Admit it. It happens to you — or someone you know — every fall.
Emboldened by a summer filled with nothing but T-shirts and shorts, you head out for an evening hike or attend a football game and you’re severely underdressed.
The next thing you know, you’re cold. Or worse yet, wet and cold.
It’s a simple formula for Emil Hutton, the owner of The Benchmark, which has been selling outdoors clothing in Boise for 31 years.
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“When you’re cold, all of your clothing decisions failed you,” Hutton said.
With that in mind, here’s a refresher course for dressing for success in the outdoors this fall season, from head to toe:
“There’s an old adage that says if you’re cold, then put a hat on,” Hutton said. “An even better choice sometimes is a scarf. Scarves do amazing things.”
Most old adages are around for a reason. And that’s the case here, too. Your head loses a good amount of heat, even when it’s cold.
That doesn’t mean you have to wear an Elmer Fudd hunting hat all hours of the day.
“But even a lightweight beanie that is super-packable can be a lifesaver,” said Bill Davis, the general manager of Idaho Mountain Touring in Downtown Boise.
Those gym socks might work when you’re playing a game of H-O-R-S-E in May, but they won’t cut it when you’re trying to stay warm and comfortable while hiking outdoors in the fall.
“The proper material will help keep your socks from getting soggy,” Davis said. “Also, a good-fitting sock can help prevent blisters.”
Same goes for your shoes. So when you’re trying on that new pair of hiking shoes in the store, make sure you’re wearing proper socks at the time.
“Fit is really important,” Davis said.
Rain jackets are a must in wet weather, but don’t forget there are great options out there to keep your whole body dry.
“(Rain pants) aren’t as crucial as a good rain jacket, but it’s definitely something to think about if you’re going to be doing an all-day activity,” Davis said.
And remember: Water resistant isn’t the same as waterproof.
Hutton likes to ask customers: “When does clothing fail?”
One all-too-familiar instance when it fails is when a hiker heads out in a pair of denim jeans and a rainstorm breaks out.
That’s why Hutton asks these follow-up questions: “Does it keep you warm? Does it keep you dry?”
Keeping your core comfortable is crucial when you’re outdoors.
With fall’s varying temperatures, using layers of clothing allows you to adjust with those changing weather patterns.
“Layers are still the best way to regulate your temperature,” Davis said. “If the day starts out cool and then warms up, it really allows you to adjust to that.”
Said Hutton: “Any person, from an accountant to a zookeeper, knows about layering.”
But knowing about layering and doing it right are two different things. Putting on five T-shirts and taking them off one at a time doesn’t constitute smart layering.
Mistakes are made in dressing for comfort in the outdoors, and cotton is probably at the top of the list.
“Stay away from anything cotton,” Davis said. “It absorbs moisture, so it can cause you to cool down much quicker.”
Davis and Hutton are proponents of wool.
“Wool keeps you warm even when it’s wet,” Hutton said. “Not as warm as when it’s dry, but it’s certainly not like cotton.”
That doesn’t mean you need to put on that scratchy old sweater your grandmother knitted you decades ago. Advances have been made.
“The merino wool is a super-premium wool that doesn’t itch,” Davis said.
Two other great options for base layers are silk and polyester blends.
For the outside layer, lightweight rain jackets and down jackets are extremely versatile.
“It’s going to start cooling down now … and these lightweight down jackets can pack down into a three- or four-inch cube,” Davis said. “They’re super-packable, lightweight and they do add that insulation layer.”