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Best fabrics for outdoors

 
pollinator
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I have been thinking about this for a while and I am not entirely certain what forum to place it.  If moderators feel the need to move it, feel free.  I know that many people, and I bet even more Permies, will think that cotton is king when it comes to comfort,  but I wonder what people think about technical fabrics.

So I just came in from working on my tractor and while the weather is not terrible, it is warm, humid and I really had to struggle with a wrench.  Sufficive to say, I got hot.  I was wearing a cotton T-shirt, but my pants are a type of soft, lightweight nylon canvas.  The old reliable cotton T-shirt, while breathable when dry, gets sopping wet with sweat.  The pants on the other hand stay fairly cool and dry out in seconds once I step inside while my shirt stays soggy.

I have a similar problem with cotton in the winter, where cotton first gets too hot, then wet and consequently won’t dry out and is cold, damp and uncomfortable.  I have found myself fond of polyester fleece that stays warm and dry.

I don’t care the slightest here about fashion, as I prefer to think of my outdoor clothing as gear (I almost posted this under the gear section) that should be functional and comfortable.  So I am wondering how many other Permies out there are like myself and actually prefer the artificial the artificial fiber to the natural ones for actually working.  

Eric
 
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Aaahh... polyester... it makes me think of my grandmother which isn't a bad thing. I have always been one of those cotton is king kind of guys however when I lived in Europe in the 90s and got into hiking a bit I started learning about polyester and the evaporative qualities that it has. So many times I have been in that soaking wet t-shirt going back and forth between hot and cold. That being said I have always thought wearing a polyester shirt would be a bit like wearing a plastic bag. I have not ventured into polyester shirts but I have used fleece jackets for a long time now and I find myself now checking tags when I buy clothes. One thing that I did learn from my hiking days is that if your fleece jacket does get wet that you just take it off and Shake It out and it gets rid of most of the moisture and the remainder that's left evaporates as you sweat. Ingenious! Back up a little further into the early eighties into my Army days and we were wearing cotton and wool and suffering! If you look at the armies fatigues Etc at this point you will see that there is a lot of care that goes into the choice of fabrics as it concerns functionality in a myriad of situations. Well, I'm looking like a bit of a bum these days because all of my old shirts got holes in them but that's because I am wearing them flat-out and hope to replace these along the way with clothing made of fabrics that are more suited to the situation. I have always purchased my Footwear for Pure functionality yet wore what was popular for clothes. I am trying to be more deliberate in every aspect of my life and that is going to be right down to the types of things that I put on my body. Thanks for posting. I know I just confused matters probably but hey I'm wanting to know the same kind of thing. It would be great if some of you guys can maybe Enlighten us on different types of clothing in their functionality as regards comfort and durability and hey, if we can get a bit of fashion with that functionality even better! Cheers!
 
Eric Hanson
pollinator
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Terry,

I we are talking about the polyester from the 70s that was supposed to be a cheap substitute for nylon, then I wholeheartedly agree.  But if we are talking about some of the technical fabrics, I find it entirely different.  I have had coolmax clothing before and I swear it feels like cotton—until it gets wet.  The coolmax just shakes off the moisture and dries immediately.  I have had the same experience with polartec and other polyester fleece.  They feel nice and comfortable and DRY!

Right now am wearing lightweight nylon canvas pants and a cotton T-shirt.  As I was just outside, my upper half is hot, humid and sticky, but my legs have already dried and are cool.  I kinda wish I could find more coolmax shirts as I find them soft, dry and highly functional.  If that were not enough, I find that cotton wears out quickly and shrinks.  Not at all what I would call sturdy or functional.

Anyhow, interesting to hear about your army days.

Eric
 
Terry Waller
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Eric,
I am so behind the times I didn't even know about any of these other Fabrics like CoolMax. I guess I better get with it. I guess this is what happens when you don't have a TV or computer. Those Army days were a long time ago, nearly 35 years. Wow! I better quit with the math! I have just recently been thinking about checking into the military Garb to see what they are issuing these days because it does seem to be better than what we had. Although I liked my pickle suit. They did Issue us jungle fatigues for when we went to Panama that were called ripstop but I I think it is just lightweight cotton and as far as I know Vietnam era Surplus. Are there any recent vets out there that can talk a little bit about what's being issued these days? I will have to check into this CoolMax and any other Wonder Fabrics that are out there. Cheers!
 
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As far as natural fibers go, I prefer linen in the summer and wool in the winter. They both have decent moisture wicking and breathability.

That being said, if I'm outside and the temp is over 80, I'm probably wearing my favorite Royal Robbins "TempraTech" shirt. I got several of them on clearance at REI and they are freaking magic. It's like having a personal air conditioner.
 
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My issue with the technical synthetics as shirts is the smell - they start reeking real quick. Linen, wool, and silk all dry fast and do not smell nearly so bad.
Actually, unless it is really sweltering, my thin smartwool shirts are pretty comfy even in summer- the fast drying, not feeling wet, and low smell makes them a good choice for me.
Honestly though, I still usually wear cotton and deal with feeling wet. I always seem to have t-shirts from somewhere, usually for free, so they get the most wear.
 
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Like Linda, I find the synthetic fabrics get smelly fast and hold onto the smell, they’re hard to get clean. Besides, they don’t compost well... my favorite for sweaty work is light, woven (not knit t-shirts) short sleeved (or long sleeves that I can roll up or roll down when I end up in the blackberry vines) cotton or linen. Loose enough that the air circulates freely, not so loose that it gets in my way. It’s what most of the old guys I know wear, it definitely gets you a farmer’s tan, but that and a straw hat keeps me in the garden.
 
pollinator
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Paramo fabrics

This is stuff I found a decade ago. I've rarely seen it, but it is becoming more popular here in the UK.

My walking kit is based on this system. I can literally fall in a stream, get soaked to the skin and be dry and warm in 10 minutes (assuming appropriate base layers). Plus it is incredibly soft and comfortable. Waterproof outerlayers suitable for wearing as pajamas.



The worst/best test I ever gave it was 15 hours on the hills in non stop driving rain. I was dry and warm throughout.
 
pollinator
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I like Columbia's Poly Elastane blends for a shirt and bottoms.  For underwear, I like polyblends.  (You can get similar stuff at Walmart but Columbia always has good sales.)  I haven't figured out good material for socks.  It seems like whatever I wear causes hot-foot.

I like natural materials for cold weather but not for hot weather.  I'm like you when I work in the food forest or exercise I get drenched.  If I'm not taking a shower right when I come inside I have to change my shirt.

 
That feels good. Thanks. Here's a tiny ad:
Taylor&Zach’s Bootcamp Journey
https://permies.com/t/115886/permaculture-projects/Taylor-Zach-Bootcamp-Journey
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