Rain. It’s doing just that outside my window at the moment. It is a phenomenon I have always enjoyed in Arkansas – just love those long, drawn out days of clouds and slow drizzle that come with the cooler weather. Its cozy weather for being indoors and provides a nice atmosphere for contemplation.
In a very short time, I will be (lawd willin) in one of the hot spots for rain in the world. Cool, low clouds, slow rain: all of these are par for the course in western Washington for the majority of the year. My experience in this weather will not, however, be limited to my watching it from my window pane. I will be living in it.
This latter fact has recently prompted me to consider clothing choices. In cool, wet weather, cotton kills. I learned this early in my career as a Boy Scout. Basically when cotton, the garment that 99% of us wear 99% of the time (made up stat), becomes wet, it loses its insulating purposes, sucking the heat right out of the body. On camping trips I have on occasion seen friends shivering and in danger of hypothermia simply due to the fact that they were not “dressed for success.”
Better materials to wear when in areas prone to rain and cool (or snow and cold) are wool and synthetics. The majority of these materials and blends do provide warmth even when wet. The advantage of wool in my experience is that it does not hold scent while synthetics are often not as scratchy as garments of more “organic” weaves.
Buckskin, another favorite of mine, does not fare well when wet. This past summer I learned this fact very quickly after walking around in wet moose skin moccasins for a day with my feet freezing (if it weren’t for a mandatory shoe policy, this wouldn’t have happened). The old timers and Indians would have covered their skins with various materials such as wool, grass, etc. to prevent them from becoming soaked.
Now that I am about to embark on my trip, I am faced with a decision on what type of clothing to bring with me. 2 pairs of undergarments (1 wool and 1 synthetic) are a check. So are several pairs of wool socks (some of which I need to buy) will be important as well, especially considering the fact that I will at times employ socks as my primary footwear (barefoot in warm/cool weather, barefoot alternating with wearing socks when colder, when very cold (snow would qualify) wearing socks around the whole day – I do not yet know how well wool will hold up under such wear so this is an experiment of sorts in minimalist footwear. I of course have moccasins and Vibram Five Fingers depending on the weather and ground conditions I am in). Wool shirts sound nice (used would be great as they are cheaper). Otherwise I will be checking all the tags of clothing in my closet and pulling out those polyester gym pants and Bill Cosby sweaters that have been hiding away. Cotton will be reserved for those occasional trips to town (it’s a temptation I have overcome in my life).
The rain jacket is a mystery for me at the moment. I have somehow gone through almost a years worth of camping in my life to now come to the realization that I have never really owned one. At Philmont this summer I lugged around a light windbreaker. Somehow I was convinced it was waterproof. I stayed in this happy delirium until one day on the nine mile hike from my camp to my car when Mother Nature decided the landscape needed watering. It rained three hours and I was soaked from head to toe (minus my backpack which I secured with a waterproof covering). Thankfully I wasn’t wearing cotton.
The moral of this story is that if one wants to stay dry, it is advisable that she either invest in or make a covering to shed the rain or do like many native peoples throughout history and simply stay indoors/under shelter during rain (this latter approach being difficult in our world of strict schedules). Or one can opt for my strategy and simply dig the rain in insulating clothing (not advisable).
I am sure I will have more to write on this topic in the months to come.