Choosing Expedition Clothing
Having just got back from another expedition climb, I thought an expedition tip might be appropriate, though it’s also one that really applies to all your mountaineering clothing purchases. In short, it’s this – make sure stuff fits.
To elaborate on that, all too often folk are tempted to buy items of clothing based on reviews, colour, brand or any other number of criteria. I’m not saying this is wrong per se, but the over-riding criteria should be to have clothes that fit and are functional as part of your overall clothing system. Remember that this system will also need to be flexible and allow you to dress using different combinations of the layers that you have with you.
For the layers of clothing that you have chosen, make sure that they will actually fit over/under one another in the way that you envisage. It’s very easy to buy, say, a pair of insulated trousers with the intention that they will fit between a base layer and a soft-shell trouser, but when you put them all on together it’s such a squeeze that you can’t move.
So here are a few simple, practical checks that you can do – hopefully without tearing anything:
- Once wearing all the layers, can you still bend down? (Imagine putting on boots or fastening crampons).
- Can you still lift your legs, thighs parallel to the ground? (Imagine stepping or making technical climbing moves).
- Can you touch your head? (Imagine trying to reach your helmet, head-torch or goggles and trying to adjust your hood).
- Can you reach above your head? (Imagine climbing or pulling on a jump up a fixed rope).
Arguably the most important parts of the body (not in terms of hypothermia, but simply in terms of being able to do anything at all), are the hands. The age-old problem of getting the right gloves crops up yet again, with that battle between warmth and dexterity. You will almost certainly want some sort of combination of very thin liner gloves, thick mountaineering gloves (double or single layer) and mountaineering mittens (again, double or single layer).
Here are some things to test and consider:
- Are your gloves and jacket cuffs compatible and fit together appropriately?
- Do the gloves/mitts fit under or over the cuff (and why have you chosen this)?
- Can you put on the second glove/mitt while wearing the first and fit it to your jacket cuff?
- Above all, can you use your hands adequately in your gloves/mitts without having to expose bare skin, bearing in mind the tasks that you will likely have to perform while wearing them:
- Holding an ice axe effectively.
- Putting your hand inside a jumar.
- Fastening buckles, straps and zips.
- Tying knots.
- …and, almost certainly, taking photographs.
It figures that the best place to do all of this is in the shop, before you commit to making an expensive purchase, but at the very least do it at home before you fly.