You’ve heard us say it before: You should be wearing cotton outdoors. “Cotton kills” isn’t wrong. But at the same time, a lot of things can kill you. Your beloved one-liter Naglene can “kill” you if that’s all you bring for a long day hike in the desert. Choosing a ocean kayak for whitewater can send you splashing into the waves. And the wrong sleeping bag on a cold night can, at best, keep you up late. Gear doesn’t “kill,” our decisions about how we use it do. Neither your Nalgene, kayak, or sleeping bag are bad, let alone deadly, pieces of gear—They were just used incorrectly. And the same goes for your cotton t-shirt. Planning on wearing one for a rainy hike on a 40° fall day? That’s probably not a good idea and the result of that decision could be disastrous. But that doesn’t mean cotton never belongs outdoors, especially today’s more technologically-advanced cotton, like Carhartt’s Force Delmont T-Shirts. So where’s one place you should consider wearing a cotton tee? Your next summer day on the water.

Credit: Lauren Danilek

Busting the Cotton Myth

For starters, why do we tend to think cotton is such a no-go in the outdoors? The simple answer is because it doesn’t dry out very quickly. Traditional cotton is hydrophilic, which means it loves water. To dry it out, our bodies need to warm up the water in the fibers to make it evaporate. That means it takes more work and energy from our bodies to generate that extra heat, syphoning away our body’s warmth. On the other hand, hydrophobic fibers like polyester don’t absorb water (those fibers are essentially plastic, after all), which means it’s a lot easier for the moisture to get out of the fabric.

The problem? Wearing wet clothes makes you cold, which is something you’d ideally like to avoid on trips where your focus is on staying warm and dry. But that’s not all the time, either.

Courtesy: Carhartt

Blended to Perfection

In hot, dry, or sunny environments, staying too warm is actually a larger safety concern that being too cold. In that case, wearing a cotton shirt that can hold onto a little bit more moisture and cool you down is actually a good thing. A sunny, warm summer day on the water is the ideal place to wear cotton.

A t-shirt like the Delmont combines some of the best features of cotton and polyester. A 65/35 percent blend (using a technology Carhartt calls “FastDry”) creates a shirt that wicks more moisture than your typical 100 percent cotton t-shirt but still keeps you cool on a hot day. Added features like comfortable raglan sleeves, smooth flat lock seams, and a breezy relaxed fit might make the Delmont, in particular, the ultimate shirt for a hot day on the lake or river.

Take it Easy

In addition to balancing your body temperature needs during a hot day on the water, cotton shirts are also some of the simplest base layers to clean and care for. They don’t require any special washes, won’t shrink in the dryer (most cotton today is pre-shrunk), and doesn’t need a delicate touch. The Delmont in particular features Carhartt’s Stain Breaker technology to shed the mud you smeared all over your shoulder carrying a kayak.

Credit: Lauren Danilek

No single piece of clothing is perfect 100 percent of the time, especially outdoors, cotton included. But no matter what intense deadly tropes you’ve heard, it does have a place. And as we move into the heat of the summer and out onto the water, the place might be on your back.