Mountain clothing and materials have evolved over time. In recent years this evolution has accelerated (in part due to the increase in the practice of outdoor sports ) leading to the appearance of new fabrics and materials that provide us with more safety and well-being in our mountain outings. The technical evolution of fabrics also means that currently there are specific garments for each activity: from less technical pieces to less demanding activities such as trekking, hiking, to very technical clothing for mountaineering, ice climbing, etc.
Apart from knowing how to choose what clothes or material suits us according to our activity, we also have to know how to use them. It is important to keep in mind that some of the functions of mountain clothing are protection, comfort and safety.
How to choose outdoor clothes?
A very common trick is the famous three layer system . For outdoor activities it is advisable to dress in layers (such as onions). This gives greater effectiveness and versatility, as it will allow better adaptation to possible changes in temperature or weather conditions. The three types of layers are: first layer or first skin, second layer or second skin and third layer.
It is the one that is in direct contact with the skin. Its main function is to evacuate the sweat to keep dry, thus avoiding the sensation of moisture in the skin and feeling cold. The most used materials for this type of clothing are synthetic fibers (polyester, polypropylene) or merino wool. Synthetic fibers are cheaper and dry more quickly, although they can end up smelling bad. Some garments incorporate silver threads that prevent bad odors. In any case, we must avoid cotton, since, although it is very economical, it immediately becomes wet and takes a long time to dry. This means that if we sweat, we do not expel the sweat and the body cools down.
Thus, the first layers must fulfill the following functions: - Drainage of sweat and moisture. - Retention of heat (in the case of thermal layers). - Breathable. - Antiallergic.
Generally these layers should be adjusted to the body but not tight, as they should allow us to move without difficulty.
Many brands have patented their synthetic fiber fabric for first layers. Even so, the best known are: - Coolmax: polyester fiber that transfers moisture from the body to the outside of the garment leaving the skin dry. It is used in summer clothes. - Thermolite: it is also a polyester fiber that will keep us warm and dry. It is used in winter thermal garments. - Merino wool: a natural fiber with superior properties, not only of thermal insulation, but also of sweat absorption and quick drying, and also of resistance to bad odors.
It is the layer that we will put on the previous one. Its function is to isolate us thermally. This type of clothing does not protect us but retains the heat generated by the body, preventing us from getting cold and helping the evacuation of sweat. In the market there are a lot of synthetic and natural fibers that fulfill this function. However, probably the best known brands are Polartec and Primaloft .
Depending on the temperature, we will choose a type of fiber thickness. Generally, the polar ones are classified in 100, 200 and 300 gr / cm2. Unlike in the first layers, the second layers should not be adjusted to the body as they should allow the circulation of hot air (heat) generated by the body to help keep us at an appropriate temperature.
Examples of second layers are: - Polar fleece or lining (better to use fibers: lighter, more breathable). - Feathers (only to be used for rest or when very quiet activities are carried out.The feather retains moisture and does not perspire). - Synthetic fiber jackets (Primaloft).
Some of the characteristics of these layers are: - Retention of body heat. - Sweat evacuation. - Weight and volume very reduced. - Water repellency (not waterproof).
The functions of the third layer are basically three: protect ourselves from rain (waterproof), protect us from the wind (wind shield) and help to evacuate our sweat (breathable). Depending on the activity we will do we can choose third more technical layers (also more expensive) or less. They can be classified into three types:
- Raincoats : here the first mark that comes to mind is Gore-tex. However, more and more brands are introducing their own membranes, some of which give very good results. These fabrics are waterproof but breathable (they do not let the raindrops pass by but if they evacuate the sweat). Be careful with the concept of breathability, because no matter how "breathable" a waterproof jacket may be, if you sweat a lot, there will always be moisture inside. They can wear a hood. Generally these membranes are also very resistant to abrasion and tearing. It is important that the seams, zippers and other holes are heat sealed, to prevent water from leaking. Depending on our activity we will choose a type of waterproof membrane or another. The waterproof membranes are also windbreaks.
- Windbreak : the function of the windbreaker is to prevent the air from penetrating and cooling us down. These membranes are not waterproof although some have a water repellency treatment. They tend to be more breathable than waterproof membranes. The best known is the Windstopper but more and more brands are betting to get their own windproof membranes.
- Softshell : it is a garment that for a while has become fashionable. It is a mixture of polar and windbreaks. The idea was to reduce the number of layers. They are not waterproof although they are treated to repel water and thus give a certain impermeability.
In conclusion, depending on the intensity of our activity and the weather, we will choose some garments or others. The first thing we should prioritize is our safety and comfort . From here, there will be other criteria that can influence our purchasing decision: price, fashion, etc.
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