WONDERING HOW TO DRESS? WE’VE GOT YOU COVERED
Look no further for tips on choosing your clothing for outdoor activities and adventures.
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
It might be an old saying, but most of us have heard it. And although there might be some merit to it, we at Tierra argue that it’s not really about how good or how bad clothes might be (though, of course, there are bad clothes), but more about choosing the right clothing for a particular activity or adventure. And what exactly is right? Good question. The answer can be quite subjective and vary depending on who you ask. Nevertheless, we’ll try here, pooling our own experiences with those of the highly accomplished Tierra Test Team.
Do Your Research, Pay Attention
Preparation is the key to any successful outdoor adventure. Since we live in the Golden Age of Information, there’s no excuse for not researching your destination before you go. Plenty of good information can be found online, including tips and advice from others who’ve been when you’re going as well as what weather conditions are — and will be. Paying attention to these can head off many problems and make for a better trip.
Although the kinds of advice listed below may also fall under research, don’t view them as absolute answers so much as guidelines. For instance, you should always think about adapting basic guidelines to your own metabolic characteristics — knowing whether you tend to run hot or cold and under what circumstances. For inveterate outdoorists with loads of experience, most of what follows probably isn’t news, but you never know — there might be a tidbit to take with you on your next adventure!
If you have read everything on this page and still have questions, please feel free to contact us here!
If you’re planning more extreme outdoor adventures that involve alpinism, climbing, ski-touring, or hiking in either very cold or very hot temperatures, then you probably already have enough experience to know how to dress. But if you’re still looking for some advice, want to brainstorm ideas, or have suggestions for a collaboration, you’re more than welcome to contact us here! We promise we’ll get back to you.
Before we get too deep into giving advice on how to dress, let’s agree on what we’re talking about.
- Base Layer — the layer of clothing closest to the body, usually thin and preferably made of wool or merino wool.
- Middle or Mid-layer — this can vary in thickness but is typically at least slightly thicker than the base layer.
- Shell Clothing — the outermost layer whose main task is to protect you and the rest of your clothes from water and wind, as well as from dirt and wear.
- Insulated Clothing — clothing with an insulating lining or fill are usually light, packable, and easily carried in a rucksack; thicker insulated garments are typically used over top shell clothing when sitting or standing still, while thinner insulated garments are used as an extra warming layer under shell clothes when it gets really cold.
The Layering Method
When it comes to dressing for the outdoors, layering is probably the most important concept one should know about. Layering refers to putting on several thin to medium-thick layers, which you can then remove or put back on as needed. The following example details this idea.
Let’s say you and your partner are out on a ski hill. It’s below zero, snowing occasionally and a bit windy. You’re wearing a base layer, a mid-layer, shell pants and a warm, lined jacket. You stay warm and cozy when you’re standing still, sitting on the lift or having an outdoor coffee, but as soon as you start going downhill and exerting yourself, you get hot — too hot — and start to sweat. But you can’t take off the jacket, because then you’ll have no protection against wind or precipitation, and removing the middle layer doesn’t help because the jacket is so warm that you still sweat.
Your partner, on the other hand, is wearing a base layer, a slightly thinner mid-layer, another mid-layer, shell pants and a shell jacket. [note: I have made this “partner” gender neutral] They also have a packable insulated jacket in their rucksack, along with the thermos and sandwiches. If they start to get cold during a coffee break or on the chairlift, they throw on the insulated jacket; when it’s time to go downhill again, they take it off and stuff it back into their rucksack. While you feel sweaty, they neither freeze during inactivity nor become excessively hot during skiing. If they still feel a little too warm, they have the option of removing one of their two middle layers.
It’s pretty clear to see who dressed smarter here. To summarize, it’s better to wear several thin and medium-thick layers of clothing under a shell than a single mid-layer under a thick jacket.
Take a Hike
During our holidays, we at Tierra have might find ourselves hiking in the mountains of Norway, Austria, Tanzania, Switzerland and, of course, Sweden. These beautiful but differing environments all come with one unifying factor — large differences in altitude. And altitude changes mean that temperatures can go up and down quite a lot during a hike. In addition, the weather can also be quite unpredictable — something you need to be prepared for. As a hiker, you naturally like to pack light, and by choosing outdoor clothing made of certain materials with smart functions, you can get by with only a few items while at the same time reducing the weight and volume of your pack.
Below you’ll find some examples of how to think about hiking in different weather conditions — advice that’s transferable to most outdoor activities.
Hiking when it’s hot (> 15 °C)
Dressing for high-intensity activities in weather that might be hot at some points is often harder than trying to figure out how to address the cold.
- Base Layer — Perhaps counterintuitively, wool or merino wool t-shirt or long-sleeve base-layer are among the best clothing choices—even when it's hot. That’s because wool warms when it’s cold and cools when it’s hot, whether in dry or wet conditions; it’s also naturally self-cleaning and keeps the smell of sweat down. This means you can alternate between two t-shirts during a long or multi-day hike; dry/air the sweaty t-shirt on your backpack as you walk — especially if you’ve had the opportunity to rinse it out.
- Pants — When it comes to hiking, we recommend saving space and weight by using a pair of pants with removable legs; you can wear them long in the chilly morning, as shorts during the heat of the day, and then long again in the evening when it cools off or you need a little extra protection from insects.
- Outerwear — Here we recommend a lightweight softshell jacket or one made of GORE-TEX® Paclite. Softshell materials are durable and hold up well in forest where, for example, you might come into contact with branches and other objects. In addition, softshells are typically windproof in the front but not in the back — an advantage if you’re a person who heats up easily and often gets sweaty under a backpack. A key consideration is that softshells weigh a little more and have a slightly larger packing volume. Jackets made of GORE-TEX® Paclite, however, while not as wear-resistant, are extremely light with a very low packing volume. They’re also completely waterproof and windproof — perfect for hiking open landscapes and ridges where rapid weather changes are common.
Hiking when it is colder (< 15 °C)
Broadly speaking, the thought process for hiking when the weather will be colder is similar — adaptability to changes in heat and cold. The difference is in your basic garment choices. In this case, an extra mid-layer, thicker outdoor pants, and possibly long underwear and an insulated jacket are needed.
- Mid-layer — Here, we recommend a wool piece for the primary reason that if you’ve used wool as a base layer, more of its key properties are retained if the next layer is also made of wool. A mid-layer in a mix of wool and, for example, polyester, functions similarly but also makes the garment more durable, guarding against the friction wear from a jacket.
- Long Underwear — Carrying a set of thin long underwear in wool or merino wool in case it gets colder than expected is almost never a bad choice. These weigh little, take up almost no space and are nice to have for sitting around an evening campfire or on chilly mornings.
- Pants — Here we recommend a pair of lightweight softshell pants or a pair made of GORE-TEX® Paclite. Softshell materials are durable and hold up well in forest where, for example, you might come into contact with branches and other objects. Softshell trousers are typically reinforced against wear, wetness and wind in exposed areas such as knees and buttocks, meaning they have good ventilation—an advantage if you’re someone who often sweats around the legs. A key consideration is that softshells weigh a little more and have a slightly larger packing volume. Pants made of GORE-TEX® Paclite, however, while not as wear-resistant, are extremely light with a very low packing volume. They’re also completely waterproof and windproof—perfect for hiking open landscapes and ridges where rapid weather changes are common.
- Insulated Jacket — If you’re hiking in temperatures between 0˚–10˚C, we strongly recommend carrying a lightweight insulated jacket. This is because as soon as you stop being active for a period, it gets cold fast. This is when a warm extra layer not only feels good, but provides a margin of safety in case you get stuck somewhere and can’t move to keep warm.
If you’ve read through everything on this page and still have questions, please feel free to contact us here.