Active Dopers: cotton or Coolmax®?

I was out hiking in Yosemite (Cloud’s Rest) this weekend, and I noticed a fair number of folks on the trail wearing jeans and cotton t-shirts. Since I sweat profusely, dressing like that is completely out of the question. When I discovered that synthetic fibers would save me from hiking/biking/running in sweat-soaked clothing, I never wore cotton for aerobic activities again.

So, I’m curious: do Dopers prefer the feel of natural fibers, or do you like the yuppified super-wicking wonder fabrics?

Added bonus question: do you wear activity-specific clothing?

Ditched the cotton a long time ago. Wool socks (100% of the time, even at work) with polypro liners when I’m running or hiking.

For a casual stroll, cotton undies are fine. If I’m going hiking, or running, or biking, out come the synthetics. Likewise for shirts - lightweight wicking top for anything active.

No blisters, no hotspots, no chafing, thank you very much. Didn’t do it because of some perceived trendiness but rather as the result of many years hard experience.

For rowing, I wear polypropylene trou, technical cut rowing shorts. They’re non wicking but they last forever, have a double seat, don’t ride up, and are flattering. (I find wicking lycra to be too thin) I also wear a wicking jogbra but I generally wear a cheap cotton tank as a shirt. The tank does get soggy but I often need to dry my hands or wipe my face and wicking shirts are crappy for that. If it’s really hot, I’ll strip off the cotton tank. Oh, and I wear cheap cotton socks too.

For running, I wear the same shorts (mostly 'cause I have a bunch of them), wicking jogbra, wicking tank, and coolmax socks.

Coolmax for underclothes and socks, if warm (especially undershorts!). Smartwool if cool out.

Cotton for pants and shirts on warm/hot days. Nylon shorts if I’ll be wading.

I’m an UnderArmour girl. I’ve never found anything that feels better, and trust me, I’ve tried to find it, because UA is fecking expensive.

I’ve wicked (socks, shirt, shorts, underwear) when I was training for a marathon, but otherwise don’t mind cotton; I don’t exercise excessively though (usually some gym shorts will suffice in workouts), and certainly rarely exert myself when hiking or doing something outdoors (I’ll usually take it long/slow/leisurely, so don’t work up much of a sweat that way).

Polypro all the way. Nothing like it for exercising on a hot day. Even better: polypro long underwear in the winter. I’m old enough to remember cotton waffle-weave longies that were cold and useless when they became wet.

I’ll wear cotton for the after work bike ride/hike sort of thing, but if I’m heading up to some place where I could seriously die from exposure (e.g. the White Mountains), then I use the synthetics. Nothing worse than sitting down for a rest and then having to put a pack back on top of a clammy wet t-shirt.

Cotton for yoga, wicking for cardio.

I prefer the feel of cotton until I actually start to sweat.

Once it’s wet, if it is going to stay wet for any period of time, Coolmax wins hands down. It’s infinitely more comfortable over the long haul.

Yes, I wear activity specific clothing.

I typically run in cotton, but I’m coming back around home so I don’t worry about it too much. I do have synthetic running clothes, though, and I do use them.

I don’t hike much anymore, but I used to hike in cotton.

Cycling. . .spandex shorts, natch, and synthetic shirt.

I’ll second under armour – I wear the heat gear under my body armor and it makes a difference. If I can get any air movement over it at all I’m much cooler.

I also have the UA heat gear tights and turtleneck, wear them for winter paddling or snowboarding. Over the top I wear a fleece pullover and waterproof pants – I’m very comfortable.

I have other various synthetics I wear when working out, paddling, or climbing during the summer. All of them perform better than cotton does.

Oh – also second smartwool socks year round.

“Cotton Kills” is a mantra I’ve been swearing by since I was in the BSA. I drop into EMS pretty often to get camping / hiking / exercise clothes (100% synth).

I have recently found “The Ultimate Tee” by Hanes. It’s 100% cotton, but it does seem to wick better than a normal cotton shirt. I’ll wear 'em in light exercise and just for, um, wearing.

ETA: Oh - and even though it makes you look like a Steve Erwin impersonator, there are some really damn comfortable “Expedition Shirts” that I’ll break out when it’s gonna be hot, but I don’t want to fry from sun exposure. They’re 100% synth and have vents, nifty pockets, and those dorky tabs to roll up long sleeves.

Get rid of the cotton, no question. Clammy on hikes, and just plain heavy and rough enough to rub you raw on long runs.

Look into Thorlos for socks. I’ve tried many, and these are the best.

Be wary of synthetic super wicking wannabe knock-offs, they can make you feel like you are wearing a condom. I’ve settled on Patagonia Capilene (1, 2, or 3 weights) and Mountain Hardwear Wicket T’s. The only bottoms I wear anymore are Pearl Izumi shorts and tights, save for one pair of heavy Mountain Hardwear sweats. I don’t wear underwear with the lined shorts, but with the tights and sweats I wear Patagonia.

I like Coolmax socks because they don’t go weird when they’re soaking wet. Years ago, I tried a couple of Coolmax shirts, and I liked the way they worked, but they were sewn together with stiff nylon “invisible” thread. The sharp little thread ends poked me with every step. I’d take the shirt off to find welts on me at each seam end.

“Wicking”, if you’re multi-layering, means the inside layer moves your sweat to the next layer. If the Coolmax is the only layer, it can only wick to itself. During moderate exercise, a cotton shirt will be wet in a few spots, but the Coolmax shirt will be wet all over. The entire shirt has cooling evaporation, and sometimes that’s good. Other times, it’s just uncomfortable.

Nearly everything I wear is cotton. Not my shoes, of course, or my smile. :smiley: