When winter rolls around, katy-bar-the-door, things are quite different. You are not going to find this girl in cotton. Remember, Imma former Florida girl, which translates to - when the temperature dips to 60? or below, I begin my winter chant of “I’m cold” and start donning wool tights and socks, a peacoat and Sorel boots. And that’s just for indoors. (*grin* not really). When I do have to go outdoors, which is every day, and several times a day, I morph into a swollen tick, with hat, scarf, sweaters and anything else I can put on to keep me warm. Fashion flies out of the window in the winter for me. It’s all about staying warm – game on.
Ooh, just talking about winter makes me cold, so back to cotton. I have heard preppers say, “cotton kills” which I found a little odd, especially since I have worn cotton all my life and I am not dead yet. So, I figured I'd look into this further.
It seems the cotton comment refers more specifically to winter, brrrr here we go again, and most notably to winter clothing; as in outdoor survival in the cold -clothing. For all the reasons I stated I liked wearing cotton in the summer, are the same reasons we aren't supposed to wear cotton in the winter. Well, not the cheap and comfortable parts, but the retains moisture and keeps you cool parts definitely.
Cotton is hydrophilic, (sounds so mechanicalish doesn't it?) What this means is cotton doesn't wick wetness away from your skin – remember the cool feeling in the summer? So, when cotton is wet, it becomes cold, sucking the heat out of your body 25 times faster than when it was dry, causing it to lose up to 90 percent of its insulating properties. Also, cotton wicks wetness not only from sweat (not that girls sweat, just sayin’), okay perspiration, but also by being exposed to humidity and rain too. All of these can result in hypothermia. Not a good thing. It’s not the cotton that kills you or I would have been dead a long time ago, cotton just makes it a lot easier to get hypothermia in the winter – and that is what could kill you – or pneumonia.Seems odd because you would think a nice thick 100-percent cotton flannel shirt would be a safe bet for winter. And it is as long as you don’t get it wet and there goes your body heat. Nuts! I love these shirts!
Okay yeah, now we know, cotton doesn’t wick moisture, it sucks out our body heat if it gets wet, and it can lead to hypothermia or pneumonia. So what should we be wearing and still be able to function comfortably in an outdoor survival situation where we find ourself trekking on foot for miles in the snow and ice; carrying gear and our emergency bag?
Most outdoors enthusiast recommend, wool or synthetics, like polypropylene, because these fabrics absorb relatively little water, and if you do sweat; okay -okay, perspire, your body heat can dry it out enough so that the insulating continues to wick moisture away from your skin. In fact, polypropylene material doesn’t absorb water, and neither does polyester, which is essentially made of plastic.
Then there is nylon. Nylon will absorb moisture too. And, down; as in my cozy comfy comforter, is just that, fluffy and cozy, but if down gets wet it could be like carrying two of you. Not a good thing.
Oh, and just so you don’t think I’m picking on cotton, there are other fabric choices that could be just as deadly, if not more, like modal, rayon, viscose, tencel and lyocell. All made from cellulose fiber, which absorbs water even faster than cotton and therefore loses all of its insulating value when wet. Another thing to consider with synthetics is the inherent danger of catching fire. Wool on the other hand is naturally flame retardant, and might be a better choice around a campfire.
Wanna do an experiment to see what I mean about cotton retaining moisture? Put two wet shirts in the clothes dryer; one made of cotton and one of a synthetic fabric. Dry the shirts for ten minutes and then take them out and put them on – one at a time silly. The synthetic shirt should be warmer. Case in point.
So your best clothes bet for outdoor winter survival? Wool tights and socks, wool or cashmere sweater, and I’m thinking any items made of wool or polypropylene.
Oh, yeah … and silk. Silk has impressive moisture wicking properties, keeping you dry and comfortable in any climate. – Just sayin’.
- Survivor Jane
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