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Outdoor Clothing

  • Sweaty Waterproof Jackets on Warm Wet Muggy Summer Days

    The Great Cumbrian Summer.

    Oh dear. It’s summer in the Lake District and it’s doing that raining thing again. But the Lakes are all full, the fields and trees are looking very green and lush, and there are no hosepipe bans. We never seem to manage to get the balance right do we? Over the winter and into spring we were having a drought (it still managed to rain in Cumbria though) and since summer has strolled into our lives there has been flooding in various parts of the country and we are still selling waterproof hats.

    This year I have not been stamping my feet and feeling as victimised as usual though, as the whole country has been having a wet summer. We are told “we are all in this together”, and knowing that the South East is having a lot of rainfall and they can’t play in their swimming pools does give me a certain amount of pleasure.  Normally everywhere is bathed in sunshine with blue sky days and donkey rides on the beach, while here in Cumbria we are driving with our side lights on at midday trying to see through a steamed up windscreen with children steaming away in the back playing up on the way to the Pencil Museum. I went to France for my holidays in early July and it rained nearly every day. The tent leaked on the first night and I vowed to have all future summer holidays on the equator somewhere in Africa.

    Lower your Expectations.

    Enough moaning though. The reason I have taken finger to keyboard today is to remind you to lower your expectations. I could ask you to do this in relation to all sorts of things. Lake District weather, Team GB in the Olympics, the Government, the new series of Red Dwarf being made, the chance of any bankers being brought to account in an enquiry (this could be a long list so I will stop there). The topic I would urge you to have reasonable expectations about, is the performance of your waterproof jacket in the summer.

    For a waterproof jacket to perform at its best there needs to be difference in vapour pressure between the inside of the jacket (where you are) and the outside. Ironically, waterproof jackets work best when it is dry and cool, when there is the greatest difference between warm moist air inside the jacket and the cool dry air outside. Nature is always looking to maintain equilibrium so will move vapour from the higher vapour pressure area inside the jacket to the lower pressure outside through the breathable fabric of your jacket. Unless it is as warm and damp outside your jacket than it is inside, then there will not be a lot of moisture vapour transmission, or breathing going on. If you should find yourself walking through the rain forest in a breathable waterproof jacket, with a higher water vapour pressure outside your jacket than inside, the moisture vapour will come through the fabric towards the wearer.

    I don't know how Gore Tex get away with their advertising saying "Guaranteed to keep you dry”. That is a lie. Nothing is. It just gives people an unrealistic expectation of how their clothing is going to perform. Then when their expensive new jacket falls short of their expectations they come and shout at us for selling shoddy goods. Cheers Gore Tex!

    You are going to get wet.

    This all means that trying to stay dry and comfortable on a warm and wet day can be a losing battle. Your choice is either to get wet from condensed sweat or to get wet from rain. By looking after your waterproofs with Nikwax so the water beads up on the outside rather than soaking into the fabric you will increase the breathability, but you will still be damp and sweaty inside your jacket. On a warm muggy wet summers day my advice would be not to bother with a waterproof, and just get wet. Wear quick drying trousers or shorts, shirts or T-shirts and don’t even try to do battle with the rain. A hat with a wide brim or peaked cap helps to keep the rain off your face and that is as much of an effort as it is worth making to stay dry. In the summer you get rained on by bigger rain as the pressure is generally lower in the summer which means the raindrops are less squeezed and grow bigger making the wettest rain ever. So why bother?

    Long Trousers = Sad

    Shorts = Happy

    Some people go too far.

  • Merino Wool, The Ultimate Natural Fibre

    The Evolution of Base Layers

    A Fine Looking Lady

    Back in the day, we were told to wear cotton T Shirts and woollen jumpers when we were hill walking (if you don't remember ask your Dad). Then synthetic base layers and fleeces came along and we were told wool is the worse thing to wear. And so it was for many years until someone cuddled a Merino Sheep (probably a Cumbrian, we're like that) and thought what a lovely warm comfortable creature it was. If only there was a way of making Flossy into socks and base layers we would all be warm and comfortable wearing a natural fabric. Well. Human perseverance being what it is, especially where sheep are concerned (or maybe that is just a Cumbrian point of view), we have been wearing Merino Wool for a while now and it is wonderful.

    The Merino Wool Crack

    The reason Merino Wool is so comfortable to wear next to the skin is because it is such a fine yarn. Wool is graded according to the thickness of it's fibre in microns (a millionth of a meter). The lower the micron count the finer the yarn. A human hair is about 100microns thick, coarse wool for carpets about 35 microns, and Merino Wool for base layers should be between 11 and 18 microns thick. The best Merino Wool is finer than cashmere and mohair which

    explains why it is so comfortable.

    Merino Wool keeps you warm in the winter, cool in the summer and is naturally breathable. Merino Wool has a natural crimp in the yarn that gives it great elasticity, and these crimps interlock to create thousands of tiny air pockets. Combined with Merinos low heat conductivity this gives it it's great insulation properties and keeps your temperature constant irrespective of the weather. Merino Wool protects naturally against UV rays, and it absorbs up to 35% of its weight in water vapour then transmits it away from the body, keeping your skin dry.

    Because Merino Wool is so fine, it is not as durable as synthetic fabrics and will not last as long. Merino socks and base layers will need replacing before their synthetic cousins, but the improved performance and comfort more than makes up for this. You need to wash Merino Wool products at 30 degrees to make sure they don't shrink, and treat them a bit more carefully as it is such a fine fabric, is every sense of the word.

    Teko Socks. Kind To The Planet, And Your Foots Best Friend

    Mid Weight Teko Merino Hiking Sock

    Teko use Argentinian Merino Wool from farms that have been raising sheep organically for decades. Only non-motorized methods are used to herd the sheep. They are fed only organically-grown food and are not subjected to hormones, vaccinations, mulesing, or chemical drenches. Their grazing area is never sprayed with pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. Strict water conservation methods are employed, as are protections against overgrazing. Organic merino wool is substantially more expensive than the non-organic alternative, but Teko believes the investment is worth it, both for consumers and the planet. Teko's factory in America is powered by wind and all the packaging is recycled. If you like to shop with a clear conscience then Teko socks should be at the top of your sock shopping list.

    We have a Mens Lightweight sock, a Ladies Lightweight sock, a Mens Midweight sock, a Ladies Midweight sock and a Unisex Heavyweight sock from Teko. They are all made from the best organic Merino Wool, and they are all a touch of luxury for your feet.

    The Most Comfortable Clothing To Wear Next To Your Skin

    My Favourite New Merino Top

    We have just got Edz Merino Wool clothing in and it is fantastic. They use superfine Merino Wool from New Zealand and the fabric is so soft and comfortable next to the skin, the 200g Long Sleeve Zip Neck I have just purloined has become my favourite top. We are really pleased to have Edz in, they are a Cumbrian firm (you see, us Cumbrians love sheep, wherever they come from) based in Maryport. We always try and support local businesses, but it was the product and the price that made this the best Merino range to go with. The 200g Long Sleeve Zip Neck I have pinched cost £49.99, a good £20 cheaper than the competition for the same quality, and it comes in a great looking Grey Marl. We also have a Ladies 200g Long Sleeve Zip Neck in the same Grey Marl. We have a Mens 165g Short Sleeve Tee in Blue at £29.99 and a Ladies 165g Short Sleeve Tee in Red. These are great for summer or winter and really practical if you are travelling, as these can be worn for extended periods of time with out getting smelly & they are not as bulky as cotton so take up less space than a cotton T-shirt. But best of all, we now have Merino Boxer Shorts in stock!!! These are an absolute must have for anyone familiar with Betty Swollocks or who has suffered from a cold bum. Most people head out to the hill covered in wicking

    Look after your middle bits!

    base layers, technical walking socks, and all the right stuff to wear, except for the middle bit which is wrapped in cotton soaking up sweat or freezing. Look after your middle bits, they serve you well.

    I hope you have found this useful, and if you are in the market for new socks or base layers seriously consider moving into Merino Wool. I can't stress how well it performs and increases your comfort on the hill. And after the wheel and the Brevil sandwich maker, Merino Boxer Shorts are the best invention ever!!

  • Don’t dismiss the dog walker’s jackets.

    I have become a dog walker. And I love it.

    On Heughscar Hill

    Around this time last year our new pup Sete had all her injections and tablets and was allowed out into the big bad world for the first time. This was brilliant. We had been gagging to get out for big walks with our new pal but pups can’t go out until they have been inoculated against whatever it is that makes them poorly, and looking at some of the horrendous stuff she eats, she’s going to need help here.

    That used to be a chicken.

    So I went from being pretty much a fair weather walker, no shame in that, especially when you live in the Lakes and can choose your days out, to being a responsible dog owner with a young enthusiastic Springer Spaniel to tire out 3 times a day. Well, 2 times a day. Mary always does the morning shift, which at the moment is sponsored by Petzl. That’s another thing that’s changed. I always used to be in favour of staying on British Summer Time through the winter so we got a bit of light after work. But now I want to keep GMT or push for GMT-1 so we can have time for a good walk before work. Another skill I’ve acquired since turning 40, the ability to get out of bed early, actually wanting to get up earlier. I only used to manage this on Christmas morning.

    Anyway, as someone who has sold waterproof jackets for the last 100 years, I, like most staff in outdoor shops, have used the term “dog walker’s jacket” as a derogatory term. Sneering at jackets that are plain and boxy and don’t utilise every pocket as an extra vent. Well I would like to apologise for any jacket snobbery I may have displayed, or if any of my comments could have been interpreted as belittling the daily constitutional with man’s best friend as compared to a yomp up Blencathra.

    The cutest pup in the world.

    I have come to realise that to be out every day, in every kind of wet horrid rain that we get is the true test for any jacket built to withstand the elements. From innocent looking drizzle that gets in everywhere, more like a damp cloud wafting down your neck or up your sleeve, to good old fashioned stair rods that will fill your boots in less than a minute. A regular dog walker will have more experience of extreme weather and be better placed to comment on jacket design than most mountaineers.

    I have discovered the ultimate dog walking trousers. Sprayway’s All Day Rainpants are waterproof trousers that are just worn on their own, not an overtrouser but a waterproof pair of walking trousers. And I am stupid. I have just got soaked taking the dog out, and I left my All Day Rainpants behind because I thought it didn’t look like rain. It can always rain! I live in Cumbria, expect rain!! The great thing about these is you just put them on anyway so if it rains you are dry, and if it doesn’t rain, well done, you have avoided rain. But for them to work at their best they have to be worn. They don’t work very well hanging on the back of the utility room door.

    Sprayways All Day Rainpant.

    Sprayways All Day Rainpant.

    I will be a lot more respectful to any jacket that is designed purely to keep the wearer dry and weighs more than a sandwich. And also to those brave folk who are out, with my wife (?), at 6 O’Clock every morning, in every kind of weather, not because it is there, but because the dog will pee in your house if you don’t. So next time you hear a shop assistant sneering at a jacket as a dog walking jacket, quiz him on it. Find out if it really is that good, or if you would be better off with something designed to keep mountaineers happy.

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