Wicking Fabrics – How, What, Why

When shopping for outdoor and fitness clothing, one of the terms that you are likely to see quite often is “moisture wicking.” This is more than just a buzzword designed to grab your attention. But many people do not understand exactly what it means or why it could be important when choosing their clothing.

The following will provide you with a solid overview of wicking fabrics, what they are, and why they could be helpful to you.

What Is “Wicking?”

Any fabric that is considered to be moisture wicking needs to be able to do two things:

  • First, it needs to move the sweat away from your body quickly by pulling it to the outer surface of the fabric.
  • Second, it needs to have the ability to dry quickly. This will make sure your sweat doesn’t completely soak the fabric, which would typically leave you hot and sticky at first, and then cold and clammy as the air hits the sweat on your skin.

This type of fiber can help you to stay far more comfortable when you are exercising outside, working out at the gym, or engaging in any activity where you might be sweating.

How Do Wicking Fabrics Work?

Wicking works through a process called capillary action. This scientific term refers to the movement of moisture from one area to another. When it is used to describe a garment, then it means that the surface and internal parts of the fabric have been designed and undergone various treatments to enable it to move moisture—in this case, your sweat—away from your skin’s surface.

Wicking fabrics are typically more breathable than other fabrics. This will make them far more comfortable to wear in a wide range of situations. They allow air to come in while pulling out the sweat, keeping you drier in the process. The cooling effect will make you feel more comfortable when you are exercising, and you won’t have to worry quite as much about feeling overheated. Overall, it will be easier for your body to regulate its own temperature.

Why Are Wicking Fabrics So Important for Winter Apparel?

Wicking materials are extremely beneficial if you like to be outside in the winter. When your body heats up from exertion, you will start to sweat, just as you would during any other time of the year. If the sweat starts to cool on your skin, it can lower your body temperature to dangerous levels. But moisture-wicking materials will quickly pull sweat away from your skin, mitigating the threat of hypothermia. Anyone engaging in winter sports, camping in the snow, or hiking in the cold should seriously consider garments made with wicking fabrics.

What Types of Fibers Are and Are Not Moisture Wicking?

It is important to understand that not all moisture-wicking clothing is created equal. Certain fabrics do not work well for these types of garments — even though they might claim to be moisture wicking.

The majority of high-quality moisture-wicking fabrics that are available today are made from synthetics, the most common being nylon and polyester. You will see these used quite often when you look for clothing options.

Wool is also considered to be a moisture-wicking material. Wool fibers will absorb some of the moisture, while the rest will be wicked away. Thus, wool is not quite as effective as synthetic fabrics, but it could work for those who can or don’t want to wear synthetics.

While cotton might be a popular type of clothing, it does not have wicking properties. Cotton typically traps the moisture, and cotton products that have been treated to make them moisture wicking are still not going to work as well as synthetic fabrics or wool.

How to Choose and Treat Your Moisture-Wicking Gear

When you want quality moisture-wicking fabrics, you should first look at the synthetic options that are available. You will find a host of different products available, including workout clothes and other types of clothing and gear. Before choosing, consider the types of activities that you engage in, whether it is spending time at the gym, hiking, or playing outdoor sports. Choose clothing types that are going to work well for the activities that you enjoy the most.

In addition, make sure that you are caring for your moisture-wicking clothing properly. Of course you want to wash your clothes to keep them in good shape. But do NOT use any type of fabric softener with them. Fabric softener can leave a waxy film on the fabric that will essentially negate its ability to wick away moisture.

These are great reasons to start using moisture-wicking fabrics for your workout and outdoor clothing. Of course, you might also want to use them sometimes as everyday wear, so you can keep your cool without worrying about breaking a sweat.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Valerie Johnston

Valerie Johnston has over a decade of experience in writing over survival skills, homesteading and self-sufficiency. With a Bachelor's in Agriculture, she enjoys helping others learn about their options in homesteading and survival prep and how to apply it to their lives.

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