You may have heard the term “wicking” referred once or twice while researching your packing gear lists. You may also associate the term with people who run or go to the gym.
Well, the thing is that many backpackers and those that participate in light hiking travel activities also enjoy a good piece of wicking clothing. It might help for days when you’re forced to walk around for hours with a heavy backpack on, or it could be of use when you decide to climb an active volcano.
What Wicking Clothing Does
Wicking clothing “wicks” the moisture (aka sweat) away from your skin, which makes you feel more comfortable when you’re active. Wicking clothing is also usually made of a synthetic material that doesn’t absorb wetness. What this does is make the moisture more readily available for evaporation. So, in other words, wicking material also tends to be quick-drying, which is a godsend when you’re constantly on the move or when you just need to hand-wash a pair of undies and have them be ready by morning.
Why Not Cotton?
Cotton clothing is very breathable and super comfortable in the summer months, but the problem here is that cotton absorbs sweat. Since it absorbs sweat and moisture, it doesn’t present the moisture to be readily evaporated and dispersed causing you to stay damp longer. You might notice that a cotton t-shirt left out on a clothing line with no sun might take ages to dry, right? Imagine that you’re waiting for your laundry to dry out but are then forced to pack it up in your luggage… damp… before your flight. We all know what happens to wet clothes in a backpack or suitcase… it smells!
In the winter time, cotton is also not optimal for being active as your clothes will stay damp longer, making you chilled.
When to Use Wicking Clothing
Since wicking clothing does not actually stop you from sweating, you must be aware that there is a point where wicking clothing may feel just as saturated as cotton, perhaps when traveling in the deep humidity of places like Malaysia, Guatemala or even Florida. It will, however, tend to dry quicker than the cotton equivalent. What this means is that after your walk out in the heat and humidity, when you return to your place of shady serenity on your Florida getaway or jungle trekking adventures, you’ll be at a drier and more comfortable level sooner.
In less humid climates, wicking shirts and gear are great for days when you plan to be a bit more active, such as when you have to do a lot of walking with your luggage on your back, when you decided to hike in the woods for an afternoon, or even when you decide to climb to the top of a bell tower. The wicking gear might be an option for those who like to save a buck or two on laundry by doing their washing in the sink.
What sort of wicking travel gear do you use?
Join the Her Packing List email community!
Get our latest packing lists, gear deals, and travel news by email.