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Why is Cotton Bad for Hiking

Cotton is a widely popular fabric, but when it comes to hiking, it is not the most suitable choice. There are several reasons why cotton is unsuitable for hiking, as outlined below:

1. Absorption and Retention of Moisture: Cotton has a high absorption rate and tends to retain moisture, making it problematic during hiking. When exposed to sweat or rain, cotton absorbs moisture, leading to discomfort and increased weight.

2. Poor Insulation: Cotton lacks insulation properties, which can be detrimental in cold weather. It does not effectively trap body heat, leaving hikers vulnerable to the cold and increasing the risk of hypothermia.

3. Slow Drying Time: Cotton has a slow drying time when wet. This can be problematic during hiking when quick drying is important to maintain comfort and prevent the risk of developing blisters, chafing, or fungal infections.

4. Lack of Breathability: Cotton does not allow for proper airflow and ventilation, resulting in a lack of breathability. This can lead to excessive sweating, discomfort, and a higher chance of developing skin irritations.

5. Heavy and Bulky: Cotton is a heavy and bulky fabric, which can weigh down hikers and restrict movement. This can lead to fatigue and hinder agility on the trail.

Wearing cotton while hiking can have several consequences, including an increased risk of hypothermia due to poor insulation, chafing and discomfort from moisture retention, and longer recovery time due to prolonged wetness.

For hiking, it is recommended to opt for alternative fabrics that offer better performance. Synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and nylon, are popular choices due to their moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties. Merino wool is another excellent option, as it is lightweight, breathable, and provides natural insulation. Blends of synthetic and natural fibers can also offer the benefits of both materials.

When choosing hiking apparel, consider the weather and climate, prioritize moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabrics, pay attention to fit and layering for added comfort and protection, and test and evaluate different fabrics to find what works best for you.

By avoiding cotton and choosing appropriate fabrics for hiking, you can enhance your comfort, performance, and overall hiking experience.

Key takeaway:

  • Cotton is unsuitable for hiking due to its absorption and retention of moisture, poor insulation, slow drying time, lack of breathability, and heavy and bulky nature.
  • Wearing cotton while hiking can lead to increased risk of hypothermia, chafing and discomfort, and longer recovery time.
  • Alternative fabrics for hiking include synthetic fabrics, merino wool, and blends of synthetic and natural fibers.
  • When choosing hiking apparel, consider the weather and climate, prioritize moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabrics, pay attention to fit and layering, and test and evaluate different fabrics.

Why is Cotton Unsuitable for Hiking?

When it comes to hiking, cotton is a big no-no. Let’s explore why cotton is unsuitable for this outdoor adventure. From its moisture-absorption tendencies to its lack of breathability, we’ll discover why cotton clothing can hinder your hiking experience. We’ll dig into the poor insulation and slow drying time that cotton offers, as well as its heavy and bulky nature. Lace up your boots and join me as we uncover the reasons why cotton should be left behind when hitting the trails.

1. Absorption and Retention of Moisture

Cotton is not suitable for hiking due to its poor absorption and retention of moisture. It quickly absorbs moisture, leading to a wet and uncomfortable feeling. It does not effectively draw moisture away from your skin, which causes the fabric to remain wet for longer periods. This can result in chafing and irritation, particularly in areas where the fabric rubs against your body. When hiking, wearing wet cotton can also increase the risk of hypothermia as it lowers your body temperature, especially in cold weather. Wet cotton is heavy and bulky, adding unnecessary weight to your pack and making it challenging to move comfortably. It is highly recommended to avoid wearing cotton while hiking and choosing moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabrics instead. These fabrics will keep you dry and comfortable throughout your outdoor adventures.

2. Poor Insulation

Poor insulation is a major drawback of cotton for hiking. Unfortunately, cotton does not possess the necessary insulation qualities to effectively keep the body warm in cold weather conditions. This is primarily due to the loose weave of cotton fibers, which allows air to easily pass through, resulting in heat loss. Cotton has a tendency to absorb and retain moisture, further deteriorating its insulation capabilities. When cotton becomes wet, its ability to provide insulation diminishes, causing it to cling to the skin and causing discomfort as well as an increased risk of hypothermia. Such situations can be particularly hazardous in colder environments where maintaining body temperature is of utmost importance.

On the other hand, synthetic materials and merino wool are renowned for their excellent insulation properties. These fabrics effectively trap heat close to the body, ensuring that the wearer remains warm even when exposed to moisture. They also possess the ability to wick away moisture, thereby enhancing their insulation capabilities. When selecting hiking attire, it is crucial to prioritize fabrics with optimal insulation properties, such as synthetic materials or merino wool, as this will ensure superior protection against cold weather conditions and minimize the risk of hypothermia.

3. Slow Drying Time

Cotton is not suitable for hiking because it has a slow drying time. When engaging in outdoor activities, especially hiking, it is essential to choose fabrics that dry quickly for comfort and to avoid potential issues. Here are some reasons why cotton has a slow drying time:

1. Moisture absorption: Cotton fibers can absorb a significant amount of moisture, but this characteristic also leads to slower evaporation and lengthier drying times.

2. Moisture retention: Cotton not only absorbs moisture quickly but also retains it, which prolongs the drying process and makes garments feel damp and heavy for a longer period.

3. Limited breathability: Cotton fabric restricts airflow, which slows down the evaporation of moisture and further extends the drying process.

Wearing cotton clothing while hiking can have several consequences due to its slow drying time:

1. Discomfort: Damp cotton clothing can cause discomfort and make the hiking experience less enjoyable.

2. Increased risk of hypothermia: Moisture on the skin, combined with low temperatures or wind, can elevate the risk of hypothermia.

3. Prolonged recovery time: If your clothing takes longer to dry, it can extend your recovery time after physical exertion by keeping you colder for a longer duration.

When choosing hiking apparel, it is crucial to prioritize fabrics with quick-drying properties. Fabrics such as synthetic materials, merino wool, or blends of synthetic and natural fibers are excellent alternatives to cotton. These fabrics not only dry faster but also provide better breathability and moisture-wicking capabilities, keeping you comfortable during your outdoor adventures.

4. Lack of Breathability

Cotton is a popular fabric, but it has a lack of breathability, which makes it unsuitable for hiking. Lack of breathability refers to the fabric’s inability to allow air to pass through, regulating body temperature, and preventing overheating. When you wear cotton while hiking, it traps moisture next to your skin, causing discomfort and chafing. Cotton’s lack of breathability also makes you feel hot and sweaty, increasing the risk of dehydration.

To avoid these issues, it is advisable to choose breathable fabrics for hiking. Synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon are well-known for their breathability and moisture-wicking properties. These fabrics allow air to circulate and pull moisture away from your body, thereby keeping you dry and comfortable. Another alternative is merino wool, which is naturally breathable and possesses excellent moisture-wicking abilities. Merino wool is effective in regulating body temperature regardless of whether it is hot or cold weather.

5. Heavy and Bulky

  • Cotton is heavy and bulky compared to other hiking fabrics.

  • Cotton fibers are thicker and denser, making the fabric heavier.

  • This can be a disadvantage when hiking as it increases gear weight and makes movement more difficult.

  • Heavy clothing can also cause fatigue and strain on the body.

  • Cotton’s bulkiness hinders efficient packing and takes up more space in the backpack.

  • Long hikes or backpacking trips require lightweight, compact fabrics.

  • Synthetic materials or merino wool are lightweight and offer excellent performance.

  • These fabrics are designed to provide warmth, moisture-wicking abilities, and breathability.

  • Choosing lighter and more compact fabrics enhances hiking comfort and efficiency, reducing the weight and bulkiness of cotton.

What are the Consequences of Wearing Cotton while Hiking?

What are the Consequences of Wearing Cotton while Hiking? - Why is Cotton Bad for Hiking

Photo Credits: Jasonexplorer.Com by Terry Rodriguez

Wearing cotton while hiking can turn your outdoor adventure into a not-so-comfortable experience. Let’s explore the consequences that come with this choice. From an increased risk of hypothermia to chafing and discomfort, and even longer recovery times, wearing cotton can pose serious challenges on the trail. Strap on your hiking boots and join me as we uncover the drawbacks of cotton and why it’s time to opt for more suitable fabrics for your next hiking expedition.

1. Increased Risk of Hypothermia

The increased risk of hypothermia is a consequence of wearing cotton while hiking. Unlike some other fabrics, cotton does not provide adequate insulation and moisture management, making it a poor choice for outdoor activities in colder temperatures.

  • Cotton absorbs and retains moisture: It has a high absorption rate, meaning it easily absorbs moisture like sweat or rain. This moisture gets trapped within the fabric, making it difficult to dry quickly.
  • Poor insulation: Cotton loses its insulating properties when wet. If you’re hiking in colder weather and your cotton clothing gets wet, it will not effectively retain body heat, increasing the risk of hypothermia.
  • Slow drying time: Cotton takes a long time to dry due to its high moisture retention. This slow drying time can be dangerous in outdoor environments where staying dry is crucial for maintaining body temperature.
  • Lack of breathability: Cotton does not allow for efficient moisture wicking or breathability. Cotton garments become heavy with moisture when you sweat, leading to discomfort and potentially contributing to hypothermia.
  • Heavy and bulky: Cotton clothing can be heavy and bulky when wet, making it difficult to move and potentially adding extra strain on the body during hiking activities. This can result in quicker fatigue and slower recovery times.
  • To reduce the risk of hypothermia and ensure safety and comfort during outdoor adventures, it is essential to choose appropriate fabrics for hiking that prioritize insulation, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying properties.

    2. Chafing and Discomfort

    When hiking, experiencing chafing and discomfort can be significantly reduced by avoiding cotton clothing. Here are some explanations as to why:

    Friction: The rough texture of cotton can cause friction against the skin during activities like hiking, leading to chafing, irritation, and the formation of blisters.

    Moisture retention: Instead of allowing sweat and moisture to evaporate, cotton absorbs and retains it, creating a damp environment that increases the likelihood of chafing and discomfort. Synthetic materials or merino wool are preferred as they are better at wicking moisture away from the body.

    Skin irritation: Cotton has the ability to trap heat and moisture near the skin, promoting bacterial growth, skin irritation, and contributing further to chafing and discomfort.

    Sensitivity: Certain individuals may have a higher sensitivity to cotton, exacerbating the chafing and discomfort experienced while wearing it during hiking activities.

    To prevent chafing and discomfort while hiking, it is advised to choose moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabrics such as synthetic materials or merino wool for your hiking apparel. These fabrics effectively manage moisture, reduce friction, and keep the skin dry and comfortable throughout your hike. Paying attention to the fit of your clothing and layering appropriately can also aid in preventing chafing and ensuring optimal comfort during your outdoor adventures. It is recommended to test and evaluate different fabrics to find what works best for you and your specific needs.

    3. Longer Recovery Time

    When hiking, it is important to avoid wearing cotton clothing as it can lead to longer recovery time after physical exertion. Unlike synthetic fabrics or merino wool, cotton does not have moisture-wicking properties. This means that sweat and moisture get trapped against the skin, impeding the body’s ability to regulate temperature efficiently. As a result, overheating and discomfort may occur, prolonging the recovery time needed after a hike.

    Cotton clothing takes a long time to dry. If you encounter rain or sweat heavily during your hike, your cotton garments will remain wet, further extending the recovery time. Not only that, but wet clothing can also increase the risk of hypothermia in colder temperatures.

    To minimize the risk of longer recovery time while hiking, it is advisable to choose fabrics that are moisture-wicking and quick-drying. These fabrics will help keep your body dry and comfortable, reducing the risk of overheating and discomfort. Synthetic fabrics, merino wool, or blends of synthetic and natural fibers are excellent alternatives to cotton for hiking apparel. By opting for these materials, you can ensure a more enjoyable and efficient hiking experience.

    Alternative Fabrics for Hiking

    Looking for alternatives to cotton while hiking? Say hello to a world of synthetic fabrics, merino wool, and blends of synthetic and natural fibers. Each sub-section in this article will introduce you to the wonders and benefits of these fabrics, providing you with the knowledge you need to make informed choices for your hiking adventures. Get ready to upgrade your hiking gear with these innovative options!

    1. Synthetic Fabrics

    Synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and nylon, are highly recommended for hiking due to their exceptional performance and durability. Incorporating these synthetic fabrics into your hiking apparel offers numerous benefits that make them the preferred choice among outdoor enthusiasts.

    One key advantage of synthetic fabrics is their moisture-wicking properties. These fabrics have the ability to draw moisture away from the skin, allowing it to evaporate quickly. This ensures that you stay dry and comfortable even during strenuous activities on the hiking trail.

    Another advantage is the quick-drying nature of synthetic fabrics. Unlike cotton, which tends to absorb and retain moisture, synthetic fabrics dry much faster. This is particularly important while hiking, as wet clothing can lead to discomfort and even hypothermia in cold weather conditions.

    In addition to their moisture management capabilities, synthetic fabrics are also known for being lightweight. This quality makes them incredibly suitable for backpacking and long hikes, as they do not add extra bulk or weight to your gear. Packing synthetic fabrics is hassle-free compared to cotton, which can take up more space in your backpack.

    Durability is another key advantage of synthetic fabrics for hiking apparel. These fabrics are highly resistant to wear and tear, making them able to withstand rubbing against rough surfaces or backpack straps without easily getting damaged. This durability ensures that your hiking apparel made from synthetic fabrics will last longer and serve you well on multiple adventures.

    Lastly, synthetic fabrics offer excellent breathability. They allow air to circulate and heat to escape, preventing overheating while regulating your body temperature. This is particularly beneficial during intense hikes when your body generates more heat.

    Considering all these factors, it is clear that synthetic fabrics are the optimal choice for those seeking comfortable, high-performance, and long-lasting hiking apparel. Incorporate synthetic fabrics into your outdoor gear and enjoy the many benefits they provide on your next hiking adventure.

    2. Merino Wool

    Merino wool, known for its excellent performance and comfort, is the ideal fabric for hiking apparel. There are several reasons why merino wool stands out as a top choice:

    1. Natural Moisture-Wicking: Merino wool has a unique ability to absorb moisture from the body and release it into the atmosphere. This ensures that you stay dry and comfortable throughout your hikes.

    2. Temperature Regulation: Thanks to its natural insulation properties, merino wool keeps your body temperature regulated in both warm and cold conditions. It provides warmth in chilly weather and keeps you cool when it’s hot, making it an all-season fabric.

    3. Odor Resistance: With its natural antibacterial properties, merino wool effectively combats odor-causing bacteria. This means you can enjoy long hikes without worrying about unpleasant smells, even if you don’t have access to laundry facilities.

    4. Soft and Irritation-Free: Unlike traditional wool, merino wool is luxuriously soft and gentle against the skin. It doesn’t cause any itchiness or irritation, making it the ideal choice for those with sensitive skin.

    5. Lightweight and Breathable: Merino wool offers the perfect combination of being lightweight and breathable. It allows for maximum airflow, helping to regulate your body temperature and prevent overheating during intense physical activities.

    So when it comes to hiking apparel, there’s no doubt that merino wool is the ultimate fabric choice. Its natural properties make it comfortable, versatile, and perfect for all your outdoor adventures.

    3. Blends of Synthetic and Natural Fibers

    Blends of Synthetic and Natural Fibers:

    Manufacturers have developed blends of synthetic and natural fibers for hiking apparel to provide hikers with the best performance and comfort. These blends combine the advantages of both types of materials to create an ideal fabric for outdoor activities.

    One example of a blend is polyester and merino wool. This blend offers the benefits of moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties from synthetic polyester, as well as the breathability and odor-resistant qualities of merino wool. The polyester component wicks away sweat, keeping the hiker dry and comfortable, while the merino wool provides insulation and regulates body temperature in various weather conditions.

    Blends of synthetic and natural fibers are also durable and stretchable. The synthetic fibers enhance the fabric’s strength and resilience, making it resistant to wear and tear. The combination of natural and synthetic fibers allows for increased flexibility and freedom of movement during physical activities like hiking.

    When choosing hiking apparel, consider the specific blend of synthetic and natural fibers that best suits your needs. Look for garments that provide the right balance of moisture-wicking, insulation, breathability, and durability. Test different fabrics to find the one that offers the best performance and comfort for your hiking adventures.

    Using blends of synthetic and natural fibers in hiking apparel has revolutionized the outdoor clothing industry, offering hikers a superior alternative to cotton. These fabrics ensure hikers can enjoy their outdoor activities while staying comfortable and protected, regardless of the weather conditions.

    Tips for Choosing Hiking Apparel

    When it comes to choosing the right hiking apparel, there are a few key tips that can make all the difference. Whether you’re braving extreme climates or trekking through varying weather conditions, consider the weather and climate to stay prepared. Opt for moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabrics to keep you comfortable and dry throughout your journey. Don’t underestimate the importance of proper fit and layering techniques for optimal insulation. Take the time to test and evaluate different fabrics to find the perfect combination for your hiking adventures.

    1. Consider the Weather and Climate

    When preparing for a hiking trip, it is important to consider the weather and climate. This will help you choose the appropriate clothing and gear for a comfortable and safe hiking experience.

    • Research the weather forecast: Check the forecast for the location and time of your hike. This will give you an idea of the conditions to expect and help you decide what to wear.
    • Temperature range: When considering the weather and climate, think about the temperature range you will encounter. If it is hot, it is advisable to choose lightweight and breathable fabrics like moisture-wicking synthetics or lightweight merino wool blends. On the other hand, if it is cold, it is recommended to opt for insulated and layered clothing to keep you warm.
    • Precipitation: It’s also important to take into account the chances of rain, snow, or other forms of precipitation. If there is a likelihood of rain, it is best to choose waterproof or water-resistant fabrics to ensure you stay dry. If it is sunny and hot, it is advisable to consider clothing with UPF protection to shield you from the sun’s rays.
    • Altitude: It is crucial to be aware that high altitude areas can be significantly cooler. Therefore, it is advised to dress in layers and be prepared for sudden weather changes.

    Considering the weather and climate will help you select the most suitable clothing and gear for your hiking adventure. Being prepared will guarantee your comfort and safety while enjoying the great outdoors.

    2. Prioritize Moisture-Wicking and Quick-Drying Fabrics

    When hiking, prioritize moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabrics. These fabrics have advantages for hiking:

    1. Efficient moisture management: Moisture-wicking fabrics pull sweat away from the body, preventing sweat build-up on the skin and discomfort.

    2. Quick-drying capabilities: Fabrics that dry quickly reduce the risk of feeling damp or clammy during your hike, especially in colder climates or on long hikes.

    3. Enhanced breathability: Moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabrics have excellent breathability, regulating body temperature and keeping you cool even in hot and humid conditions.

    4. Lightweight and compact: Fabrics prioritizing moisture-wicking and quick-drying are lightweight and compact, perfect for backpacking or traveling light. They take up minimal space in your pack and dry quickly when washed or exposed to rain.

    By prioritizing moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabrics, your hiking apparel will keep you dry, comfortable, and well-prepared for different weather conditions, allowing you to fully enjoy outdoor adventures.

    3. Pay Attention to Fit and Layering

    When it comes to hiking apparel, it is important to pay attention to fit and layering for optimal comfort, protection, and performance on the trail. Choosing the right fit is crucial, so opt for well-fitting clothing that allows for a full range of motion. Avoid tight or restrictive garments that hinder movement and cause discomfort during strenuous activities.

    Layering clothing strategically is also key. Layering helps regulate body temperature and effectively manages moisture. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your skin. Then, add insulating layers such as fleeces or down jackets for warmth in colder conditions. Finish with a waterproof and breathable outer layer to protect against rain, wind, and snow.

    It is important to consider the weather when planning your layers. In colder conditions, thicker or more insulating layers may be necessary. In warmer weather, lightweight and breathable fabrics are preferable.

    Another aspect to consider is breathability. Look for fabrics that offer good breathability to prevent excessive sweating and improve overall comfort. Moisture-wicking materials, such as polyester and merino wool, are great options as they draw moisture away from the body and promote evaporation.

    Don’t forget about flexibility and durability when choosing hiking apparel. Make sure the clothing allows for unrestricted movement and is made from durable materials that can withstand the rigors of hiking. Reinforced stitching and abrasion-resistant fabrics are beneficial for extended durability.

    By paying attention to fit and layering, you can optimize your hiking apparel for maximum comfort, protection, and performance on the trail. It is recommended to test and evaluate different fabrics and clothing combinations to find what works best for you.

    4. Test and Evaluate Different Fabrics

    To choose the right fabric for hiking, test and evaluate options before making a decision. Follow these steps:

    1. Research different types of fabrics commonly used for hiking, including synthetic fabrics, merino wool, and blends of synthetic and natural fibers.

    2. Find retailers that offer hiking apparel made from these fabrics. Visit a local outdoor store or research online.

    3. Try on garments made from the fabrics you are interested in. Pay attention to how they feel against your skin, how flexible and comfortable they are, and if they provide freedom of movement.

    4. Consider specific fabric features, such as moisture-wicking capabilities, breathability, and quick-drying properties. Look for fabrics that efficiently manage sweat and moisture during hikes.

    5. Test the fabrics by wearing them during physical activities similar to hiking, like taking a short walk or hike in various weather conditions.

    6. Evaluate fabric durability for signs of wear and tear, such as pilling or fraying, after testing.

    7. Compare test results for each fabric and determine the ones that perform best according to your needs and preferences.

    8. Consider fabric price and availability before making a final decision. Determine if the benefits outweigh the cost for your specific hiking requirements.

    By following these steps, you can effectively test and evaluate different fabrics to choose the most suitable one for your hiking adventures. The right fabric can enhance your comfort, performance, and overall hiking experience.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Why is cotton bad for hiking?

    Cotton is bad for hiking because it loses its ability to insulate when wet, which can lead to hypothermia, a potentially life-threatening condition. Cotton absorbs water quickly, filling up the air pockets in the fabric and reducing its ability to retain body warmth. Cotton is not moisture-wicking, meaning it absorbs sweat and dries slowly, causing heat loss through evaporation and conduction. These factors make cotton unsuitable for cold weather hiking.

    What are the risks of wearing cotton while hiking in cold environments?

    Wearing cotton clothing in cold environments while hiking can increase the risk of hypothermia. Even at temperatures above freezing, cotton clothing can become saturated with perspiration, leading to disorientation, hypothermia, and potentially death if the body becomes too chilled. Cotton does not provide insulation when wet, making it ineffective at retaining body warmth and increasing the risk of hypothermia.

    In what situations is wearing cotton appropriate during camping or hiking?

    While cotton is generally advised against in camping and hiking, there are circumstances where it is suitable and even preferred. In hot, dry, and sunny environments, such as summer trips to the desert Southwest or hikes in hot, dry deserts, cotton clothing can provide cooling effects and protect the wearer from the sun. Cotton is also favored in horsepacking courses for comfort, function, and tradition, as it is durable and does not chafe during long rides. Technical outerwear, wool baselayers, and other suitable materials should still be brought along.

    What are some alternative materials to cotton for hiking clothing?

    There are several alternative materials to cotton that are more suitable for hiking. These include polyester, Merino wool, nylon, and silk. Polyester and nylon have better moisture-wicking properties, regulate temperature effectively, and dry faster than cotton. Merino wool is breathable, insulates even when wet, and provides natural odor resistance. Silk has good moisture-wicking and temperature-regulating properties. These materials provide the necessary properties for outdoor activities and are recommended for hiking clothing.

    Are there any cotton blends that are suitable for hiking?

    There are blends available that include cotton and synthetic fibers, such as Drirelease cotton and Dri-Fit Cotton from Nike. These blends have improved moisture-wicking properties, absorb less moisture, and dry faster than traditional cotton clothing. They offer better temperature regulation while maintaining the softness and non-itchy feel of cotton. It is important to note that these blends still have limitations compared to fully synthetic or wool materials and may not perform as well in extreme weather conditions.

    Where can I find additional resources on fabric types and suitable clothing for hiking?

    For more information on fabric types and suitable clothing for hiking, you can refer to resources such as REI’s “How to Choose a Baselayer” guide and the NOLS blog. These sources provide an in-depth explanation of different fabric properties, comparative strengths, and recommendations for specific outdoor activities. You can explore websites and forums dedicated to hiking and outdoor gear to gather insights from experienced hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.

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