True North Blog

“Cotton Kills” … Truth or Exaggeration?

"Cotton Kills" ... Truth or Exaggeration?

In any of the survival courses that I teach, very seldom do I make absolute statements to a client like “Definitely don’t do this,” or “Always do that.”  After all, if a client finds herself  in an emergency situation, it’s likely unique enough on some level that absolutes are not helpful, perhaps even detrimental.  And when it comes to buying clothing and gear, every client has his own guidelines based on various criteria including their particular outdoor activity and interests, perceived needs and wants, and size of pocketbook.  Instead, I generally try to offer recommendations, within a general range of possibilities and points to consider, supplemented with an explanation for context.

Except in two cases.  One of them being … Don’t wear cotton.

By this I mean, never, or at least be extremely reluctant to, wear cotton clothing during your outdoors adventures.

This “absolute” is given with the best of recommendations as there is a very good reason why Search & Rescue crews refer to cotton clothing as “death fabric.”

What are the reasons?  Well, how about rather than now listing many of them myself, I instead refer you to an excellent article that I came across earlier today with an extremely demonstrative video:

Of course, while I certainly don’t want any of you not to adapt the information as you see fit, please at least consider it potentially invaluable guidance.

Erik Kulick leaning aginst wall with True North badge on blue shirt

About the Author

Erik is the founder of True North Wilderness Survival School. He is a police officer, EMS provider, a Wilderness EMT, and a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has been featured in national and international media, including CNN, the Associated Press, and Backpacker. To learn more about Erik, visit him on LinkedIn and be sure to follow him on Facebook.

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