Anglers and other outdoors enthusiasts have virtually unlimited choices in clothing tailored to hot and steamy weather conditions. Options in high-tech fabrics, weaves and features have expanded exponentially in recent years, but the time-tested performance of cotton remains an excellent option for keeping your cool and having more fun when the temperature soars.
Cotton's benefits abound. For starters, it's widely available and relatively inexpensive compared to other fabrics. But that's only the beginning. Soft, absorbent, and breathable, cotton excels in sultry weather that turns other fabrics into skin-irritating sweat traps. Plus, it sheds odors more easily, thus extending time between washings and keeping you from stinking up your surroundings.
To put things in perspective, we offer the following laundry list of benefits.
One of cotton's biggest hot-weather benefits is the fact that it allows air to move through it — or "breathes" — better than many other fabrics of the same weight, including oil-based synthetics like polyester.
Air circulation is a key element of heat regulation, because hot air produced by your body can easily escape through the fabric. Airflow also aids in evaporating sweat. Breathable, summery cotton fabrics further speed the cooling process, since even a slight breeze can usher in cooler, drier air — the heat-busting, comfort-enhancing equivalent of the cavalry.
Break The Water Barrier
Moisture retention is a deal-breaker when you're shopping for cool summer duds, because fibers and fabrics that don't absorb sweat or allow it to evaporate can make you hot and miserable.
Thankfully, cotton kicks sweat to the curb. Rather than trapping moisture between your skin and clothing to create your own personal sweat lodge, cotton absorbs excess sweat like a towel — so you feel cooler and drier. As a bonus, studies have found that cotton clothing can absorb up to one-fifth its weight in water before the wearer feels damp.
In a final nod to personal comfort, cotton doesn't just sponge up sweat. It wicks the moisture to the garment's outer surface for easy evaporation into the atmosphere. Weaves designed for hot-weather activities and all-around exercise are especially adept at sending sweat packing.
It's worth noting that the health benefits of moisture absorption and evaporation extend beyond personal comfort. Sweat pooling on your skin can plug sweat glands, causing inflammation and a rash. Known as heat rash or "prickly heat," this disconcerting and uncomfortable condition can quickly worsen to the point it reduces your ability to perform physical sport or work activities.
Nothing against desert-dwelling Bedouins and Norwegian bachelor farmers who don thick robes or heavy wool long johns to lock out intense heat, but lightweight natural fabrics are generally considered your best bet for mitigating summer's wrath.
The reason? Heavy material can get clingy and trap sweat — creating an unwelcome layer of heat between your skin and clothing. Light cotton fabrics keep their distance, so you stay cooler.
Whether you're casting for bass, filleting your catch, or relaxing by the campfire after a day on the water, your clothing often soaks up a variety of odors.
Once you put it in the washing machine, cotton releases smelly substances more easily than other fabrics — some of which actually embrace odors so well, they permanently take on the essence of BO and other unpleasant scents. Adding to the wearer's frustration and embarrassment, the stink may disappear after a wash, only to return with a vengeance when the garment is warmed by body heat.
Another plus: cotton is less hospitable to stench-causing bacteria than synthetic materials like polyester, so you're less likely to offend those around you when you work up a sweat in cotton.
There's no denying cotton is soft and feels good against your skin. But cotton is so skin friendly, it's also considered hypoallergenic. Cotton rarely causes allergic reactions and is widely recommended for people with sensitive skin and allergies. Cotton is also resistant to dust mites, which, along with the pollen they carry, can aggravate allergies.
Likewise, cotton won't irritate your skin when you're hot and perspiring. The same can't be said for synthetic fabrics that irritate skin pores when you're hot.
Along with keeping you comfortable and helping ward off heat-related illnesses, warm-weather wear should also protect your skin from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. In fact, covering up with sun-blocking clothing is generally considered a better means of saving your skin than sunscreen.
Clothing created specifically for sun protection will carry a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating on the tag. The rating reflects how much UV radiation will pass through dry, unstretched fabric, and is based on the material's content, weight, color, and construction. The higher the UPF number, the greater the protection from UV radiation.
According to the Cancer Council, most cotton and cotton/polyester blend fabrics provide protection equal to about 20 UPF, which means they block about 95 percent of UV radiation. The council considers this "good" protection. It also notes that repeated washing can improve UPF performance of some fabrics, including cotton. For example, two or three rounds with a washer and dryer can often raise a cotton garment's ability to block solar radiation by shrinking spaces between fibers.
Added benefits of cotton:
Unlike delicate synthetics and blends, cotton is one tough customer. Cotton's extreme durability makes it a great fit for anyone who gives their clothes a workout. Cotton clothing also stands up to repeated washings and maintains its soft, comfortable feel regardless of how badly you abuse it.
Forget the dry cleaner or delicate wash cycles and complicated care instructions. Tough, easy-to-clean cotton is less of a hassle to wash and care for than other fabrics. And because cotton doesn't retain odors as stubbornly as oil-based fabrics, you can wash it a bit less frequently — saving, time, effort, water, and money in the process.
Want to play the green card? Cotton is a natural fiber and 100 percent biodegradable, with no harsh chemicals in its composure that could threaten plants, wildlife, or groundwater once the garment makes its way to a landfill. If you're not a fan of agricultural pesticides, look for organic cotton — which is more popular and readily available than ever.