Saturday 25 February 2012

And The Winner Is?

It’s around this time of year that all the awards are given out for music, film and TV. A flurry of Oscars, BAFTA’s, Brit Awards and Grammy’s bestowed on the great and the good – or, at least, the usual suspects and the currently in-vogue. Evening after evening of carefully planned surprise reactions, well-rehearsed impromptu speeches and fake tears: with its air of smug self-congratulation and mild sycophancy, I must confess to finding the whole business a little bit distasteful.

But it got me thinking. My faithful winter jacket (which is probably in line for a lifetime achievement award) has finally reached retirement age, and I’m in the process of looking for a suitable replacement. However, the world has moved on somewhat since last time I bought, and there is a long list of contenders for “best newcomer” – Active Shell, NeoShell, Performance Shell and Pro Shell to name but a few.

Besides that, there appears to be a new way of thinking about the various layers used, with several different types of new products available. Whether these have grown at the behest of the user or whether they are clever marketing tools to encourage us to buy more, I have yet to ascertain. The truth probably lies somewhere in between, and precisely where seems hard to pin down. But there is a vast array out there: since I last bought a winter jacket a plethora of possibilities has appeared.

There are soft shells – that almost indefinable range of products that inhabit the massive grey area between fleece and hard shell, and which seem to answer to pretty much any description or application – and which come with or without a hood.

Then there are hard shells. Although there are plenty of options that will offer a high degree of waterproofing, many also seem quite thin and provide little insulation. And, now that such store is placed on breathability, some of the hydrostatic head values are not as great as might be assumed – worth checking if you are principally concerned about keeping dry in prolonged heavy rain.

Next, there’s Primaloft – an insulating fibre that maintains it’s thermal properties even when wet. Again a range of products exist, designed either to go under or over your hard shell to add warmth when necessary (although supposedly not as warm as a down jacket). A good idea, perhaps, but are these too warm to walk in?

And I haven’t even gone near the Paramo-type clothing systems. They have their supporters as well as their detractors, but I won’t be taking that route for a number of well-documented reasons. I prefer membrane fabrics.

All in all, there is a bewildering array of options that only adds to the confusion. I’m sure I’ll make some sense of it given a bit of time, and I have investigated the subject of waterproof jackets in a previous post HERE, as some of you may recall. It’s not so much the actual jacket that concerns me, more it’s about getting the best selection of garments to be as flexible as possible whilst avoiding a potentially expensive mistake.

Because there are so many options available, I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on the subject. My main considerations revolve around two main criteria – the need to keep the rain and the need to stay warm – both when walking and at rest. A new, modern waterproof jacket (if chosen well) will keep me dry and deliver a modicum of windproofing as well, but because of the drive towards lighter and more breathable fabrics (beneficial in many ways) it will not necessarily provide the level of insulation that the old one did – although it will no doubt weigh a lot less! So I think I need to reconsider my insulation layer(s) as well as my jacket in order to retain the same overall level of warmth.

I really don’t mind walking in my hard shell – it’s what I’m used to, and I’m not unduly bothered about masses of breathability. In recent years I have used the traditional set up of baselayer, fleece(s) and waterproof jacket to combat any unpleasant weather. I expect to get a bit hot under several layers when walking hard, so a bit of moisture, to me, is to be expected (within reasonable limits) – I’m not being fussy or picky about it. But we do a bit more walking these days and find ourselves facing inclement conditions a bit more frequently, so if I can find additional flexibility and functionality in my gear, then great.

What I’m hoping to hit on is a functional combination of layers that can be applied to all sorts of cooler conditions – wind, rain, snow and cold. Baselayers I have now got covered (see my recent post HERE on Uniqlo Heattech products) but beyond that I am open to suggestions on Microfleece, Fleece, Soft Shell, Hard Shell and Belay Jacket and any combination thereof.

So, with awards season in full swing, my question is this: in your experience, which of the nominations do you think deserves the award for Best Costume Design in a winter setting?

No comments:

Post a Comment