“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”
That’s what my dad used to say when he thought that someone wasn’t properly kitted out for whatever activity they were embarking on. And, as someone who loved being outside walking or cycling, he had years of experience to draw on.
The point he was making was that it’s always, always worth making the effort to put on the correct gear for the activity and weather at hand. One layer could make the difference between misery and utter joy.
He wasn’t necessarily talking about extraordinarily expensive or fancy clothing, just that it was up to the job and – crucially – worn correctly for whatever was going on at that moment.
My sons roll their eyes whenever I say it to them, usually following a conversation about the suitability of the skinny jeans, t-shirts, Crocs or whatever they’re (badly) dressed in for dealing with the weather.
We live in Scotland where glorious warm sunny weather is so rare that when it happens we all go round looking shocked and braced for the inevitable storm that must break at any moment.
As well as psychotic weather patterns, Scotland also has more than its fair share of outdoors – stunning, exhilarating and accessible outdoors just ready to be walked, canoed, cycled, run, kayaked or simply sat about in. If you are going to live in Scotland you’ll be wasting a huge opportunity if you don’t enjoy as much of the outside as you possibly can, and the only way to do that well is to understand how to clothe yourself properly.
Here are some things I’ve learned about not dressing like a fool.
Don’t get wet.It’s far easier to stay dry than to try to dry yourself out once you’ve got soggy. Waterproof jackets – and trousers – on top of everything, zipped up are the way to go. Don’t wait until a few drops of rain have turned into a deluge.
Alternatively, don’t worry about getting wet, just don’t get cold. Yes, I know that’s the opposite of what I just said, but sometimes keep dry is impossible. It’s the wetsuit theory: a little trapped moisture will act as insulation.
Good layers aren’t just about eggs. Lots of layers will trap air and make it easy to adjust what you’re wearing for the weather/activity levels. So start with thermal undergarments, then work through fleeces and soft shells. If you haven’t got ‘proper’ outdoor gear pick sports tops, thick tights etc.
Think like a duck (or a sheep). You don’t see them shivering and whingeing about the cold, do you? That’s why down or wool (particularly merino) are such excellent choices when you want to win the cosiness stakes.
Look down. I’m often amazed by people who have the snazziest jackets and cosiest of fleeces, but then go out with nothing more than jeans or thin trousers on. Like insulating the loft but leaving all the doors and windows open. Keep your legs warm, fool.
Best foot forward.Same idea, but for your feet. You can make yourself toasty everywhere else, but if you haven’t got warm boots (or lots of socky layers) your feet will be cold and you will be miserable and, therefore, a fool.
Don’t forget to breathe. There’s a lot of weight given to the breathability (or otherwise) of high-tech (AKA expensive) fabrics for rugged outdoor folk. The theory is that if you do exercise while wearing something that doesn’t let water in – or out – then you’ll get condensation building up and you’ll end up just as wet as if you didn’t bother with the waterproof. I’ve found that when it’s pelting down it can be quite hard to stay really dry whatever you do as moisture sneaks up your sleeves and down your neck. In this case, resign yourself to sogginess but focus on warmth.
Get ahead, get a hat.And gloves. And a scarf. The thing is, you don’t have to wear them all the time, but when the wind is biting it really does make a difference.
Cotton on. Cotton off, actually. Don’t wear cotton – it’s horrible when it’s wet. It gets cold, heavy and it rubs. Just don’t bother – instead choose man-made fabrics… apart from down or merino. All that hoody will do is wick water from your head down over your body.
Foolish isn’t sexy.Warm is, even if you need to wear long-johns and grannyish thermal underwear to achieve it.
The bottom line.If you park your backside on a cold damp rock and there is insufficient insulation, your arse will get cold. This is foolish and will spoil your lunch break. Sit on something warm. The best solution to this I heard of was to carry an old (bum sized) mouse mat in your backpack!
And don’t save sensible for the mountains. You often see outdoorsy types striding off to bag a Munro in all the right gear, which is great. Only you can sometimes catch the same folk shivering on the touchline at their kid’s football match cos they haven’t bothered to dress properly. If you’ve got the gear, put it on.
So there you have it, my guide to not being a fool on the hill (or anywhere else it’s cold and wet).