View Full Version : Cotton shirt for summer?

10-11-2014, 20:44
I am in the very early stages of dreaming. I am a teacher and am thinking of hiking for 2 summers in a row. Mid June- mid aug. Given that heat will be more an issue than cold, would it make sense to have a lightweight cotton tee to soak through and use for evaporative cooling?

Feral Bill
10-11-2014, 20:56
Yes, it would make good sense. A nice, all cotton, long sleeved dress shirt is good too, for sun and bugs.

10-11-2014, 23:24
You won't get much evaporative cooling with the humidity in the summer and cotton won't dry overnight like a synthetic. You'll be putting on a sweat soaked shirt every morning.

10-12-2014, 06:27
You didn't say where you'll be hiking. If in desert environments, cotton would work well and would work pretty well for evaporative cooling. At that time of year on the AT, cotton will saturate pretty quickly but due to the relative humidity won't be that good for evaporative cooling and as Brian points out won't dry well overnight as a rule. Cotton also gets heavier when its wet if thats a consideration.

If you are looking for evaporative cooling, you may want to look at neck coolers that have polymer crystals in them. Wet the neck cooler and put it on, water is slowly released to provide a cooling action it cools. These work pretty well actually.

10-12-2014, 07:11
As a former thru-hiker, who swore never to wear cotton on the trail, I now spend much of my time in Thailand where it is hot and humid. (400 miles north of the equator)
I wouldn't think of wearing poly-anything when hiking, jogging, tennis, etc.

It's cotton when it's hot for me.
The softer and better quality cotton----the better.

10-12-2014, 08:13
I wear cotton much of the time and like it. Some whom I really respect, like Fiddlehead, use it successfully and recommend it on backcountry trips. But it just didn't work out so well on my AT hike for the reasons mentioned above--heavy when wet and always still wet in the morning. There's a learning curve, like everything else.

What worked well for me on the AT was a long sleeve nylon shirt trekking shirt, easy to keep clean and dry, to keep the funk down. (Sleeves and collar reduced sunscreen and bug repellent use, as Feral Bill mentioned, as well as exposure to poison ivy.)

Clothing can certainly help, but other factors can be more important. Keeping cool enough, for me, is a matter of resting in the heat of the day, hiking early and late, and keeping well rested, hydrated and salted (learn about hyponatremia if you haven't yet). Learn the signs of heat exhaustion and monitor yourself and your companions. Use sweat, shade, and the wind to cool down, but realize the sweat is a limited resource and has to come from a healthy body. If you start getting dizzy on a hot sunny climb, don't be strong and "power through it." Ask me how I know. That's your brain getting too hot and that's kinda scary.

10-12-2014, 11:02
I can't imagine the stench of cotton after a few days out!!! After a 1 hour cross training workout my cotton T smells awful! I have a ammonia smell to my sweat! I'll stick with synthetic as doesn't retain odor near as bad...dries faster...lighter.,,more comfortable to me when wet than cotton...with all this said I rarely hike in hot weather!!

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10-12-2014, 11:14
I find microweight wool to be very comfortable even in summer months. It doesn't retain odor and will dry fairly well and certainly better than cotton.

10-12-2014, 12:09
I wore a Railriders Eco Mesh shirt on the CT this year and loved it. I think it was easily as cool as my light weight wool t-shirts. Plus I got sun protection, better protection from mosquitoes, and it didn't retain odor. For me, the Eco Mesh is now my go to summer hiking shirt.

10-12-2014, 12:29
Thank you all

Spirit Walker
10-12-2014, 13:00
I did both my AT hikes in cotton, since I came from the desert and that's all I had and I had never heard of "cotton kills". Not a big deal. Yes the shirts got wet and stinky, but then, so do my polyester shirts. Lightweight cotton dries faster than denser material. I tried wearing a polyester long sleeved shirt on the PCT and it was a sauna. If you do wear a tech-t, be aware that not all are created equal. Some dry much faster and with less odor than others.

10-12-2014, 15:10
The last time that I wore a cotton tee-shirt was back in the 80's in New England. It rained for days and days, and going up over Bromley Mtn., I was SO cold and damp that I couldn't stand it. I continued to "tough it out" all day, but was having a great deal of trouble making any headway. It finally dawned on me that I was going hypothermic! I pulled into the next shelter, stripped off the wet stuff, climbed into the sleeping bag, drank a couple of cups of HOT tea and sugar, and laid down. Three hours later, I woke up feeling MUCH warmer and better...but that was the last time that cotton went with me to the woods. My vote is for ANYTHING synthetic - no cotton!