Established in 1986 Trekitt is family owned and run. We have always been driven by our passion for wild places and mountains and have enjoyed sharing those experiences with our customers for over 30 years.

Trekitt provides top quality equipment and clothing for mountaineers, hill walkers, climbers and travellers and has grown over the years to cater for a wide range of outdoor activities. We hold large stocks of specialist clothing and equipment from the worlds best brands backed up by our award winning customer service.  We are more than a shop, we are a service for adventure, we fully understand that to get the most from your passion you need the best kit that is fit for purpose and suits you personally.  We offer expert boot and rucksack fitting services in our Hereford shop and are always happy to discuss your equipment needs, so just call us.

The Hereford shop is open Monday to Saturday from 09:00 - 17:30.

We are closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays because we value our free time and want to keep it that way.

51 Eign GateHereford Herefordshire HR4 0AB

Layering Masterclass – How to Dress Appropriately for the Outdoors

   Words by Harry B

   09/01/2018 12:56:07

The tried and tested Layering System has been the staple choice for walkers, mountaineers and climbers for decades. By combining multiple performance layers, outdoor users can enjoy their time in the mountains whilst remaining warm, comfortable and safe. There’s an old saying that goes: “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”. With the right clothes, any outdoor experience can be enjoyable, even in the most extreme conditions. However, make the wrong clothing choices and that experience can be at best miserable, and at worst life threatening.

The main purpose of the layering system is to keep you dry, comfortable and warm. We all know it makes sense to stay dry and warm, especially in the mountains, but it’s worth taking some time to explain how and why we get cold to avoid the potentially life-threatening condition known as Hypothermia. Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body temperature falls to below 35˚C, that’s only 2˚C lower than normal! If your body temperature falls too low it can stop your heart, nervous system and other organs from functioning normally. Without intervention or treatment, your vital systems can fail.

How do we get cold in the mountains?

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Above: Steve Davies, Buyer and Stock Control Manager – Ascending Pen y Fan, Brecon Beacons

Evaporation

Evaporative cooling is the process of moisture evaporating from your skin and is how we humans naturally cool off. We sweat, and that sweat evaporates from our skin to cool us down. However, when in a mountainous environment and when exerting yourself you can cool off too much and too quickly; all of this when you’re in an environment where it’s particularly hard to get warm again. Common sense tells us to stay dry when it’s raining outside, but far too often people are unaware of how wet and dangerously cold their own sweat can leave them on the inside; especially if they are wearing a cotton tee shirt next to the skin. Cotton rapidly absorbs sweat creating a cold, wet layer that encourages evaporative cooling. Add some cold, wet and windy weather and that cooling effect can quickly invite the onset of Hypothermia. Modern layering systems utilize the cooling power of evaporation to transport (or wick) moisture away from your body and allow airflow to keep you cool and relatively dry during heavy exertion. They also dry exceptionally quickly and provide insulation when you stop to ensure you stay warm. The best layering systems manage moisture from the inside, absorb little moisture and allow you to breathe to avoid overheating when slogging uphill.

Radiation

As your metabolism churns, your body gives off heat. If too much escapes to a cold environment, it is harder to keep your core temperature stable. Most people are smart enough to bundle up in a jacket when it is cold outside, but often people forget to wear a warm hat. You can lose up to a third of your body heat through an uncovered head, especially if like me, you are bald! If you were naked, you'd lose more heat via radiation from your chest and core (where your vital organs are stored) than from your head, but most of us don’t wander around the mountains in the buff. Modern layering systems use insulated mid-layers to trap warm air; but don’t forget to use a good quality hat to stop all the warmth from leaking out the top of your head.

Conduction

Conductive cooling occurs when heat is lost when something warm contacts something colder. It’s exactly why insulated camping mats are used to stop our warm bodies from contacting the cold ground. When you’re hiking and climbing, your extremities will contact the cold ground; your hands will grab cold rocks when scrambling and your feet can feel the cold from frozen ground (even inside boots). Conduction also occurs during rain, sleet and snow. Each drop of cold moisture that lands on you will suck away precious heat via conduction. Conductive heat loss combined with radiation heat loss can very quickly lower your core temperature, that’s why it’s so important to keep your hands and head covered.

Convection

Convection is the cooling action created by the movement of air (or fluids). Convection can work on a macro-level, such as wind-chill, and on the micro-level next to your skin when you sweat. When we are active outdoors, cold air moves across your body, gets warmed up and rises away allowing more cold air to move in and continue the process. This is exactly why wind chill can be so deadly; it combines a double whammy of evaporative and convective cooling to accelerate the onset of Hypothermia.

Types of Layers

Here we’ve listed the individual layers that can be used in various combinations according to the type of activity, climate, and environment. The primary function of the layering system is to work in harmony to achieve the four goals of wicking moisture, trapping in heat, insulating from cold and blocking wind and weather. Traditionally, a three-layer system was the accepted norm, but we prefer a multi-layer system that adds an optional insulating and wind layer to achieve greater versatility and flexibility.

Baselayer

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Above: Arc’teryx Satoro AR Zip Neck

A baselayer is the layer that sits next to your skin and needs to be close (ish) fitting to ensure as much fabric is in contact with your skin as possible. This maximises the wicking effect to pull as much sweat as possible away from your body. The baselayer keeps you dry and comfortable by pulling moisture away from your skin and spreading it throughout the fabric where it can either evaporate or by absorbed by the next layer. The fabric will also offer some insulating properties depending on the nature and weight of the material. Lightweight, short-sleeved for warm conditions or heavy weight long sleeved for when it’s freezing. Never wear cotton as a baselayer, the fabric just holds onto moisture and causes too much evaporative cooling.

The two main fabrics used in base layers are synthetic and wool. Synthetic materials are normally made from either polypropylene or polyester and are usually easy to wash and wear, are very durable and dry exceptionally quickly, they also tend to be less expensive than wool. They wick moisture incredibly effectively making them perfect for high output activities such as trail running, mountaineering or mountain biking, however they can become a bit stinky over time as they absorb body odour fast.

Merino Wool is the other option as it insulates better than synthetic baselayers when it's cold and stays more comfortable over a larger temperature gradient when it’s hot. Although wool takes longer to dry than synthetics, it continues to insulate well even when wet. Modern Merino Wool garments are woven from superfine fibres that are not at all itchy and are luxuriously soft next to the skin. The fibres are made from a natural substance called Keratin which cannot absorb body odour, so you can wear one top for many days without stinking. We recommend the use of Merino layers for less strenuous activities such as hiking, hillwalking, backpacking and travelling.

We’ve found the most versatile design for base layers is a zip-neck. This allows you to conveniently regulate body temperature without having to add or remove layers as you go along. Exposing your neck and upper chest can have a dramatic cooling effect when you’re working hard and then it’s easy to zip it back up to get warm when you take a rest.

Lastly, don’t forget your pants (I mean underwear, not trousers). This can be the most overlooked bit of kit yet is equally important. All the above applies to your underwear, who wants soggy cotton pants next to their bits? Chaffing caused by soggy pants can be extremely painful and you can also lose a great deal of heat from those sensitive parts.

Midlayer

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Above: Arc’teryx Kyanite Hoody & Beta LT Jacket

The purpose of the midlayer is to insulate your body by trapping the warm air that you create when active. Traditionally, fleece has been the midlayer of choice as it is relatively lightweight, effectively traps air in the open fibres and continues the wicking process from your baselayer. Fleeces range from the superlight and stretchy to the heavy and fluffy; your choice will depend on what you’re doing and the conditions you’ll encounter. The negative aspect of fleece is that it is not at all wind resistant, so if you’re not wearing a wind/waterproof jacket over the top, all that warm air will be drawn away by the wind leaving you feeling chilled. Windproof fleece, hard-face fleece and softshell garments help to reduce the wind-chill effect, will repel light rain or snow and work as effective midlayers to keep you comfortable. However, they can still be bulky and take up a lot of room in your pack if you need to pack them away.

Insulating Layer

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Above: Arc’teryx Cerium LT

An insulating layer can be used to replace a bulky fleece layer or to add warmth to your system when required. We’d always recommend that you carry an insulating layer in all conditions, as even in summer you may need extra warmth in an emergency or simply when you stop for lunch. Advances in fabric and insulation technology mean that thin synthetic or down filled jackets now offer reduced weight and bulk, vastly improved insulating properties and excellent wind and water resistance. Again, these jackets come in different weights to suit varying conditions, and whilst the choice can be bewildering, provided your insulating layer is suited to the type of activity and the conditions and is breathable and dries quickly, you won’t go too far wrong.

Insulated layers are filled with either a synthetic fibre or with natural down. Down is incredibly comfortable to wear, has a fantastic warmth to weight ratio, breathes superbly and weighs next to nothing. But, and it’s a big but, if the down filling gets wet it loses its ability to insulate, leading to potentially life-threatening situations.

Here at Trekitt we prefer a light synthetic jacket such as the Arc’teryx Atom LT for our insulating layer. They are lightweight, breathable, highly compressible, have an excellent warmth to weight ratio and unlike down they will retain most of their warmth even when wet; making them the perfect choice for our typical UK wet and cold winter conditions. As well as providing insulation they also have excellent wind and water resistance, so you won’t need to dig out your waterproof shell as often.

Choosing an insulating layer with a hood is a smart option; you get can get a substantial increase in warmth for almost no cost in weight or bulk. Even if the hood isn’t up, the higher collar will provide welcome warmth and comfort around your face and neck.

Even if you use a lightweight midlayer or no midlayer at all, it’s always advisable to carry an insulating layer in your pack. Temperatures in the mountains can suddenly drop, so being able to easily whip out your insulating layer or combine it with your midlayer for extra warmth is crucial. If you are spending nights out in the mountains, combining a midlayer with an insulation layer provides substantial warmth around the campsite, keeping you comfortable until cold mountain conditions drive you into the cocoon of your tent and sleeping bag.

Lightweight Wind Layer

A lightweight, breathable and wind resistant jacket is an incredibly useful addition to your layering system. Protecting yourself from the heat-robbing effect of wind-chill makes a significant difference to your comfort. A light wind resistant jacket offers exceptional warmth with virtually no weight and a miniscule pack size. Worn over a base or midlayer, it offers excellent weather protection where a technical outer shell might be overkill. Sometimes you just need a little more insulation but don’t want to overheat by adding a fully insulated layer; wear a light wind layer between your base (or midlayer) and your outer shell and you’ll be surprised how much warmth it’ll create with virtually no bulk or restriction. Traditionally these types of jackets are made from tightly woven micro-fibres that block the wind yet remain highly breathable. Modern ultra-lightweight softshell fabrics work exceptionally well as this layer and can withstand abrasion from the environment, harnesses and rucksack straps.

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Above: Rab Ventus Jacket

Outer Shell

A technical outer shell is designed to keep out the elements whilst allowing moist air from your layering system to escape. It therefore needs to be both waterproof and breathable. It needs to be able to cope with situations where you’ll be sweating profusely or when you’re hunkered down trying to escape from the storm. Modern fabrics such as Gore-Tex and eVent use PTFE membranes sandwiched between layers to provide 100% waterproof protection with exceptional levels of breathability. Advances in construction, design and zip technology combine to produce incredibly efficient garments that can cope with the worst that mother nature can chuck at them. However, they do have big holes in them where your head, hands and legs stick out so don’t be surprised if you get some moisture inside when out in the nastiest of conditions. The important thing is to ensure that you have an efficient layering system underneath that will keep you comfortable and dry quickly if, and when, it does get wet.

An alternative outer layer to the traditional waterproof shell is a softshell jacket. Whilst not completely waterproof, it will protect you from all but the worst weather whilst offering much higher levels of breathability than a shell. So, if you know the weather is going to be kind, and you’re going to be thrashing around working up a sweat, a softshell jacket would be the perfect choice. But remember to always pack a fully waterproof shell in your pack as conditions in the mountains can change in the blink of an eye and you’ll be thankful for that fortress-like protection.

Throughout this article we have been focusing on the upper half of your body (as that’s the bit that needs the most protection). It’s where most people focus their budget and where the greatest choice of garments are offered, however the principles outlined above apply equally to your legs. Modern softshell trousers have revolutionised the comfort of hill walkers and mountaineers by providing excellent weather protection with quick drying fabrics that wick moisture to keep you comfortable. However, in extreme cold and/or wet you can layer them up with baselayer leggings and outer layer shell over trousers. Even your hands can benefit hugely from the layering system approach. Thin liner gloves combined with thicker insulating gloves and then topped off with waterproof shell mittens provide versatile all year-round protection.

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Above: Arc’teryx Beta LT

So that’s it in a nutshell! I appreciate that there’s a lot of information here but getting your layering system right can make all the difference to your safety, comfort and enjoyment in the mountains.

To summarise:

· Avoid cotton clothing in all your layers

· Don’t forget about your underwear

· Layering applies to legs and hands too

· Add and subtract layers according to the conditions and activity level

· Always carry an insulating layer and full set of waterproofs in your pack

· Have fun!

   

The whole ordering and delivery process went very smoothly but unfortunately the boots I had ordered were slightly too narrow and had to be returned, the no quibbles returns process was quick and easy, with Trekitt keeping me informed by email at every step of the way, including receipt of my parcel and when my refund had been processed. Service and communication with this company always excellent.

Steve.B  •   8th Aug.

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