Wearing the right clothes when in the outdoors is one of the most crucial things that will make the difference between having a good day and a bad day on the hill. We are going to go through the best things to wear and how to layer up properly so that you stay the right temperature throughout the day.
During exercise like walking, we have to deal with a wide range of temperatures and keep our core at a stable temperature throughout. Your temperature can be effected by either external conditions(change in weather) or change in energy requirements(walking uphill or stopping for lunch). The best solution to this is by layering clothing so that you can adjust throughout the day to maintain a stable temperature.
When we exercise and get too hot we sweat. The sweat we produce creates a cooling process that helps us cool down much more rapidly than we otherwise would. As the sweat evaporates it cools the body down, as much of 80% of our heat is lost through evaporation. This all great when we are too hot but once we stop generating heat, like when we stop for a rest, the process continues until all the moisture is evaporated from the body. Our clothing is the main thing stopping us from getting rid of that excess moisture so wearing materials that absorb moisture rather than drawing it away from the body means that we will continue to cool rather than keeping that heat in when we need to.
The Layering system usually composes of three layers, the Base layer, mid layer and outer layer. We are going to go through the best things to wear for each to keep you warm and dry throughout the day.
The main job of a base layer is to get moisture away from your body to stop the moisture from making you cold when you stop producing as much heat. It comprises of anything you would wear next to your skin like a t-shirt, long johns, underwear and socks.
Clothing companies have identified five main properties that a base layer would ideally have:
- Good insulation keeping you warm in the cold and cool in the heat.
- Able to wick the moisture away from your skin.
- Comfortable to wear on a long day.
- Quick drying.
- Remain odour free.
Because we want to move the moisture away from out body, most base layer clothing is made of synthetic material that doesn’t absorb moisture and then uses your body heat to transfer the moisture away from your body. Natural fabrics like cotton, although comfortable, absorb moisture and are an ineffective insulator when wet or dry.
It is really important that a base layer is comfortable as it will be the closest thing to you and having ill-fitting underwear can get really annoying. Most shops don’t allow you to try base layers on unfortunately due to hygiene but size yourself up and try to get something that is not too tight on the skin but also not too baggy. It is a good idea to get a top that comes down past your hips as when wearing a rucksack they often tend to ride up a bit leaving a cold gap on your back.
Although not essential, a good base layer makes a world of difference so it is worth investing. If you cannot afford it right now or are accommodating for groups then make sure you make up for the extra warmth in the mid and outer layers.
The mid layer is there to keep you warm, it comprises of trousers, fleece or light jacket and gloves/hat. Some mid layers may also have wind proofing properties.
Wool always used to be the go-to material for keeping warm as its thick fibres are great for trapping heat however there are a couple of drawbacks of wool such as that it holds water and gets heavy when wet, it also takes a while to dry and can be itchy on the skin. This has paved way to more synthetic options, the most common being a variety of fleeces.
Fleece garments are getting cheaper and cheaper and have many benefits over the natural alternatives. You can get many different weights and styles of fleece for any sort of situation. The great thing about fleece is its natural water repellency and the fact that it drys very quicky even after coming out of a wash. It also keeps you warm when it is wet and you can now find some with added wind proofing for an added bonus.
Feather down garments are the warmest of materials but they are often too hot for most conditions and more suited to when you are resting in a cold place. Thay are also almost completely useless when wet. You can now get synthetic down jackets which aim to solve this however they are still too warm for walking in most conditions.
The outer layer is made for keeping the wind and rain out so that you stay warm and dry underneath. This normally comprises of a waterproof coat and trousers.
There are a lot of cheap waterproofs on the market that are coated and will keep you dry but a good waterproof will stop water going in and also let the moisture from your body out to keep a stable temperature. It works by allowing the small water vapour particles out through the coat bit it stops the large water drops from going in, ideally by letting the water bead off the coat.
They are very expensive but if you have the money it is totally worth getting a good quality waterproof made from a waterproof and breathable material like Goretex or e-vent. Most major outdoor clothing brands have a for of this material for their waterproofs.
They bad thing about these waterproof membranes is that they have a limited lifespan as the materials degrade. With a bit of maintaining you can expect one to last around 3 years depending on usage.
A weakness in any coat is the seams and zips. You should try and get a waterproof with taped seams meaning that they are taped on the inside of each seam to waterproof it where it has been stitched. Zips are also getting better and better at keeping water out so a waterproof zip is a must to keep you dry.
Eventually, water will enter any coat in torrential rain with the easiest point of entry being the cuffs and neck. In heavy rain be sure to adjust the hood and cuffs to reduce the amount of water getting in and all the pockets kept closed to prolong the inevitable.
These coats do require maintaining to keep them in good shape, regular washing with a waterproofing soap will help the material last longer.
You are looking for many of the same properties with waterproof trousers. They should be any and quick to put on over your boots, so a zip at the bottom of the legs is great for getting them on easily. If you have pockets then you should make sure they are waterproofed and then kept shut in the rain.
Ideally, trousers should also be tailored to the leg, more expensive ones are tailored around the knee to allow for easy and ur restricted movement.
As with all other items of clothing, a well fitting coat/trousers will help improve the effectiveness of the garment allowing free movement but not being too big and baggy anywhere that could collect water.
Generally the more money you spend on outdoor clothing then the better but compare between brands as to what you need. A cheaper brand of clothing may have fewer bells and whistles but still perform the underlying task. It’s really personal preference with a lot of it so get out there have a look and decide what’s best for you and your needs.
If you have any questions regarding what you want or what you are looking for to cope with specific conditions then please ask below and we will answer as soon as possible.