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Polyester is For Fishing

Guest Blog by: Alan Peak 12/17/2011
For many of us, the weeks leading up to the holiday season are hectic.  Catching up with work and family it seems that hitting the water has taken a backseat.  Even though I have not been hitting the water as much as I would have liked in the last two weeks I have had a revelation.  Polyester is for fishing....

Many of you have a vast knowledge of cold weather.  Some of you have been doing what I do; stack as many layers of clothes on top of each other until you look like Ralphie's brother on "Christmas Story."

It was Monday night, we were training outside for a week in the cold air.  Our First Sergeant was walking around eye-balling us.  He is looking for cotton.  Many of the soldiers, including myself are literally nine layers deep in clothing as the temperatures have dropped below zero.  We are wearing haphazard layers of t-shirts, cotton uniforms and everything in between.  Everyone has packed the right cold weather clothing, but no one is wearing it correctly.

"Cotton Kills!" States our First Sergeant as he gathers us to give a class about the cold weather gear and how to wear it.  He again eye balls our collar line looking for who he can pick out of the crowd wearing cotton.  After his class I stripped down and bagged up all my cotton t-shirts, uniform and socks. I took a leap of faith and wore only four layers of super fabrics and one pair of socks.  I was amazed how warm I was at 10pm with the mercury at zero.

Because it gathers sweat and does nothing to wick it away from the body, cotton should not be your first choice to stay warm.  That bone chilling cold on your feet is probably because of a small amount of moisture that won't leave your skin.  Wearing a multiple t-shirts, thermal underwear, sweatshirt, sweater and a jacket can restrict blood flow making you feel worse.  Cutting down the cotton layers for polyesters and gor-tex will reduce the layers and is far more efficient.  Everyone is different and you will need to experiment with how many layers you need under certain conditions.

My new found garments now include the following: a thin base layer of polyester to wick away moisture, a thin intermediate polyester fleece to trap and warm air, a heavy fleece and a gor-tex jacket to provide wind protection.  Often times I found myself dropping a fleece so I did not overheat.  I ditched my trusty boots for a gor-tex set.  My cotton socks were replaced with smart wool, which kept my feet dry and toasty.

The next day, a few soldiers not taking First Sergeant warning decided to go out and train in their standard eight to nine layers.  At the end of the day, guys wearing cotton had it written painfully on their face.

As my holiday season begins and fishing trips are planned, polyester and gor-tex will be the first thing packed ready to go.


If you want some cold weather gear and do not want to break the bank, check out Mountain Equipment Recyclers.   MER carries only high end used equipment like North Face, Columbia, REI, Patagonia.   Their prices and buyback policy are unmatched as well as the enormous amount of money given to military charities for a business their size.  Check them out at  If you visit Mike will offer you a cup of coffee and help you with all of your questions.

If you would like specific further reading on blends of fabric and their uses, check out this great website I found on different blends of fabric.
Alan Peak is addicted to fishing. By day he is a fly fishing guide and by night he dreams of his next day on the water. You can find him guiding and fishing primarily on the South Platte nearly every day of the week. If Alan is not with his family he is guiding, fishing or tying flies. If you see Alan on the water, say hello! Normally, he ties a half dozen flies of the day for each day for people he meets on the river.
Blog content © Alan Peak
Member comments
Bassnfly, CA   12/18/2011 4:04:39 AM
Great topic! Well written and informative. Smart bundling is far more comfortable and efficient than too many layers.
paulent, CO   12/18/2011 6:34:17 AM
very good topic. I'm a big fan of goose down. I also try to pace myself so i don't start sweating, but I can see it isn't always possible. Those are all good brands.
jshanko, CO   12/18/2011 8:10:59 AM
Good informative article Alan. I too used to were multiple layers of cotton, and still froze. Now its polys and wools, with less layers and more freedom of movement. Much more comfortable. Jon
Bigjumpingfish, CO   12/18/2011 9:42:32 AM
I'm going to try this. Thanks!
Steelhead, CO   12/18/2011 11:55:07 AM
spinn3r, CO   12/18/2011 8:08:37 PM
If you haven't tried woolen inner layers for shirt/pants, I highly recommend it. You get the same benefits as you do from your woolen socks. Another benefit: woolen garments take much longer to "stink up" than ones made from synthetic fibers. Rarely part of any wool advertising campaign, but a nice benefit in the confined airspace of a tent.
Tbubb, CO   12/19/2011 12:03:18 PM
My single favorite article of clothing is a "light" Arc Teryx sweater. I usually wear a thin base layer, that sweater and a windbreaker or shell. It's all I need on the torso on even stuck on a ski lift in all be the coldest of days. I also never ignore the pants. If you are cold at the knees you'll be cold at the feet because the blood stops flowing down there. So wear good socks and don't over pack your boots and restrict blood flow- the pipeline of your internal furnace. But don't forget what goes on between. Silk layers also behave like a synthetic and are very warm. Some of the older folks might have around pairs of sily thermal shirts and thermal undies - and may find that the Poly rule applies to those as well.
Tbubb, CO   12/19/2011 7:12:00 PM
Sorry, that last type-O was "SILK" not SILY.
Alan Peak
Guest Blogger