What clothes and equipment should I invest in to get the most out of my outdoor time?
April 23, 2012 5:02 AM   Subscribe

What clothes and equipment should I invest in to get the most out of my outdoor time?

I spend as much time in the countryside as possible. I like: rambling in woods and muddy fields; hiking up hills; canoeing in lakes in rivers; going for long casual cycles (as well as commuting to work by bike in all sorts of weather); sailing, and spending time at the beach. I’d like to start investing in quality clothes and equipment which will be suitable for a range of these activities, keeping me comfortable and safe for years to come, and would love to hear tips from other outdoorsy people on what to get.

I live in a temperate, wet climate, where it can rain and be chilly, or be sunny and pleasant, on pretty much any day of the year. Keeping dry and comfortable is a priority. There are a lot of threads looking for specific things for specific hobbies (shorts for cycling or sailing shoes for example), but I’m looking more for things which will suit a range of activities as much as possible. I generally go on day trips, so camping gear isn’t needed, but I’d be interested in things I can keep on standby in the car. I’d love to hear about both specific items and what materials to look out for (such as Gore-Tex in boots). I’m a lady and living in Ireland.
posted by hannahlambda to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
The Ten Essentials
quick-drying pants
breathable hiking shirts
waterproof hiking boots
waterproof/breathable outer shell
fleece jacket
posted by grouse at 5:09 AM on April 23, 2012

After experimenting with a range of this stuff I now have a couple of Icebreaker base layers, a couple more Icebreaker mid layers, some fleecy zip up top things (not ones meant as outer layers just warm ones!) and an Arcteryx shell which is very light and which I use for windproofing as well as waterproofing.

I also have two Buffs, one lightweight merino one and one windproof fleecy one.

My day sack (can't remember the brand) has a plastic frame that holds my stuff off my back and this was well worth it. No more sweaty back for me.

Finally I used to have a pair of cycling tights meant for winter wear, which were very quick drying, very warm, and pleasant to wear even when soaked through. These were awesome for hiking, cycling or anything else cold and wet. Never felt the need for waterproof overtrousers with these on.
posted by emilyw at 5:49 AM on April 23, 2012

You could go as nuts as you want with what you want with clothing and gear. I do a lot of random outdoor things (canoeing, minor amount of biking, hiking, planting trees, hauling huge piles of brush, backpacking) in the rain or shine and have found the following to be of general use.

Zip-off pants (convertibles)
wick-away shirts
wool socks
some nice boots (I prefer Zamberlan, they just seem to work for my feet better)
Platy bottles

And for all things food: Jetboil
posted by zombieApoc at 5:55 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Water proof panniers for your bike.
Silk long underwear.
Multiple pairs of high-tech socks.
posted by yarly at 6:10 AM on April 23, 2012

For hiking down to freezing temperatures, I like to wear a tight, stretchy base layer (usually mid weight or expedition weight), a fleece over that (either full or 3/4 zip), and then a waterproof/breathable rain jacket (with a hood). I have a Marmot Oracle, and I like it because the hood detaches and it has pit zips, but I'm about to replace it with a nicer jacket that uses eVent fabric. All of that is synthetic.

I have glove liners that are usually sufficient, but I also have a pair of mittens if the liners aren't working. I also wear a hat that keeps my ears warm, and I have a neck gaiter (kinda like a buff, but smaller and warmer) that I'll pull up over my face if necessary.

For the lower body I start with thin or mid weight socks (not cotton). Sometimes I wear a pair of tights under my pants, sometimes not. For pants I have a pair of hiking pants made from Schoeller fabric that I love, but I recently got a pair of Kühl pants that are cotton, which is normally not advised, but damn they are comfortable.

I have a pair of mid weight boots lined with GoreTex, and I really really like those.

If it's warm I hike in Chacos sandals, shorts, and a tshirt.

I carry a day pack (about 30 liters) that has food, water, a camera, and a few essentials.

I don't know much about kayaking, so I can't really help you there.

For cycling (commuting, not training) in fair weather, I usually just wear whatever I wore out of the house that day. Having a synthetic shirt is nice so that sweat evaporates, but sometimes I'll just take a spare shirt to change into once I get to where I'm going. I recently put a rack on my bike and got a pair of Ortlieb panniers, and that has made a WORLD of difference. I no longer have to carry anything on my back, so my back doesn't get sweaty. I'm able to carry everything I need in just one pannier, so I don't ride with the pair, just with one. I can't recommend this enough.

For cold/wet cycling, I wear the rain jacket above, a pair of long-fingered cycling gloves, and a thin cap under my helmet. Sometimes I'll wear the neck gaiter. My ears are really sensitive to the cold. I'll usually wear tights under shorts (I'm not a fan of cycling in pants), and if it's really wet I'll break out the rain pants (one annoying thing about my pair of rain pants is that the leg zipper isn't full length, so if I'm wearing boots I can't get the pants over them. I'm going to return them and get a pair of full-length zippered rain pants, like the Marmot PreCip pants).

As for things to keep standby in a car: A full hydration bladder, a headlamp, a rain jacket, maybe rain pants, a space blanket (so cheap and light, and I've saved a few hides by giving mine away to people who looked miserably cold and wet), some energy food (bars, gels, something that won't spoil), and maybe a spare pair of socks and a base layer.

I'm not sure what's available across the pond, so I've mostly stayed away from recommending specific items or brands. I've found that you tend to get what you pay for with regards to outdoor gear. Pick the right gear and don't abuse it, and it can last several seasons.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:48 AM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

A decent headlamp is money well spent.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:03 AM on April 23, 2012

Drybags, the silnylon ones are very nice.
A spibelt for when you don't need a pack.
Platypus collapsing water bottles.
A lightweight Thermos.
Good fitting, lightweight softshell pants with venting. You will wear them all the time!
A washable, warm hat that stays on. Fleece beanie, for example.
A very lightweight sun hat that has a string to hold it on.
Polarized sunglasses that float. I buy them for around $35-40 from fishing stores and put a holder string on them. I wear sunglasses 300 days a year and that price is a sweetspot in the US anyway.
Headlamp as suggested above.
Softshell gloves.
Sandals you can walk a long ways in.
posted by fshgrl at 1:54 PM on April 23, 2012

Best thing I ever bought was quick drying polyester underwear. Followed by a wicking quick dry shirt. For colder weather a wool undershirt is great, insulates when wet and doesn't have the same funk smell after a while as polyester (which can also be mitigated with the proper detergent, I use tech wash).
After that its just investing in layers as needed, don't buy anything too heavy, I find it more versatile to layer a couple mid weights rather than one big heavy layer.
Also get a good light day pack to drop all the layers you are going to carry in.
If you feel like splurging sil-nylon poncho/tarps are awesome for rain coverage and for rigging up a quick lunch shelter. They pack smaller than your average water bottle. I hike in the Rockies so we get a lot of high temperatures with a sudden torrential downpour followed by sun, so the poncho is good for keeping dry without getting too warm.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 4:15 PM on April 23, 2012

The most convenient thing like that I own is a pair of very lightweight waterproof pants that fold up into their own back pocket, so it's just a tiny packet of zipped up material to carry around. I keep them in the bottom of my bag I carry every day, so I can always pull them on over my other clothes if I get caught in the rain. Also I've worn them over thick tights/leggings for skiing, and while not as good as real ski pants, they work just fine.
posted by lollusc at 10:12 PM on April 23, 2012

That's super. I already have ordered some Ortlieb panniers, a Buff, a decent light daypack and a few other bits and pieces recommended here. Other suggestions, such as the merino layers, tarp, wool socks and softshell pants, have gone on my long term shopping list. I won't mark a best answer since most were useful. Much appreciated; thanks all!
posted by hannahlambda at 4:08 AM on April 24, 2012

One thing I've learned is that its worth saving up to buy really light stuff. Really light. Makes everything so much better.
posted by fshgrl at 12:07 PM on April 24, 2012

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