Mountain Clothing

Modern materials and construction techniques mean that there is no such thing as bad weather in the mountains, just poor clothing!

Here we will discuss briefly the correct way to dress for snowsports in the high mountains.

Winter in Europe usually spans a period of 4 – 5 months, from December until April, but in these days of “global warming”, the seasons are more unpredictable than ever!

So, clothing has to be adaptable, warmth when needed, waterproofness balanced with breathability and with less bulk for comfort and lightness.

The most efficient way of achieving this is by using a layering system. Consisting of a base layer next to the skin, this will usually be either a man made fibre or natural wool such as Merino. Both will wick moisture or sweat out and away from the skin whilst drying quickly if they become wet. This avoids the chilling effect on cooling down after the body has been working hard and building up a sweat. The advantage of Merino wool is that it can be worn for longer periods of time without it becoming “smelly”.

Next is a mid layer, which again will transport moisture away from the body whilst providing a degree of warmth, usually by trapping a layer of air within its fibres which acts as an insulator.

Brushed polyester fleece is ideal but again natural wool can also be used although this will be much heavier and more bulky especially if wet. Fleece exists in many different forms which provide varying degrees of warmth. It is an easy to care for garment, dries quickly and is lightweight. It can appear to have the “fleece” on just one side or both sides, depending on how it has been made. It is also very breathable and because of this will not be very windproof. To make it more windproof, a smooth closely knit outer or windstopper laminate is used but this will have an adverse effect on the breathability, especially when used with a waterproof outer layer. This makes garments such as softshells really only suitable as outer layers.

Finally the outer garment, very important as it is the first barrier between you and the elements, ideally a lightweight waterproof shell garment which can be either a full 3 layer fabric such as Gore Tex or a lighter weight 2.5 layer such as Gore Tex Active. There are also many other alternatives, often combining stretch in the fabric for extra comfort, such as Entrant Dermizax EV.  All of these fabrics will provide an adequate degree of waterproofness, balanced with breathability and being windproof. This garment should have all seems fully taped to ensure no water penetration. Zip openings, pockets, etc, should be covered by flaps or be the waterproof type.
So that gives us 3 essential layers of clothing. However…

In colder conditions a further “first layer” may be added on top of the base layer, this could be a micro fleece, adding further insulation with minimal bulk and weight.

Alternatively or additionally a really good insulating garment such as Down Feather or man made Primaloft jacket or vest can be used either beneath the outer shell or worn on top in dry conditions. The advantage of these garments is they have excellent insulating values, low weight and are very compressible, so can easily be carried in a backpack for emergency use. Primaloft has the added advantage of still working when it gets wet and will dry quickly, unlike down feathers which will “clump” and lose their efficiency. Note that these garments often have a very fine fabric shell to aid low weight and pack ability so can be easily ripped on sharp objects.

There is much discussion about the waterproofness and breathability of clothing. An outer layer used for any outdoor activity needs to balance these requirements if any degree of body heat is generated during that activity. A plastic bag is very waterproof but you would be equally as wet on the inside with the build up of condensation if you were to do any activity whilst wearing one. We have kept this article quite simple and not too technical but as a general rule an outer garment with a waterproof rating of above 20,000mm will be excellent, 15,000mm will be good and 10,000mm will be OK, especially for use in snow which is generally not as demanding as rain. For breathability, or the ability to allow the passage of water vapour (sweat),  a rating of 20,000g/m2/24hr or above will be excellent. 15,000g/m2/24hr will be good and below that you will probably get sweaty!

It is important to buy clothing which is comfortable and fits correctly, quality costs but will be worth it when faced with adverse weather conditions and will give good service if well cared for. There is much choice in the market place, advanced fabrics, laser cutting, welded seams and sophisticated manufacturing techniques mean that clothing is both very technical and fashionable from the quality brands. It should also be pointed out that the layering system is totally adaptable to all conditions and garments can be used both summer and winter for various activities, so the initial investment is soon justified…. Remember, one heavily insulated bulky ski jacket is only useful for one thing!

Maloja – (“Ma- loy- ah”) An attitude and way of life. The brand of clothing from Germany which pushes the forefront of design and style. The name comes from a small alpine town high up in the Engadin valley in Switzerland, born here almost 10 years ago, now established as Europe’s coolest and most aspirational clothing for the mountain sports enthusiast.

An ever growing band of mountain bikers, downhillers, road bikers, freeride skiers, boarders, climbers and runners enjoy the comfort, image and style that their Maloja clothing gives them. Both during and after sport, Maloja has a vast and unique collection of technical and lifestyle products, which can be found throughout Europe and now the rest of the world in fine sports stores.

In the UK a dealer network is growing, with top wintersports store Snow & Rock stocking Maloja products from later this year. As worn by the Maloja team of pro riders and some of the worlds finest athletes, we are proud to be associated with Ski Weekend. A specialist company which fits the philosophy of Maloja, keen to guide people into the mountains, pushing their limits, to new and undiscovered places. Finding adventure, accessed only by touring skis and skins, bikes, climbing boots or by helicopter, wild and free from the crowds… that is “Maloja”.