For many people, fall conjures up images of pumpkin spice lattes and changing leaves, jack-o’-lanterns and candy corn. But along with the coziness of changing seasons comes a tricky question—how do you dress for time outdoors when it could be seventy degrees and sunny, forty degrees and rainy, or anything in between?
In the mountains, spring and fall are known as “shoulder seasons” because they’re awkward, unpredictable transitions between peak recreation time in winter and summer. I’ve spent many hours soggy and wind-chilled, learning about adventure gear for colder weather the hard way—but if you follow these tips, you won’t have to do the same.
The number one tip for anyone looking to spend time outdoors as the seasons change is to dress in layers. Whether you’re walking to work in an urban environment or heading out for an epic hike, rapidly changing weather and fluctuating body temperatures make layering options the most important factor in choosing your colder weather adventure gear. It’s tempting to buy one super-warm, waterproof jacket and be done with it, but many fall days lead to sunny afternoons, and waterproof jackets often leave their wearers a bit sweaty as the workload increases.
If you think it’s going to be chilly and damp, pack a jacket of suitable weight for the weather and an outer shell for the rain. Is it one of those days where the morning temperature is below freezing and the afternoon looks to be sixty degrees and sunny? Two different mid-weight jackets work much better than a single heavy one.
There’s almost nothing warmer than a dry down jacket. And there’s almost nothing colder than soggy down plastered to your skin. There’s a dizzying array of waterproof materials out there for rain layers, and each one has an intended use. For trudging through torrential downpours high on a mountain, jackets with maximum water and wind resistance are crucial. There’s nothing worse than finding out the light shell you wore to stay dry on quick jogs in college isn’t so waterproof while you’re on a fishing trip in Alaska a decade later.
For strolling the urban trails of a notoriously damp area, such as Seattle or Portland, a breathable waterproof layer helps you stay dry without getting your base outfit steamy. Fully impermeable jackets are akin to wrapping yourself in aluminum foil and plastic wrap, whereas breathable rain layers somehow keep you dry while letting a little breeze through.
Something for Everyone
The best part about smart layering and thoughtful buying is that you can make your wardrobe for colder weather adventure gear suitable for every situation with only a few key additions. Oftentimes, the gear you already have can be wonderfully augmented with the right complementary pieces. Whether you need to stay warmer or dryer (or both!), the right technical gear can help you and your family stay comfortable on any adventure this fall.