The weather's getting warmer across Australia as we barrel head-first into a sweltering summer, and that means it's time to get outside and get exploring. Whether you're planning an afternoon bushwalk in the scrub behind your house, or a fortnight-long trek through the middle of nowhere, there's plenty of high-tech clothing that you can pick up to make the journey more comfortable.
We've divided this quick guide into inner- and outerwear; long gone are the days of pulling on an old pair of sweatpants and your university hoodie to go for a walk, run or hike. Now you can buy equally advanced, equally amazing tech clothing whether it sits close to your skin or closer to the outside world. Look out for another post soon on our favourite running and trail-walking shoes to pair with your high-tech outdoor adventure wear.
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Use High-Tech Distraction-Free Fabrics To Make Long Distances Short
Whether you're walking, running, trail-running or going on a much longer hike, it pays to keep your body's largest organ protected from the outside world. And that means investing in some high quality innerwear, both on your torso and on your legs. It's important to remember, too, that undergarments are much more difficult to change into and out of while you're on the move, so they need to be more closely suited to your chosen activity than your outer layers. If you're stuck with cool gear in a cool climate, or more likely hot gear on a hot day, you'll be uncomfortable, and there's only so much you can make up for with a good choice of shell jacket or lightweight pants.
What you're buying and what your options are basically depends on the weather and the climate is. When you're out on a hot day, you want to keep cool but staying out of the sun is equally important. If you're running or otherwise travelling at night, it can get colder than you'd expect and that means staying covered and conserving heat is the thing to do. In some climates, including plenty of parts of Australia, where there are extremes of hot and cold throughout the year and even simultaneously in the middle of day and night, you may want to invest in two separate sets of adventure innerwear to suit whichever climate you're getting out and about in. That way, you'll be able to pick whichever outfit is most comfortable and best suits your activity each day.
Seamless, Supporting Bottom Layers
The trend this year in high-tech underwear, compression clothing and hiking leggings is for seams that disappear, so as to not chafe against your body, usually at the points and joins where you're most likely to notice them. (This technical achievement is actually also making an appearance in Under Armour's Speedform running shoes and plenty of competitors.) Nike's Pro Cool line, for example, has flat seams and seams that stretch with the rest of the material; that material, too, is ultra-light to allow your skin to breathe and to wick away sweat during heavy exercise or exertion. Similarly, Nike's Tech leggings and Pro Hypercool gear is meant to give you a base layer that supports your muscles and lets your skin breathe and cool itself, while still allowing layering for use in colder climates. Maximum support comes from a thicker, stronger recovery legging like the Pro Combat.
Under Armour has options for both cool weather and hot weather bottom layers; its Iso-Chill undershirt has a mesh design that's meant to distribute heat from any hot spots around your torso, stopping you from overheating or sweating excessively when exercising or travelling in hot weather. Similarly, Heatgear undergarments are made to transfer heat as effectively as possible away from your body -- if you're out on an extended hike, they can be a good option for adding an extra layer to keep slightly warmer at night and then keeping heat and sun away from your body during the middle of a hot today. Even UA's Charged Cotton shirts are a good warm wear option that dries faster than a regular cotton shirt. One of the main brands in Australia is 2XU, whose stock in trade is PWX compression gear that not only keeps you cool, but that keeps the sun off you -- it's SPF50 rated -- while also wicking water away from your body and preventing any foul odour -- it's antimicrobial. Being compression gear, it's more targeted to runners and short-term exercisers, but can be adapted for outdoor adventure walks if you choose the right fit.
Stay Cool In Heat And Warm In Cold With Advanced Outer Materials
While base layers are easy to throw on and keep on for the majority of your trek or bushwalk or workout, if you're in a colder part of the country or if you're in the middle of a trek around Perisher or Mount Buller, you'll need some outer layering -- on both top and bottom -- to help regulate your temperature. The whole idea of layering with both inner and outerwear is to give you the flexibility to take off or put on layers as you need them, depending on the ambient temperature or the amount of energy you're exerting. When hiking, it's easy to strip down to a single interior layer when you're actively moving and covering a lot of ground, but when you stop to recuperate or have a bite to eat, not putting that extra layer even in a slightly warm climate can mean strained muscles and a hit to your physical health and wellbeing.
With outerwear, you have more flexibility in a single item of clothing, simply because you're able to open it or take it off completely -- tops, at least -- as the weather permits. You'll also find more gear that's designed to be seen, with highly reflective coatings or specialised materials, or with inventive pocket and layer designs that let you carry more accessories -- like a smartphone, or clip-on fitness tracker, or heart rate monitor -- without exposing it to the elements. And, crucially, more and more outdoor high-tech adventure wear is being designed with waterproof and weatherproof clothing that keeps the elements out without resorting to uncomfortable, thick and crinkly plastics and non-breathable outer coatings.
Waterproof, Weatherproof Top Layers
This year, we're seeing a lot of high-tech outer layers that repel water and keep away wind, while also keeping you cool and driving away sweat and odour. Under Armour's Coldgear Infrared fleece jackets have a dual-layer internal structure that keeps your body's heat closer to your skin, while the outer layer is a soft fleece that won't rustle or irritate and that will also let in additional heat when you need it. Storm Armour jackets are soft hoodies and zip-ups that aren't as bulky as a full jacket, but that will repel water or light rain thanks to an oleophobic coating that won't wash off. You can also buy the same fast-drying Charged Cotton outer gear as your innerwear if you want to stay really dry while sweating. For a compromise between running and trekking gear, a flexible softshell jacket like the Vigilante Seaver will keep you warm but will also allow easy movement for runners or long-distance walkers. Buying an all-in-one option like a 3-in-1 North Face multilayer jacket is probably overkill unless you spend a lot of time on the ski slopes, but has the advantage of splitting layers for warmer climes.
If you want to get really serious and already have the right innerwear layers for a long run or full-activity hike or trailwalk -- something that means a lot of movement, a lot of brushing up against trees and rocks and snow and the elements -- a sturdy but lightweight jacket like The North Face's Fuseform makes a lot of sense to wear as an outer layer. It's thin enough that it can be paired with an undershirt and a shirt, used to stay warm and keep the weather off, but then removed if the weather gets hot enough. Thicker gear for colder climates and all-year-round wear is part of the North Face Summit series of clothing. And, of course, if you're buying a hoodie or sweatshirt, you can always top it off with a waterproof jacket to stop a downpour from ruining your adventure. In those situations, a Gore-Tex outer layer -- like on this Kathmandu Dester jacket -- will keep anything but the most persistent torrential rain from wetting your skin and lowering your body temperature.
Do you have a favourite adventure brand or piece of outdoor exercise, hiking or bushwalking gear? Let us know in the comments below.
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