Posted on November 26 2019
When the hours of the day seem to hold more darkness than light, and the rain becomes that unfortunate, yet dependable, companion, it’s no surprise when weekend activities start swaying from the outdoor to the indoor.
‘It’ll be too cold,’ you think, as you ignore the calls arranging that promised mountain hike.
‘I’ll get too uncomfortable,’ you tell yourself, as you settle down on the couch.
‘There’s nothing worse than getting soaked to the skin,’ is what you decide, as you quickly fix the blanket over yourself and turn on the television.
We’ve all used the weather as an excuse not to leave the house in the winter months. Being cold, uncomfortable, and having to ring out your clothes the minute you step back inside is enough to make anyone reach for the remote control rather than their rucksack. But if you find yourself saying no to opportunities, and the blame is going on a wardrobe as bare as the skeletal spines of those trees outside, it might be time to do what this season does best.
Renewing just a few essential items of clothing can make venturing out into those cooler temperatures as easy it would be when the birds are chirping in the blue skies. When you choose an outfit to go winter hiking in, it just needs to serve those three essential purposes:
- - Keep you warm;
- - Keep you comfortable; and
- - Keep you as dry as possible.
Hiking is physical exercise and, even in the winter, it will subsequently cause you to sweat. Your clothing therefore needs to be adaptable, and it’s in that key note as to how you answer all three of those purposes. Layering up gives you the chance to stay warm when you need to be warm, and become cool when you need to become cool. And when you are hiking in the winter, the right layers can be the difference between enjoying every step up, and impatiently waiting until every step down.
Starting with the base layer, it’s important that you avoid tight clothing to help the circulation, and it’s equally important to think about the type of material of this layer. Cotton may feel cosy when you’re in the car on the way to the hike, but this base layer should ideally be regulating your body temperature by working to remove sweat away from your skin. So you are looking for something with these wicking abilities, such as a merino wool or fully synthetic shirt.
Craghoppers have a couple of different options for this layer; their Fusion T-shirt has fabric which is specifically moisture controlled, but if you prefer more of a button-up style shirt, then you may want to consider the NosiLife Adventure Shirts. These come in long or short sleeve, and also feature a moisture wicking ability.
Over this should be something that keeps you warm whilst being easy to remove, and a zip-up fleece jacket is the usual go-to for this layer. Ones with wind-blocking and waterproofing features, such as the Alan Paine Windblock Waterproof Fleece Jacket or the Musto Polartec Windjammer Fleece Jacket, provide that extra level of protection, but the main feature of this layer is to hold in the heat. This is particularly important at the beginning of the hike, when the cold elements are at their most heightened.
The trousers you pair the top half with should fit well around the waist, and, preferably, also be waterproof. Yoga style pants definitely hit the brief in terms of being comfortable, but the material of these won’t necessarily battle the cold when the crisp air hits you. Instead look for something well insulated and less clingy.
Popular choices include the Craghoppers Kiwi Trousers, which are water-repellant, or the Deerhunter Highland Trousers, which feature a Deer-Tex membrane; offering protection against the wind and rain.
So you are warm and you are comfortable, but those grey skies are looming ever closer and you want to be able to head out the door confident in your chosen coat. Creating a shield from those inevitable downpours, but remaining lightweight enough that it won’t have you feeling the way you do the day after Christmas, is a difficult feat to master, but the Didriksons range utilise their own Storm System to do just that. These waterproof coats allow for breathable weather protection, and also have padded and non-padded options; catering for those who can dance all day in the rain, and those who maybe wish they had been born in a more tropical climate.
It is the breathable feature of these coats which will afford you a more comfortable hike. For whilst waterproof coats will keep the rain off you, they won’t always necessarily keep you dry. Whilst that may sound strange, it brings us back to the point made earlier - hiking is physical exercise, and you are going to sweat. A hike is different from a brief, brisk walk - when you hike, you are really moving; working hard so you can have that second helping tomorrow, so you can reach the top of the mountain and ingrain a memory of something wonderful. If a coat isn’t also breathable, then the sweat will build up, and you’ll create yourself an inescapable mini personal sauna. So again, just like with the base layer, it is the type of material which you need to pay attention to. Here you want to look for breathable options, just like the Didriksons range.
The exterior pockets of these coats will also come particularly in handy for the bits and bobs that you may chop and change with as the hike progresses. Warmer woolly hats, like those handcrafted by Aran, will keep that smile on your face when the temperature drops, but you may prefer a lightweight cap for when you are in the thick of the hike. High neck gaiters are also an optional addition - these do the same job as a scarf, but without that extra material to tuck away. Some thick gloves are a necessity to keep the chill away, and if you want to snap lots of photographs, why not try some fingerless gloves?
When you go hiking, you need to be prepared for lots of mud on the ground, potential slippery terrain, and puddles that your dog is bound to splash all the way through. So investing in a pair of strong, sturdy, waterproof boots is vital to making sure you can combat anything you may end up wading through.
Hi-Tec have the Ravine, Eurotrek, and Bandera boots, which feature a moisture wicking lining; a welcome addition to any boot, particularly those you may be wearing for a large chunk of the day. Consider the fact that you will be wearing thicker socks, and it may be wise to go a size up from your usual - you want to be able to wiggle your toes enough to keep that blood circulating.
Those thicker socks should also be soft and breathable, and, fortunately, the HJ Hall range has a wide variety of choice. Adventure Trek, Mountain Comfort, and Premium Merino Wool Boot Socks are just a few options available, and the features on each differ slightly, so there is something for everyone, and for every hike.
You won’t be go, go, go all day - especially if you want to savour the moments where you something spectacular (even if that’s just taking out that warming mug of soup you prepared earlier). When you stop for a prolonged period of time, make sure you have something insulated; something you can put on and immediately go, “ahh.”
A gilet can be popped on underneath your waterproof to add that extra layer you need whilst you are resting, and lightweight options tend to suit well here. The Deerhunter Lady Christine Gilet, for example, is a particularly good choice due to it being able to pack away small - leaving extra room in your rucksack for water, snacks, and supplies.
Winter hikes are a chance to keep yourself fit throughout the colder months, and are also a great way to discover what the different seasons can bring. So now you have a stencil for what you need, don’t just watch the windows streaming; go out and find where the trail leads you to. Then you can come back, sit down on that couch with the blanket over you, and relive your own memories from a day well spent. All it takes is a couple of clicks, a couple of changes, and you have yourself a wardrobe full of affordable and high-quality clothing that will help you turn those excuses into explorations.