Is Polyester Warmer than Cotton? Fabric Selection Guide for Outdoors

Last Updated on June 26, 2022 by admin

When hiking or backpacking, the most important thing is that you should have apparel made of the right fabric to be comfortable during your outdoor trip. Polyester and cotton are two common types of fabric used in the manufacture of different types of clothing for outdoor activities. 

However, you may be wondering about the following question: “Is polyester warm at all and warmer than cotton? The question pertains to fabric selection for outdoors, cold, and hot weather scenarios. Both fabrics have pros and cons so you must know their properties to get the right material that best suits the weather condition at a given period.   

Properties of Cotton

Cotton is a natural fiber that comes from a cotton plant that grows well in subtropical countries with a humid and warm climate. Cotton fabric is ideal for use in four different seasons and the clothing material is ideal for various purposes. However, cotton fabric has its pros and cons highlighted below. 

Advantages of Cotton

Cotton gives you long-lasting comfort and keeps you stay warm because it is highly breathable and it is also soft. As such, it is used for making products that are worn closer to the skin.  The other important consideration is that cotton is a good conductor of heat that can keep you warm when it is cold and it cools you when it is hot, especially in summer. Cotton fibers are natural, soft, and breathable fibers and absorbent. 

The Advantages of Cotton Clothing

Clothing made of cotton is good for hot weather hiking since it keeps you cool when the temperatures are high. It does not have any synthetic fiber and can absorb moisture and transfer it to the atmosphere without causing you to feel uncomfortable.  However, the fabric is not ideal for hiking in cold weather since it cannot keep you warm. The other notable advantage of cotton is that it is relatively strong such that it can be washed and ironed repeatedly without damage.

Is polyester warmer than cotton? Fabric Selection Guide for Outdoors

Cotton is versatile and it is used to make a variety of products that include towels, shirts, jeans, sleeping bags, tents, window shade, tarpaulins as well as wall coverings. You can use these products for different outdoor activities when the weather is hot but you should know that cotton also has disadvantages. 

Disadvantages of Cotton

The strength of cotton decreases with temperature and a variety of products made of cotton do not easily recover after creasing. The other issue is that cotton has poor stain resistance which makes it susceptible to attracting dirt particles.

Cotton absorption

Cotton absorbs a lot of moisture but this can be dangerous if you are hiking in winter. Cotton takes longer to dry so the moisture that builds up inside your clothes while you are hiking cannot escape easily which will make you stay wet and cool for a long period. This can lead to a condition called hypothermia. 

Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops from the normal 36.5-37.5°C to below 35°C and it can even lead to death. Thus, cotton fabric is not recommended as a base layer when you are hiking in cold weather. It can negatively affect your body temperature. 


Properties of Polyester

Many people ask themselves does polyester keep you warm? Polyester is the most commonly used fiber in making different products like nets, tarps, sportswear, sleeping bags, curtains, fleece, belts, and many more, but is polyester warm? Products made from polyester have many benefits, mainly polyester keeps you warm, and it has water resistance. Keeping you warm, polyester is used in outerwear because of its high durability and tenacity.

Advantages of Polyester

Have you ever wondered why is polyester so warm? Polyester fiber is strong and durable and it has perfect abrasion and wears resistance. The fiber is also water-resistant and it is ideal for hiking under cold weather. The material also helps to provide good UV protection to your skin against the light from the sun. 

Polyester Recycling

Like cotton, polyester clothing is recyclable. It can dry quickly which makes it ideal for outdoor activities when the weather is wet and cold. It is also easy to wash, maintain and you can use it over a longer period without any issues. The polyester fibers are inexpensive and it blends well with other types of fibers. 

Resistance of Polyester

Can polyester keep you warm when hiking? Polyester is also resistant to insects and microorganisms which makes it ideal for hiking. The fiber does not easily change its properties under dry or wet conditions. More importantly, you can use it for extended periods. 


Polyester Disadvantages

The major disadvantage of polyester is that it is non-breathable and makes you feel uncomfortable if you wear closer to the skin under hot conditions. This is mainly caused by low moisture absorption and it traps moisture, which definitely means that polyester keep you warm.

Polyester Cleaning

Polyester can also be difficult to clean due to its resistance to chemicals. It is difficult for chemicals to penetrate the fabric due to its tight weave. Polyester is also considered to be heavy which makes it not suitable for hiking in some instances. The other issue is that polyester retains some odors which can make it unsuitable for multi-day trips. 

Is polyester warmer than cotton? Fabric Selection Guide for Outdoors

Which is the Best Fabric? Polyester Vs. Cotton

Both fabrics have qualities that make them ideal for different weather conditions. The main advantage of cotton is that it is breathable and it is ideal for hot weather. Cotton is perfect for everyday clothing because it is lightweight, strong breathable, and cheap. However, cotton lacks insulating qualities which makes it a bad choice for outdoor activities.  

On the other hand, polyester consists of tight weave which means that it is warm but not breathable. Therefore, polyester can keep you warm in cold weather and it is suitable for outdoor activities like camping and many other activities because of the wide variety of products made of polyester. Polyester is also water-resistant such that it is ideal for colder weather since it helps to keep you warm and dry at the same time while in the jungle. 


When you select your apparel for hiking, you must choose the fabric that best suits the weather conditions in your destination. When you are visiting a place with cold weather, polyester is a better option since it can keep you warm, it is also water-resistant and durable. Cotton is not ideal for cold weather since it absorbs moisture and takes time to dry. 

However, cotton is also ideal for hot weather conditions since it is breathable and capable of making you cool. In some instances, different products are made using a combination of both materials to promote breathability and water resistance. Your destination should determine the right type of apparel that you can choose.