Should I Wear Cotton in the Outdoors?

Should I Wear Cotton in the Outdoors?

July 07, 2019

Spending time in the outdoors is fun, but sometimes picking out what to wear can be a bummer. Some experienced campers and backpackers would advise not to wear cotton clothing. But despite cotton’s negative reputation among backpackers, there really are times when you should actually wear cotton in the outdoors. It all depends on your activity and your destination.

The main reason why people often avoid cotton as an outdoor clothing in general, is that when it gets wet, it stays wet. That’s because cotton is hydrophilic, meaning it absorbs water faster, and it dries slowly. Because it slowly dries, it makes us work or move more to stay warm, as we must also warm the water in the wet fibers, requiring a lot of energy. Synthetic fibers and wool on the other hand, are hydrophobic, meaning the fibers do not absorb water, making them dry a little faster.

If you are heading somewhere cold, wool or synthetic materials are a good choice for that environment. But the thing is, not every outdoor adventure or camping trip is going to take you some place colder or to elevated areas. Because cotton has the ability to stay wet and cool you down, it is ideal for hot, dry, and sunny environments. It’s a great choice of clothing to take if you’re going on a summer boating trip or hiking in a hot, dry desert. Pack a long-sleeved shirt if you are going to a place where you’d be exposed to the sun. Cotton clothing not only protects, but also allows your skin to breathe. It is also ideal for ocean travel because aside from protecting your skin, it does not do damage to the reefs like sunscreen.

You may also use cotton clothing for layering, especially if you are planning to go on a ski trip. In fact, there are also cotton thermal clothing out there, which are also appropriate for people with sensitive skin or allergies.

So…cotton for the outdoors?

The answer is, why not? Cotton does not kill, in fact, cotton cares. Be sure though that the item is hypoallergenic and latex free. It is safe for the skin, and also safe for the environment. When going outdoors, just remember that wearing the right clothing can mean the difference between staying comfortable and focused on your journey. So enjoy your time in the outdoors, and make sure to plan your attire and gear accordingly.

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