By Mike Payne
It’s always important to dress for the adventure. Like your 2014 Malibu’s available heated seats and available Climate Control features that keep you and your passengers comfortable no matter what the outside temperature—and its revolutionary stop/start technology that conserves fuel* by automatically shutting off the engine when the car is stopped—outdoor clothing technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. While in the past clothes were designed for either cold or hot temperatures, in recent years designers and adventure sports manufacturers have developed new clothing systems that handle high and low temperatures alike. From microfiber jackets to cooling vests, these technologies help adventurers dress not only for comfort, but also for their wellbeing.
High-Tech Microfiber for Breathable Warmth
Good cold-weather clothing doesn’t create heat; instead, it locks in the warmth that the body creates. The trick, however, is keeping in that warmth while allowing breathability. A fabric that doesn’t breathe can lock in sweat, creating the opposite effect, and make quite a mess of its interior. To combat this, clothing manufacturers are continuously researching new ways to create thin, lightweight and breathable fabrics that retain a lot of heat. One example is the Omni-Heat thermal reflective by Columbia that’s designed to retain the body’s natural heat within a comfortable temperature range, while expelling moisture and excess heat in the process. It’s like walking around in a comfortable temperature in any casual-yet-cold outdoor condition.
The use of insect repellent often feels like trading one annoyance for another. Sure, the bugs will leave you alone, but now you’re dealing with scented chemical sprays that can damage clothing and skin alike. A new alternative is insect-repellent clothing, such as fabrics that are treated with permethrin, which might have as much bug-busting power as 100% DEET. A wide range of outdoor and adventure clothing suppliers offer their own brand of permethrin-treated clothing that will keep the bugs at a healthy distance in the great outdoors. Look for the “Insect Blocker” label from Columbia, “Insect Defense System” from Cabelas and “Bugsaway” from Orvis. You won’t need to take an extra bath when you get home just to get the chemicals off.
Extended Sleeves With Thumb Holes for Extra Warmth
As if they were taking cues from my childhood closet, many clothing retailers are now offering hoodies and jackets with thumb holes cut into the cuffs. In a pinch, a wearer can slide their thumbs into these holes to keep their hands warm and extend the sleeves up to their fingers. Brands like REI offer products like the Ariflyte Hoodie for men, with a hole for a thumb in each cuff. Lululemon has many thumb-hole options, including the Open Your Heart Long Sleeve Shirt for added warmth at the hand level. Even when wearing a jacket and gloves, the sleeve fabric prevents any cold air from touching the skin of your wrist.
Cooling Vests for High-Temperature Situations
While athletes warmed up for Beijing, Nike provided high-tech Nike Precool Vests to keep their bodies at an optimal pre-performance temperature. When firefighters or high-temp laborers work in intense situations, cooling vests keep them healthy and safe. These advanced vest systems use a variety of technologies, from heat-sink systems to ice and gel packs that can keep a wearer’s core temperature up to 25 degrees below the environmental temperature. There are many to choose from, and are used by many, for many different purposes: long-distance athletes, sufferers of multiple sclerosis and outdoor laborers alike.
Battery-Powered Heated Clothing
If you’re dealing with sub-zero temperatures, sometimes an electric assist is necessary to keep you warm. One option is a heated base layer, an advanced long-sleeve undershirt that uses battery-powered zone heaters to keep you warm in the right places on the body. Like the cooling vests above, these systems maintain core body temperature when it is needed most. The Tri-Zone Battery Heated Base Layer by VentureHeat is a great example, using a built-in battery to provide up to five hours of heat for use in challenging environments.
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Mike Payne is founder and publisher of TheCoolist.com, the web’s finely curated encyclopedia of cool. Mike’s interest in design, technology and the study of trends is part of his nature, having grown up in a family of automotive designers and visual artists in Detroit. When he’s not managing TheCoolist, Mike moonlights as a commercial photographer, photographing architecture and food for hotels, restaurants, architects and corporate clients.
*EPA-estimated MPG city/highway: 2.5L 25/36.