and their fibre doesn’t itch, which pure sheep wool is commonly known to do when used in jumpers and clothing.
Alpaca wool has a micron of 16—18, which is the diameter of the fibre. Making it incredibly fine compared to other fibres. It has an average length of 8-12cm, known as the staple length, rather than coarser wool which can range from 20-35 microns. This coupled with the minimal fibre scales is the key to the zero itch that is felt with Alpaca wool.
British Alpaca Wool
You simply won’t find Alpaca fibres in a run of the mill bed retailer, let alone British Alpaca, because of its price and limited quantity. You can count the Alpaca farmers in the UK on one hand. They are passionate, small-scale Alpaca farmers who care greatly about their alpacas and the wool which is a byproduct of their annual shearing.
The Alpacas are sheared once a year by specialist shearers, due to the soft loft of the fleece it is a very specialist skill. The fibres are then processed, cleaned and then needled onto cotton pads for use in our luxury topper and comfort layers.
Alpaca as a mattress upholstery layer
Alpaca makes an excellent comfort layer in a natural fibre mattress due to the softness of the fibres. It’s also incredibly high wicking meaning that it regulates extremes of temperature highly efficiently. This helps reduce temperature fluctuations for sleepers during the night.
Alpaca should be used primarily in the top layers of both mattress and mattress topper construction. Placing it way down in a mattress or base pad can reduce the benefits of this fibre. You are better off with a horsehair or more resistant wool layer further down the mattress. Due to Alpacas softness is has a low rebound level, meaning it is better suited as a top pad layer for comfort than support. It would be simply wasted as an insulator or lower layer. Why waste such an incredible fibre down there!
What’s the difference between an Alpaca and a Llama?
- Alpacas are far smaller than Llamas
- Alpacas have smaller ears Llamas have banana-shaped larger ears
- Llamas fleece is much more coarse
- Llamas are used as a carrying animal in their native South America
- Alpacas are bred solely for their fleece and not their meat
Mattresses that contain Alpaca fibres?
Entry level models simply can’t afford to use Alpaca. You won’t find natural Alpaca fibre in a sub £2000 mattress due to the supply chain and expense. If you do, we would be dubious. We’ve written extensively about terms such as ‘contains natural fibres’ or ‘includes natural fibres’. Some manufacturers have been known to mix a few fibres with other fibres to claim it then contains Alpaca. Remembering the difference between knowing the GSM vs just a few rogue fibres that are thrown in with some other white fibres. It’s scandalous but has been known to happen.
By asking what the GSM is you can work out whether it’s a completely natural fibre layer, such as in our Artisan ranges or a blend with other cheaper, sometimes synthetic fibres. If a retailer can’t say for sure, we advise you walk away.
Alpaca fleece is the softest natural fibre available and is hugely beneficial for warmer sleepers due to its high wicking. It provides a soft luxurious feel to the comfort layer of a mattress. Unlike synthetic fibres and foam, it has an incredible rebound rate. Due to the limited supply and specialists skill set to sheer Alpacas it is a premium fibre. By choosing a mattress that contains Alpaca you’re moving away from the mass-produced mid-range models and into high-end mattress manufacture.