I recently tested some new outdoor gear and wrote a piece for Zalando with some tips for getting out on an adventure. Here are a few of the key points (you can read the full article here.)
1. Never compromise on the most important bits of kit for the type of activity you want to do. For me, these are normally boots and pack – both have the potential to make or break a hiking trip. It’s always important to remember that price and quality aren’t always intrinsically connected – often the right piece of kit can be the cheapest available option. I’d urge you though not to buy solely based on low price – half way up that next mountain, you might regret it.
2. Layer up to keep warm. This is old advice, but it’s the best there is. I like to use polyester or merino wool base layers next to the skin, with a fleeced item on top of that. Depending on conditions, my outer layer will be a breathable hardshell or, if required, an insulated and hooded synthetic-down jacket. As always, when you stop moving, put on an extra layer to counteract your body cooling down.
3. While we’re on the topic of layers, it’s important to understand a little about materials. The key is to look at heat and moisture, and how each item of clothing reacts to those. Cotton, for example, is very comfortable. I will only wear it in dry weather, however – cotton is a nightmare in the rain (it stays wet, and therefore so do you.) In wet conditions I’ll wear merino wool as a base layer for regulating my body temperature, and a polyester fleece to trap warmth. Occasionally, in very cold conditions, I’ll wear down-insulated jackets, but for the most part I prefer the synthetic materials in the UK – they’re not quite as warm, or as light, but they react much better to getting damp.
4. If you’re scrambling up and down hills, then make sure the trousers that you choose are robust yet flexible. They also need to fit snugly, but not too tight. This might all seem obvious, but there is nothing worse than having a loose waistband getting in the way or, even worse, stretching for that next rock to hear the dreaded rip of fabric from behind! That can make for a very cold (and embarrassing) walk home…
5. Look after the extremities! I can’t remember how many times I’ve been told that the human body can lose up to 80% of its heat through the head. This isn’t actually true, but what I have learned from my own experiences is that any uncovered extremity - head, hands etc. - can very quickly drain heat. I use my head as a kind of cooling system on the trail – when I need to insulate, I cover up with a beanie hat. A jacket with a hood is a good idea for this, too. If the intensity of activity increases, or the temperature climbs a little, I remove it (and any gloves) to release any excess heat. A good trick is to keep your hat inside your jacket when you’re not using it – that way, when you do put it on, it’ll be nicely warmed in advance.
For my thoughts on jackets, footwear, backpacks, and more, visit Zalando here.