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Outdoor Clothing Tips

Most outdoor clothes are designed to have mass appeal so they'll sell well.  The target groups are (roughly, in this order): RV and state park tent campers; anglers; hunters; backpackers; rock-climbers; kayakers; casual canoeists and lastly...wilderness canoeists.  Yes, clothes that are designed for generic outdoor sports will work for canoeing and camping, but there are concessions. 


Here are some features to avoid:

  • Pants with integral belts: Why? You can't secure sheath knives and multi-tools around your waist.

  • Pants with zippered legs:  Why? They can't be shortened and, zippers clog with debris and are first to fail on a wilderness trip.

  • Pants with elastic at the ankles:  Why?  They restrict ventilation.  And, they may be uncomfortable when tucked into boots.

  • Any garment that has tiny zippers:  Why? They fail fast!

  • Wind jackets that are “water-repellent”:  Why? ANY water-repellent coating reduces breathability--exactly what you don't want when you're paddling and portaging hard.  That's why cross-country skiers don't wear Gore-Tex!

  • Garments that don’t seal at the throat.  Why?  A gap here encourages an icy wind!

  • Fancy re-thread cord-locks:  Why?  They're time-consuming to tighten and loosen.  Speedy adjustments are handy when you're paddling into a wind or running rapids.

  • Noisy Gore-Tex garments: Why? I just don't like the sound of crinkling fabric.

  • Navy blue clothing:  Why? It attracts mosquitoes more than any other color.

  • Velcro on the sides of wide-brimmed hats:  Why? When the wind blows hard, the brim blows up and sticks to the Velcro.  Snaps are better. 

  • Wool-blend shirts:  Why? An all-wool shirt will repel rain for some time, whereas one that has synthetic fibers will soak through quickly.

  • Bibbed rain pants:  Why?  Every time a short rain stops you must remove your life vest before you can take off your rain pants.

  • Cord-lock waist on rain pants: Why? When the pants get wet, they become heavy and sag--a single cord-lock may not be enough to hold them up.  Double cord-locks or an integral belt is better.

  • Rain pants should have a waterproof zippered fly for men and a waterproof zippered crotch for women.  

  • Fabric liners in rain jackets and pants:  Why? They hang down and absorb water.  Bonded liners are best.

  • Rain pants with pockets:  Why?  They add bulk and cost.  Really, when was the last time you used the pockets in your rain pants?

  • Rain pants with elastic, snaps or closures of any kind at the ankles:  Why? They restrict ventilation.  Primitive man learned long ago that water doesn't flow uphill.

  • Arm-pit zippers on rain coats:  Why? These are fine for hikers who keep their arms at their sides when they walk.  Canoeists and kayakers raise their arms with every paddle stroke they take--and water drips down the inside sleeves and on to you!  Waterproof armpit zippers solve this problem, but they're expensive and bulky.

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