Is Polyester Warm Enough for Cold Weather Camping & Hiking?

Do you want to know if polyester keeps you warm? After all, if you’re planning for a cold-weather hiking or camping trip, you don’t want to spend the whole time shivering. You need an insulating material so you’re cozy and comfy. Will polyester suffice in providing that warmth?

Is Polyester Warm? Polyester is warm and wicks away moisture so your sweat doesn’t dry cold on your skin. The only downside to polyester is it can let in too much air at times, so always buy tight-weaved polyester to increase your insulation.

Is Polyester Warm?

If you want to learn even more about whether wearing polyester for your hiking or camping trip is a good idea, you’ve come to the right place. Ahead, we’ll discuss what comprises polyester as well as if it’s waterproof, breathable, and even toxic.

What Is Polyester?

Okay, so what is exactly is polyester? This polymer fabric includes polyethylene terephthalate or PET, a type of plastic. Synthetic polyester is made from polybutyrate or other synthetics as well as plant cuticles and related natural chemicals. Some synthetic polyester biodegrades, and all natural polyester does.

Most polyester goes into clothing, where it may be used on its own or combined with other fabrics or materials. For instance, cotton-polyester is a blend that doesn’t shrink easily, nor does it tear or wrinkle. The strength of this blend makes it appealing to outdoor lovers.

Is Polyester Warm for Winter Camping and Hiking?

You’re packing for a wintertime nature excursion. Perhaps it’s a hiking daytrip or you even want to camp out overnight. You need clothes that can stand up to the frigid temperatures that winter often brings.

More so than that, you don’t want your clothes to create too much bulkiness, as that can hinder your hiking abilities.  Choosing warm fabrics and layering them a time or two should let you cut down on the bulk.

When shopping for warm clothing, it must serve two purposes. The first is to insulate and the second is to wick away moisture. Polyester checks both those boxes.

As we touched on in the intro when you sweat, your perspiration is warm at first, but the outdoor temperature will quickly cool down the sweat. You don’t want that sticking to your body for the rest of the day and night.

Polyester is adept at wicking away moisture, as are most synthetics. As you begin to sweat, capillary action within the polyester occurs. The conduits in the fabric take your sweat, pull it from your skin, and then redistribute it to the fabric. The sweat soon after evaporates.

See also: North Face vs Columbia

Polyester can be weaved more loosely or tightly. Avoid loose-weave polyester in the winter, as it lets in too much air. In the spring and summer, when the days are long and hot, you might appreciate the aeration of this looser weave, but not this time of year.

A tight-weaved polyester creates that insulation layer you need to get through a day or night out in the cold.

Which Clothing Is Made of Polyester?

We said before that polyester is a popular material choice for clothing, but which clothing exactly? All sorts of everyday garments are made with polyester, from slacks to blouses, dresses, shirts, and jackets. Most of these garments are blends of polyester with another fabric, among them nylon, wool, or cotton.

Polyester is a popular choice for activewear too due to how well it wicks moisture. Weatherproof clothing such as hiking pants, winter coats, and raincoats may be made primarily of polyester. Even swimwear features the fabric since it can absorb fluids decently.

Hiking and Camping Equipment Made of Polyester

Your clothing is not necessarily all that’s polyester. Check some of your hiking and camping equipment, as it too may share the same material. The qualities of polyester as detailed above make it a popular choice for outdoor gear. In this case, it’s not sweat-wicking that’s important, but moisture-wicking.

For example, do you have a tent? If you’re camping overnight, then we’re sure the answer is yes. Most tents are made of polyester. It’s appealing from a manufacturer’s standpoint because polyester isn’t expensive and doesn’t soak through easily (more on this later). Further, compared to nylon, polyester is the more durable of the two fabrics.

Besides that, polyester won’t fade much in the sun (which doesn’t mean it’s sunproof), it’s lightweight, and if it gets wet, the fabric will retain its shape.

Another piece of hiking and camping equipment that may be primarily polyester is your sleeping bag. Either the liner, the shell, or both parts of the bag might be made from this fabric. Other materials used for sleeping bags are taffeta and nylon.

Plenty of hiking and camping gear made of polyester

The warmest sleeping bags have a polyester liner or shell and down filling inside. Down comes from the feathers of young ducks and geese. These fine feathers act as an insulator for the birds, and that’s why they’re so sought-after.

Some backpacks include polyester, but since it’s so lightweight, you’re more likely to come across an outdoor backpack made of something like nylon instead.

Is Acrylic Warmer Than Polyester?

What about acrylic fiber? Compared to polyester, will you be warmer or colder? To answer that, let’s take a closer look at what acrylic is.

Another synthetic, acrylic fiber contains acrylonitrile monomers at a rate of 85 percent or higher. It’s known for its warmth, softness, and lightweight qualities. Acrylic fabric is also moth and chemical-resistant. You can clean it in most washing machines and it doesn’t take long for the fabric to dry. Instead of using wool to produce clothing and gear, a manufacturer might favor acrylic instead since it’s more inexpensive.

Since it warms you up, acrylic is not versatile for spring and summertime use like polyester. Acrylic fibers can wick away moisture, attesting to its synthetic status, but polyester does so better, says clothing brand EJIS.

That said, of the two, acrylic is warmer than polyester as it’s regarded as a better insulator.

Is Polyester Warmer Than Cotton?

We’ve mentioned cotton several times throughout this article. Cotton is sourced from cotton plants, including the fibers within. These fibers have a soft, stretchy, lightweight quality. You likely have a lot of cotton garments in your wardrobe right now.

Thus, it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine why polyester is warmer. Cotton is lightweight, almost too lightweight, and not featured predominantly in cold-weather gear. It can insulate you as a base layer, but the problem arises when you sweat.

Cotton, unlike nylon and polyester, cannot wick away moisture. Instead, all that cooled sweat sticks to your body, making you colder.

Is Polyester Warmer Than Wool?

Wool is often regarded as one of the warmest fabrics out there. This sheep-derived textile is used to make sweaters, blankets, carpeting, upholstery, and lots more. Whether it’s merino wool, which is having a moment right now, angora wool, or even cashmere wool, wool can wick away moisture.

Polyester can be warmer or just as warm as wool, but the fabric strands must be especially thick for this to be the case. A close fit is also advised, as you can retain heat closer to your body compared to wearing a looser-fitting polyester garment.

Is Polyester Toxic to Wear?

Considering that polyester is often a synthetic, plastic-based product, you’re a little concerned that it might be toxic. Indeed, polyester is made with chemicals, but these are typically natural ones like cutin.

Cutin, if you’re not familiar, is a wax polymer that comes from the cuticles of plants. The derivatives of omega hydroxy acids are combined with ester bonds to make polyester polymers which are then used as polyester fabric.

Not all chemicals in polyester might necessarily be as benign, that’s true. During manufacturing, many chemicals can get added to polyester garments, notes this Science News article. Some of the chemicals are potential carcinogens while others may only cause skin irritation and allergic reactions.

The high rate of chemicals isn’t exclusive to polyester, by the way. Nylon, acetate, rayon, and acrylic fabrics may include just as many questionable ingredients. To alleviate your worries, you can always buy natural polyester garments or those that are produced sustainably, as they’ll likely contain fewer if any chemicals.

Is Polyester Waterproof?

You have one more question about polyester. If you’re out hiking and you get caught in a big downpour, will the fabric keep you dry? You know it can wick moisture on the inside of your garment, but what about the outside?

Polyester is water-resistant, but not waterproof. There is a difference. When something is water-resistant, it means there’s a coating that covers the item that allows water to slide right off. This coating does create a waterproof seal, but only for a little while. As the seal disappears over time, the water resistance does as well.

When an item is waterproof, it’s weaved or stitched that way. If you keep the item in good shape, then its waterproof qualities should not change.

Remember though that when it gets wet, polyester holds its shape. You won’t have to worry about the walls of your tent sagging and caving in on you if it rains. Your shirt or coat also won’t stick uncomfortably.

Is Polyester Warm? Conclusion 

Polyester is a synthetic fabric that’s beloved for its low price and moisture-wicking. Although it’s not quite as insulating as acrylic fiber, polyester is warmer than cotton and even wool (or as warm). Just be aware that polyester is not waterproof, only water-resistant, and that some types can contain potentially unsafe chemicals.