When it comes to outdoor clothing in NZ winter conditions, cotton isn’t cool because it keeps you too cool! That might not make much sense at first glance, so please let us explain what we mean.
A lot of inexperienced hikers and campers seem to think that cotton has great insulation qualities because it is a natural product, like wool. But in reality, there is no comparison between the two. Wool is hydrophobic (literally meaning “fear of water) which means water is not attracted to the fibres and it dries much more quickly. As such, without moisture on or near your skin, you’ll stay warm while camping or hiking in chilly winter conditions.
Cotton on the other hand is hydrophilic. It really loves water, so the fibres absorb as much water as they can meaning the dry very, very slowly. Because of this, it cools down as the temperature does so you have to work harder to stay warm while in the outdoors. As you’d expect, a lot of energy is expended in trying to maintain a comfortable body temperature and this can make you feel much more tired, and far sooner than would normally happen.
With all this considered, we hope you can see why cotton shouldn’t be worn In cooler winter environments. When hiking into an area that is known to be rainy and with low temperatures - and that includes most of New Zealand in winter! - your main aim is to stay warm and dry. Wearing wet clothing for any length of time in a cold environment can lead to hypothermia, and even though New Zealanders are well aware of the risk that condition poses, it is still common, particularly among people who are new to hiking and camping.
If you do feel the need to get into the outdoors this winter, we highly recommend wool or synthetics from our outdoor clothing range. You’ll stay much drier and warmer while wearing these materials. We suggest you only wear cotton clothing during summer hiking or camping trips. During summer, it’s a great material that will stay wet and keep you cool on hot, dry and sunny days. So, there is a place for cotton in your outdoor wardrobe - but it needs to stay there until things warm up again. In the meantime, stick with synthetics and wool for your comfort and safety. Contact us and we’ll help you choose the right thing to keep you warm and dry this winter.