Hill Walking clothing and equipment for summer and winter:
Outdoor clothing has advanced so much in the last few years…. no more woolly jumpers with bright yellow plastic rain coats and leggings. They have also become very fashionable and trendy that even rappers and film stars like to show off their outdoor gear.
This is maybe a great thing with “sustainable clothing” being the big environment issue at the moment.
You can get your outdoor gear that you also wear while golfing, walking the dog, going to a rock concert or even a meal. Which is better for the environment and your pocket.
So, why do we wear clothing?
Apart from getting strange looks and not being allowed into your local shop, your body functions best when its core temperature is about 37 degrees Celsius.
With just a drop of 4 degrees in your core temp, this can bring about loss of consciousness due to Hypothermia. A rise of just 5 degrees can cause the nervous system to break down.
The body cools itself by releasing .2L of water per hour while doing an activity like walking, this can go up to 1L while running or due to the external temperature, i.e. sunny day.
This method works very well normally but with extensive activity the moisture collects on the skin before it can evaporate off. The downside is that you are covered in sweat and continue to cool down even though you may not be as active or the external temperature has dropped.
With activity your body raises it temperature and at rest cools down. The best way to keep this at bay is by using a method called layering.
Your base layer needs to allow moisture to move away from the skin. Your base layer should also maintain a dry layer of air next to your skin to insulate against the wind and cold.
Wicking: Clothing that allows sweat through it so it can evaporate of.
Breathable:These fabrics allow air to circulate and water in vapor form to escape.
Airflow: Increased airflow around the body helps shift water vapor away from the skin. So loose fitting clothing is better in warm climates.
Note: Coming clean, Merino wool evaporates moisture very effectively and so produces fewer opportunities for odor causing bacteria to develop.
Base Layer materials:
Cotton: Holds water, draws heat from the body. Slow drying. (no use for walking)
Polyester: does not absorb water as much as cotton and moves moisture to the outside of the garment. Quick Drying – suitable for walking.
Polyproplene: It absorbs 40 times less moisture than Polyester. Better at moving moisture way from the skin than polyester. The downside is that it can be quite smelly.
Marino Wool: Highly breathable wool. It can wick a lot quicker than synthetic fibres.
- 150-170g – Ultralight to wear all year round.
- 170-200g – Lightweight- still ok to wear all year round but with more warmth.
- 200-300g – Mid weight- good for the cooler months.
- 300g and up – Heavy weight for the coldest months
A wicking base layer is little use under a cotton shirt.
Middle layers also need a fabric that will allow moisture away from your body but will keep you warm. Polyester fleece come in many thickness and colours and is the most common fabric. Wearing a few thin mid-layers gives you more control over the temperature.
Really the type of fleece is a matter of choice. You can get mid layer fleeces that come with a hood, which can be cosey in very cold conditions under your jacket hood. They can also come with hip pockets or a chest pocket. I personally like the chest pocket with no hood. The chest pocket can be easier to get to for holding a compass or snacks. I find the hood awkward under my outer layer and I generally bring a neck gaiter, cap and hat.
Outer Layer – Waterproof: You now need a jacket that allows all that moisture out, breathable. There is always going to be a trade off between breathable and waterproof. Gore-Tex fabrics give you a good balance. Paramo more breathable, less waterproof but personally I find them very good.
Jackets: For general purpose walking jacket that will serve you year-round. You should look for mid to high levels of breathability, waterproof and durability.
Comfortable: Make sure the Jacket fits and does not restrict movement, you can sit in the jacket without it rising up your back.
- The Cuffs: should be adjustable to allow for gloves and extend for breathing.
- Zips: Should have storm flaps to prevent water getting through. Some jackets will allow for extra breathing by having zips under the arms for venting.
- The hood: should move with your head and not restrict vision, some will come with a wired peak that you can adjust. I usually wear a baseball cap under my hood to stop it from flopping over my face.
- Pockets: most lightweight jackets are too short to have lower pockets and just have a chest pocket. A heavier winter jacket will have an inside chest pocket for your map and waist pockets.
- Draw-chords: these are usually on the hoods and waist. Just make sure that they don’t dangle too much when pulled to your fit, so you are not going to be whipped in the face by your hood strings.
Walking Trousers: This has a lot to do with personal taste but comfort is also very important. Fast drying, wicking, non-creasing, comfort and lightweight is what you are looking for in your trousers.
- Pockets: You are also bound to need pockets. Some trousers will come with zipped pockets which I find give better security. Try not to keep your keys or small coins in your pockets while walking as this will cause them to wear and cause holes quicker.
- Stitching: check for double or even treble stitching in places of high strain and important seams.
- Waist: Stretch waistband or make sure there is the ability for a belt, you would be surprised how much you may need to adjust your waist band after walking for a few days on a longer trail.
- Zip-off Legs: This is a great feature in trousers, just make sure that the zip is not exposed and is not going to scratch your leg while walking.
- Water resistant: some trousers will come with some level of water resistance for light showers and breathability.
Waterproof Leggings: As in the jackets you are looking for breathability and waterproofness. I also prefer waterproof that comes with a zip up on the legs so I can easily get them on and off over my boots. They should also not restrict your movement and fit comfortably over your walking trousers.
This is probably the most important part of your kit. There are a huge range available for all kinds of terrains, weather conditions and adventures in the hills. Make sure you get the boot that’s right for you and your days on the hills.
- Fit: The inside of your boot should be ½ inch to 2/3 inch longer than the length of your foot.
- Support: Most outdoor shops will have a slope that you can try your boot on, make sure that you can’t feel the terrain through your boots.
- Waterproof: Generally, the more stitching the more places for moisture to get through. More expensive boots will come with some sort of waterproof lining such as Gortex, which will keep your feet dryer as long as the lining lasts. Fabric boots will be warmer and more humid than leather boots generally. Some leather boots will come with a cheaper unlined, which if looked after and regularly waxed are usually fine for everything but the prolonged bog walks that Ireland can offer. Leather boots tend to be less sweaty and more comfortable in summer conditions but do need to be looked after with wax on the stitching.
- Upper Boot: Protection versus weight. Thickness on the upper boot will determine how much protection you will have from the boot on rough terrain. Thick uppers will also keep your boot in shape and help with your foot support.
- High Ankle Cut: with the raised ankle support this will protect you on rough terrain from knocks and grazes from rocks etc. It can prevent water getting into your boot.
- Cushioning: The thickness of the sole of your boot will cushion your foot from the rough terrain while walking.
- Midsole: A stiff midsole of your boot is best for rocky ground and mountains, giving you lots of support to stop your feet from tiring on a long day.
- Outsole: The all-important grip of your boot. Deep lugs on the outsole give you a better grip and long walking life for your boot. Vibram soles are routinely used on a lot of boots.
“Toasty fingers are happy fingers”
These are such an important part of your clothing during winter that I had to give them their own heading.
As with everything in winter clothing there are trade-offs. We want our gloves to be waterproof, insulating, comfortable and with some dexterity to open our zips and bag fasteners.
There are a number of different types of gloves and during the winter you should always have at least 2 sets with you, in case you lose one or for the comfort of a nice warm pair.
The back of your hands and fingers will feel the chill first as there is very little natural body insulation here (fatty tissue) and your body heating system does not see them as an important organ to protect. Your palms have a little more natural insulation and will stay warm longer.
Fleece or wool gloves offer great dexterity with some insulation and wind resistance but very little if no waterproof, so no use in winter outdoors in Ireland anyway… drier climates maybe.
A good winter glove would have a thicker insulation for the back of the hands with a thinner insulation on the front either primaloft of fleece for better dexterity. Now this gives use better insulation and dexterity but what about waterproof.
So, the next step would be add a waterproof membrane like Goretex and extend the glove to cover the wrists as a lot of heat can be lost in the wrists. This can also cause issue as water can also enter the glove where your hands enter.
You could wear a thin layer beneath your thicker pair of gloves and this allows you to remove your outer glove for dexterity reasons.
Mittens are very good insulation and can come waterproof, very little dexterity. As suggested you could also wear a thinner pair of gloves beneath them.
These come in all ranges and sizes. Like anything else it needs to be comfortable.
The general good size for your backpack for your day walk should be approx. 25L. This should be adequate to hold all you will need for your day on the hills. If you get a larger size you will just fill with stuff you won’t need.
I like to have a backpack that is neat with no parts hanging out or loose straps that can whip me in the wind.
Features to look out for:
- Comfortable with adjustable straps for your shoulders. This is going to be on your back all day and needs to sit right.
- Weight: look for a lightweight backpack but strong at the same time.
- Airflow: Many back packs comes with an airflow that will keep the bag from resting against your back.
- Side Pockets: handy for keeping stuff you want to get to in a hurry such as gloves, snacks, water etc.
- Lid Pockets: Also good for getting to stuff without opening your bag. Compass, maps, small first aid etc.
- Waterproof: You don’t want to have all your gear wet when you open your back. There are also good waterproof covers that come with some backpacks.
Hill Walking Clothing and Equipment for walking in Ireland:
Small personal first Aid kit – (check date on items, if you haven’t done so in a while)
- Foot blister plaster (Compeed)
- Anti-sceptic cream
- Headache Tablets, aspirn, disprin.
- Rehydriating Electrolite replacement.
- Personal medicines.
Notes for winter
Its always good practice to have some extra food with you in your bag. (nuts, fruit, packed quick meal)
It’s also good to carry a survival bag (these are silver reflective bags or blankets that you wrap around you in an emergency of hypothermia)
Do bring a torch as the days are shorter and make sure it works and you have spare batteries. I prefer a head torch as it allows my hands to be free and I can keep them in my pockets if needs be.
As well as the time of year, the Weather forecast will always play a big part in what you will need to bring with you for your walk. Before you pack your bag for your walk in the hills it is very important to check the weather for the area you are planning to hike in.