I've been walking now for a couple of yrs on and off but still don't seem to have sorted my kit! Over that period i've amassed a range of 'random stuff' most of it fairly cheap if i'm honest, but always still seem to end up either cold, wet or, in the case of this weekend gone on fairfield, both. What with base layers, fleeces, soft shells, water-proofs i usual end up looking like the mitchelin man walking up the hill! I also seem to add layers at the wrong time so leave it too late to put on the waterproofs and walk wet - i guess this is dowm to experience more than anything...something i seem to be lacking!
Can someone advise me of what i should be wearing on winter walks to stay warm and dry and light!!! I'd like to ditch most of the stuff i have and almost start again - probably mid-range price-wise as i'm a bit skint at present.
What with base layers, fleeces, soft shells, water-proofs i usual end up looking like the mitchelin man walking up the hill!
That suggests to me you may well be wearing too much. Often the case that less is more, at least if it's the right "less".
The trick is to have on the minimum you need to stay comfortable, also bearing in mind that as long as you're moving (and particularly ascending) you'll generate a fair bit of heat and will need less on.
I usually start wearing less than those around me, but soon warm up and am happy by the time they've warmed up too much and have to stop to de-layer having all got a bit clammy. Start in relatively little and see if the action of getting started is enough to get warm: if not you can add a layer but at least you haven't filled your clothes with sweat. Losing a layer before a particularly stern climb is often helpful, as if you've been at a happy teperature on gentler stuff you'll almost certainly get warmer as it gets steeper.
Windproofing is generally a good thing, but not always. Wind can provide a useful degree of active cooling, and I find it's often the case that something windproof enough to takle the sting out of the wind is preferable to something that blocks it altogether.
What to wear is very conditions dependent, and "winter" covers a huge amount of possibilities. But if you start light and err on the side of not enough then it's a lot easier to get comfy again with an addition because you won't have sweated your way to a conclusion you've too much on. It varies from folk to folk so you can't put too much store on what the next chap's using, but the only reason to look like a Michelin man is when you've stopped for a break and put everything on.
Waiting too long to put a waterproof on... well, I think lots of us do that, even with plenty of experience!
I think there's a danger in placing too much emphasis on Magic Bullet kit that will "solve everything". Good kit compared to adequate makes a useful difference, but it's the difference between having a really great day and a really, really great day, or the difference between a miserable day and a really miserable day: I frankly doubt that unless you're struggling with stuff that is actively uncomfortable (probably most often the case with rucksacks) that getting specific things will make that much difference if the basic problem is you're not sure how to best use what you already have. There's plenty of days, especially where conditions are relatively benign, where it doesn't actually matter that much what you're wearing because you don't need a great deal of protection. it''s also quite possible to be reallyuncomfy in cracking kit just be using it in the wrong way.
If you want to be a sad gear head with shopaholicism then that's a choice, and there's lots of us who derive a considerable degree of enjoyment from it. But you don't need to follow that track to have quite reasonable kit for the hills as long as you use basic stuff effectively.
I'd like to ditch most of the stuff i have and almost start again - probably mid-range price-wise as i'm a bit skint at present.
Let's start with what you do have and see if it can be made to work better. Pals of mine have done rounds of the Munros in kit which amounted to everyday clothes aside from footwear, gloves and waterproofs. They didn't seem to do much (if any) worse than me in full-on Gear Junky mode.
> Let's start with what you do have and see if it can be made to work better.
Was just about to type the very same words...
Well let's start bottom to top:
My boots are pretty old and fairly cheap (maybe 5-6yrs) however they are comfortable, and even walking in a bit of snow / rain keep my feet dry and warm.
At the weekend i had a 'thermal' base layer - think it is a trespass number - not too sure of it's thermal properties to be fair.
Micro-fleece (make unknown)- not sure of make but it's pretty thin and i always find it sweats up a fair bit.
A thin 'windproof' shell, again it's nothing flash, and it always feels 'wet' when the going gets a bit tough. I can confirm it is not waterproof!!
Pair of thin(ish) craghopper trousers. these tend to act like a sponge but my "it's just a bit of drizzle" rule seems to apply to my walking so they were litterally steaming when i got back to the car.
I've then got a mountain hardwear breathable waterproof layer (top and over trousers) which appears to be ok...i think.
A pair of very non-waterproof gloves... my fingers are numb just thinking about them!!
There goes.... be gentle.
Clothing gearhead-ism is something I never really understood. Most of my stuff is everyday rubbish, I've not had much of a problem with it as long as its comfortable.
The exception is good waterproofing; overtrousers, shell, and socks. With that sorted everything else could be got from Primark IMHO.
The boots appear to do everything you want, so you're sorted there.
Base layers... the primary point of a base is a basis for comfort, and while that may include a degree of warmth that mainly comes further out. Bases are mainly about wicking excess moisture way from your body. It's inevitable you'll sweat a bit, but for the most part the best way to keep quantitaties manageable is not to get too hot to start with.
Micro fleece that you always find "sweats up a bit"... Is that on its own, or in combination with other stuff? Similarly if the wind shell tends to feel clammy when you're working it suggests you're wearing too much. Try the fleece without the wind shell: you may well find that if you're working it's all you need, and with direct access to wind to help you cool and evaporate moisture. If the wind is cutting through it too much then try the wind shell without the fleece. If you're working they can be remarkably warm because they stop the warmth you've generated being easily carried away, so it's often the case that it'll be all you need over a base. Which one will be warmer on its own will depend a lot on the wind conditions: if there's no wind then the wind shell won't have as much effect as the fleece, and vice versa.
If the fleece or wind shell alone aren't enough but wind shell over the fleece is too much, try the fleece over the wind shell, particularly in the wind. The wind will rob the fleece of most of its effect, but as it's too hot with full effect you only want a little effect in any case.
A general principle is if you're adding stuff to deal with rain or wind, rather than feeling too cold, take something off as well as putting on the shell to deal with the "incoming". While a waterproof or windproof shell isn't much insulation for standing around doing nothing, they do offer some and can be remarkably effective when you're on the move.
The trousers... most people seem to insist on "trekking trousers" or similar but it's often the case that they're not that good, especially in winter if they're just a relatively thin windproof ones cut quite baggy for freedom of movement. Baggy enough and they tend to have drafts circulate which means long jongs a lot of the time, which can often end up as more insulation than you want with the basic windproofing of the trouser material. So while it is a popular combination, I've long preferred a closer cut in a stretchy material, as with much less excess air circulating there's less need for extra layers. Track suit leggings are a good and cheap solution, and dry much quicker than "proper walking trousers". If you do find yourself too cold downstairs you can always resort to your overtrousers.
Hats are good for helping to regulate temperature. While the "third of your body heat is lost through your head" is actually tosh, you still get to lose quite a lot without a hat (especially if you're a slaphead or have very short hair). And losing heat can be good if you're getting hot and sweaty. Take off a hat and it'll help to cool you down without faffing about re-layering. Gloves can be used the same way to some extent, as can sleeves you roll up (works great with base layers and fleeces, less well with a lot of shells).
There's nothing particularly wrong with what you've got and you don't need to throw it out. But do remember the best way not to feel clammy is not to sweat so much in the first place, and that means less warmth. Use the cold around you to your advantage in helping to keep you cool and there will be less sweat. Also remmeber that what you do produce will be dissipated much better if your upper leayers are as breathable as possible. Fleece is a lot more breathable than a windshell (you can blow straight through it, after all), and if all else is equal breathable layers are less breathable than one. Also, any intermediate layers will tend to intercept vapour as it moves out and give it a chance to condense, so again the case that less can be more, and the harder you're working the more that's true.
Thanks for the comments people - i think the 'experience' bit rings clear and it also sounds like i'm probably wearing too much at the wrong times.
I did look at a pair of sprayway 'waterproof' trousers at the weekend - £50 ish. The guy in the shop (not that old story!) said they were 100% waterproof but were fairly light / strechy material so you could basically wear them all day and not need the over-trousers which i likes the sound of. (think they were 'walk all day rain pants' if anyones heard of them.)
Pete's & others have covered it above.I've just a few additional comments.
As Pete says, it's easy to adjust insulation with hats. So an extra item that I find invaluable in all but summer is a light neck tube in either microfleece or polypropylene. Not only does it insulate your neck, it also plugs the gap between your neck and the collar of your top so reduces the heat loss by a surprising amount.
This is a technique I use a lot in winter rowing as it's quite hard to adjust layers 'on the go' but fairly easy to pull off a hat or neck tube once you warm up.
I'd also agree with the general theme above that the kit is only one factor - and not always a very important one at that. I did a lot of walking as a kid & teen; munros... multi-day hikes with hostelling & the like... and most of it was in kit that I'd consider rubbish bordering on risky these days! In reality, the 'threat' of bad kit is somewhat overblown in the marketese used to sell the 'good stuff'. Now I am a kit junkie and self confessed one at that; but it's partly because I take pleasure in the chosing & bargain hunting. I know that a basic kitlist for the UK can happily include things like wooly jumpers, non-breathable PU waterproofs; even decent wellies can have a place for boggy walks.
However, if you are going to get decent waterproofs then I disagree that the rest doesn't count. In any 'engineering' field you'll find the argument that balanced kit is more effective - be it car design; hi-fi or whatever. There's no point paying loads for a super perfomance membrane if what you have underneath doesn't allow it to do it's job.
That's not to say expense; just thinking things out as a system of interacting clothes rather than just throwing it all together. For example, I had a very good fibrepile/pertex smock with side vents and wanted to chose a waterproof that could be used with it in the worst weather. So I found one with side vents in a similar configuration. Then I was able to open straight through to baselayer and avoid overheating. They worked as a system.
Likewise, the most used 'system' at my disposal is the windshell over a light microfleece or warmer baselayer. It copes with all sorts of conditions and doesn't cost as much as a 'soft shell'.
You might benefit from reading some recent threads where we've discussed 'layering'.
Modern four layer system vs Paramo
and the thread that spawned that thread:
Not all fleeces are equal; some cheap fleeces are quite dense, and don't allow water vapour to pass very easily, which can leave you clammy. A layering fleece should be quite open in structure to allow it to trap warm air, but allow moisture to pass. This opne nature, however, means that it needs a windproof layer to stop wind stripping the warm air out.
Another approach is to use a denser fleece that is more wind resistant (such as Polartec WindPro), but this can limit moisture transfer when layered under a waterproof.
One thing to remember is that you can't simply put one set of clothes on, and hope that it will cope with all levels of activity; I'm afraid you have to keep adjusting it to suit what you're doing. Climbing uphill is hard work, and so needs less insulation. Stopped for snacks, you're hardly working at all, and need more insulation. That's why the synthetic overlayer approach (the fourth layer) works so well; you just pop it on top of everything when you stop.
In Glencoe last weekend, climbing Sgurr nam Fionnaidh, I was wearing just a long-sleeved baselayer and a DWR windproof shell (and base layer longjohn and lightweight trousers). It was windy and there was constant mizzle. I got wettish, but was fine when I was climbing. When I stopped to wait for my friends, I got a bit chilly, but that's the way I run, and I wasn't bothered (and had plenty of warm clothing in daysack if necessary). In the end, with wind rising and wetness increasing, we decided it wasn't fun any more, and turned back. But we could have persisted, putting on waterproof instead of windproof, and gritting our teeth. But why suffer when Judith's hill soup was waiting for us back in the cottage...? It's not as if we'd have had a grand view...
I know you don't want to over-spend on any one piece of kit but it might be worth investing in a good multi-purpose item like the Rap Vapour-Rise tops.
With a good base-layer the Rab VR stuff should see you through most conditions using zips/sleeves/gloves/hat to vent accordingly, then you can have your MH hardshell for rain and your existing fleece as additional insulation for rest stops etc...
Also with summer approaching now's a good time to get good prices on 'winter kit' I picked up a Rab Generator smock this time last year with a good £20+ knocked off. It's a great bit of kit; light, warm and packs down to nothing...
As for the magic Sprayways, they sound too good to be true. 100% waterproof that breathe enough to be worn all day sounds like a bold claim!!!
A good synthetic baselayer should either wick any sweat away from your body
Up to a point... as any runner (even an indifferent one like me) knows it's easy to "out-sweat" any base-layer's ability to completely deal with what's produced (unless you're one of the 30-something lasses with their sweat glands surgically removed that grace the cover of Runner's World most months...). It has to wick it to somewhere and if it's coming out at least as fast as it moves away then you'll get clammy.
While it's certainly the case that some work better than others, any base layer will deal with sweat better if it has less to deal with, and the best way of ensuring that is to not get too hot to start with.
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