The right gear - Clothing

ClothingThe reason for needing special clothing is that your internal temperature varies so much while hiking. This is due to changes in the weather (sun, wind and rain) and in your body’s heat production – rapid on a steep uphill climb, moderate on the level and slow when you pause. To avoid excessive sweating, you may need to shed heat quickly. Next to your skin you need fabrics that ‘wick’ (draw away) moisture. Avoid cotton (especially denim) as it soaks up moisture (e.g. sweat, rainwater) and then you may become chilled. Choose clothing sizes to be loose-fitting, for freedom of movement. Look for flexibility, e.g. trousers whose lower legs unzip to make shorts, and jackets with underarm zips for cooling.

To control your body temperature, use a layer system. The base should ideally be a ‘wicking’ fabric, such as knitted polyester or specially treated cotton. In colder climates you may also need a thermal base layer. The middle layer is for warmth, and a fleece is ideal: these vary in weight, the most expensive also being windproof. Your outer layer is a waterproof, windproof jacket and trousers, as ‘breathable’ as possible. This combination will keep you warm and dry even in a downpour and high wind. And if you are lucky with the weather, the outer layers weigh little in your rucksack.

Always pack a hat and gloves: never underestimate the changeability of the weather: e.g. you may need a sun hat as well as a warm one. You may also need gaiters: these wrap around your lower leg and boots, protecting them from damp, dirt and snow. Ideally choose gaiters made from a waterproof, breathable fabric such as Goretex.