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Karthik Suseel

The Best Moisture Wicking Material for Hiking

The word wicking generally originated with oil lamps and lanterns. The oil lamp can wick means can absorb the oil from the reservoir and can move it up towards the flame through a woven cotton by capillary action.

In most of the fabrics, the same principle is being used to move a large amount of water by interfiber capillary action.

Capillary action

 Capillary action is the macroscopic motion or flow of fluid under the influence of its own surface and inter-facial force.

Capillarity is the primary driving force responsible for the movement of moisture along the fabrics.

According to the law of capillarity, fluid flow would be faster in a void with a large capillary radius than that in one with a small radius.

The smaller the radius capillary can transport moisture to a greater height.

In fabrics the capillary action is based on the yarn and its pore radii.

The capillarity moves the moisture in the fabrics from larger pores to the smaller pores as height increases. That is moisture flow from a region of low capillary pressure to a region of high capillary pressure.

From this, we can understand that the moisture begins in all the pores but can travel only to certain heights in the larger pores where it then migrates to the smaller pores.

So as the height increases, moisture held in the yarn of a fabric decreases because all the pores are not filling. If the pores or capillaries do not fill, then they do not contribute to the transport or wicking of the moisture.

The increase in the percentage of wool fiber in the fabrics is directly related to the decrease in water absorption.

While hiking/trekking using cloth materials with high wicking properties can absorb the sweat from the skin and can spread it out to the exterior of the cloth where it can evaporate easily.

Why is moisture wicking material important for clothes?

In high-performance sports and extreme physical exertion, the clothing plays a major role.

 Performance fabrics which are specially designed and engineered to

  •  Manage moisture
  • Regulate body temperature 
  • Provide protection from harmful UV radiation from the sun which may cause sunburn and skin cancer and to protect from surrounding environment.

Performance fabrics are engineered such that during high-energy athletic activities it should keep the body dry.

During cold weather sports, the chances of having a wet skin are more and which in turn lose heat unnecessarily from the body which is not at all good.

The moisture in the clothes makes discomfort to the wearer.

The two type of body comforts is sensorial and thermophysiological.

Sensorial comfort

Sensorial comfort means the satisfaction of the wearer like how the fabrics feel against the skin, how it appears to the eye and how it smells.

In case of high-performance athletes, the main thing is the feel of the fabric they need a “dry feel” in general.

Thermophysiological comfort

Thermophysiological comfort describes how it manages or control the microclimate, which is the air surrounding the body. This type of comfort is very important during cold weather sports.

The fabrics made up of polyester do not conduct heat, due to entrapment of body heat. The temperature increases inside the polyester cloths.  In cold weather sports clothes, the base material is polyester. In general, this type of thermophysiological comfort describes how hot or cold the fabric makes you feel.

The human body is capable of regulating core body temperature by itself, sweating is an example of it.

During high-performance activities, the human body produces heat and a certain amount of water vapor. If the heat emission is not sufficient enough to maintain the body temperature to 37 degree Celsius then sweat will be produced in the body to control the body temperature. The evaporation of the liquid sweat cools the body.

 The heat flow from the skin through the clothing can be considerably greater in wet cloths. Water decreases the thermal insulation of clothing. This because water has greater thermal conductivity than air. Water cool body 25 times faster than air.

Some of the moisture wicking materials


  • Highly moisture absorbent.
  • It can absorb water vapor 30% of its own weight without feeling wet.
  • It can be combined with moisture management materials to create intimate blends of different fibers.

These new blended yarns with different percentage of wool and other functional fibers can be used to produce knitted fabrics for different performance-oriented activities.

Wool and some synthetics have wicking properties, but wool has a special ability to wick away moisture in its vapor state.

The natural characteristics of wool are

  • Warmth and coolness
  • Breathability
  • Moisture absorption
  • Buffering
  • Low odor
  • Flame resistance
  • Biodegradability & recyclability
  • Resistance to soiling and staining

Merino wool

Merino wool has many characteristics like it keeps you warm, very comfortable to wear unlike other wool which has an itchy fabric, regulates body temperature, wicking of moisture, odor resistant, quick drying, natural sun protection, easy to wash and last longer.

Polyester fabrics

Polyester fabrics have so many advantages like excellent elasticity, wrinkle resistance, durability etc. In moisture absorption capability they are not comfortable also can easily produce static electricity which absorbs the dust and which in turn clinges the body.


 A new moisture wicking material from polyester fiber was developed through some chemical and physical modification known as “honeycomb” polyester fiber. On its surface and in the interior there are lots of micropores which can absorb and release moisture quickly and dissipate heat quickly.

“Honeycomb polyester” when blended with other fiber like bamboo pulp fiber to make a blended yarn to increase its qualities.

The honeycomb polyester weft-knitted fabrics have excellent moisture absorption capacity and liberation.

The moisture absorption and liberation qualities increase with smaller thickness and density

Some of the other popular materials 

  • Icebreaker
  • Sportswool
  • Coolmax
  • Fine cool fabrics show a high capacity to dry after wet
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capillary action, layering, moisture wicking, quick dry

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