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41

Here is an article that quantifies the heat loss effects of cotton, polyester and polypropylene: Rossi et al., Dry and Wet Heat Transfer Through Clothing Dependent on the Clothing Properties Under Cold Conditions, International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics (JOSE) 2008, Vol. 14, No. 1, 69–76. Experimental Summary Here is a rough summary of ...


25

I grew up car-camping in a frame tent (slept 4 in about 1/4 of the floor area). Those things are heavy. Seriously heavy. Lifting the fabric onto the central pole with that half-extended was hard work for someone strong. The poles had to be pretty robust too, as the pitching process involved one or two poles taking most of the weight at various times. ...


24

Yes, there have been studies on how much various fabrics insulate when wet and dry. I remember Dr Murray Hamlet mentioning these statistics in one of his lectures on outdoor survival in the cold. It's been a long time, but I think cotton looses something like 80% of its insulating properties when wet. I may be off on the exact number, but I definitely ...


12

A good cotton tent is expensive, but can be very good value as they last a lifetime and are childproof. In The Netherlands, families may camp up to 5–8 weeks per year, car camping on campgrounds in western or southern Europe. They quite often have cotton tents, I'd say they are the majority of quality family tents on those campgrounds, such as in the ...


12

There is a difference between just soaking up water and "wicking". Cotton is hydrophilic, which means it likes to attract and hang on to water molecules. Unlike a good wicking fabric (which relies on capillary action), cotton will not transfer that water up through your layers to the air as quickly. Here are some reasons why a wet base layer is bad: Cold ...


11

Cotton does not kill, hypothermia does, It just happens to be a lot easier to get hypothermia when you wear cotton, not because it doesn't insulate you as well as other materials, it just doesn't insulate you as well when it is wet. One thing that I think a lot of people don't know is that during the early expeditions in the himalayas, people wore cotton ...


10

Cotton doesn't wick away any moisture, it will soak and capture it. Furthermore cotton is heavy (compared to other materials), doesn't insulate, becomes wet very quickly, and stays wet for a long time.


10

There is this informal study that suggests there isn't much difference between wet gear of any fabric: Cotton vs. Wool Insulation But it misses the point entirely. It's not getting wet that kills, it's how long it takes you to get dry afterwards that kills. A much better test would be to keep the water at a constant temp and measure how much energy is ...


10

When would actually one want to wear exactly cotton socks? Hygienic reasons where washing your socks hot (95 °C) and frequently is important. I guess the most common such reason (besides being doctor/nurse/...) is having a fungal infection. In that case in addition to the proper medication you should change your socks frequently (if they get moist even more ...


9

Cotton is the dominant bedding material choice worldwide for several reasons and as long as you aren't getting into the bag drenched and have adequate water control for your environment, I can't see the lining choice being a make or break factor in warmth. I can see it making the bag much more comfortable for casual use. Furthermore, for winter camping in ...


8

I think your question spells out pretty well why people prefer other materials (cost,weight) and they really aren't used for backpacking where weight matters. The times I have ever seen them in use it was an outfitters camp where the tents are setup for an extended period of time and they had had mules/horses to pack the tent in. The other use case is car ...


8

I'm pretty sure this concept originated with search and rescue teams, who noticed a correlation between what the lost hiker was wearing, and whether the result of the search was a 'rescue' or a 'recovery'. I strongly believe this to be true, and I tried to find good data online, but no luck yet. If somebody can find a proper, double-blinded study of the ...


8

As always the answer differs depending on application, the experimental summary above tells us what happens very well while offering a conclusion that is only subjectively useful. In my own experience cotton is comfortable, inexpensive and can be obtained in the right size, but should not be used exclusively when traveling outdoors any significant distance ...


8

Some of us, when adventuring, go to far off remote places, in very cold or wet areas, and carry everything with us on our backs. But not everyone does that. Some people only car camp, in the summer, where bathrooms and showers are 200 feet away. For those sorts of camping situations, people's needs in a sleeping bag are essentially nothing more than '...


7

I carry a pair of cotton socks on every backpacking trip for one reason: To sleep in. After a day on the trail, nothing like a dry pair of comfortable cotton socks to absorb all that foot moisture and leave your feet toasty dry by morning. Helps keep your feet happy and healthy. Bonus ProTip: A cotton handkerchief wedged in other "moist" and chaffing areas ...


4

I know some people (mostly female) who wear cotton on winter hikes, but they claim they don't sweat (and they drink very little, which makes that plausible). But I sweat a lot, and if you sweat a lot, in winter it's very important to wear breathing clothes. And with breathing clothes is so, that one non-breathing layer breaks the whole thing. Cotton likes ...


4

If you carry the right layers and adjust them well, you can often get away with cotton with no discomfort let alone danger in benign conditions. But we shouldn't plan for only benign conditions and nothing going wrong. An example: If you're delayed and the weather changes for the worse, you could end up with cotton under waterproof layers just as the ...


3

Biggest reason is weight. Horse packers still use canvas wall tents. Almost indestructible if you don't store them wet. But a 9x12 wall tent can weigh over a hundred pounds, and much more if wet. These same packers have the weight allowance to pack cast iron cookware and sheet metal stoves with chimneys. This class of tent is usually packed in to a base ...


3

Another disadvantage of cotton is that, because it holds on to moisture and gets saturated quickly it can get very uncomfortable where it is between your skin and your pack, especially around the straps and back. Over a long day this can get quite unpleasant and over a few days you can get serious skin problems from salty sweat being rubbed against your skin....


3

Availability factor - cotton socks you can buy practically everywhere. When it comes to price, the wool socks you can buy relatively cheap in the military surplus, but it usually means buying in internet. Wool socks are good for winter, but for me they are not-an-option in summer because my feet sweat in them like mad. Wool socks are also heavier and taking ...


2

You must consider here why you would be sweating in the first place. So, you must take into account that the body may produce a bit more heat from time to time and it will want to dump that excess heat into the environment using evaporative cooling. E.g.in Northern Norway I had to travel a bit to get to a place where I could take pictures, when I arrived I ...


2

I would just like to add a comment about your "in the summer" bullet point. A few years ago I went to the southwest to hike in Utah canyon country. I had some smartwool socks. I wore a clean pair every day in the 100+ heat. They kept my feet nice and cool and dry. One morning I wondered if they were really making a difference; so, I wore cotton socks and ...


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