Trail Craft Clothing

A Word About Fabrics

Natural fabrics like wool and cotton tend to wear better, function better and they are often more environmentally sound than petroleum-derived products. When you can, try to select organic, natural fibers. You will also appreciate earth tones, which blend in more with nature

Cotton – Cotton is an extremely valuable fabric in hot dry environments. Cotton has the ability to absorb large amounts of water. This characteristic combined with the process of evaporation, provides a portable evaporative cooler system for your body.

Wool – Wool is an extremely valuable fabric in cool humid climates. It has the ability to keep you warm even when wet. Many outdoor clothing manufactures are returning to classic wool for good reasons. It does an excellent job in outdoor environments.

Synthetics – Synthetics have a place in many outdoor pursuits. We have found though that very few synthetics will out perform wool or cotton for the needs we have. Synthetics tend to melt at low temperatures, making them easily ruined when working with fire. This is not to say that synthetics are poor choices. All fabrics have limitations. The poor choice comes when one does not recognize the limitations of a chosen product. When it comes to ponchos and quick-dry shorts, synthetics are excellent choices since they shed water well. Synthetics, like wool, are also quite effective in cool humid climates for helping to regulate body temperature.

Your clothing is your first level of protection against the elements of nature. It is your personal shelter system. You will want to make sure your shelter system is of the best quality. Your personal shelter system has to take care of you in hot, cold, windy and wet weather. Your clothing needs to be versatile enough to be effective in several environments.

The following is provided to help you understand how your clothing will be expected to perform.

Warm to hot weather – During warmer temperatures your goals are to keep your body from gaining heat from external sources, to move body heat away from your body using air movement and to cool your body using evaporation. Lightweight, lose fitting, full coverage, cotton clothing works quite well for this. This type clothing provides protection from the sun’s radiation, it allows for air movement so that the air may move body heat away and it holds onto moisture allowing evaporative cooling to be the most effective.

Cool to Cold Weather – Your goals during cooler temperatures are to gain heat from external sources, to reduce heat loss from air movement and to reduce evaporative cooling. Dark colored, heavier, loose fitting, full coverage wool clothing works quite well for this type of protection. The dark color absorbs radiation from the sun and the heavier weight loose fit reduces air movement. Wool tends to move moisture away from the body so that the cooling effect of evaporation does not happen directly on your skin.

Layering – Layering is key when regulating body temperature. Layering allows you to reduce or increase the level of protection you have in incremental levels. In warm weather loose layering provides additional protection from the sun’s radiation. In cool weather, layering is quite effective in reducing heat loss by reducing the speed at which warm air is moved away from the body.

Following is more specific information on particular clothing and gear items:

Headwear

Your headwear should consist of sun protection and cold weather protection.

Wide brimmed hat

A three-inch full brimmed sun hat provides superior sun protection. Sunburn is not only uncomfortable it can cause further body temperature regulation complications. The wide brimmed hat keeps your head shaded. If the hat is made of cotton and if worn while wet, it will help keep you cooler.

Baseball style caps provide sun protection for the face, though not the back of the neck. Often people will use a bandana on the neck to provide extra protection when wearing a baseball cap.

Where to Get It: Camping and Backpacking Stores

Watch cap:

Since much of your heat is lost through your head and neck area, you can stay warmer at night with a good head covering. Watch caps are knit or crocheted head coverings otherwise known as a beanie. This is one of the more simple head coverings and is quite effective. Some come with ear flaps and strings to tie under the chin. These features will help keep the cap on at night.

 Where to Get It: Camping and Backpacking Stores

Basic Clothing

Your basic clothing is a layering system that allows you to increase or reduce the amount of clothing needed for your protection. The system recommended by Desert DAWN includes four layers for the torso and three layers for the legs.

Cotton Bandanas:

Essential for heat regulation and a million other trail uses. 100% cotton is preferred. If you can find the larger sizes, approximately 27” x 27”, these are a bit more versatile and functional

Where to Get It: Camping and Backpacking Stores

Silk Scarf:

The silk scarf just like other flat fabric items has a wide variety of uses. It helps keep in warmth when tied around the neck. Draped over the head it is effective to protect against insects. It will work as sunglasses on bright days. In addition to all its uses, it weighs next to nothing. A 42 or 44-inch square scarf is an excellent size. Darker colors are better.

Where to Get It: This item is available to purchase through Desert DAWN.

Long underwear tops and bottoms

You might be wearing these in the evenings, sleeping in them, and hiking in them on cooler days. They should be comfortable and not binding. Long under wear can be found in Merino wool, which is comfortable next to the skin and does not hold odors. Other options of polypropylene or Capilene are also available and work well. Be warned, however, synthetic long underwear tends to hold odors.

Where to Get It: Camping and Backpacking Stores or Military Surplus Stores.

Examples: Stanfields makes good Merino Wool long underwear at a decent price. Here are the web pages for their product http://www.stanfields.com/superwash-wool-long-sleeve-shirt.html and http://www.stanfields.com/superwash-wool-long.html

CAUTION: Long underwear made of cotton or cotton blends has a significantly reduced insulation value when it becomes wet, this includes from sweating. Wet clothing increases evaporative cooling, having the opposite affect from what is needed from long underwear. Cotton should be avoided in long underwear.

Long Sleeved Shirt with front buttons

For hot weather hiking, cotton is recommended for coolness. A long sleeved, front buttoned down dress shirt provides excellent protection from the sun, and bugs. The front buttons provide flexibility in the how the air is allowed to flow through the garment. The long sleeves are easily rolled up when desired.   And of course the cotton allows for maximum cooling through evaporation.

Nylon hiking shirts also work well and dry faster than cotton alternatives. Remember that fast drying is beneficial for cool humid climates and slow drying is beneficial for hot dry climates.

Where to Get It: Almost everyone has an old dress shirt in their closet, if not thrift stores are full of them.

Wool Sweater, Medium Weight

This piece of clothing will be used extensively to regulate your core body temperature during the mornings and evenings when the temperatures are slightly cool. The wool sweater should weigh 1½ to 2 pounds, more or less depending on body size.   The common merino wool dressy sweaters are a bit lightweight and the northeast Atlantic fishermen sweaters are way too heavy. Almost everyone has a sweater that will work well. Select from your older more worn out sweaters.

Where to Get It: Almost everyone has an old sweater in their closet, if not thrift stores are full of them.

Pants

The pants will protect you from the sun, bugs and brush and will help keep you warm when the temperatures drop. They should be durable and loose, not tight-fitting. Various fabrics work well for these, cotton, linen, synthetic and even durable, but not to heavy, wool slacks work great. Remember that synthetics have the tendency to melt when close to fires or when they are touched by a spark. Extra pockets are always nice to have. Sporting goods stores have many options for these. Military surplus stores also have quite a few options. A treasure chest though is the thrift store.   Sturdy wool dress pants from the thrift store are wonderful for trail pants.

Where to Get It: Thrift Stores or Camping and Backpacking Stores.

CAUTION: Blue jeans or Carharts should be avoided. They are quite heavy and are a hindrance in many ways if they become wet.

Belt

A belt of course is useful to keep up your pants.  A leather belt provides the additional benefit of being a strop for knife sharpening. A basic 1” to 1 ½” leather belt with a quality buckle is perfect.

Where to Get It: You may have an old belt at home, otherwise check Department Stores. A good leather belt seams to be a rarity in the Thrift Stores.

 Quick-Dry Shorts

“Quick-dry” shorts are basically nylon shorts with a breathable liner. They are more conducive to active, wet travel than other choices and allow easy layer stripping.

Many students have appreciated having the pants with zip-off legs instead of carrying a pair of shorts. Be aware though, frequently the zippers do not hold up to the use we put them through.

 Where to Get It: Thrift Stores, Camping or Backpacking Stores, Canoeing or Kayaking Stores

 

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