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Cotton kills

Discussion in 'Bushcraft and survival skills' started by SCOMAN, Aug 21, 2016.

  1. SCOMAN

    SCOMAN Full Member

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    I've been walking for years and remember even as a kid being told never wear cotton when out hill walking. I never knew the origins of it but found a reference to it via BCOZ weirdly enough.

    https://www.theguardian.com/science...l&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

    All the more poignant when one of our own said that he wouldn't need waterproofs whilst camping on Dartmoor. His choice, most definitely not mine.
     
  2. Mesquite

    Mesquite Anyone for sailing?

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    Interesting article

    There's some who just won't listen to sensible advice simply because they think they know best... :rolleyes:

    I certainly wouldn't dismiss waterproofs with such a cavalier attitude as that guy had.
     
  3. TexDanm

    TexDanm New Member

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    The cotton thing is totally dependent on where you are. Where I live cotton is king. I've never owned or worn anything made of wool. Our winters are mostly above 40 degrees F and sweat is more of a problem than freezing. I wear layered clothes mostly of cotton and carry a poncho to keep dry in case it rains. In East Texas it can be hot as heck on ANY given day of the year. I have gone to the beach in the first week of the year here. The weather was hot and sunny. I'm afraid that I would be in serious trouble in the more northern climates. My idea of a coat is usually a hooded sweat shirt.
     
  4. Tonyuk

    Tonyuk Settler

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    I wear cotton all the time and its not killed me yet. Wool is just as bad to wear if its wet and cotton is cheaper, so i use that instead. I prefer synthetics over either.

    Tony
     
  5. boatman

    boatman Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)

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    Or one could say that "organised" expeditions kill, please note the casualties on Outward Bound and Scouting trips and similar. Are there similar figures for those dreadful people who go out alone, of similar ages? Exclude heart attacks etc and accidents.
     
  6. Wayland

    Wayland Hárbarðr

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    As always, it's a matter of knowing the limitations of any item of equipment you are using.

    I don't like waterproofs but there are some situations where they are the only sensible choice.

    I do use cotton as a windproof shell layer though in many cases with wool underneath and unless it is bucketing down I find it works pretty well. (I've usually got a poncho in my bag for the worst conditions.)
     
  7. Old Bones

    Old Bones Settler

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    An interesting article, which rightly points out that the bulk of people camping etc are actually quite safe and well afterwards. Cotton is fine for lots of things (my wife brought me back a Patagonia zip-up hoodie from the States recently which is so nice to wear that she keeps 'borrowing' it), but in places and at times where it can dangerous, there are lots of alternatives. Personally, I find the 'bamboo' T-shirts sold by Aldi at £4.99 to be great - wick very well, very comfortable, and are probably cheaper than cotton.

    I didn't know that experiments had been done with the combination of clothing and weather conditions, but it suddenly strikes you that the British Army continued to use cotton in both combat jackets and of course Norgies well into the 90's, even though the research had established the problem with cotton clothing by the 1960's.

    Every activity has risks (as the recent rash of drownings shows), but as long as people take advice (and every kit list/advice sheet for any outdoor activity for my kids has always had the advice 'no jeans'), have a basic understanding as to what they are doing, go out with some appropriate equipment (which is generally better and cheaper than every before) and don't panic if there is a problem, things will probably be OK.
     
  8. Janne

    Janne M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    The secret is - do not get wet. Cotton is a superb material, used by armies worldwide for at least a century.
     
    Erbswurst likes this.
  9. ammo

    ammo Settler

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    It depends on your location, climate.
    Cotton is dangerous, as a base layer. When wet it goes limp, clinging to your skin. Wool will trap air even when wet as the follicle is hollow.
    I personally prefer waxed cotton with a Wool liner as my shell layer.
     
  10. Toddy

    Toddy Mod
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    There's a reason that modern fibres try to emulate the wicking and thermo regulating properties of wool.

    Cotton is a plant fibre. It's inherantly thirsty. Thing is though that once it's wet, it hangs onto the moisture….that's why the modern fibres manufacturers aren't emulating cotton.
    Polycotton, like the army trousers are made from, is very good though, but then, it dries fairly quickly.

    Wool doesn't suit everybody, and modern generic 'one wool does(n't) it all', doesn't help.
    Good wool is superb, non itchy, and it thermo regulates well. No getting away from it though, cotton is dirt cheap while wool is expensive.

    In a hot dry climate cotton is excellent, in a deep cold climate where the atmosphere steals heat and moisture, it's excellent.
    In both cases though wool is brilliant.

    In the temperate Atlantic island climate that is the UK, cotton needs thinking about if you're on the sea, moors or hills. Exposure is insidious, and it kills.

    Good waterproofs that totally kill the windchill are a wonderful invention :D Keep moving, even if you're sodden wet inside, and get safely to warm shelter and you'll be fine….usually.

    M
     
  11. C_Claycomb

    Mod

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    Not specifically disagreeing with not getting wet, although can be easier said than done, but armies often don't spec the very best gear simply for reasons of scale, and what a cost concious army issued its troops during the First World War should not necessarily be held up as an example that something is great to use now, given free choice.

    I was out in heavy rain in a cotton army surplus coat and that thing got heavy and incredibly cold, even over a pretty heavy fleece. Standing around it was like wearing a refrigerated jacket! I found that wind on wet Ventile had a similar refrigerating effect so that the garment was colder than the ambient air. In neither case did the under layers get really wet since they were Polarfleece and didn't draw moisture from the shell, but I lost heat faster than I have done in similar weather in a synthetic shell of similar weight.
     
    #11 C_Claycomb, Aug 25, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2016
  12. santaman2000

    santaman2000 M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    Like Toddy says, there's cotton, and then there's cotton. Loose cotton such as flannel, terry, or even the cotton batting sucks up moisture and holds it. Slick cotton, not so much. Unfortunately the loose types are what's needed for insulation from cold. That said, I've never had any real problems with it. Not even when in hunting camp in the mountains with wet snow.

    Likewise there's different wools for different uses. I've always been happy with wool for cold use but not for really hot climates (anything cooler than 80f (26.7c) is only mildly warm to be frank)
     
  13. Janne

    Janne M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    A simple bin liner is light and pretty much water proof, except where the hole is for the head and arms.

    I find water proof outer clothes too heavy, have carried a binliner for decades!
    Wool and synthetics are warmer, but I find woolen under layers scratch and itch.
    I always wear a Helly Hansen jumper, the oldfashioned style with long sleeves and thumb holes.
     
  14. santaman2000

    santaman2000 M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    Most such lists here include jeans in cooler climates, and shorts in warmer ones. Jeans are the preferred pants for most volunteer rescue teams, unless going through thick briers, then hunting pants (a jean material with Cordura facing)
     
  15. Toddy

    Toddy Mod
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    It's a balmy Summer's day here :) so far we've had very early misty rain (smirr) give way to lightly overcast sunshine. It's lovely, we've just dug up the spuds, and I've been sawing and cold chiseling up edging slabs…… the temperature ? oh it's a really pleasant 19deg C :D
    My cotton tshirt is damp with sweat though :sigh:

    M
     
  16. santaman2000

    santaman2000 M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    Yep. Mine would be too. Thing is that in that temp, it's just sticky but otherwise feels good while working. What's your relative humidity?
     
  17. Toddy

    Toddy Mod
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    The wee electronic panel in the kitchen that downloads from the outside weather station says 76.

    It's good drying weather, I've gotten all the towels out and dried in a couple of hours :D

    M
     
  18. Angry Pirate

    Angry Pirate Forager

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    One of the main reasons armies have stuck with cotton as long as they have despite its poor performance when wet (memories of wearing a sodden 85 pattern smock on exercise still haunt me) is that it is hard-wearing and doesn't melt onto the skin in the event of fire or explosion. It was a chargeable offense to wear (polycotton) tropical combats in Northern Ireland back in the 80s.
    I much prefer lightweight, quick drying hiking trousers or helikon combats along with synthetic wicking tops.
    They remove sweat quickly and dry rapidly too.
     
  19. boatman

    boatman Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)

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    A lot of fisherman's smocks are made of cotton, don't think they regard wearing them in wet conditions as so dangerous. A lot wear jeans as well of course they also wear waterproofs when indicated.
     
  20. Janne

    Janne M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)

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    Many synthetics lose the ability to warm when they get very dirty.

    plus I personally prefer natural materials. Better for the environment?
     

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