When selecting your clothing you must remember that it is a system and each article works in conjunction with those above and below it. Good clothes can be used for many different activities because they are versatile. We value breatheability very highly. Trapped sweat will be cold when you stop exerting yourself, you need to get rid of it as you go along. For this reason I always try to avoid wearing more clothes than necessary. Below is a explanation of the types of garments we sell and what they will do for you.
100% waterproofs with taped seams for standing out in the rain all day. I only don my outer shell as a last resort, but when I do I want to feel fully protected. Low weight and bulk are important as I hope to be carrying them more then wearing them. Choose the stronger fabrics like GoreTex Pro or eVent for skiing and climbing or the lighter versions like GoreTex Active or Polartec Shield Plus for ski touring, hill walking and trekking. All the fabrics offer impermeability with some degree of moisture transfer. A couple of years ago Gore Tex Pro replaced Proshell and gave us increased durability and vapour transfer at a significantly reduced weight. Polartec NeoShell has now come along with increased breathability and some stretch, but it is not quite as waterproof.
Softshell jackets offer a fantastic range of protection and breathability. A few years ago Softshell garments were made that were probably too close to a traditional waterproof and tried to be both highly breathable and waterproof. Now we have excellent softshells that have moved back to more breatheable and windproof and less waterproof. Some use membranes and some don't so there is still a lot of choice over protection levels but most people seem to prefer to back one up with a light waterproof that they will not often wear. In situations where getting a bit wet does not really matter then the traditional waterproof can still be left behind. Recently manufacturers have been creating hybrid jackets which feature waterproof fabrics such as Gore Tex in areas where the weather hits the hardest and a softshell fabric on the rest of the jacket. These are designed to give extra protection but with the breathability and durability of traditional softshell. Two great advantages of softshell is that it is very abrasion resistant and hence long lasting, plus it can also be worn more comfortably than traditional waterproof in less demanding situations (like the pub).
Light wind resistant outer layer that can serve as a thin insulating layer. Windproofs can be lined or unlined and offer corresponding insulation. Moisture spreads out quickly on the outer shell of a windshirt for amazingly fast drying. The right choice of baselayer plus a thin fleece and unlined windshirt, or baselayer and lined windshirt is a versatile set up for a very wide range of environments. At the top of a climb either rock or cycling pull on a windproof as you wait for the others and soak up the view. The low volume and weight of a windproof makes it good for layering if you need to wear more over the top although the wind resistant fabric does make it a slightly clammy mid layer. A classic garment that can be used for all sports.Salopettes, Alpine Climbing & Ski Pants
Items found in this category can be either waterproof (hardshell), softshell or a hybrid, as explained above. The common theme amongst these pants are that they are durable and usually with a bib, braces or a high waist to stop snow getting in the top. Fabrics used in these garments vary from very warm and weatherproof right through to light and breathable, some use membranes and some don't. By matching your own insulation/breathability requirements with the correct fabric you can find one pair of trousers that cover a very wide range of temperatures and weathers especially when backed up with a light shell. If you include the category below which features lighterweight and less weatherproof trousers then two weights of trouser can easily cover you for any activity at any time of year.
This category is for general use mountain trousers, most are softshell of some sort with different thicknesses and amounts of stretch but this category also includes more traditional non stretch synthetic fabrics. As with the heavier and more weatherproof offering in the category above if you can match your own insulation/breathability requirements with the correct style and fabric you can find one pair of trousers that cover a very wide range of temperatures and weathers especially when backed up with a light shell. If you include the category above then two weights of trousers can easily cover you for any activity at any time of year.Fleece & Midlayers
Insulating mid layers with little wind resistance but very comfortable and hard wearing. Fleece and Powerstretch is either used as a light outer layer in non demanding situations and warm climates or to add extra warmth to an existing layering system. Worn on their own fleeces are warm, breathable and comfortable but the wind cuts straight through them, so not suited to a wide range of conditions. Membraned fleeces were popular for a while but were too clammy for many people. However a thin fleece combined with an unlined windshirt offers most of the benefits of a light softshell with perhaps even increased versatility. Old school perhaps, but very functional and not to be overlooked.Down/Synthetic Insulation
Lightweight with a tiny pack size Down is an ideal extra layer to be kept in your sack but is vulnerable to moisture. Synthetic insulation does not have the compressibility of down and a lower warmth to weight ratio but has the ability to keep the wearer warm even when wet. Keep your most likely environment in mind when choosing your filling. A full jacket for mountaineering trips and very cold environments or just a vest if weight needs to be kept to a bare minimum.Active Insulation
These garments are designed to be worn throughout the day when doing highly aerobic activities in cold weather. They provide a similar level of protection to a windshirt, but with added insulation for cold days where just a windshirt would not be warm enough. They also make excellent layering pieces as their close fit and breathability mean that they perform excellently when under a shell. If you're looking for a leave on layer to provide a bit of extra warmth throughout the day when doing any winter aerobic activity then these is the category to look in.Synthetic Base Layers
These wick the sweat away from your skin to the top layer of the garment where it can evaporate or soak into the next layer. Used when your environment is warm/hot and for high aerobic activities. Choice of short or long sleeved tops(consider sunburn) and long johns. Low insulation value. Consider using a lighter colour in high UV situations like summer alpine climbing where you will be considerably cooler in white than black. Use for spring skiing, ski touring and all summer activites.Merino Wool Base Layers
Good wicking properties but not as much as synthetic fibres but higher insulation value as wool insulates well even when damp. Wool base layers are for cold environments and stop/start sweaty activities. Much more odour resistance than synthetic garments, make them a great choice for multi day trips. Use for skiing, climbing and cycling in winter.
Increasingly we are seeing fabrics that use a blend of wool and synthetic fibres rather than being one or the other. Multi panelled garments are even using different blends or just one type of fibre in different areas of the same garment. These thermals do offer the benefits of both fibres in one garment and can be used quite happily all year round. If it was really hot or really cold it might be better to go for a single fibre type but in general they are great.