You know, I hear this "no cotton" thing all the time and I have never, ever had a problem wearing cotton when camping, hiking or fishing. Sure, if you get it wet it takes forever to dry. Sure, it doesn't "wick" away moisture, and sure it's not the best insulator by a long shot. Sure, you could end up standing naked around a fire while other campers walk by and giggle at you.
But, you're not talking hiking the full length of the AT here, you're talking about a couple of nights in the woods. Maybe the "no cotton" thing is for all you city-slickers or something, I dunno. If you can't stand being cold and wet for a day or two, then all that fancy high-dollar gear is what you need. I'm not about to tell you that I enjoy being cold and wet, but it's not going to kill me - not in the Smokies in late spring or summer. OK, on the one in a million chance there is a snow storm and the temps drop to 10 degrees and you stay wet for two days then yes, I suppose it could kill you. But if you don't know how to make a fire, even in damp conditions and without matches, you really have a bigger problem than what material your clothes should be made out of, don't you?
And the one thing that you have to consider is whether or not you're prone to get cold easily. I hike and fish with a fellow who gets cold feet. Mine never get cold. Matter of fact, I hardly ever get cold at all. Now, if I get wet in the rain and it's 50 degrees, yeah. But for a 65 degree hike without the rain, you couldn't drag me into a pair of long pants, nylon or otherwise. I'm just hot natured ( and fat) and you may be too. Or you're skinny as a rail and freeze to death. Just know that alot depends on you, not just what you wear. ( Again, not talking about freezing to death or hypothermia literally, just talking about being uncomfortable.)
So, from a purely non-super-fabric perspective here's what I would take for temps in the 30'2-40's at night.
1. A warm sleeping bag rated to 0 degrees.
2. At least some knowledge of how to start a fire in less than ideal conditions, and the tools to make it happen.
3.A warm hat
4.some socks that aren't cotton - here's the one place I think you really need something that's not cotton. If you're feet get cold at night, you'll be miserable with wet socks. You'd be better taking them off, for that matter.
5.The shirt I'm wearing and the shorts on my butt.
6.Two extra pairs of underwear. ( uh -huh, ......cotton. Because you just never know when you're going to run across that rattler or momma bear with cubs and need that extra pair.
7.One pair of sweats. Yes, cotton.
8.One long sleeve shirt. Yep. you guessed it. Cotton.
9.One light rain jacket( waterproof, and not cotton
10.One medium weight pull over jacket type thing. Again, ................cotton.
Now, I know to alot of folks, the above sounds like crazy-talk. And if you are used to being comfortable all the time, and having heated seats in the car, $400 fly rods and chilled wine, then I suppose that would be crazy to you. But when you're walking in the woods, pack on and headed to the creek, you're gear shouldn't get wet. When you get to camp, you set up a tarp over your tent. Those affordable cotton clothes you brought should never get wet in the first place, and if they do you build a fire and dry them out. How you do that is up to you. ( I hope you don't think a cardboard twinkies box and a Bic lighter will do the trick when everything around you is "seemingly" wet. It's east enough to find info on the interwebz about how to survive in the wilds. Just make sure you don't believe everything you read out there, ok?)
The thing is, if you're reading the thread here and you're thinking that " Man, I can't do this BC thing because I don't have $300-$1000 to put into all this high-tech gear"( one high-tech jacket and pants set can set you back $300) then my post is for you - you don't NEED it.
Sure, it would make things easier on you and if everything you brought out there did get wet, it would dry out faster and you'd be more comfortable sooner. But if you're looking for a nice, comfortable, civilized few days away from the city, then backpacking into the wilds may not be your thing.( Maybe car camping is?)
I've known people that it wasn't their thing and they did it anyway just to get to the fish!
Nothing wrong with that! And there's nothing wrong with having all that fancy gear and high-tech fabrics, either. Don't misunderstand me there.
It's just that I find it all a bit unnecessary for the types of trips most BC fishermen take in the late spring and summer. Wintertime would be a whole other game and there is a place for high-tech gear and specialized garments...but a spring trip into the smokies? Be prepared to be a little wet and a little uncomfortable! It's part of the experience and in some way, shape or form it's going to happen no matter what you pack in!
So enjoy your spring, get out there and enjoy the park. Just don't think you HAVE to spend a small fortune to do it. If you're up to a little unpleasant cold and wet. The fish won't care, and there's nothing like a spring thunderstorm rolling through the southern Blue Ridge.
* The author of this post has over 20 years of camping experience, nearly 10 years of hiking experience, and at least 5 years experience at being wet in the woods.
Maybe some $100 pants would've had that down to 2.5 years, but then that's $100 I spent on flies and flyline. Also, the author of this post has spent exactly one night stranded on the Blue Ridge Parkway, after hiking 10 miles over creekbeds, through the woods with no trails and the last 2 miles in the dark, dehydrated and in pain from full muscle rebellion. This is to say that when you have to endure, you can endure far more than you ever thought you could. Humans these days seldom have need to push ourselves to the breaking point, although sometimes at work it feels like we might go over the edge and "nut up." You can do far more, go further, survive longer, and endure better than you think.