by Ron Balske, Style Coast by Sidney Casuals –
You could say that outdoor clothing is anything that you choose to wear in the outdoors! But advances in fabrics and fabric treatment, as well as influence from the global market, have produced an area of fashion that’s constantly innovating.
Dressing for the conditions should be priority when heading outdoors. The traditional advice of layering still holds: start with a base layer with moisture wicking properties. Build your outfit to ensure you are comfortable, that your clothing won’t inhibit the activity you’re heading out to do, and that the outermost layer – the one that will meet the elements – has been selected with the weather in mind.
Here on the West Coast we need to be prepared for rain most of the year, but often we don’t want a jacket that is heavy or bulky. Some of the biggest changes in outdoor gear have come in waterproofing. The old waterproof jackets would either have been a rubberized, impermeable material, or else a very heavy ply-nylon weave. These jackets were heavy to wear and could leave you extremely hot (not to mention almost as wet inside as you would have been from the rain!). When you took them off they were bulky to carry. Today, brands like Mountain Hardwear and Royal Robbins are producing fully waterproof jackets that are breathable and extremely lightweight. They also incorporate a four-way stretch technology that makes them practical when you need to move.
Of course, if you’re in the outdoors, you might be thinking about the impact of your clothing choices on the environment. Some jackets are now made with an eco-friendly durable water repellent that reduces toxic byproducts. It’s a flouride-free technology that instead uses a microscopic 3D structure which makes water slide right off your clothes.
Natural and more sustainable products that you’ll find put to good use in outdoor gear are organic cotton, hemp and merino wool. Merino is interesting as it’s perfect for our climate: it’s warm and provides moisture management. It makes a great base layer but in fact is now being used to make all sorts of clothing. Companies like Smartwool make some stylish merino items including dresses that could transition from daytime explorer to stylish dinner wear, especially when glammed up with a necklace!
Outdoor wear and travel wear have a big overlap with outdoor clothing brands designing their ranges with travellers in mind. They are aware of the need to balance having all the necessities, without taking too much with you, meaning many items are multi-functional. Another innovation are items made from ultra quick-dry fabrics. ExOfficio is one brand that has excelled in this area, creating underwear and socks made from odour-resistant fabrics that will dry overnight. These are a real boon for travellers who want to be space efficient in their packing. You could literally just pack one change of underwear for a trip, washing them out each night in your hotel room!
It’s not just rain we need to think about: sun protection is a must whether travelling or at home. Look out for clothing that has a UPF rating; many do. Technical outdoor clothing may carry a higher price tag than some of the fast-fashion we’re used to, but it also usually carries guarantees about quality, and cool new technological features. This type of clothing is built to be durable, and take you on many adventures.