I am really excited to finally write this blog on preparing properly for an expedition. Since we began the OPERATION TOA testing phase, we have had plenty of questions coming in about what clothing and equipment to take when heading out into the elements.
Today I want to focus on clothing and layering systems. One of the biggest and most common mistakes we see down here in NZ, is people preparing to head out the door with the same clothing and equipment they would walk around the block in.
I am not alone in this observation, we see many tourists hitting an alpine crossing in nothing but a pair of Air Jordan's, some fleece track pants and a cotton t shirt.
Many guides and photographers have seen the same thing and agree more information needs to be out there about wearing the right clothing and taking the right equipment, after all, your life could depend on it.
It is important to understand that in alpine environments, the weather can change in an instant, I have seen it myself.
Beginning the climb it can be a beautiful summers day, the sun is out, it's warm and there's not a cloud insight, by the time you hit the summit it can be near gale force winds, the clouds have closed in and the temperatures have plummeted.
This is why a quality high performance clothing system is mission critical, let's talk about what that looks like.
HIGH PERFORMANCE CLOTHING SYSTEM
1. Base layer: A base layer is the layer closest to your skin, you want it to be breathable, moisture wicking, quick drying and in cold environments, warm.
It is often thought that a long sleeve base layers purpose is to keep you warm, what is often overlooked is protecting your skin from the dehydrating, burning and overheating effects of the sun. A long sleeve base layer with UPF protection is ideal for warm conditions to make sure you're protected and performing at the top of your game.
As a general rule, a short sleeve or long sleeve base layer is crucial to any effective layering system.
2. Mid Layer: A mid layer is the layer that goes over the top of your base layer. Generally fleece in design, a high quality high performance fleece is an item I never leave at home. If the temperature drops, the wind starts ripping through and you begin to feel cold, your mid layer is a game changer.
What most people don't understand is that when you begin to get cold and your core temp starts to drop, your decision making process starts to degrade, this is how people die, they make bad decisions. Worn as a stand alone piece or as part of a clothing system, your mid layer is essential.
3. Insulation Layer: Worn as a stand alone piece or as part of your layering arsenal, an insulation layer is a game changer in cold temperatures or when you go from on the move, to stationary.
A high quality insulation layer is a lifeline and one that I like to always have in my bag, even on day trips. In the event I am forced to survive on the mountain, hill, trail or in the bush over night until I can be rescued. During the winter months wearing both your mid layer and your insulation layer together is common, so make sure your mid layer is a more athletic fit and your insulation layer can fit over the top comfortably.
4. Outer Layer: No cost should be cut here. Your outer layer, think of a waterproof and breathable rain jacket. If you skimp on your shell, you may find your entire layer system compromised, leaving you wet, cold and in danger.
As well as keeping the rain out, your outer layer can be a great tool for keeping the wind and snow out also, this is when a breathable jacket plays dividends as you can be working hard but the shell is letting the moisture from within vaporize out through the fabric, making sure your layers beneath stay dry.
What some people don't realize is not all jackets are made equal. There are waterproof and breathability ratings which determine the capability of the jacket. When you have rain, wind and a weighted pack, pressure is created which forces the water through the fabric and into your layers beneath. This is a big topic, but high performance jackets have membranes that start at 10K/10K ratings, naturally, our jacket we are developing as part of OPERATION TOA will have a waterproof breathable membrane rated at 20K/20K.
Now that you know, it is important to understand MANY companies produce jackets that are not even close to these ratings, so do your research.
HOW TO USE A LAYERING SYSTEM
Just like water and food out on an expedition, you want to be conservative, this doesn't mean stupid, it's about performance. As always it is weather dependent but here is a simple approach to using your layering system.
1. Use the clothing as you need it. When you start out you might be cold, but after a short period of walking you will find that you will heat up quickly. If you have all your warm gear on you will begin to sweat, all of your layers now becoming moisture soaked.
Even in snow, I will often walk with a base layer and a jacket on if it is windy, in NZ, it's always windy. My mid and insulation layers along with other clothing and equipment will be inside my pack in a waterproof dry bag for when I actually need them.
2. Stop sweating before you apply dry/warm layers. As mentioned above, if you put on warm layers when you are sweating you will make your warm gear wet and less effective. When you stop, do your best to get out of the wind and any rain, cool down and then apply your warm layers.
3. Have a contingency plan, always. Never under any circumstances go out into the elements and pay lip service to an effective clothing system and the right equipment. You're better off to take something and not need it, then to not take it and need it to survive, your life is worth more than saving a few grams.
I hope you get some value from this blog, if you have any questions, you want to go deeper on a topic or you want to know more about the Warrior Athlete Clothing System we are developing as part of OPERATION TOA, comment below and let us know!
Stay tuned as we start sharing more information on planning and preparing for expeditions, hunts and survival.
PURSUE EXCELLNCE, EXPLORE FURTHER.Fitzy