While most outdoor wear is cross-functional, there are tricks to dressing well for some popular outdoor sports.
* Hiking: Whether on Mt. Baldy or in the Himalayas, weather changes, so layering is key: an inner layer to wick away moisture, an insulating layer to retain heat, an outer layer to shield against wind and rain. If you don’t wear it all, at least pack it. Sahara convertible pants in fast-drying nylon by REI can quickly convert to shorts via a zipper release at the knee. And women might follow the lead of female trekkers in Nepal who wear billowy, calf-length skirts. Add long underwear if it gets cold. Makes for easier pit stops, at least.
* In-Line Skating: Southern California’s hottest sport is highly aerobic, meaning you warm up fast, even on brisk mornings. To avoid overheating while protecting skin against potential road rash, consider pairing thin Lycra spandex tights with a lightweight, synthetic long underwear top--preferably with an anti-microbial finish. On particularly cool or windy mornings, start out with a thin shell that later can be tied around the waist.
* Sea Kayaking: Without a spray skirt--generally more bother than it’s worth--forget trying to keep the lower body dry. Water tends to drop off the paddle onto the lap or knees, making sponge-like cotton shorts a poor choice; thin nylon shorts dry faster. For the upper body, veteran paddlers like polypropylene because it stays warm when wet and won’t corrode in saltwater conditions. In colder climes, say north of Santa Barbara, MontBell’s fleece Chameece pullover or Patagonia’s neoprene Core Temp Top can help retain heat.
* Mountain Biking: Like in-line skating, mountain biking-- real mountain biking--produces buckets of sweat. The trick is to keep the upper body, especially the chest, dry so that long descents don’t turn into bone-chillers. Hind’s Lightweight DryLete jersey in nylon, polyester and Lycra spandex is one option. Pack a lightweight shell if the weather looks threatening, preferably a full-zippered model so you can change with your helmet on. Shorts? Lycra spandex with a quality crotch lining is the top choice.
* Rock Climbing: Bulk is a no-no. Christian Griffith, a recognized climber and founder of Boulder, Colo.-based Verve, says well-dressed climbers pay attention to mobility, durability and fit. “You have to have something you can move in, it has to hold up over time and protect you from abrasions against the rock, and it has to be well-fitting but not constrictive.” Serious rock-climbing gear is anti-trendy color-wise and shuns pockets, buckles--anything that adds weight.
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Lingua Alfresco * Animal weight: Thicker, more durable version of Lycra spandex.
* Anti-microbial finish: A treatment for polyester--especially polypropylene--that helps prevent bacteria-causing odor (a.k.a Stinky Sock Syndrome).
* Eco-Pile: Fleece, such as Patagonia’s Synchilla line, made from recycled plastic bottles.
* Hydrophilic: Water absorbing
* Hydrophobic: Water repelling
* Micro Mesh: Soft, lightweight polyester that’s odor resistant.
* Pit zips: Zippered openings in jacket armpits that allow for quick and easy cooling.
* Ultrex: Breathable polyurethane coating applied to fabric.
* Waterproof breathables: Outerwear fabrics designed to keep rain out while letting perspiration escape. Gore-Tex, made by W.L. Gore & Associates, started the trend in this technology. Others include MontBell’s DryTec, Lowe Alpine’s Triple Point Ceramic, Alpine Design’s Stormguard and Patagonia’s Super Pluma Gear.
* Water-resistant breathables: Fabrics that sacrifice some waterproofness for an extra degree of breathability. Examples: the North Face’s Hydrenaline, Patagonia’s H2No and Hind’s Micromax lines.
* Wicking: A fabric’s ability to pull moisture away from the skin.
At its chilliest, typically the month of January, California demands more than shorts and tank tops. Here are the average highs and lows.
Klamath Nat’l Forest: 54/38
Mt. Shasta: 42/25
Lake Tahoe: 41/16
Mendocino Nat’l Forest: 55/33
San Francisco: 55/42
Santa Cruz: 60/38
Sequoia Nat’l Forest: 63/41
Death Valley: 65/39
Santa Barbara: 63/41
Big Bear: 47/19
Lake Arrowhead: 45/29
Los Angeles: 65/47
Joshua Tree: 63/35
Lake Elsinore: 65/36
Palm Springs: 69/41
San Diego: 77/65
Source: Weather Data Inc.