Wearing the right thing when you are camping is really important. You’ll be spending all day and all night outside so it’s vital that you stay warm and dry or cool and dry depending on the season. Here are a few tips that we’ve picked up after years of camping in all weather.
When you are camping it’s important that you wear layers. In most situations, you should wear a thin moisture-wicking base layer, an insulating fleece mid-layer and a waterproof but breathable top layer. If the conditions are likely to be very wet, you will need to add a fully waterproof and wind-proof shell on top.
Of course, not all camping seasons call for you to be wrapped up in so many layers, and there is room to be flexible in every situation, but for the most part, the basic layering system will suit most campers doing most outdoor activities.
You may now be wondering, “great but what is a base layer, what is wicking, and why do I need another waterproof on top?”, stick with us and we’ll answer your questions.
Wearing The Right Thing: Price Vs. Quality
Before we go any further it’s important to note the law of diminishing returns when it comes to ‘technical’ clothing. We have never and will never spend money on or recommend camping clothing that is overpriced and the same as cheaper brands.
That being said, there is a tipping point between price vs quality that’s very obvious, especially when it comes to socks and shoes.
We take the attitude of buy the best you can afford, and with socks and jackets that may mean spending a bit more than you would normally spend. For some layers, however, you can get away with a very mid-range price and be happy.
As a side note: We won’t be discussing shoes or boots in this article. It’s a huge topic of its own, and we think it deserves its own article, so keep checking back for that one!
‘Wicking’ is a term used to describe a material that moves the sweat from your body and out through the clothes. Half of the battle of staying warm at camp is fought by staying dry, and that’s where wicking base layers really do shine
Depending on the weather and on your chosen activities, base layers come in either full-length trousers and long-sleeved top, or short or no sleeved top and cropped trousers. They are worn close to the skin as the first insulating layer in cold weather (you can get specific cold-weather base layers) or they may be worn on their own and slightly looser in warm weather.
Base layers designed for cold weather, like Decathlon’s Wedze Women’s Ski Base Layers, are usually thicker and longer in the body to allow them to be tucked into trousers. Base layers worn close to the skin usually come with a seam-free design and have bottoms to match the top.
Whilst cold-weather base layers are great for activities such as skiing, golf, and winter hikes, you’ll want a looser-fit thinner base layer for warm weather. Decathlon’s basketball protective base layer tops are a great choice for warmer conditions and can be paired with a pair of basketball shorts either on their own or under your walking trousers.
Insulating Mid Layer
The mid-layer of your camping layering system is designed to trap in body heat whilst still letting your body breathe. This layer will be a wicking layer to keep sweat moving, but it will have much better insulation properties than your base layer or outer layer on their own.
Depending on the weather, you may wear more than one mid-layer, a t-shirt and a fleece for example, or your mid-layer may double up as your outer layer if the weather is warm and dry enough. The beauty of the layering system is that it is flexible enough to adapt to every weather situation.
Merino wool is a popular choice for mid-layers due to its lightweight feel, it also has fantastic insulating and wicking properties, making it a perfect material for ‘technical’ clothing. We love Decathlon’s Trekking shirts as mid-layers, they are well priced and came in both long-sleeved and short-sleeved versions which can be worn together or on their own.
Unless the weather is particularly cold, you won’t usually need mid-layers on the bottom. If you think you’ll be out in particularly cold weather, we’d recommend spending a bit more on a pair of merino wool extra-warm bottom base layers to handle wicking and insulation.
The Outer Layer
There are two types of outer layer: the breathable waterproof layer, and the waterproof outer shell. Both have their uses but they are not the same!
In most situations, you’ll want a good breathable waterproof coat. These are usually fairly lightweight but there are many options that come with integrated or removable insulating layers too, making them versatile across the seasons.
Breathable waterproof jackets are waterproof to a point. Most will stand the test of a good shower or downpour and be absolutely fine, but if your downpour is prolonged or your jacket doesn’t get a chance to dry, it will fail and begin letting moisture in.
Outer shells, on the other hand, are not breathable but they are fully waterproof and will be able to withstand much more water than their breathable cousins. Shells are usually very thin and lightweight, meant to be easily packable.
Due to the fact that they are not breathable, outer shells are not suited to activities where you’ll be sweating (like skiing, hiking, walking, etc). Shells are designed to keep you fully dry from outside water and rain.
For the bottom, the same rules apply.
Most walking trousers are made from tough breathable fabric and many are waterproof. Quite a few of the good brands can be converted into shorts or cropped trousers via zips too!
For very rainy weather, pack a specific pair of waterproof over trousers. Both Fee and I actually keep a set of decent waterproof over trousers and a waterproof shell in our cars. Sadly they are usually needed more often than not!
Jackets are one place that Mountain Warehouse really does shine. We recommend paying a bit more for your jacket as it’s a vital part of your kit.
A good breathable waterproof 3 in 1 jacket like the Storm 3 in 1 from Mountain Warehouse is a great choice that will last you years and be flexible enough for all seasons.
Socks, Hats and sundries
Socks are vital. I actually cannot stress this enough. Get a good pair (or a few good pairs) of walking socks for your adventures.
Walking socks come in many shapes and sizes, from country walking mid-socks right up to long thicker skiing socks. I’d always recommend merino wool socks, they can seem more expensive but if you get a blister on your first day due to poor sock choice, we can guarantee it will ruin your trip.
Hats and gloves are really a personal choice for campers. Depending on the weather, you may opt for thinner glove liners to protect your hands from the chills, or thicker ski gloves if it’s going to be really cold. The same goes for hats, a thick woolly hat in cold temperatures and a thinner beanie style in milder temperatures. Hat wise, I always opt for a wide-brimmed straw hat in summer.
We’ve mentioned it in other blogs, but it is vital you go to bed in DRY clothes and not the clothes you’ve been wandering around in all day. What you choose to wear is really up to you, I prefer loose cotton pyjamas in warm weather and a full feet included onesie in colder temperatures.
Bonus points if you wander across the campsite to the loo in your dinosaur onesie!