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Outside Guide: Clothing for spring survival in the wild
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Outside Guide

Outside Guide: Clothing for spring survival in the wild

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Nevada Outdoor School

In Northeastern Nevada the wide variety of temperatures throughout the year, and particularly in spring, requires the outdoor enthusiast to have a plethora of clothes in the closet to tackle the conditions outside. It has been said that many outdoor enthusiasts believe that there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.

While your favorite cotton t-shirt is perfect for lounging on the couch, taking cotton outdoors may be a recipe for disaster. Cotton is cheap but inefficient at wicking moisture and is terribly slow to dry. When wearing cotton your sweat will tend to sit on the skin’s surface and can lead to hypothermia when in cool conditions.

That being said, although this is the wrong fabric to wear when hypothermia is an environmental concern, cotton’s inability to dry might help keep you feeling cool on hot, dry and breezy summer days as it acts as an evaporative-cooler of sorts.

Back in the day, wool was the go-to fabric for outdoor survival. In the 20th century wool has undergone some significant improvements making it less itchy while retaining its moisture-wicking, quick dry, and odor resistant properties. Silk, another common natural fabric, feels great against the skin, but unless it has been chemically modified to improve wicking, it is not ideal for temperature control.

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These days there are many cost-effective synthetic options available to the conscious consumer. Polyester is a magical material that can function from a hard shell (think rain coat) to fleece (think your coziest jacket), both protecting you from rain and wind. Nylon, rayon and other plastic derivatives are blended into these synthetic fabrics, changing their elasticity and insulating qualities.

Synthetics are great for moisture wicking, but that in turn creates their one potential drawback. Because they are somewhat hydrophobic, when washing, water and soap cannot fully penetrate and get rid of odor-causing bacteria. You might find your old poly shirts start to smell before you do.

Combining a variety of clothing options — layers — is usually the best strategy for combating changing outdoor temperatures as well as ensuring the maintenance of your body at a comfortable and productive temperature. There are three basic clothing layers. The base layer is your underwear layer that works to wick (move) sweat or moisture off your skin. The middle layer is usually an insulating layer that serves to retain body heat. The outer layer acts like a shell to protect you from the elements, such as sun, rain or wind.

Anticipating the possible weather conditions will help you decide which layers you require as you leave the house, and what may be needed as things change.

While we often think of layers for clothing that covers our core, don’t forget your fingers, toes and head. Having a variety of gloves and socks will help keep your hands and feet comfortable. A hat can go a long way to keeping you warm or protecting you from the heat and radiation of the sun. Finally, function is more important than fashion when you are outdoors. While we all like to look good, maintaining a healthy temperature is more important than looking good. Listen to your body and learn what works well for you. Remember, your comfort and survival are dependent on what you chose.

Get outside and explore nature! Enjoy the dynamic conditions of spring in the mountains and on your local streets. It is wise to always bring an assortment of layers so you can appreciate nature and not focus on your comfort, or lack thereof if you are caught unprepared.

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