December 27, 2014

What to Wear on the Hill

What to Wear on the Hill

One of the questions we are often asked is: what clothing should I wear on the hill?
In order to answer that, or at least try to, I will go through what I personally wear or carry, with an explanation of each item. Hopefully this will help people make informed choices when they go shopping.
Also, this is intended as a simple, non-too technical article, which will be occasionally updated. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. However you do NOT need to pay silly money for outdoor clothing; there are often special offers on at various retailers, and several budget brands are making some perfectly adequate kit. In short; buy the best kit you can afford, that is fit for purpose for your chosen activity.

First off, avoid cotton! This retains moisture, hence when you are inactive, you rapidly cool down, resulting in hypothermia. Not good.
Base layer; this is your next to skin, or comfort layer. Ideally, they are close fitting in order to help “wick” away any moisture. They also dry quickly. More often than not, in their simplest form, these are made from Polyester. There are however, numerous other options: Merino wool, Polartec PowerDry, combinations of Polyester and Merino wool, to mention but a few.
You then have the choice of long sleeve, short sleeve, crew neck, zipped neck etc.
At the moment I am wearing Berghaus Base Crews, or Montane Sonic T's, short sleeve in summer, long sleeve when things cool down.

Trousers or pants, take your pick. Avoid jeans at all costs, for the very same reasons as cotton t shirts. Look for something light and quick drying; again, there is the most ridiculous amount of choice to suit every budget. Most manufacturers have a range of soft shell pants, augmented by a few pairs which may not be so stretchy. There are then the winter versions, which tend to be thicker, heavier, and have a lining. Pockets; two side and one rear are really all you need, however this is a personal thing, as some people also favour leg pockets. Montane Terra Stretch, or Super Terra pants are my current choice for most of the year. In winter I wear the now discontinued Montane Terra Themal pants, or in wet conditions, Keela Munro Salopettes.

Mid layer; this is your insulating layer. Again, keeping it simple, they are commonly manufactured from fleece, soft shell, or variants of. As with base layers, there is a mind boggling choice available with various manufacturers providing their own take on things, such as Rab’s Vapour Rise system. A particular favourite garment of mine is the now sadly discontinued Montane Krypton jacket. This is similar to the Rab Vapour Rise, in that it is a Pertex shelled micro fleece. These are deceptively warm, light in weight, withstand a shower, dry quickly, and work well under a hard shell (a waterproof jacket to you and me).
I am currently wearing a Montane Alpine Stretch jacket, or Montane Sabretooth jacket. On warmer days, I often wear a Rab Vapour Rise Vest, or gilet if you prefer. In really cold conditions, I wear a Montane Extreme jacket, which has a pile inner and Pertex outer. The pile heats up from your body heat and evaporates any rain that may soak through. These are incredibly warm, and are best worn next to the skin.
Extra insulating layer: usually carried in your pack for emergency use, wearing during stops, or if it turns particularly cold.
Again, numerous options to choose from, with something to suit most budgets. This could be a fleece, which are warm and comfortable, however do not pack down very well, and are quite heavy. A better choice is a Primaloft (man-made insulation) filled jacket. Primaloft is being developed continuously, with the latest version ThermoPlume being a very close equivalent to down. These jackets are light, warm, and pack down into their own pocket or a small stuffsack. Vest versions of most of these items are available, which are really good lightweight options. The outer of these jackets is usually Pertex. They come with varying amounts of fill, with or without hood, so select one that suits your needs. I am currently packing a Montane Prism, or Montane Icarus Micro jacket (full review coming soon). Down is yet another option, being much warmer, however the problem is that when wet, it loses its insulating properties. There is also the question of whether or not the down is ethically sourced. However that is outside the remit of this article.

Hard shell; commonly known as a waterproof to you and I. Gore Tex, eVent, Neo Shell (the fairly new kid on the block) are some of the common waterproof membranes on the market at the moment, however many manufacturers have their own version of some of these, as well as other waterproof fabrics such as Pertex Shield being available. Without becoming too scientific about things, beads of sweat are smaller than drops of rain, so theoretically sweat escapes through the membrane but rain is kept out. This of course makes us feel more comfortable when wearing such garments. I am currently wearing a Montane Ajax jacket and pants for winter conditions, and a Montane Further Faster Neo Jacket the rest of the year. I have to say I am really impressed with this jacket and a full review will be posted soon.

Hats, gloves, and safety equipment will be added soon.