As the weather turns from warm and sunny in the summer to wet and cold in the fall and winter, there is a minor decrease of outdoor activity in the Adirondacks. Many people find these mountains enjoyable during any weather condition. Some even prefer fall and winter due to the lack of vicious black flies as well as the escape from the summer heat. The worst part of winter and fall occurs in wet conditions. When it is wet and cold, things get most unpleasant. To enjoy these mountains in any case, the correct clothing is vital.
To the outdoor novice, the usual path in discovering warm clothes is the hard way. Everyone of us has at one time or another been out in the woods wearing flannel shirts and blue jeans during a cold rain. This tactic usually ends up with a cold night shivering in a leanto or a forced hike to the nearest warm bar. The “experienced” mountaineer has learned the vital characteristics of wool clothing. I have come to believe that many people do not like wintertime because they have never been exposed to good, warm clothes. Let’s face it, being cold and wet is miserable, and should be avoided. So why be cold? We must learn how to deal with these conditions and laugh in the weather’s face.
Besides rain and wet snow, a major source of moisture occurs from one’s body perspiring. In the summer, we wear cotton to absorb our sweat, so to keep it off of our body. Cotton does the same in winter, but the clothes stay wet and quickly cool the body. Once this happens, the individual will not retain vital heat until the wet cotton is removed.
For centuries, the pioneers in the Adirondacks, as well as worldwide, have used wool pants and sweaters to insulate against nature’s nasty weather. The magic of wool is that it does not absorb water as readily as cotton, and even when wet, is able to keep the person warm. Even nicer, once wet, the heat from your body slowly dries out the wool, whereas cotton clothing steals your warmth and never dries out.
Strangely enough, even people who are “woolwise” sometimes forget their feet. I have found many folks who wear their cotton gym socks next to their skin, with the wool ones on top. With this principal, when wet from one’s perspiration, as well ab water leaking in the boot, the feet soon get very cold. Each foot will perspire up to half a pint of water a day! Instead of cotton, a silk, wool, or polypropylene sock with a wool outer sock will keep one’s feet warmer.
Due to advances in clothing technology, polypropylene fabric has been made availiable to us. This product is very versatile because it wicks water and perspiration away from your skin and transfers it to your next layer, all the while keeping you very toasty warm. It is most effective as a layer for your feet, underwear, gloves, and hats. Its great advantage is that it is easy to wash, whereas one must be careful with wool shrinking. Don’t put polypro in the dryer: it will meltl I have used it for two years now and would not be caught outside without it in any weather.
My recommendation for anyone pursuing the outdoors is a combination of both wool and polypro. Polypro is most applicable in long underwear, where it is superior than any other. It usually comes in two thicknesses: regular and expedition weight. If you are envolved in an active sport such as skiing or hiking, the regular weight is a sure bet. When working outdoors, hunting, or ice climbing, the heavier expedition weight is much warmer. With a top and bottom of polypro, one is almost assured of a warm and thus pleasing adventure outside.
Covered with wool shirts, sweaters, pants, or knickers, your outfit is complete. Pile clothing is another alternative, but these will be covered in later issues. For those with low budgets appalled at the expense of your polypro, can find cheap (in price onlyl) wool clothes at the many army/navy surplus stores in the region. For fall and spring, one can buy thin wool pants, about the weight of blue jeans, for under five dollars. For winter, Woolrich or the various heavy army pants are excellent. Look for German Paratrooper pants; they are the best.
Once equipped with warm, versatile clothing, any outdoor venturer can be assured in knowing that he/she can enjoy their activity without the fear of the nasty weather our beloved Adirondacks can offer us.