Here’s what to look for in outdoor clothing – if we want to be comfortable

Any outdoors person will explain to you the critical importance of dressing yourself in multiple layers in a survival situation, so you are never too hot or cold. It’s important that you keep your body’s temperatures stable, so adding and removing layers as you travel and in response to the weather is an essential survival skill to learn.

One of the layers of clothing that you need to take into careful consideration is the base layer of clothing, or the clothing that is in direct contact with your skin.  There are four primary types of clothing that will work well for your base layer, which we will discuss here.

Synthetic clothing

Synthetic clothing includes nylon, polypropylene, and polyester.  Each of these materials is incredibly simple to maintain, wrinkle resistant, and soft and light.  They are very robust and durable, and therefore will last you well over the long-term.

Yet another advantage to synthetic clothing is their affordability. You can easily find synthetic clothing for a few bucks, which makes them an excellent choice for those who are on a budget.

The biggest disadvantage to synthetic clothing is they are not very warm, and furthermore, they can start to smell pretty bad quickly too.  They are better suited for brief activities or sports rather than for long wilderness outdoor adventures.  It is for these reasons that you would be wise to consider synthetic clothing as a short-term solution rather than a long-term one.  For long-term usage, you should select something that is a bit more heavy duty.


First and foremost, cotton is extremely comfortable.  This fact alone is the primary reason why many people go with cotton over other kinds of clothing. But cotton also has one very significant flaw, and that flaw is that it holds on to all of the moisture it absorbs.  Cotton will not release that moisture very quickly with the result that if you sweat or if your clothing becomes exposed to the rain, your wet clothing will stick to you and could cause your body temperature to drop.

For this reason, cotton is a bad choice for strenuous activities or wet and rainy environments. But it can be an excellent choice for a warmer environment, so long as you don’t perspire so much that your clothes stick to you.

Silk clothing

If you’re looking for clothing that is suitable for winter or fall environments, you should definitely give silk a close look.  It is incredibly thin and soft and therefore adds no mass to your second and third layers of clothing. The disadvantage to silk is it’s not the best option for hot or sunny weather.  The reason for this is because it will lose its wicking abilities when exposed to the sunlight for extended time periods.

Another disadvantage to silk is it is not always the most convenient option. When you throw it into the washing machine, it will shrink drastically, and this requires you to hand wash them instead. Overall, silk is a good choice for cold weather but a bad choice for hot weather.  It is high maintenance, but on the flip side it is also soft, thin, and adds virtually no mass to your other layers.

Wool clothing

The last type of clothing we will discuss is wool.  The best thing about wool is that it is an excellent choice for literally any environment.  It’s also incredibly warm, insulating, and comfortable.The best type of wool is merino wool.  Traditional wool is rather itchy, but merino wool is soft.  Furthermore, merino wool allows moisture to evaporate quickly so that it won’t stick to your skin, thus maintaining a stable body temperature.

All types of clothing have a disadvantage, and in the case of wool (and merino wool particularly), it’s that it can be incredibly expensive.  If funds are tight, it may not be a viable option for you, especially when the three other types of clothing we have discussed will work well for you in specific environments.

On the whole, though, money aside, merino wool is probably your best overall option.  It’s warm, permits quick moisture evaporation, and is comfortable and very insulating.  Furthermore, it stays odor free and is suitable for literally any kind of environment or weather condition.

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nick-oetken is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival