Choosing your hiking outerwear

Be prepared and stay protected in any weather

Jackets can protect you against humidity, wind and cold. When choosing an outdoor jacket, you either put emphasis on one of those three factors, or compromise for a sufficient level of all-round protection.

The major fabrics used for the face of outdoor jackets are polyester and nylon. Polyester is widely appreciated as quick drying and water-repellent. Nylon excels with durability at low weight, but is usually less waterproof. In combination with state of the art treatments, the individual fabric qualities can be significantly improved.

When fitting an outdoor jacket you should keep its end use in mind. Whether you want a tight or close fit is not just a question of looks. Insulated jackets are used as outer layers, which calls for a bulkier fit, whereas windproof clothing might be worn under climbing gear and should therefore have a closer fit.


Rainwear shields you from water. Light rainwear is an easy-to-pack item that protects you from showers in the open. Choosing heavier rainwear means you trade breathability for more effective rain protection. Decreased breathability means that heavy rainwear is not suitable for physically challenging activities — you would soon be drenched in sweat, which is quite dangerous in cold environments.

The length of a rain jacket also depends on the expected activity. When choosing rainwear look for an item that you can change into quickly and easily, as well as to prevent water leakages.

It is useful to look for:

  • Fully taped seams
  • Zipper flaps
  • Roomy cut
  • Volume adjustable hood (to accommodate a helmet, if needed)
  • Rain-shedding brims


During highly physical activities you come to appreciate windproof products. Their main job is to prevent wind penetration, but it doesn’t stop there. Windproof garments allow moisture and excess heat to ventilate away from your body. This process is called Moisture Vapour Transfer (MVT).

Many windproof products, while not being fully waterproof, can withstand light showers. By keeping the wind in check, windproof products provide you with a feeling of warmth. When you are running or cycling in a cold but dry environment, a windproof garment is a light and handy item.


You’ve got to have fleece! Its unique features have made it the fabric of choice for many outdoor people.

Fleece products can be comfortably worn with other layers of clothing and are suitable as a base, mid or outer layer – depending on your conditions. When wet, fleece retains much of its warmth and dries quickly. High-quality fleece keeps its loft and warmth during its long life.

Nice to wear and easy to care for, fleece is the fabric you want. For extra protection, look out for our windproof fleece products!


Softshells provide warmth, breathability and wind-resistance in a very lightweight package. They use a soft and stretchable surface to block wind, shed snow and light rain. The outer fabrics withstand abrasion from rocks, trees, and ice; underneath, a highly breathable membrane allows the release of body moisture.

Softshells can be worn as convenient outer layers in most weather conditions except heavy rain. This makes them the ideal choice for 90% of activities in fair to average weather. Their athletic fit makes them perfect for carrying a pack, their stretchy fabrics allow freedom of movement, and their plain styling adds to their robustness.

If you are in it for day-long activities in cool and dry weather, soft shell is what you are looking for. For the ultimate protection, pair it with a lightweight rain jacket for when the sky falls down unexpectedly! Try them both on together to make sure they fit together comfortably.

Insulative Fill

Insulated clothing excels in cold conditions, keeping you warm when you need it the most. How warm your clothing will feel depends on your body (fitness, diet, activity level), therefore there are no realistic temperature ratings for insulated clothing.

To assess the quality of an insulated product, you can check for the following attributes:

  • Water-resistant
  • Windproof
  • Breathable
  • Downproof (prevents down from leaking out)
  • The insulation for outdoor clothing needs to be light, compressible, resilient and durable.

Down provides the best warmth for weight of any insulator. It is more resilient than synthetics and can be a lifetime investment if properly cared for. The measure of down quality is fill power, expressed as cubic inches per ounce. A loft of 400-450 is considered medium quality, 500-550 is considered good, and 600-700 is excellent.

The warmth of insulated clothing is strongly affected by the method of sewing. The common construction methods are:

  • Sewn-through or quilted (most common and least expensive, but creates cold spots along the stitch lines)
  • Triple-layer (compromise between warmth and weight, increases wind resistance, reduces heat loss)
  • Offset quilt (eliminates cold spots, but adds weight and bulk)
  • Baffled (eliminates cold spots, ultimate warmth-to-weight ratio)

Merino Outerwear

Merino wool is an excellent natural fabric that comprises many of the qualities to look for in a travel garment. Merino is a breed of sheep famous for its fine, soft wool and its ability to thrive in New Zealand’s extremely cold high country. Why? Because they have the best wool for it! Check out some of the qualities of merino wool below. Pair up a merino jacket with a rain jacket or windbreaker for the most comfort in strong conditions.

  • Merino fibres are extremely fine, enabling them to blend well which makes them feel soft and luxuriously gentle next to your skin.
  • Merino fibres are naturally moisture wicking, which absorbs your body moisture vapour then moves it away to evaporate into the air. This makes it extremely breathable without losing body heat.
  • It regulates body temperature so that you stay warm when the weather is cold, and cool when the weather is hot. In contrast to synthetics, Merino is an active fibre that reacts to changes in body temperature.
  • Merino is odour free, so you can feel confident on multi-day wears – perfect for travel!
  • Static free and flame retardant so you can feel safe in these warm natural fibres
  • Wrinkle resistant

Contributed by: Mountain Designs

2 thoughts on “Choosing your hiking outerwear”

Leave a comment