Camping is an activity that is enjoyed by millions, with the latest estimate showing that no fewer than 40 million Americans go camping each year. Admittedly, not all of these will be pitching tents out in locations many miles from the nearest town, with the camping facilities which many enjoy sometimes being on a par with a hotel. This will often mean hot water, television and even Wi-Fi all being readily available.
Assuming you do not need any advice on what to wear at a campsite which is similar to a Holiday Inn, for the purposes of this article we are going to look at what you should wear when you go camping in less luxurious circumstances. What we mean by that is a camping trip that takes you out of town, into the countryside, and when you don’t have a car or a truck in which you can store your clothing and other items. There are many things to consider when choosing what camping clothes to dress in before you enjoy your coffee.
Prepare For the Season
You may have heard the term ‘seasonally adjusted’ used when someone is describing financial or economic data such as unemployment statistics. They do this in order to take account of variances which occur purely because of the season. Although the subject of camping clothing may seem to be in a different universe to that of economic data, we must similarly take account of seasonal differences.
Common sense alone should tell you that the types of clothing you should be wearing when on a camping trip which takes place during 90°F daytime temperatures, is going to be somewhat different to the clothing you’d wear when the thermometer struggles to get above 30°F. For this reason, when we discuss the clothing you should wear when camping, we will cover spring/summer camping clothing and autumn/winter camping clothing separately.
Autumn/Winter Camp Clothing
When it comes to winter camping clothing, there are two main objectives it should fulfill. The first is that it keeps you warm in the cold temperatures that you are likely to encounter. The second is that it should help you to stay as dry as possible when the heavens open and it either rains or snows. Don’t forget to have a proper tent for the season.
As we go through the clothing you should wear for autumn/winter camping, we are not addressing them in order of importance, as each one is important in its own right. However, one or two of them should have particular attention paid to them, given that they are you first ‘line of defense’ should the weather get particularly unpleasant on your camping trip.
The “Dress in Layers” Principle
As keeping warm is one of the most important functions of your camping clothing, then the key principle to work to is ‘layers.’ What this means is that each layer of your clothing should not just be randomly selected but chosen for a specific purpose. The other element of layered clothing is that the air between each layer of clothing acts like an insulator to keep warmth in, and the cold out.
We’ll start with the inner layer which is the one in contact with your skin. This should be made from a material that can keep your skin dry by drawing away any moisture, such as sweat, away from it, so it can evaporate. This layer should fit snuggly, and the material should be synthetic or from an animal such as wool. Materials made from plants such as cotton are unsuitable, as these absorb moisture which prevents it from evaporating. Some examples of inner layer clothing include vests, t-shirts, long johns, and all-in-one body underwear.
The middle layer is the layer that provides the most insulation and warmth for your body. Although it is not normally in contact with your skin, there is still a preference for synthetic or woolen materials to further allow any moisture to evaporate. It is likely that this layer will be thicker than the inner layer. Fleeces, jumpers, hoodies can all be worn for this layer, and it is possible to wear a thin one under a thicker one for extra warmth.
This is the layer that is going to protect you from the elements including wind, rain, sleet, and snow, so it is going to be the heaviest and the bulkiest. The most likely types will be waterproof jackets and parkas especially those that come with a hood. It is also feasible that you can wear a further wind/rain cheater over the top of your outer garment when it rains, and then remove it if the weather improves, but keep your main jacket on.
The layer principle which we have discussed for your upper body also applies to your legs too. You could wear one or two pairs of long johns or leggings underneath which can act as inner layers. While jeans might seem the obvious choice, they are not always the most suitable as they absorb water and can become very heavy. Having said that, they are durable, so if you do wear jeans or similar, always wear waterproofs over them if conditions are wet.
It should go without saying that if you are camping in winter then lightweight trainers are not the answer. Instead, you should wear the most robust boots possible, ensuring that the grip they provide underfoot is adequate. If you expect to be walking in snowy or icy conditions, then you should consider traction cleats which can be fitted over your boots to provide additional grip.
These should be made from the same material types as your inner layer which means synthetic or wool. Obviously, you can wear more than one to provide additional insulation for your feet, as long as it doesn’t make your footwear difficult to get on or off.
As most body heat is lost through your head, it makes sense to cover your head with something that will keep as much heat in as possible. A fleece or woolen hat is ideal for this, especially if either of them has flaps which can cover your ears to keep them warm too.
Spring/Summer Camping Clothing
One of the most remarkable aspects of the weather in some areas of the US is the large differences between daytime temperatures and nighttime temperatures. You could be sweating all day long in 80° heat, yet in the middle of the night, be shivering as the temperature drops down into the 40° range. Examples are the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles where swings of up to 50 degrees have been recorded in a single day.
While these swings tend to happen less at the height of the summer, at other times, such as spring, you need to be aware of them so that you are not suddenly caught in a scenario where the clothing you are wearing cannot keep you sufficiently warm at night. A proper assessment of the likely temperature ranges should always be done before any camping trip so that you are not caught unaware. Additionally, make sure that you have the proper tent for the season.
Before we discuss your daytime clothes, and for the reasons we have just mentioned, you should always take clothes with you which are deemed as your nighttime clothes for camping. These should be long-sleeved and have the ability to keep you warm if temperature drops. Full body underwear, along with a long-sleeved woolen or synthetic sweater
No matter how tempting it might be to wear shorts when hiking and camping, you should avoid doing so. Bare legs are prone to all sorts of undesirables such as poison oak, scratches from thorny bushes, sunburn and mosquito bites. Wearing a lightweight pair of long pants will still keep your legs cool in hot weather and protect them at the same time.
Underwear and Socks
As these are the garments that are going to be the closest to your body, it is important they help your skin to breath. Cotton is one such material, but make sure you buy 100% cotton items as some are only a cotton mix, which is less effective.
As with our point about your legs being exposed, the same applies to your arms. While a T-shirt might seem ideal for hot weather, it still leaves your arms vulnerable to the same risks. A lightweight top, with long sleeves, will keep you cool but will also protect your arms. There are many tops made from modern materials that are specifically designed to help keep you cool.
While there may be less chance of slipping in snow and ice in spring and summer, you still want to ensure that your footwear has sufficient grip whenever you are walking. Not all terrain will be flat, so if necessary, wear proper hiking boots, or at least footwear that not only has proper grip, but which support your foot and ankle too.
Just as wearing something on your head is vital in winter, the same is true in summer, albeit for a different reason. Wearing a sunhat or cap will reduce the sunlight affecting your eyes so that you can see clearly, and also reduce the amount of direct heat from the sun that your head is subjected too.
Although not it may not be considered ‘clothing’ by some, a bandana which has been soaked in water, and placed around your neck, is a very effective way of helping you to stay cool.