Friday, August 13, 2010

Over Garments

 Alpine Lakes Wilderness in July.

Finding good field clothing is difficult.  Lots are made for backpacking, where light weight is as important as strength and functionality.  But in most cases, you want well designed tough clothes.  Of all the manufacturers, my favorite is Columbia Sportswear.  Most of their clothes are well designed for the outdoors and wear well.  Cabela's also has good outdoor clothes though their colors tend to run toward camo and orange.

The key to staying warm and dry in the outdoors is really the under garments.  Over garments, however, are also important.  But always make sure you have a strong foundation and layer for ultimate comfort.

Pants are also important.  Well, most foresters wear jeans.  However, jeans are meant for the office or riding horses.  They are really not that comfortable jumping over logs in the woods or scampering up hillsides in wet weather.  So, on those tough jobs in foul weather I reach for wool pants.  The best place to buy wool pants is at the local Goodwill or Salvation Army Store.  I always get a pair of suspenders to go with them and then cut the cuffs from the legs.  Warm when wet, with suspenders to hold them up, lightweight wool pants are just the ticket for the outdoors.

Yes, I did say that you wear jeans to the office and dress wool pants into the field.  I did wear a three piece suit on a few occasions when the setting demanded it, however, thank God it was functional outdoor clothes most of the time.   Those fire fighting nomex pants are comfortable in the field, but horrible in wet weather and at $129 a pair a bit expensive.

Fleece and more fleece.  Silk underwear, fleece pants, fleece gloves, fleece hat, merino wool top, fleece vest, and then a down jacket to top it all off.   This photos is from Mid-July in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in north-central Washington.  You can see these mountains from my house in Wenatchee, where it was 100 degrees that day,  just 30 miles away and 6000 feet lower.

Shirts are a little tougher.  In most cases, I just wear long sleeve t-shirts.  You can always push up the sleeves if you're too hot in the woods.  The long sleeves protect you from thorns, branches and bugs.  Generally, I stay away from cotton unless I know it is going to be nice weather.  Having gotten caught a couple of times in a thundershower wearing cotton, it was just miserable.

Fleece is the miracle outdoor fabric.  I replaced ALL my vests and lightweight jackets with fleece.  Again quality does vary, but less than with other fabrics.  Make sure the weight of the fleece, matches your intended temperatures.  I prefer 200 weight fleece.

I threw out all my cotton sweats and replaced them with fleece.  I use fleece pants for fly fishing in my float tube, skiing, using my telescope at night, and watching baseball games on TV.  I am rapidly reaching the point where I might even go to the store wearing fleece pants.

I also have lots of fleece vests.  These make it easier for bird hunting and fly fishing.  I tend to like only one set of long selves on arms.  So mostly it is the silk underwear, but if it is colder then I wear my fleece jackets.

These Columbia conversions have become my favorite pants.  Light and comfortable, the legs zip-off for shorts.  I tend to wear these as shorts in all sorts of weather.  When it starts cooling down I go ahead and zip on the leggings.   These are my wearing around camp and home pants.  If I am backpacking or day hiking I will wear these, but once I need to get off the trail it is time for those wool dress slacks!

I will cover jackets and other garments for fall in another article.  But for now, these are the clothes I always carry with me.  If you spend a lot of time on backroads, I recommend a Hunter Orange fleece vest.  Yes, I know non-hunters are not required to wear them, but it sure makes spotting people a lot easier.  If you don't want to get a vest, at least get an orange baseball cap.  These are also very visible.

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