What to Wear
by Ruby Bayan
Years of backpacking and hiking experience handed down from one team to another give us these tips on how to dress properly in the company of Mother Nature.
Layer, Layer, Layer
You'll have to be a psychic to know what mood the environment will be in during your trip. Most hikes, especially the scenic ones, stretch across varied terrain, over diverse altitudes, and into windy nights and freezing daybreaks. The wide range of climates compounded by heat and sweat from your own muscles, can be a challenge to regulate in the effort to prevent dehydration and hypothermia.
The trick, therefore, is to have the ability to "change your skin" at a moment's notice. To do that, you'll have to have several layers of clothing that you can peel off or put on when the need arises.
Here are loose items of clothing you can use to layer:
Raincoat - make sure they're waterproof with secure seams and easy to manage hoods and zippers. Choose breathable fabrics so that you don't swim in your own perspiration.
Common Sense Fashion
Jacket - depending on the intensity of the weather (rain, wind, snow, freezing temperatures), choose the appropriate type of weatherproof-ness. Choose materials that repel water, are breathable, lightweight, and compact.
Pullovers - insulators such as vests, sweatshirts, and jackets made of down, fleece, or synthetic pile will provide warmth when you need it. Choose fabrics that are light, easy to dry, and warm even when wet.
Underwear - polyester or nylon work well in wicking away moisture from your skin especially when you're perspiring from all that strenuous trekking. Leave all your cotton undies at home -- they may be cool and cozy but when they get wet, they'll be cold to the skin and will take days to dry.
Forget coordinates. Think utility and practicality. Here are some outdoor wardrobe reminders:
Light-colored fabrics are cooler than dark-colored ones.
As a rule of thumb on what to wear to a backpacking trip: Expect the unexpected.
Long-sleeves and long pants are good protection against ticks, leeches, bugs, and the sun's UV rays.
Through deserts and open areas, a straw wide-brimmed hat or a small umbrella could save your life.
Use durable outer clothing especially when the trail will take you through rock faces and abrasive surfaces.
Don't forget your hat, gloves, and muffler when traversing high altitudes and winter climates. They could be your most vital defense against hypothermia.