Britain's wet climate means that hiking (and other outdoor sports like cycling and climbing) requires specific clothing to cater for the unpredictable and ever-changing conditions. The team at Keller Sports highly recommends investing in some good outdoor wear.
Most good outdoor "outfits" are made up of three layers: a wind and waterproof top layer, an insulating mid-layer and a perspiration-regulating base-layer. Having three thin layers will keep you warmer than having just the one thick layer as air (warmed by your body) stays trapped between the layers, but only as long as the top layer is windproof, otherwise the warm air escapes!
All three layers should be breathable, meaning that they let vapour coming from your body escape. Breathability is important because if your perspiration doesn't escape, it will condense inside your clothing and cool you down too much. If only one or two of the layers is breathable, condensation will get trapped between layers.
The three-layer rule is not "one size fits all", however, as you need to choose different clothing depending on the activity. You need to take into account the following: Activity type, duration, season and location: climbing on the Yorkshire moors for a couple of hours in summer requires cooler clothing and freedom of movement, whereas cycling around the Scottish highlands all day in mid-winter means you need long sleeves and much warmer clothes. Post-activity plans: are you staying in a local B&B overnight or will you be waiting for the train in the rain? You have to plan ahead for this too!
Waterproof jackets have rather specific functions to keep the water out. Firstly, they often have a drop tail - this is when the back of the jacket is longer than the front, very useful for cycling, as are Velcro cuffs. The hood should protect you but not restrict your view. If you want a detachable hood, make sure it's got a thick overlap so no water seeps in. Another useful feature is pit zips: these are zips under your arms that can be opened to cool you down. Pockets should be easy to open, even with gloves on! Make sure your jacket has sealed or taped seams, otherwise water will come in through the zips.
You need to take into account that there are two main types of outdoor jackets: soft-shell are generally designed for warmth and tend not to be waterproof, so if you need protection from the rain, a hard-shell jacket will almost always be more appropriate. However, as technology advances, scientists are trying harder to fuse both types of jackets together. Some "hybrid" jackets have some soft-shell areas and some hard-shell ones.
As for waterproof pants, these are usually designed to be worn over leggings or close-fitting pants; that's why they usually have zips down the legs as well as an elasticated waistband, which may or may not have a drawstring for further adjustment. Velcro ankle tabs can also be useful in keeping water from going up your pants.
Finally, when it comes to waterproofing, remember that it is not the DWR coating that makes a piece of clothing repel water - this only helps! The real waterproofing comes from an inner membrane of the fabric; so don't be led to believe that clothes with just DWR coating are completely waterproof.
You might find your waterproof pants or jacket start to absorb water instead of repelling it. If that's the case, wash the garment without softener and then put it in the drier on a medium head for 30-40 minutes. This will remove any dirt or oils on the fabric and will reactivate the waterproof coating. If the textile still doesn't repel water as it should, you can apply some shop-bought DWR.
If you'd like to find out more about the Keller Sports outdoor shoes and clothes range, as well as what we have on offer in our tennis and running departments, have a browse through our website!