I will start off by saying that these are my personal preferences and they have worked well for me thus far. I know that everybody has their own personal preferences when it comes to outdoor clothing, I just wanted to put my two cents in. I hope it’s at least worth that much!
For winter hiking and hunting I like to start with a base layer preferably made of wool, synthetic if I have to. Good quality wool socks as well. Then I do wear heavy duty tactical style pants that are made of 100% cotton or 50/50 cotton/poly blend. All of the tactical pants on the market have cotton in them unless you buy lightweight nylon hiking pants or gore tex pants. I find it funny to hear guys saying all the time to never wear denim jeans (which I wouldn’t) or cotton pants but then recommend all these tactical pants that are made of some part cotton. It’s as if they never looked at the labels. I know everybody says cotton kills and to stay away from it but there is a use for cotton in the outdoors community if used properly and as long as you are familiar with its limitations. I try to never put myself in a situation where I end up wet but if my pants became soaked I could just take them off and dry them over a fire well still wearing my base layer of wool. I wear a flannel shirt and then a good quality wool coat. I love wool for the fact that it still insulates when wet (it does lose some insulation value once wet), it is antimicrobial and it does not stain or hold dirt that I am aware of or that I’ve been able to tell. Also you don’t have to worry about sparks or flames from a fire like you do with synthetic materials.
I do use synthetic clothing for some things but the older I get the more that I am tending to use them less. Yes they tend to be lighter and pack smaller but have you smelled your under armor shirt after a day of hiking on a warm summer day. It’s not good.
For summer I wear nylon hiking pants. I wear hiking pants all year long just because I’ve never really been into wearing shorts a whole lot. That’s just me. One thing I wish somebody would make is ripstop nylon hiking pants. For the life of me I can’t find anybody that does and I’m thinking of contacting a seamstress to have some specially made for me and my sons. I carry an under armor base layer but either wear a cotton shirt or light polyester button up hiking shirt well hiking during the day. This way at the end of the day when I’m not working hard and sweating, I can change into the synthetic clothing for warmth well giving the cotton shirt a chance to dry out. I can also wear the base layers on rainy days instead of having a soaking wet cotton shirt. I plan ahead for the limitations of wearing any cotton clothing. Again this is just my preference and I am aware of cottons limits. I just got sick and tired of the smell of my under armor shirts. Don’t get me wrong I do love under armor. I only use their name because everyone is familiar with their products and that’s just what I own. There are cheaper brands out there as well, obviously.
Depending on the season and the weather where I’m going to be hiking my clothing choices do change. I do own a lot of synthetic clothing and do highly recommend some of it but I think many people have just gone a little crazy with the cotton kills statement or death cloth, whichever you prefer. I just think everybody needs to take another look at natural materials as well. We all know nothing beats a down sleeping bag or quality wool blanket. Yes they may weigh a little more or not pack down quite as much but they are worth using to me. I would never head out into the wilderness wearing all cotton and don’t recommend it to anybody but I do wear some and take the necessary precautions in case it might get wet. Just like any gear you might carry or use, learn how to use it properly and learn its strengths and limitations. What natural materials do you use? Do you “dare” to wear cotton? All my years in the construction industry, all we wore for warmth in the winter were carhartt jackets and overalls. Guess what they are made of? Yup that’s right.