A training exercise (conducted while out-of-doors) drapes a damp, cotton towel around a student's neck
for a couple of hours to drive home the point.
As we were moving into SLACKTIDE, a smaller boat than our previous one, Anke was lamenting the number of clothes she has, relative to the size of the single drawer that was to contain them. Our friend, who is quite fashionable, cocked an eyebrow and dryly observed, "It's called a wardrobe, Anke."
So it is. Can't get away from the fact that clothes are both important and tend to multiply. An item that is perfect for one condition won't hack it in the next. Even if one has the next best thing, it may be a five mile row back to the anchored boat to fetch it.
So we tend to look for stuff that does okay across a wide range of conditions, and may be layered with other items for maximum versatility. Add layers for warmth; remove 'em to cool down.
Layering starts with a moisture wicking layer against the skin. It takes energy to evaporate moisture, and on cold days, you are the source of that energy. Cotton kills (in cool or cold weather) by holding on to moisture; evaporation occurs at or very near the skin surface. Enough of that, and hypothermia can set in. Wicking fabrics (e.g., polyester... may be spendy, at first, but way durable) transport moisture well away from the skin.
Next, we like full-zippered, fleece jackets (medium sweater weight; zip to 'turtle' neck). The zipper lets you regulate heat retention. Polyester fleece wicks moisture even further from the skin, dries quickly, and is light and warm when simply wrung out. Downside is that campfire sparks eat holes right through it.
Anke likes wool sweaters, too. They're warm, even wet, though heavy and take longer to dry. They are bulky, too. Though I love 'em, myself, I've gotten entirely away from them to free space.
In cold weather, poly fleece sweatpants are cheaper and more versatile than most thermal underwear. Worn alone, as pants, they may offend fashion, but not modesty.
I used to be a jeans man (Levi's, of course); Carhardt duck, when I could afford it. But, one sweltering day in Port Townsend, WA, a friend sauntered by, wearing wool pants.
"Bart," I gasped, "How can you stand it??"
"Easy," he replied, in manner both cool and collected, "Wool is cool in summer, warm in winter."
I admit to having scoffed.
Years later, after the AMSEA drill, I tried wool pants in cool weather. The change was astounding. I was immediately warmer. The surprise came when spring rolled into summer, ahead of my wardrobe, and I was, in fact, noticably cooler in wool than in jeans. Ditto cotton T-shirts. Now, every time I climb into a pair of cotton duds, for whatever reason, I'm immediately and persistently less comfortable.
Mid-weight dress slacks (2nd hand, herring-bone or 'brushed' finish) are comfortable, year round, with the fleece sweats under in winter. These were comfortable in the 10degF temps we had a week ago (while working, anyway). Slowly, I'm weaning away from heavier weights... they're bulky and not as versatile.
I wash them with everything else (many are marked 'dry clean only') in warm or hot water, then hang dry (they dry quickly). No problems. I like them slightly generous at the waist if there's a chance I'll wear the sweats under them.
So far, we're avoiding high tech materials (or at least, polyester is so common that it's cheap hi-tec). Most of the above and some of the below can be found, second hand for next to nothing. You'll develop an eye for the look and feel of poly and wool in short order. Wool dress slacks, especially, tend to get passed over as fuddy-duddy. Don't be put off by creases and pleats... without ironing, they soon relax into a style more befitting the low life.
Over these we add down vest and top-layer of nylon shell for dry, and pvc for rain (jacket and bibs). PVC raingear is 100% waterproof, inexpensive, easy to dry and clean. It can be repaired and nursed along for years. 'Breathable' gear hasn't held up, here in Alaska, though I know of some offshore sailors who like it. Hard to take that expensive gear through the bramble, though.
Socks are a big expense. They wear out quickly, and it's hard to find good boot socks, 2nd hand. Costco's been our big supplier, with other bargains here and there. My parent's were right. There DID come a day when I appreciated socks as a gift.
We've been experimenting with leather bunker (Fireman's) boots. They're okay in and out of the water, in decent company, hiking and on the street. Not excellent at any of these, but trade 1 for 4 pairs of footwear. A pair of slippers, sandals (immersible but street tough), mickey boots (for extreme cold) and snowshoes round out our shoe department.
Exposure (aka work) suits for very cold weather, with neck bands, gloves, mittens, etc... my beloved Bailey's Durango Hat, fleece ball cap (with earflaps) and light ball cap for working, straw hats for hot days, watchcaps.
Off-season clothes and back-ups go into dry bags in the holds. A clothing drawer, each. A couple of coat hooks, each. A shoe locker and overhead net stowage, for grabables, in common.
So we have a wardrobe. Sheesh!
A tip for 2nd hand buying: somebody told me that one's neck is half one's waist diameter. Hold the pants at each side of the waistband (WB flat), and wrap around your neck. If the two sides just touch, it'll fit your waist, without taking to the dressing room. This works for both Anke and myself. Try it on yourself with a comfortable pair... even if it doesn't work as advertised, note how much gap or overlap does.
If you buy wool goods new, a 10-15% mix of synthetic fiber retains all its qualities, but extends its life considerably.
www.SportsmansGuide.com is where we do a lot of our shopping... closeout bargains and military surplus.