The proper outfit for serious tramping in harsh weather – layers!
If you want to feel comfortable while tramping during cold and/or rainy weather, you have to find balance between your activity level, sensitivity to sudden temperature changes, and the environment. Clever choice of your clothing layers will help avoiding discomfort and also prevent danger to health.
The concept of wearing layers of clothes is suitable for any kind of outdoor sports activity including tramping. The challenge is to maintain constant body temperature not depending on activity level, whether it is rock climbing, hiking or relaxing by the fire, and on weather conditions (such as rain, wind or snow).
Usually three different clothing layers are used:
1. Inner layer. Inner layer removes moisture from the body.
2. Middle layer. Middle layer preserves the body heat.
3. Outer layer. Outer layer protects from wind and moisture.
The key principle is to be able to quickly adjust to weather and body condition changes, removing layers when your body heats up (during activity) and adding layers when your body cools down.
Now lets look at these three layers in more detail:
Inner layer – removing moisture from the body.
This layer significantly controls the body temperature. It should be made from synthetic, moisture removing materials made from polyester such as Polartec, CoolMax, and PowerDry. These materials are able to remove moisture from their inner side, the side that is close to the body, and evenly distribute it across their outer side, from which the moisture quickly evaporates. As a result you will feel comfortable even when you are sweating.
In order to maintain coolness in summer and to avoid hypothermia at extremely low temperatures it is very important that your body will remain dry. Inner layers are available in several types – thin, medium, and warm, so that you can choose according to your needs. It is very important for inner layer to adhere to the body for best moisture removal.
Middle layer – insulation.
This layer helps retain body heat, keeping a layer of air around your body. Fleece jackets, vests and trousers are good examples for middle layer clothes. In addition to retaining hot air, the fleece polyester fibers are also removing moisture thus keeping their insulation properties when wet and getting dry quickly. Apart from fleece, good insulation are also wool and down. However, unlike synthetic materials, they can accumulate moisture.
Good fleece types such as Polartec and Thinsulate ensure insulation with minimal fabric weight for different environment conditions. For extremely low temperatures down is still the best insulator but it should be used only in dry weather.
During serious physical activity(for example biking or running) it is recommended to use light fleeces such as Polartec Micro, in order to avoid overheating. For colder conditions choose thicker fleeces – Polartec 200, Polartec 300 or Polartec Thermal Pro. You can also use clothes made from Gore Windstopper and Polartec Windblock. These materials incorporating wind blocking membranes.
Outer layer – harsh weather protection
Outer layer protects you from wind, rain, and snow. Properly made, it retains heat allowing evaporations to go out. Otherwise moisture will condense on the inner surface of this layer.
For most of outdoor activities it is essential for outer layer to have good breathing properties and ventilation. In addition outer layer should be spacious enough so that it wouldn’t hamper movement, and additional layers could be worn underneath.
Fabrics that are most suitable for the outer layer should incorporate waterproof impregnations or membranes, which protect from wind and moisture. Outer layer items should also have a waterproof zippers.
Most popular fabrics for outer layer:
Waterproof/Breathable – Gore-Tex, Dermizax, Marmot MemBrain. Such fabrics are suitable for any type of activities and for any weather.
Waterproof/Not breathable – usually such fabrics are made from polyurethane-impregnated strong nylon, which has waterproof and windproof properties. Not breathable fabrics are cheaper and can be used when your outdoor activities don’t involve much sweating.
Water-repelling/Breathable – such materials are suited for temperate climate, low rainfall, and high level of physical activity.
Enjoy your outdoor activities and tramp safely!