Magazine article Geographical

Essential Core. (Crucial Clothing)

Magazine article Geographical

Essential Core. (Crucial Clothing)

Article excerpt

Selecting garments to keep your core body parts warm and comfortable depends primarily on the level of activity planned. The more active and aerobic the activity, such as mountain biking or hiking, the lighter, more efficient and more breathable the layers need to be to cope with the large amounts of sweat moisture you generate.

If you are heading out for a gentle walk in cold conditions then it is insulation that tops the priority list. The toughest situation to clothe yourself for is when the activity involves both high exertion and easier, more relaxed periods. This is where cutting-edge outdoor clothing excels.


No matter how many garments you have on, if your next-to-skin layer holds moisture you will get chilly. Cotton is an absolute no-no here -- just check what takes longest to dry next time you hang your washing out. Synthetic fibres, such as polypropylene, and some natural fibres, like silk and wool, wick moisture from your skin and transport it away before dispersing it to speed evaporation.

With base layer shirts, you can either go for a loose fit, which allows air to circulate and can be worn alone on hot days or when tackling steep ascents, or a body-hugging fit which is more effective at wicking moisture and is generally warmer. Helly Hansen's LIFA base layers, with their distinctive white stripes, are a popular polypropylene choice, while Ortovox's new Moreno wool base layers are very warm and comfortable for the cooler months of the year.

A revolutionary new concept in next-to-skin layers are windproof, breathable garments, such as Mountain Hardwear's Transition tops, that significantly reduce the need to don your warm layer or outer shell in changeable weather.

Warm Layers

Wool is a classic insulator but for outdoor use it is rather heavy and bulky and tends to retain moisture. So the title of undisputed champion in warm layer fabrics lies firmly at the doorstep of fleece. Made from polyester, fleece is warm, light, low on bulk and does not absorb moisture -- an almost perfect product, rightfully found on the back of virtually every mountain-goer.

Fleece comes in three thickinesses: 100, the lightest that can double as a next-to-skin layer in colder times; 200, the most popular all-rounder; and 300, for loafing around camp or for expedition use. Developments in this field continue apace too, with Gore's excellent WINDSTOPPER windproof fleece fabric being used by many manufacturers, including the North Face and Mountain Equipment.

Meanwhile Mountain Hardwear's new Monkey Phur fleece garments, made from Polartec Thermal Pro fabric, are incredibly lightweight and warm -- and cuddly too. Another insulating layer option is goose or duck down, which is the lightest insulator around making it popular with high mountain trekkers, though it becomes ineffective when wet.

Synthetic insulated jackets, such as Helly Hansen's Thin Air and the North Face's Redpoint, use similar fibres, such as Primaloft and Heatshield, to those found in synthetic sleeping bags. These warm, lightweight, non-bulky garments that are not adversely affected by wet conditions. They are also taking bites out of the fleece market. To keep your legs warm, it is hard to find a better fabric than Polartec Powerstretch, fully flexible and quick to dry. …

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