Wearing the Weather Down: A Look at Outdoor Attire
The weather is a mercurial force. Sometimes, it remains as gentle as a whitetail deer grazing in the pasture. The next moment, it’s a dynamic entity, trampling across the countryside. One fact is constant. The elements are varied and fickle, never lasting but always demonstrating their might.
Just the other day, I took a stroll in the woods. The radiating warmth of the sun basked me in its embrace. After a long, harsh winter, I felt a sense of relief to see a glimpse of the spring season. I watched as a sparrow darted from one tree to the next and chipmunks chased after one another. Alas, all good things end. Even as I type, I’m gazing out my window at a barren field and a sullen grey skyline. The breeze rattles the leafless trees, and tiny specks of snow flutter down like confetti on a soggy beige ground. How I yearn for brighter days.
Yet, even as winter makes its final, futile barrage against the horizon, the light will prevail. The dismal conditions of those long, dark days will transition into bright skies, shorts, summer dresses, and beers around a campfire. Friends will grab their coolers and load up the Jeep. Tents will get aired out from their long slumber on the garage shelf. Couples will venture out to breathe some fresh air and shake off that stir crazy feeling of cabin fever. Amidst those fun activities of camping, hiking and enjoying the outdoors, we must be ever mindful of safety and the unpredictable nature of weather.
Now-a-days, everyone wants to own the latest gadgets and enjoy the most modern creature comforts. These items all have their place, albeit most of the time unnecessary. Yet, often, one of the most essential pieces of the outdoor kit is overlooked, proper attire. Especially, in these early spring days, the temperature fluctuates. The afternoon could start off in the mid 70’s, and by nightfall, drop to 13 degrees. Now, I will admit, I’m not the “end all” authority on everything survival related, but with training and years of experience, I know a few “Do’s and Don’ts.”
Whenever you ventures into the outdoors, address the possibility of the unexpected. The car could break down in the middle of nowhere. An accident could happen, leaving you injured, lost, or trapped in less than ideal circumstances. To help avoid making a bad situation worse, a little pre-planning is vital. One of those items to address is clothing.
Clothing is an underrated resource. Always dress in layers. This allows you to remove clothing as needed. If the sun pops out, shed a layer. Tie that shirt around your waist. Toss the fleece jacket in a day pack. The bottom line, if something happens or conditions change, you have a means of maintaining core body temperature. Leaving the water-resistant, hi-tech jacket in the car doesn’t help when your teeth chatter and you’re going hypothermic because you accidentally took a splash in the creek. Likewise, you should accessorize. Bring along a hat and/ or gloves considering the season and conditions. The proper cover for the head, hands, and feet are essential and should warrant some consideration.
Furthermore, carry a spare set of wool socks. Blisters are the number one killer of a hike. If you’ve been out for hours, and your feet are getting damp from perspiration, air out your feet. Then, put on a fresh pair of socks to help alleviate friction and moisture. Additionally, wool is naturally antibacterial and antimicrobial, which is a nice way of saying, it helps your feet from getting as nasty and stinky. Also, wool contains lanolin, which is a natural moisturizer, and will help reduce hot spots on the feet.
Another important resource is footwear. Countless products are on the market to meet your style, performance needs, and comfort level. Personally, when hiking or camping, I prefer a good pair of boots or trail runners with a Vibram sole. A shoe with a Gore-Tex liner or waterproof shell has its place. Typically, these shoes will retain more internal moisture and can cause wet socks and clammy feet. Dampness turns into a nightmare when the temperature drops, as the shoes won’t dry quickly. Likewise, waterproofing works both ways. I was stuck in a massive rainstorm one time, and the boots flooded. The water had no means of escape, and I trudged along in sopping misery. Can you say trench foot?
Frequently, in the warmer months, I sport a sturdy hiking sandal, with a rugged sole, and a pair of wool socks. This is a fantastic set-up. The footwear drains immediately when soaked. The wool retains insulation properties, even when wet. My feet get constant air circulation and the arrangement swiftly dries. Ultimately, wear what is right for you and the conditions you may encounter.
For what it’s worth, these examples are just a few tips to help make your next excursion more safe and enjoyable. We all have a common love for nature; the goal is to be cautious and mindful while pursuing this passion. As always:
Journey past your limits!