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Cotton vs. Synthetic Clothes?

New York
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Cotton vs. Synthetic Clothes?

I'm travelling to Botswana and Zambia in mid September. I'm looking for clothes to bring and I'm getting conflicting info, which is better in the hot climate? Any info is most appreciated

New York
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1. Re: Cotton vs. Synthetic Clothes?

Personally, I like 100% cotton. I have some “high tech” polyester and even though it’ll be a dry heat, I still don’t like the feel of the synthetic. Good luck with your trip

Windsor, California
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2. Re: Cotton vs. Synthetic Clothes?

I agree that cotton is the most comfortable in the hot weather, but if there is a chance that you might get wet or get caught in the rain, the new micro fibers are the best. When I was in Bots this spring, we got caught in a couple of rain storms. The cotton khaki's too forever to dry (shame on me for not putting on all the rain gear) but the micro fiber pants I got, dried much quicker (less time sitting in wet pants!). They also stayed alot cleaner for some reason.

Seattle, Washington
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3. Re: Cotton vs. Synthetic Clothes?

I took a variety of lightweight clothes to Botswana/Zambia in November. If I were to pack for the same trip again, I would bring:

- ExOfficio underwear, lightweight synthetic pants with zip-off legs, super lightweight cotton shirts, floppy hat with brim, bandana.

- REI sun shirt (lightweight, nylon, spf 30). This is super-cool because the fabric is lightweight and has lots of vents.

- Lucy.com shorts - lightweight, synthetic. These are very comfortable, cool, and dry quickly.

One issue with lightweight cotton is that it's not usually very sunburn-resistant. The synthetic stuff often has an SPF factor. Also, I took lightweight SmartWool socks. These were a lifesaver because I could wear them with sandals when I started getting blisters and my feet didn't get hot at all.

I would avoid regular cotton t-shirts (too heavy, take too long to dry, hard to wash). Also the "buzz off" mosquito repellant clothing line didn't work for me at all in terms of discouraging bugs. I wouldn't pay extra for buzz off. However, I treated a bunch of clothes with anti-mosquito treatment (Sawyer Permethrin Military Treatment) before leaving home and that seemed to work great, with no smell after drying.

I mention brand names above to help with specifics if you're doing research, but other brands with similar features would probably work just as well.

Random tip: bring lots of wet wipes (baby wipes type, not antibacterial) if spending much time out in the bush/on safari. These were really handy for removing sunscreen/bug repellant before reapplying. Otherwise I would have ended up with like 3 layers of each on per day - ick.


London, United...
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4. Re: Cotton vs. Synthetic Clothes?


After many safaris (and experiments with different types of clothing) I've settled on natural fabrics (linen, cotton, silk, cashmere, or some combination thereof) for everything except outerwear -- I have a safari jacket which is a cotton/high-tech blend so it sheds water but doesn't feel plasticky or make that irritating rustling noise that synthetics tend to do, as well as some fleeces.

One thing I'd suggest is looking for seersucker -- it comes in khaki striped as well as the classic blue, and is wonderful for keeping cool. It's very lightweight and the crinkles ensure that it doesn't stick to you the way normal cotton fabrics can do. Plus it's already wrinkled so no worries about wrinkling (though it drove the laundresses at one of my camps to distraction as they thought they were doing something wrong and they kept trying to iron the wrinkles out!). Preppy shops like Brooks Brothers, Eddie Bauer, LL Bean and Ralph Lauren are good sources for seersucker.



New York
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5. Re: Cotton vs. Synthetic Clothes?

Thanks for all your advice---I've settled on a mix but I will definatly bring more cotton. We're off in 3 weeks and am looking forward to a trip of a lifetime!

Tempe, Arizona
Destination Expert
for South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
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6. Re: Cotton vs. Synthetic Clothes?

Maybe your materials from the safari operator told you this - but the camps in Botswana (maybe Zambia, too) will wash your clothing - except for your underwear. So, underwear that will dry quickly is the best because you will be washing it yourself. On the other hand, I did have clients who took OLD underwear, and just left it along way.

7. Re: Cotton vs. Synthetic Clothes?

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