What I Wear
This is me, Stuart, principle buyer for facewest.co.uk. Keen skier, fell runner and adventure racer. Most of the clothes we sell are a particular favourite garment of me or somebody facewest knows and have been tested to be functional, durable and good value. Below I have listed the clothes that I wear for different actvities (updated Summer 2015) to help those struggling to decide on what you need. You will see some garments that crop up in several categories, this is the sign of a great piece of clothing. Everyone is different but this is what works for me. I generate quite a lot of heat when I am exercising so I value breathability very highly. I do feel the cold but not as badly as some. I hate to be too hot so choose to be a little chilly when I set off knowing that I will warm up. If after reading this and the Clothing Guide you still cannot decide what to buy then you'd better give me a ring.
For base layer I like either a wool blend or pure merino. A Smartwool Full Zip 195 Zip Tee is great when it's cold and a Rab Meco 120 Long Sleeve for milder conditions. Wear the best one for the conditions or both if it's baltic. I won't normally wear thermal leggings but carry a pair of ¾ length leggings just in case. Currently mine are Mammut Go Warms. For my mid layer I use a Rab VR Lite Alpine Jacket, a brilliant windshirt with hand warmer pockets and a hood. On my legs I wear softshell trousers, Mountain Equipment Epic Touring Pants currently. I prefer the windproof rather than the waterproof softshell trousers and a standard cut rather than a bib. They are cool enough to climb in but warm enough for the descents. I might carry a standard or lightweight waterproof jacket (depending on the tour / weather) and ¾ zip waterproof Pants. Currently my jackets are Arcteryx Beta AR jacket and OMM Aether Smock. My trousers are Mountain Equipment Aeon Pants.
On cold days and at night I have an Arcteryx Cerium LT down jacket. If I thought it would be wet then I would use a synthetic jacket but for ski touring the weight and packability of the down make it a better choice. If I only had one then it would be a synthetic jacket, mine is a Rab Xenon X Hoodie
Summer alpine to Scottish winter climbing can put pretty varied demands on your clothing but this is just a guide to what normally works for me. I would use a synthetic top for summer stuff and a merino blend one for winter. For summer I love the Mammut Go Dry thermals but they do only come in black which can be a bit hot on full sun alpine days. Lightweight softshell trousers like the Mountain Equipment Ibex Pant for summer and either membrane softshell ones for winter or the summer ones with thermal leggings underneath. In summer I would use a lined windshirt like the Rab VR Lite Alpine Jacket or a lightly insulated windshirt like the Rab Strata Flex Jacket as my midlayer. In winter I would upgrade to my Gamma MX Softshell. If it was really cold I might even slip a strata vest in there somewhere. Often I will also take my Mountain Equipment Fitzroy jacket which has a very water resistant outer shell and a hood. It's been around for years but it's a great belay jacket and gets used everyday in winter commuting!
For winter climbing lightweight waterproofs are just not tough enough, they are OK for some summer stuff but generally high mountains and winter deserve tough waterproofs. Tough does not have to mean heavy as the Arcteryx Beta AR is a great all round jacket for mountaineering with the performance of Gore Pro at only 440g. My current salopettes are Arcteryx Theta SV Bibs which are more high waisted rather than full bib. They have full side zips and are very tough.
My general set up for multi pitch summer climbing is a base layer and a windshirt plus some light softshell trousers. Depending on where I am and the weather I may use a short sleeve technical T like the Rab Aeon T or a long sleeve technical T such as the Mountain Equipment Spectrum Zip Tee. I would take a windshirt as I have shivered on shady belays too often. The Rab Boreas Pull On is a stretchy softshell windshirt which offers a bit more warmth and a lot more abrasion resistance than a classic nylon windshirt. My trousers are Mountain Equipment Ibex Pants, these are one of the lighter weights of softshell trousers. For 3 season trad climbing and general cragging I might swap my softshell windshirt to something with a bit more warmth like the Rab Strata Hoodie and maybe a lightweight waterproof jacket.
For biking, I use 'proper' bike shorts from someone like Endura or Pearl Izumi but am generally disappointed in the other technical garments on offer to the bike world. In general I use my MeCo 120 Base Layer with a bike jersey (for the pockets) over the top. A Rab Windveil Pull On blocks the wind on cold days or my VR Lite Alpine for more remote off road or night rides. If it's not as cold as expected you can remove your base layer and wear the VR Lite next to your skin which is surprisingly effective and comfortable. The OMM Aether jacket for when it chucks it down.
Winter MTB is particulary tough on your hands and feet and I have found Sealskinz gloves and socks really make a difference by keeping the water out. If it's really cold I squeeze a thin pair of coolmax liner socks inside my Sealskinz to boost the warmth but you need roomy shoes to benefit from this.
Running and Adventure Racing
As always the Rab MeCo 120 or Smartwool 195 are my first base layer choices when it's really cold or Aeon T if it's not. Midlayers, just like the bike, are Rab Windveil Pull On or Rab VR Lite Alpine Jacket depending on temperature and weather.
If I thought it would be constantly raining I would wear the thicker Smartwool merino baselayer and my OMM Aether waterproof jacket without any midlayer at all. The wool top and waterproof will keep me warm, I'm going to get wet for sure either from neckline leakage
or perspiration but the wool will help with that. I might put on a Meco T shirt in there as well for extra insulation. If the weather is good then just the baselayer with the windveil for back up will do.
For legwear I like a reasonably compressive tight like the OMM Flash Tight. Socks are always the Smartwool PhD Outdoor, for cushioning and warmth.
General Clothing Advice
Don't underestimate the part your underwear plays in your layering system. I don't wear underwear for cycling and running but for other activities I use proper synthetic briefs from Arcteryx or Mammut. Cotton ones trap moisture and will rub on a long day. Wool underwear has better
antimicrobial properties but I find it too warm, even in winter. I always carry a Buff, no matter the season (2 in winter), as they are so versatile and light. In winter I always use a waterproof hat as the protection they offer is so much better than anything else, combined with the buff you can get great protection. I have many pairs of gloves, Mountain Equipment Pinnacle Glove which are waterproof thick pile lined gloves, SealSkinz Norge Gloves are light and waterproof, Rab VR Tour Gloves are warm and breathable but a nightmare to get one with wet hands and Smartwool HyFi Training Gloves for running. These feel like powerstretch but are actually wool with great grips.
For my feet I generally use wool socks and have several pairs of Smartwool PhD Outdoor socks in short and medium lengths. In winter it's amazing how quickly your feet warm up in good wool socks even after a complete submersion in an icy puddle. I use Sealskinz waterproof socks for biking but only use them for running if it's a multi hour winter run where my feet will be constantly in and out of water.
There are a lot of good clothes out there and used in the right way most of them seem to work, sometimes it just takes some experimentation to get the right combination.
Use low endeavour trips to test gear combinations for those big days out and you're less likely to have problems.