It is important to wear and
carry clothing appropriate not just to the weather when you set off but also
in anticipation of the worst conditions you might encounter on that day. As
a cautionary tale, I can recount that of a friend who set off from Ingleton
to climb Ingleborough on a hot sunny day. He wore only shorts, a
"T" shirt and carried a poor quality waterproof jacket. At the summit, the
cloud closed in and he got very wet and very cold to the extent there was
grave concern about him. At the Hill Inn in the valley bottom, it took a
long time for him to stop shivering. Be warned!
Shirts and Jackets
For anything more than a gentle
stroll, do not wear cotton shirts. They get wet with perspiration, cling to
the skin and make you feel cold. Better to wear a "wicking" base
layer garment made from a material such as Polartec. These types of material
draw the moisture away from the skin and combined with other
"wicking" layers help overall breathability. Many manufacturers
use this type of material. An alternative is a shirt made from Merino wool.
These claim to have similar wicking properties and feel warm whether wet or
Above this "base
layer", the secret is to wear several thin layers rather than relying
on one mega jacket. By adding/subtracting layers, you can regulate your
temperature according to how hard you are working, the ambient temperature
and whether or not you are wearing a waterproof.
Fleece garments made from such
as Polarfleece are available mostly in weights of 100, 200, and 300. Don't
worry about what the weight actually means. Suffice to say that a 300 weight
will be much thicker and warmer than a 100. 100s are available mostly
as "jumpers". 200/300s tend to be jackets. All continue the
The majority of walkers
have a jacket and one or two 100 weight garments for winter. In summer, one or two
100 weight garments would probably suffice, depending on the weather and how high
you are going.
Fleece jackets are available
with a windproof layer. Although this sounds good in theory, bear in mind
that you may not want this windproofing if you are working hard climbing a
hill. The cooling effect of a breeze can be helpful and if necessary, you
can always don your waterproof (and therefore windproof) jacket.
Please do not wear
jeans. They soak up water like a sponge, become heavy and take forever to
dry even if the sun comes out. They can be a major safety risk in cold
weather and or at altitude by exacerbating the effects of cold and windchill.
Preferred material is
polyester/cotton mix or polyamide type material which is thin and
lightweight and closely woven. This will dry out quickly if it gets wet and
cut wind penetration. Rohan, Craghoppers and Sprayway are some of the well
In cold weather, you have three
1) Wear waterproof
over-trousers. These will cut the wind and you will (should) be carrying
these anyway. Particularly if working hard, you should be warm enough.
2) Some manufacturers make
padded trousers which have an insulation layer. It is a balancing act as to
whether these will be comfortable or make you too warm. It depends on the
3) Wear a base layer resembling
old fashioned "coms". These have the advantage of being removable
if you get too warm, always assuming you are not averse to a partial strip
on the fells! Even a pair of ladies tights will make a big difference.
In hot weather, shorts are
popular. If walking at high altitude, it is better to go for
"convertible" trousers where the legs can be zipped off but
carried in case temperatures drop.
Hats Scarves & Gloves
Up to 10% of your body heat can
be lost through your head and this increases if you start to shiver. In
summer, you should protect your head from the sun. So you need hats.
In winter, a balaclava type is
useful as it can be rolled up to form a cap or pulled down to protect the
face. These are available in Polartec type material. However, if it is very
cold, this is unlikely to be sufficient alone and it would be wise to carry
a second hat to wear over the top, preferably a waterproof one. Yes you can
pull the hood of your waterproof up but they are more restrictive, impede
conversation and can cause condensation. Save the hood for torrential rain/snow.
Wearing some sort of cap, even
just a baseball cap, makes using a hood on a waterproof shell jacket more
comfortable. It stops the cold clammy feeling of the material and helps hold
up the peak.
A traditional scarf may not be
the best walking gear. Consider instead a "neck gaiter". These are
usually made of Polartec type material and some have a drawcord. They create
a snug fit around the neck to prevent cold penetrating the top of a jacket.
They can also be pulled up to protect the lower face if a balaclava type
garment is not to hand.
You must carry gloves in cold
weather. The fingers are literally out on a limb and are probably the first
part to feel the cold. The position is worse if you are grasping walking
poles (see separate page). Mittens are the warmest and need to be
waterproof. In addition some thin fabric gloves are useful for less cold
weather. They can also be worn inside the mittens for additional protection.
The function of gaiters is to
prevent snow/water getting into your boots. They also keep the bottoms of
your trousers cleaner and keep your legs warmer. The best type are
breathable (Gortex) type with a rubber strap under the instep rather than a
cord which frays quickly on stones.
Certain types fit in a groove
round the edge of the sole of the boot for severe mountain conditions.
Don't laugh. If there is light
rain in the absence of wind, use of an umbrella can be more comfortable than
a hood/waterproof jacket. It will not increase your thermal insulation
(which might make you uncomfortably warm in summer). There are lightweight
collapsable models on the market. However, it is all extra weight and
whatever the weather forecast, do not abandon good waterproof clothing for
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