Why Waxed Cotton Ain’t Our Thing

May 17, 2011 | By | 5 Replies More

We wear a lot of adventure-type clothes. Stuff made by Patagonia, SmartWool and those kind of manufacturers. Not cheap but works so much better than the vast majority of clothes oriented to hunters, much of which are not for ACTIVE hunters (they’re for tree-hangers).

When you’re hunting all day actively, you want to wear stuff that’s lightweight, comfortable, warm (usually) but not too warm, transports moisture away from your body and, ideally, doesn’t smell like a buffalo when the day’s done.

And…cotton isn’t that, including waxed cotton. That’s one reason it’s not our thing, plus this, from the Spring 2011 issue of The Upland Almanac:

“…waxed cotton takes some special care….the cotton has to be re-treated with the wax [a few times a year]. This, my friends, should be treated as a walk down memory lane. It can also be viewed as a time to dream.”

The article then goes on to note that you need to rub the wax in “briskly” (the whole garment) and then use a hair-dryer to get the wax to melt in.

S’pose if you love cotton, don’t mind that it’s “old technology” (developed in the 19th century) and have the time to spend on that kind of thing, great. To each his own, we certainly don’t begrudge you anything. But there’s better out there. Not ideal, but better.

Waxed cotton couture....

The Wikipedia entry on waxed cotton notes, “Modern uses of waxed cotton have niched to those areas where its greater warmth provide a greater benefit over its cost, weight and maintenance disadvantages.”

Greater warmth? No, if anything it has a comparative lack of warmth vs. higher-tech stuff. The cost advantage amazingly isn’t that much vs. Gore-Tex.

It does have weight and maintenance disadvantages – to which we’d add a lack of warmth and the fact that it traps moisture.

If you’re a waxed cotton fan – and maybe hunt in rubber boots and light your house with whale oil (lol) – get one of the well-made upland Gore-Tex jackets and try it out. None are ideal – since you can’t put camo on upland stuff, there’s not a ton to choose from – but a few, and only a few, are very good.

You might not feel as “pa’tridge” in it, but hey, you’ll get used to that.

One more thang: Any waterproof or “water-resistant” garment requires maintenance. In the case of Gore-Tex, that’s machine washing with an additive designed for Gore-Tex and drying it hot. If you hunt hard, you will have to maintain your Gore-Tex in this way more often than you’d have to do with waxed cotton, maybe every two days. But to us, it’s a small disadvantage compared to the rest of the advantages.

Category: Clothing, Waxed cotton

Comments (5)

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  1. Glen Bahde says:

    I do believe regionalism has caught up with ya’ll. What you are talking about I probably wouldn’t disagree with up north. But down here in dry warm falls filled with black berry briers and everything else that has needles attached to vines. The waxed cotton works well. My Filson tin cloth vest and pants took a beating nothing else did. No argument on the cotton/warmth and wet argument. I have Gortex for north of Mason Dixon Line and dress completely different. Poly Propylene, Gore Tex and other synthetics are idea. I want to test out some shell pants that hikers wear and I keep a close eye on adventure hikers. They wear under armor nylon shorts the skin tight stuff that football players and some runners wear to stop chaffing. They also told me those combined with leggings make a light weight brier protection they need.

    One thing I would like to hear your comments about is the best bird hat. I have noticed very serious all day bird hunters more often then not do not wear baseball caps. I have a Packer hat but am looking at some wide brimmed Aussie style hats. I am also eyeing some Tilley Hats. Tired of sunburned ears and necks.

    When are you going to join us on Facebook’s group Bird Dogs and Fly Fishing?

  2. GW Biggs says:

    It doesn’t have to be an either/or choice. I wear both modern and classic gear depending on weather and conditions. I have a closet full of Filson tin cloth pants, bibs, and vests that cannot be beat in cold, damp grouse woods full of briars and thorny brush that would quickly shred Goretex. They are like armor and nothing else comes close for protecting me in the right conditions. Love em. But they can be too hot and dont breathe enough if conditions are too warm. Even when the mercury is well below freezing I never wear coats, just a shirt and vest when hunting in my Filsons. They shed wind, snow, and water well enough for an active hunter and stand up to abrasion that would destroy my expensive softshells and laminates. I can wade through the nastiest thorns in the stuff like it’s nothing. I was wearing Underarmor with my Filson bibs and pants (and little else, even on really cold days), when it was just me and pro ballplayers wearing the stuff. Now I also have some good merino baselayers as well. In thorny, northern Appalachian grouse woods, like the hills of Southern Ohio, this combination is still my favorite if its cold.
    That said, I also have lots of modern, cutting-edge backpacking and military gear that is lighter and breathes better when the days are warmer and the coverts not as thorny, such as early season hunts in Michigan. Much as I love my classic Filson vest, I have come to use and appreciate the modern backpack/hydration style upland vest and have been using a couple in warmer, less thorny conditions. Even my favorite Filson vest is a newer strap vest made from tin cloth that has a belt-suspension set-up like the backpack vests and allows a lot more heat to escape. I still never wear a coat unless in a torrential downpour; dont know how you guys do it and complain about waxed cotton!

  3. E Dudley says:

    I’ve gone the exact opposite direction from this post when it comes to jackets. I had Gore-tex jackets and had nothing but issues with them. Rips, leaks, etc and I don’t care what they say, Gore-tex doesn’t breath that well either. I don’t wear my waxed cotton when its warm (above 45) and dry, but wear any jacket anyway.

    I just got back from a fishing trip where my Gore-tex wading jacket completely failed in a 30 minute downpour. I feel like I can never trust the stuff, even when I take the care to treat it often.

  4. jeff johnson says:

    Bought my first Gore-tex jacket in 1985, lets just say the stuff is highly overrated.Gore-tex boots, now where did I put my “soapbox”?

  5. Bill Fontanazza says:

    As a Serious Bird Hunter, I have to admit, my hunting wardrobe is so large,.I bought a clothes locker to store it all. I have more hunting clothes than my wife has shoes. I have the new fabrics and the old ones. I personally lean to the waxed cotton and wool. Grouse hunting in Wisconsin we get 75` in early season and -20` in December and January. You have to dress for success according to the weather. There is no right or wrong to this question, do what you feel will make you comfortable.

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