You have choices.
Essentials for Wilderness Survival, Part 9: Listen to your mother.
Say you washed your clothes and hung them up to dry, and then you went to bed? What's the worst thing that could happen? I suppose for most of us that would be hearing a knock on the tent door, and when you get up to answer it, it's a bunch of Girl Scouts selling cookies and there you are with no clothes on. Mandatory five-to-ten, with no chance of parole. Plus you miss out on a lot of hiking.
And if you dodge that bullet, there's always forest fires, but more likely, a bear comes and eats your stuff. Bears are intelligent animals, and like all intelligent animals, a bunch of them are crazy, and they're big enough to rear up and munch your laundry in the dark.
There's really no way to prevent that unless you hire my cousin Clevonne, the bear whisperer, but he doesn't go hiking. It think it's he, but we're not that close, and you can't really be sure from the photos. Anyway, who wants a stranger in their tent all night, whispering?
That leaves only a couple of options.
- Go naked. (This has well-known problems as noted above, plus skeeters and sunburn.)
- Never wash. Fairly common when thru-hikers "go native" and just stay out there. (Some nights you can hear them howling in the distance.)
- Take extra.
Well, we know which two options are popular with ultralighters, but what if you're not in that elite group of dusty stinkers? (Six people worldwide at last count.) That leaves just one way out — spare undos.
Toss an extra shirt and pants in the pack too, a change of socks, and you got it pretty well covered.
For example, you get wet. Maybe it rains, or you fall in the creek again. Got spare clothes? Great. Use those to dry off with. This way you can leave the towel at home, and if you always forget it anyway, well — less thinking needed.
So you get soaked, and you pat yourself dry using those spare clothes, so then you simply get back to walking. Eventually all your clothes will air dry or some kind of mold will get them, and you can't really do anything about that. Better than the alternative from staying wet.
If that happens you get fatigued by producing too much body heat and then you lose brain functionality, which makes you slow in the head, and then you go stand in the rain or fall in the creek again. This is called a viscous circle because each time around you move slower and slower until you turn into a kind of thick-headed frigid cheese or something. Then the bears really close in.
Synthetic clothing is highly advised by all the experts. These are usually the people who eat organic food. See the problem there? Some of them are even vegetarians, so how do you feel about that?
There is nothing wrong with good old cotton. Cotton has got a bad rap lately, but it is all organic and you don't have to pretend to eat it.
Cotton clothing will keep going for a long time, almost forever. Heck, I've still got a shirt I bought 16 years ago, and it wasn't showing much wear until the dog took a shine to it. Something about the color or whatever, I think. Little sucker won't leave the damn thing alone any more, but at least he's off my leg now.
So cotton has its uses. For instance, why do they make towels out of it? Which gets back to our main topic here — you want to remain clean and presentable, which means having enough spare clothes to use as towels, and cotton is unbeatable for that. And take spare underpants too, in case you get hit by a mountain biker and have to go to the hospital.
Don't let your mother down.