When buying walking gear fir the first time these are some key considerations that will help you with this process …
- Think about where you are going and how the climate might be. This should be the best guide on what you need to pack.
- Synthetic materials such as polyester based are better than cotton (which absorbs and holds onto water). Always try to buy clothes that wick sweat away from the body.
- Lighter colours reflect sunlight better than darker shades, and are therefore cooler.
- Layers are good for controlling temperature.
- Comfort – if it isn’t comfortable, be it boots or rucksacks, don’t buy it. You won’t use what you don’t like. Try everything on in the shop before parting with cash.
- Nothing is waterproof: if it is, it won’t breathe. Either way – don’t expect to stay dry – and especially not in Britain’s warm and wet climate.
Waterproofs: Hardshell versus Softshell
In essence there are two systems we can turn to when looking for protective outer shells: Hard Shell and Soft Shell systems.
Hardshells, eg Gore-Tex, uses membrane technology to keep you dry. It is good but only so long as there is a heat differential between you and the outside – otherwise it is not as breathable as you may think. If your body is a fast breather (i.e. you sweat lots and easily) maybe you should sacrifice your pursuit of waterproofness for breathability. In their favour hardshells always look ace, they feel tough, and if you’re going to be standing around in a downpour they’re the best. The downside of hardshells is that they tend to fail within three years of their life, they’re never as breathable as you need them to be, and if they rip you need to patch them up like you would a bike inner-tube.
A very good alternative to using membranes is to look at using softshell systems. A great example is Paramo gear. The biggest advantage a softshell has over a hardshell is its superior ability to regulate body heat during high-output activities. It effectively blocks wind and cold air whilst simultaneously transporting moisture from the inside to the outside. Then once the vapour is on the outside it evaporates away. Softshells are excellent for people who sweat easily and really need breathable kit. Also they last for ever – well almost! (The jackets will literally wear out, the zips break etc before you need to retire them). And while they do need regular care and maintenance to keep, they are also easy to mend with just a needle and cotton! The downside to softshells is that if you’re not going to be active, then in a downpour they will wet out.
When buying your walking gear seek advice based upon who you are, where you’re going and what you’re doing.
Look after them. Membrane lined boots are lightweight and effective but beware – when a hole wears through the membrane at a pressure point they become an expensive pair of canvas boots. Keep leather boots clean and waxed. Alternatively, don’t buy boots, get approach shoes instead …
Rucksacks & backpacks:
ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS line with a strong plastic / waterproof sack.
Some Recommended Retailers for Walking Gear
- Outside – (store found in Hathersage, Hope Valley, Derbyshire) top end kit and advice for all adventures from short walks to big mountaineering expeditions (at prices to suit)
- Alpkit.com – (store found in Hathersage, Hope Valley, Derbyshire) a lovely brand with a personal touch. In particular I’d look to them for their sleeping bags, down jackets and waterproof bag liners.
- Cotswold Outdoors – they have quite a varied and wide discount system. They offer many interest groups, clubs and companies a discount ranging from 15% to 25%. Google it.
- Go Outdoors seem to be dominating the retail quarter of every town. Again, buy nothing at face value, the combination of their discount card and a price guarantee mean that a well researched trip to this store can bag you a bargain.