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Your Base Layer is an essential piece of outdoor clothing kit that's primary purpose is to transfer moisture away from your skin. This helps to keep your skin dry and comfortable.
The very action of transferring moisture away from your skin helps to keep you warm. This is because moisture that is trapped between your skin and your clothing cools and this in turn causes you to cool. A major mistake of many is to wear a technical garment, like a GORE-TEX jacket, on top of a cotton tee-shirt - as opposed to a Base Layer. This simply results in moisture becoming trapped between the skin and the cotton tee-shirt. The moisture then cools down and this results in the person becoming cold.
As well as wicking perspiration, Base Layers can also be used to insulate in cold conditions. This type of garment is known as an insulating Base Layer and is more suited for use in cold environments. We stock a wide range of Base Layers from ultra fast wicking garments for high activity sports to warmer, highly insulated garments for use in cold environments.
In addition to stocking a wide range of synthetic fabric Base Layer, we also stock garments made from natural fabrics. A selection of the Base Layers we stock are made from naturally produced Merino wool, which is known for its exceptionally high level of breathability. Merino wool also has a unique ability to cool in hot conditions and insulate in cooler conditions.
A Mid Layer is worn on top of your Base Layer and underneath your Outer Shell. There are many differant forms of Mid Layer available, but the primary purpose of this type of outdoor clothing is to insulate and retain heat.
Fleece has excellent insulating properties and is often worn as a Mid Layer. The level of insulation a fleece provides is indicated by its weight. The most common fleece weightings generally available are 100, 200 and 300 weight, with 300 weight fleece being the most insulating. When choosing a fleece weighting, it is important to consider that although a higher weighting like 200 or 300 weight offers the advantage of being warmer, this weight of fleece will be heavier and will not pack down as small as fleece with a lighter weighting like 100 weight.
Mid Layers constructed of 100 weight fleece are often worn as part of a flexible layering system. When the temperature is cold enough, the 100 weight fleece is worn as a Mid Layer (or sometimes the Top Layer if the weather is dry) to provide warmth. However, if the temperature of the person wearing the garment increases as a result of higher levels of exercise or a general environmental increase, the fleece can be taken off and carried inside the Rucksack with ease. 100 weight fleece is light and packs down well. As such, it offers great flexibility if you are taking part in high energy activities such as trekking, scrambling, skiing or mountaineering.
Mid Layers are available in many differant styles. One of the most popular styles currently available is the 1/4 zip fleece top, which is light, packs down well and is easily carried in a rucksack. Mid Layer full zip fleece jackets are also available. It is also possible to find full zip fleece jackets that zip in with outer shell jackets. An outer shell that includes a fleece that zips in is known as a 3-in-1 jacket. It is worth noting that only compatible Mid Layer and Outer Shell jackets can be connected to form a 3-in-1 garment.
Most Mid Layer manufacturers offer their own branded fleece fabrics. However, garments constructed using well known branded fabrics such as Polartec and GORE WindStopper are also available. Outdoor clothing constructed of Polartec and GORE WindStopper comes at an additional price, but these brands are widely recognised as high quality.
The primary purpose of the outer shell is to provide protection from the wind and rain. Outdoor clothing outer shells exist in many different forms from basic waterproofs and Soft Shells, to highly breathable, fully Waterproof Jackets.
For active use on the hill, an outer shell with a high level of breathability is likely to be required. High levels of waterproofness and breathability are available with products incorporating fabrics such as GORE-TEX and eVent.
GORE-TEX specifically is a porous fabric that contains billions of tiny holes. Each of these holes is too small for water molecules to pass through, but large enough for air molecules, creating a fully waterproof, highly breathable garment.
In addition to leading branded technologies like GORE-TEX and eVent, most brands also produce outdoor clothing outer shells using their own alternative brand fabrics. Brands such as Berghaus and The North Face produce outer shells using their own high performance, branded fabrics such as AQ, HyVent and HyVent Alpha.
Soft Shell outdoor clothing is difficult to define because it covers a wide spectrum of products. Soft Shell products exist somewhere between fully waterproof and ultra breathable on the spectrum. The majority of Soft Shell garments are not waterproof, but only water resistant. Although, confusingly, there are some notable exceptions to this, like GORE's new seam taped, waterproof soft shell! Confused? You should be!
If you are looking for a garment with a greater level of breathability than is available with most hard shells, and do not require a fully waterproof product, Soft Shell could be the answer. It's worth bearing in mind however, that there is a significant differance between waterproof and water resistant. Most Soft Shell offers some degree of water resistance. If the heavens open and you're wearing a water resistant garment, you may find that you get very wet!
In dry environments, Soft Shell is an excellent choice. This is simply because it offers a much higher level of breathability than an equivilent, fully waterproof hard shell garment. For high activity outdoor pursuits, where the participant will be strenuously exerting themselves and will most likely be sweating, ultra breathable Soft Shell is an excellent choice. When running or cycling at high intensity for example, the participant will be running hot and wet from sweating and so may not be concerned about getting wet from rain water. In fact, they may actually be grateful of the cooling effect the rain has on them! Soft Shell is particularly suited to high intensity sporting activities.
Down Filled garments are generally available in the form of Down Jackets and Down Gilets. A Down product is a piece that has been Down Filled to create a highly insulated garment. The two most common types of down available are goose down and duck down. These are essentially natural goose and duck feathers. Created by mother nature, goose and duck feathers have exceptional insulating qualities, and outperform synthetic man made fibres for heat retention.
Garments filled with down are usually not waterproof, but only water-resistant. This is because during the manufacturing process, this type of garment has to be stitched through to hold the down in place. As such, down gilets and down jackets are more commonly used in dry environments, or used as a Mid Layer underneath an outer shell in high altitude mountaineering. Down Filled garments are also often used by climbers stood stationary, belaying their ascending climbing partner. A down jacket used for this purpose is known as a belay jacket, where the aim is to keep the stationary belayer warm.
Another advantage of Down Filled products is that they generally pack down well and can be stashed. This is an extremely useful advantage, as you would often be too warm wearing an outdoor clothing down garment when participating in high activity outdoor pursuits and as such would have to take the garment off and stash it in your Rucksack.