Cool Threads Need to Breathe

Nippy (45º to 55º Fahrenheit)     Photo: Clay Ellis

YOU'VE GOT A TRAINING PLAN. Now retire that college sweatshirt to dishtoweldom, get the proper clothes, and use them right. Here are the golden rules, courtesy of Hal Thomson, a member of the product-development team at Patagonia: (1) Always start with a light, breathable, moisture-wicking base layer. (2) Add pieces prudently. If a hat alone helps, leave the gloves at home. (3) Combat wind and wet with wind- and water-resistance, not more thermal layers. (4) Dress light enough that you reach a comfortable temperature a few minutes into the workout, not at the very beginning. (5) Dress even lighter for more intense workouts (or plan to remove and carry layers). Below, high-performance ensembles we recommend for deteriorating weather.

RLX Polo Sport Multisport Long Sleeve Top ($50)
800-875-8347; www.polo.com

New Balance Drylast Short ($24)
800-253-7463; www.newbalance.com

RLX Polo Lightweight Socks ($9)
800-875-8347; www.newbalance.com

THE LOWDOWN:
* In cool conditions, your upper body needs long-sleeve protection, but not at the expense of ventilation. Performance tops are made with a wicking fabric, meaning they'll pull moisture off your skin and transport it outward, where it can evaporate.

* In transitional weather, avoid all-or-nothing clothing options. Consider shorts that wick and hug the thighs (they're warmer than baggy shorts) but leave the lower leg exposed to prevent overheating.

Sporthill Invasion Top ($44)
800-622-8444; www.sporthill.com

Nike Microfiber Vest ($48)
800-344-6453; www.nike.com

Hind DryLite Running Tight ($40)
800-952-4463; www.hind.com

Patagonia Endurance Socks ($13)
800-638-6464; www.patagonia.com

THE LOWDOWN:
* A quality base layer can be worn alone in milder conditions and is light, form-fitting, and moisture-wicking--the perfect undergarment when the mercury drops.

* We love vests. Many offer a great ratio of warmth to weight and bulk. When it's too chilly for a base layer alone but not quite shell time, a fleece vest insulates your core while allowing heat to escape from your upper extremities.

* Worried that tights can be a little too, uh, Baryshnikov? Get over it. Snug-fitting, polyester-based tights transport sweat away from your skin better than loose-fitting pants. And they'll protect your legs from the chill when you stop to heave during intervals.

Pearl Izumi Microsensor headband ($15)
800-877-7080; www.pearlizumi.com

Patagonia Electralight Jacket ($165)
800-638-6464; www.patagonia.com

Sporthill Invasion Top ($44)
800-622-8444; www.sporthill.com

Pearl Izumi Attack Pant ($65)
800-877-7080; www.pearlizumi.com

Hind DryLite Glove ($20)
800-952-4463; www.hind.com

Patagonia Wool Velocity Socks ($16)
800-638-6464; www.patagonia.com

THE LOWDOWN:
*Traditional waterproof-breathable shells work fine in full conditions, but you can easily overwhelm these garments, since they don't breathe well during high-intensity activity. Consider instead a "soft shell," which incorporates textiles that are elastic, wind- and water-resistant, light, and extremely breathable. You'll stay drier and warmer, even when the precip's flying and the temp is plummeting.

*When foul weather forces you to add layers, weight and mobility can become a problem. The latest crop of shell pants are featherweight, bombproof, and cut for freedom of movement. Pull them over your tights for complete protection.

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