Author Topic: First hand evidence of why cotton sucks  (Read 6301 times)

Offline elcoyote

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First hand evidence of why cotton sucks
« on: February 20, 2011, 08:42:20 PM »
My husband, my sister, and her fiancée went hiking this morning. It was pretty grey and miserable out, but it wasn't actually. Raining. I didn't think much about it, put my regular cotton hoodie on, over a cotton flannel long sleeve shirt. Pretty warm, no biggie. I packed a rain jacket in my backpack, just in case. well, as we're hiking, it starts to spit ice at us. I didn't think much of it, it's just ice, it wasn't getting us wet, it was actually kind of pretty. We were hiking at a pretty brisk pace, and we were all having no trouble staying warm.

It continued to spit snow and ice at us, but it didn't start raining until maybe five minutes before we got back to the car. It was a super light drizzle, barely got my hoodie damp. Again, thought nothing of it. We drop my sister and her man off at their house, and the hubby and I decide to go to a movie. We get there, get to our seats, and begin waiting for the movie.

About this time I notice I'm kinda cold. I'm kinda getting really cold. As time goes on, I'm getting colder and colder. Mind you, it's only maybe 68-69 degrees in the movie theater. By halfway through the movie, I'm shivering. By the end of the movie, I'm so cold I can barely breathe, and I'm kinda having trouble staying awake.

It took me a good three hours at home under a blanket in dry clothes before I was warm again.

 Do not wear cotton in the outdoors. I got dangerously cold in 68-69 degree air conditioning. If that had happened while we were trail hiking in 30 degree weather... A simple 3 mile hike could have ended in disaster, especially if I had been alone.

Cotton is your enemy. Once wet, that's it. It loses all of it's insulation powers, and will get you colder than having nothing on at all.

Offline FreeLancer

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Re: First hand evidence of why cotton sucks
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2011, 04:13:00 PM »
Cotton is NOT the fabric of my life.  Synthetics and wool are far superior for moisture/heat management, and they're more durable.   I don't even own cotton underwear or socks anymore. 

I climbed the Grand Teton with a guide service once and they would not allow anyone above 10,000 feet with cotton clothing due to the risk of hypothermia.


Offline chris

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Re: First hand evidence of why cotton sucks
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2011, 06:21:57 PM »
I used to work with a guy who did underground cable repairs. Some brain dead construction crew busted an underground communications cable and he went out to repair it. They had also knocked down the sign about the underground gas line. When he jumped into the hole he noticed a slight odor of gas he hadn't noticed previously. As he was climbing out, the gas caught and his synthetic fabric uniform melted to his body. The saving grace for his posterity was the 100% cotton briefs he was wearing.

He now has scars from his neck to his waist and mid thigh to his ankles from where the synthetic fabric melted. Cotton ignites quicker and burns, but it doesn't melt and attach itself.

Cotton or wool, because everything else is unnatural.  ;D

Offline joeinwv

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Re: First hand evidence of why cotton sucks
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2011, 07:45:15 PM »
Everything is a compromise.

For the record, there was nothing wrong with your cotton sweatshirt - you were hiking and got warm, then got wet.

If I can pick ideals for moving around in the cold, it will be silk base layer, flannel / chamois shirt, wool sweater, waterproof shell. Gives you a lot of layering combos.

Offline FreeLancer

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Re: First hand evidence of why cotton sucks
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2011, 10:16:47 PM »
The saving grace for his posterity was the 100% cotton briefs he was wearing.

I'll take my chances, I'm not going back to soggy cotton for my crotch swaddling.

Offline TexDaddy

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Re: First hand evidence of why cotton sucks
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2011, 10:39:02 PM »
It depends, like lots of stuff.

Here, it is over 100*F more often than it is below freezing. It has reached 95 in February several times. When it is hot, I much prefer to wear cotton over wool or synthetics for exactly the same reasons the reverse is true when it is cold. It wicks up the sweat and allows it to evaporate on the dry hot days. Wool and synthetics can kill you under those circumstances.

My 'cold' weather gear is not cotton. My hot weather gear is.

The key is to wear what is appropriate for the circumstances.

Offline faradai

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Re: First hand evidence of why cotton sucks
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2011, 05:06:38 PM »
Un here, our government has issued special grow licenses to farmer to grow the male hemp weed (plant). There are shops in Nelson BC that specialize in Hemp garments of all layers. Hemp outlast cotton, it breathes better,insulates better. And, ah, no! you can't eat it to get high  ;)

The weed can be grown in rotations so that there is a yield all year round. The fibres in the plant as well at the oil from the seeds contain natural healing enzymes. And after harvesting the oil, the fibres can be used to re-enforce concrete in ANY building project. Especially in third world nations. The pant is virturally indistructable and growns in all kinds of weather.

Hey, but getting back to the cotton in the outdoors..I choose not go with a blended polyester. Anything that won't contain the water ..Like TexDaddy said ....'if it's cold it's a no and its hot it's a must' > of course that's a loose translation; haven't gotten the quote thing figured out yet...   ???

have a great day, eh!

Offline FreeLancer

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Re: First hand evidence of why cotton sucks
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2011, 06:55:05 PM »
I've got to disagree about cotton being superior in hot weather, due to its excessive moisture retention.  Synthetics evaporate sweat much quicker, leaving you significantly cooler and drier with less potential for chafing.

Cotton's fine in a temperature controlled environment, but once you're moving and sweating it becomes a soggy liability, regardless of the outside temperature.

Other natural fibers like bamboo, hemp, and even merino wool can perform well in the heat, but not cotton.

Offline RPZ

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Re: First hand evidence of why cotton sucks
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2011, 03:36:26 AM »
Desent.
Quote
My husband, my sister, and her fiancée went hiking this morning. It was pretty grey and miserable out, but it wasn't actually. Raining. I didn't think much about it, put my regular cotton hoodie on, over a cotton flannel long sleeve shirt. Pretty warm, no biggie. I packed a rain jacket in my backpack, just in case ... [etc]...
I hiked and climbed in coastal and inland Europe for many years. The mountains and moorlands all over Britain have a reputation for eating summer hikers and climbers who make the error of setting out in jeans, t-shirts and sport shoes.

They typically start out with a sunny, breezy 70 degrees or more - and hours later, tired and perhaps insufficiently fed, at altitude, suddenly find themselves in a rainstorm, gale force winds, and a ten or more degree drop in temperature. As air temperature get lower, humidity has a compounding effect along with wind force. The end result of these misadventures is often hypothermia.

One item my climbing buddies and I found indespensible was the synthetic fleece jacket. It can be slipped on if things get unexpectantly cooler either during or at the end of the day. In fact when rock climbing we often wore synthetic fleece jacket and pants alone, and packed a shell layer for when at rest on the tops, and extra underwear and socks if out for more than a day.  A fleece jacket weighs little along with a few other items in a day pack.

I do find cotton is the most comfortable general all round clothing for spring, summer and fall hiking. When temperatures really drop or with the addition of rain and cooler windswept elevations I transition to the higher quality wool, and add silk as an underlayer as temps drop further towards freezing on down.

Cotton is fine, as long as you remember that you need to keep it dry. That means adequate breathable shell clothing if the weather turns sour, putting on before you get wet, and learning to control the effects of perspiration under exertion. If you begin sweating do not wait until you are soaking wet before shedding a layer or more of outer clothing.

By your story it sounds to me that at the days end in the movie theater you were tired and perhaps somewhat "underfed" at that stage.  Being well rested and having sufficient calorific intake are essential when things get damp and cooler, more so when you are tired after a hike or days climb.