When choosing a lightweight down jacket one of the most important decisions you will need to make is whether to have a full length zip or a half length zip. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so ruminate on our list before you make a decision.
Full Length Zip Positives
Easy to take on and off
Vent yourself easily if the zip is two-way
Can be opened out and used as a blanket
Access inner pockets quickly
Possible to join it with other jackets
Full Length Zip Negatives
Larger zip area leads to greater heat loss
More surface area for wind and rain penetration
More wear and tear on the zip
Half Length Zip Positives
More down area, so warmer
Less zip wear and tear
Better fit around the stomach
Less zip area for wind and rain penetration
Half Length Zip Negatives
More difficult to take on and off
Harder to access inner jacket pockets
Harder to vent your body during intense exercise
Lightweight Down Jacket – Full Zip or Half Zip?
At the end of the day both half zip and full zip lightweight down jackets are going to keep you warm. The decision you will need to make is do you want a jacket that is versatile – full length zip, or one that is slightly warmer and better fitting – half length zip.
If are poor at regulating your body heat and are constantly placing on and removing jackets then the full length zip is the style of lightweight down jacket best suited to you. If you feel the cold and very rarely remove a jacket over long periods of time outdoors, then the half zip version is going to be more useful.
And finally, what about your hair? If you like to look perfect and are constantly preening yourself then a half zip jacket is going to cause you untold grief, so they are best avoided!
The key to finding out how to stop your base layers smelling is to understand the biological mechanisms causing the stench in the first place.
When humans sweat they excrete two different types of perspiration, eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine sweat is excreted all over your body and is watery, slightly salty and generally unoffensive smelling. Apocrine sweat on the other hand is made up of fatty compounds excreted from your groin and glands in your armpits, and is unsurprisingly a lot smellier.
The real stench however comes from the waste products of a range of viral, bacterial and fungal strains contained in your skins natural micro-biome breaking down the apocrine sweat, as well as other bodily products, such as dead skin cells.
Now we understand why we smell, lets talk about strategies for keeping our base layers smelling fresh:
Wash Base Layers Regularly
This might sound obvious but a regular cleaning routine for your base layers will do wonders for keeping the niff at bay. Removing the smell causing bacteria’s food source i.e. perspiration, will greatly reduce lingering odours. Regular washing will also reduce the build-up of stink causing microbes in the first place,
*Just a quick word of warning – Always remember to follow the manufacturers washing instructions for your base layers. These will be found on a sewn in neck or side label. Do not freestyle, as you may end up with deformed, shrunk, or literally destroyed thermals.
Use A Dedicated Base Layer Cleaner
If you just use household detergents to clean your base layers, then you are missing a trick. Not only can regular use be damaging to base layers, they often only mask smells rather than remove them.
Once in a while, give your thermals a bit of TLC and treat them to a dedicated cleaner such as Storm Cares Base And Mid Layer Wash. Not only will they help to remove stubborn ingrained smells, they will also soften the fabric and decrease the drying time.
Avoid Fabrics Microbes Love
Polyester base layers are manna from heaven for smell causing fungus and bacteria. If someone next to you stinks after going out for a run, then you can bet your bottom dollar that their base layer is produced from polyester
Fabrics most inhospitable to smell creating microbes are those made form natural fibres, like wool and cotton. The downside of these base layers is they are not very good at moisture management, are not particularly easy to wash, and often have short shelf lives if used regularly.
A good compromise is to wear Polyamide base layers. These are more robust and just as easy to wash as polyester base layers, but are nowhere near as attractive to microbes, allowing you to smell sweeter for longer.
Dry Base Layers Thoroughly
No wash is going to remove all the smell causing microbes from your base layers, and a damp one is a breeding ground for smell causing nasties – Anybody who has left a sweaty thermal in a plastic bag for a few days will testify to what we are talking about.
The good thing about modern synthetic base layers is that they dry very quickly, and the quicker you dry them, the less time there is for microbes to multiply.
Again, remember to read the garments washing instructions thoroughly as many base layers cannot be dried in a tumble dryer.
Store Them Washed And Dried
When it comes to storing your base layers away for the summer, always wash them thoroughly first, preferably with a dedicated base layer cleaner, ensuring they are fully dry. This will help to reduce smells reappearing in storage as you remove the food source and optimum environment for smell causing bacteria to grow.
If you can, avoid placing them in plastic storage bags as any moisture present will linger and provide an ideal growing medium for any smell causing bacteria. The best way would be to hang them up in a wardrobe, or place them in a draw where clothes are constantly moved around.
Conclusion: How To Stop Your Base Layers From Smelling
We’ve all experienced the unpleasantness of stinky base layers, either our own or a friends. Smells that linger are usually caused by poor laundry habits, and can usually be remedied by washing them regularly using a dedicated base layer wash and ensuring they are fully dried before folding away.
Sometimes though, base layers have been neglected for so long that they are passed redemption. If this is the case with yours then think about investing in a good quality durable thermal that can be easily laundered, such as our Factor 1 Plus base layer range.
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Going on a family camping trip is a big adventure for everyone involved. The secret to its success will be down to your preparation, so if you need some help, just follow our top tips for a great family camping holiday.
Put Up Your Tent
If it is your first family camping trip of the season or you have just bought a new tent, ensure you put it up first in your garden just to check it over and ensure you know what you are doing. The kids will love you for it and it’s a great build-up to the actual trip.
Inspect Your Gear
How many of you have lit their stove for the gas to run out after a few minutes? I suspect more than will admit it. Even if you just check the essentials it is better than having to beg and borrow when on your pitch:
Batteries for torches and lamps
Camping gas for stoves
Pack The Car Beforehand
Be under no illusion, you will pack more kit than you can actually fit in to your car. To avoid family arguments prior to setting off, pre-pack your gear so you know exactly what can be feasibly carried. If more space is needed then think about using a roof box or get friends and family to take stuff for you.
Plan Your Journey
You would be amazed at how many people rock up to sites after they have closed or in the dark after they have miscalculated the length of time the journey will take. All it takes is a quick check on a route planner (such as online with the AA) to show you the best routes and travel times. If you are going to run the route off a smartphone app then ensure you are able to charge it during the journey as they can be power hungry. The last thing you want is to travel most of the way for your phone to die.
Entertain The Troops
Most parents probably dread the journey to the campsite, especially if it is more then an hours travel time. Keeping the kids entertained in the back of the car should be one of your top priorities as it sets the tone for the rest of the holiday – as well as removing unnecessary distractions from the driver. However, this doesn’t mean you have to comatose them in front of a screen. There are loads of car games you can play without any equipment that will keep the little darlings happy for ages.
It is very tempting to save room in the car by taking minimal provisions. Most campsites now have a small shop and you are very rarely a short car journey away from a supermarket. But this carries a number of risks. What if you are delayed and arrive after the shops are closed? or setting up your pitch takes longer than expected and the kids are hungry? Our advice would to be take at least a full days meals with you as a backstop.
Take Some Bricks
Space is at a premium and you want me to take some building materials? Really? Well, the fact is that a lot of campsites do not let you place disposable BBQ’s on the floor due to their potential fire hazard and subsequent scorch marks on the grass. Propping them up on bricks helps to get over this problem. Alternatively, invest in a collapsible metal table or a fire pit/BBQ on legs.
Nights Can Be Cold
Even in the middle of summer, nights can be cold, which is understandable considering your tent is basically a thin sheet of fabric with very little insulation. Instead of taking normal pyjamas, think about substituting them for base layers. They are often lighter but help to regulate your body temperature much more efficiently.
Family Camping Backup Plans
Anticipate the unexpected should be your mantra. It could be glorious hot weather one minute, driving rain the next. Spend a little time beforehand researching alternative activities for all eventualities. Even if you run out of time to do this, you can always start your holiday by popping to the local tourist information centre to collect some local ideas.
Camping with the family is a great way to relax for all concerned. Let your kids go ‘feral’ for a few days and they will be as happy as pigs in muck. This doesn’t mean abandoning parental responsibility, just allow the ordinary boundaries of daily home life to be more flexible.
With a scorchio weather forecast for this bank holiday, we all need to take extra care when playing in the sun. After such a long winter, it is very tempting to over indulge and soak up the suns rays, but your skin just won’t be ready for long unprotected bursts. Follow our five top tips to protect your skin this weekend, and stay sun safe rather than sun sorry.
Use A High SPF Rating Sun Cream
Don’t be fooled in to thinking the sun cannot harm your skin in the Spring as it is ‘weak’. It shines 365 days a year and can damage your skin on any one of these days whether it be Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter.
At least twenty minutes before you head out in to the sun, ensure you liberally apply a sun cream with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. This should be a broad spectrum cream that shields against both UV A and B rays. Reapply at regular intervals, especially after swimming.
Be Aware Of Reflections
If you are lucky enough to be lying on a sandy beach then you need to be aware that you are not only getting exposed to the suns rays from above but also from reflective surfaces such as sand and the sea. In the case of water, UV reflection can be as much as 30%.
To protect your skin, ensure you apply sun screen to all that is exposed, rather than skin that is directly facing the sun. Purchasing a good quality water resistant sun screen will give extra protection to swimmers from both reflective UV rays and those that penetrate the waters surface.
Cover Exposed Skin And Heads
Wearing a wide brimmed hat not only keeps the sun out of your eyes, but also protects your ears and face, something that baseball caps are notoriously bad at.
Necks are better protected by wearing a collared shirt rather than a round neck t-shirt but just remember to apply sunscreen to the exposed ‘V’ at the front of the buttons.
Stay Out Of Midday Sun
The suns rays are at their strongest when directly overhead, usually between the hours of 11am-3pm. If you can avoid it, stay out of the sun during these times, or at least limit your exposure.
If you know there is going to be little shade at your destination then it is imperative, especially if you have young children and/or dogs, to take some sort of shelter. This can be as simple as a sun umbrella or a pop up beach tent.
Be Wary On Cloudy And Windy Days
Most people who have been badly sunburnt will probably tell you it was during cloudy and/or windy days. The cooler temperatures can lull you in to a false sense of security, but clouds only stop around 27% of UV rays
People need to treat an overcast or cooler windy day as any other sunny day: liberally apply sun cream of SPF30+, stay out of mid day sun, cover the head with a hat and exposed skin with lightweight clothing, and err on the side of caution.
Protect your Skin
Your skin is the largest human organ and is exposed to everything from sub zero temperatures to scorching hot summer sun. Protecting it from damage is pretty easy but is often overlooked in the heat of holiday excitement. Superficial sun burn will dissipate over a relatively short time but the unseen damage to your skin will last a lifetime. So take some advice from Baz luhrmann and wear sunscreen.
We are currently living through extraordinary times, with technological advances altering the way we live our day to day lives on an unprecedented scale. If you think about it, over the past thirty years we have seen the birth of the internet, introduction of not just hand held telephones but smart phones, music tapes to CD’s to streaming services and downloads, rise of ecommerce, tablet computers, social media, and wifi. But what about the future of base layers?
You would think that the 21st century would be heralding in a new era of innovative yarns and fabrics to manage our bodies micro environment. Unfortunately reality is not as exciting. Since the introduction of synthetic yarn polymers polyamide, polypropylene, polyester and acrylic in the 1930s through to the 1950s their has been no major breakthrough in new synthetic yarn technology until the recent discovery of Graphene – and this is in it’s infancy stage. In fact a lot of ‘new’ yarns and fabrics are rehashes of existing technologies, just with more flashier images and branding.
Do not be feel downhearted. Even though the core basics of synthetic base layers have not changed in more than sixty years, there are a lot of new developments in their construction and manufacturing that lifts them in to the 21st century.
One area that has drastically changed over the past 10 years is the technology employed in base layer manufacture. Traditional cut and sew methods are still the most popular production technique but this is being chased by semi-seamless and whole garment digital knitting machines. The benefit of these new machines is the electronic selection of needles, allowing you to knit totally different constructions within the same garment (body mapping) without having seams, such as in our Factor 1 Plus base layer range.
Since base layers were first developed there has always been a dividing line between natural yarn purists (such as wool wearers) and synthetic converts. This has now started to blur as natural and synthetic fibres are blended together to give you the benefit of both.
A good example of this is in the Merino wool market where polyamide and/or elastane is mixed with the Merino wool fibres to add extra stability and better handling properties.
Nature has been product developing for billions of years, which is why scientists are now starting to look at the natural world with more vigour as they have realised that nature has often solved problem before them.
VELCRO was invented in 1948 after a Swiss inventor noticed burrs had stuck to his trousers and his dogs fur after walking in a field. More recently, a sugar found in crab shells called chitosan is being used to produce eco-friendly flame-retardant clothing.
Base Layer Diversification
When base layers were first conceived it was a one style fits all system. Very little choice was available, and the fabrics were based mainly on polyester. Roll forward forty years and the base layer landscape has changed drastically. With more people actually understanding the benefit of wearing them, there has been an explosion of styles and weights of base layers. This is only going to expand as digital knitting technology and sport specific clothing designers latch on to these new ideas and push base layers in to niche markets.
It has always been the holy grail of garment manufacturers and technologists to merge everyday electronic gadgets with clothing. However, the problem has always been with the miniaturisation of the technology and the longevity of it once it has been employed (the stretching and washing of fabrics is very destructive).
Developments in flexible conductive material such as graphene eliminates a lot of these problems, and the improvements in nano-technology is seeing robust wearable modules being tested on base layers for the first time. One recent experiment we have been involved in has been integrating a heart monitor in to base layers for
What Is The Future Of Base Layers?
Even though the basic yarn technology employed in the production of most base layers has not changed since the middle of the twentieth century, there are lots of new advancements in their construction and the application of electronic soft technology to make them more than suited to the 21st century.
The one area that will be a game changer for athletes and adventurers alike has already started with the advancement in digital knitting machines and body shape recognition software. Once these are refined and production costs reduced, it won’t be long until bespoke base layers will be produced for individuals remotely.
The one thing that is for certain is that base layer design does not stand still. All it takes is a bit of ingenuity and the adoption of new technology. So with this in mind, what do you think the future of base layers will be?
Named after the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War, the original head protection was knitted from thick wool to keep soldiers heads warm during the harsh winters. Nowadays you can buy balaclavas in all types of materials from lightweight base layer fabric to heavy weight polar fleece.
A typical balaclava fully covers your head and also your neck, with an opening in the front for your mouth, nose and eyes. This can either be a single opening (as the image above) or separate holes – just think of the SAS.
If you do not own or have never worn one, then let us extol the virtues of the much maligned humble balaclava.
Wearing any type of helmet, whether that be a motorbike helmet or a safety helmet, is going to lead to your head sweating due to the poor breathability of the protective outer material. Without wearing a balaclava, this sweat will be absorbed in to the supporting inner foam, creating an ideal environment for odour creating bacteria to prosper. Not only will your helmet be smelly, it will also need replacing earlier as the foam is attacked by naturally occurring acids in your perspiration.
Balaclavas insulate most of your head and neck in one go. If you wanted the same level of protection without wearing one, then you would need a separate hat, neck tube, face mask, and head band. These altogether are not only expensive but also bulky on your face.
The adaptability of a balaclava makes it one of the best pieces of emergency kit to keep in your backpack should the weather take a turn for the worse. Not only is it a full head and neck covering, it can also be turned up in to a beanie hat, or a neck tube if required. The flexibility of the material will also allow you to cover your nose or leave it exposed depending on the weather conditions.
Most of your head is covered when wearing a balaclava, so there is much less surface area for heat to escape from. The thermal insulating properties can obviously be adjusted depending on the materials used in its manufacture. A lightweight base layer fabric is thin enough to be worn under a helmet and is ideal for Spring and Autumn use as well. When the weather starts getting colder then you will need to change to a mid layer balaclava, whilst winter mountaineering will require a thick polar fleece design.
Look A Bad Ass
You cannot argue with the fact that you look ‘well ard’ wearing a balaclava. Just make sure you take it off before entering a bank!
Buy A Balaclava
If you are still not sold on the idea of wearing a balaclava then you obviously have not experienced biting cold for any length of time. It may not be the trendiest piece of headgear available but who cares what you look like in a 80mph gale on top of a snow windswept mountain.
Fashion always seems to go in full circles, and this is no more truer than with thermal underwear. For centuries wool had been the winter underwear of choice but this changed with the invention of man made yarns in the 1940s and 50s. New materials made from these raw materials lead to the spread of the synthetic base layer towards the end of the 20th century. However, over the past decade the market has seen a resurgence of performance woollen underwear, with synthetic base layers being much maligned, albeit by woollen vested interests.
Before people start to dispose of their ‘plastic’ underwear and adopt a more ‘environmentally friendly’ woollen clothing system, they should really consider the following points:
Wool can be itchy. There is no getting away from it. If people have sensitive skin then it doesn’t matter how soft the wool actually is, it is going to irritate the wearer. Sometimes this can be psychosomatic, but that is no comfort if you are on top of a mountain scratching away.
Synthetic fabrics on the other hand have a very soft handle, especially polyamide, that rarely irritates the skin. The long smooth fibre profile glides over the skin rather than scour it. This smoothness also helps other items of clothing to glide over a synthetic base layer, helping to prevent rubbing and chafing.
Being a natural product, wool will degrade over time. This was fashionably demonstrated by HRH Prince Charles who buried an old woollen jumper. Although this composting ability is seen as a major advantage it does have the disadvantage in that the longevity of a woollen base layer is short. You will be lucky if one set lasts you a season if used regularly.
In comparison, a synthetic base layer will not degrade, well not in your lifetime anyway. Viewed mainly as a negative to the environmental lobby, this is in fact a positive – a thermal base layer for your lifetime. Most people only change their synthetic base layer if a) they loose it b) they boil wash it and shrink it c) change body shape that means the fit is no longer good d) fancy a different colour.
Better Moisture Management
Wool acts a bit like a sponge, soaking up moisture when in contact with it. Defenders of this process will state that it doesn’t feel wet, it’s just absorbed internally. OK, this is true for about 25% absorption, but if you fall in a body of water you are going to have a very heavy base layer. Just feel the weight of a washed jumper before the spin cycle.
With a synthetic base layer basically being made form plastic, water absorption within the yarn is very low, and is in fact 0% in polypropylene base layers, effectively making them waterproof. The construction of the garment will dictate how much water is actually held (rather than absorbed) but this is often marginal. With these base layers, and especially polyamides, you can impregnate hydrophilic treatments in to the yarn itself to further aid moisture movement.
Most people will have probably shrunk a woollen jumper at some point in their life. Its a natural reaction by the wool fibres to heat, water and mechanical action to want to revert back to their original curly shape. Think of straightened frizzy hair after getting rained on. Some woollen base layer can be washed on a cool cycle with no spin, but most recommend hand washing and line drying, which is ideal in the summer, but a pain in the bum in the winter when you are going to use them the most.
Don’t get me wrong, synthetic base layers will shrink at high wash temperatures, but put them on a washing machine spin cycle at 30-40oC and you will have no issues. Due to their low water absorption, they will also dry much quicker.
More Environmentally Friendly
If you interviewed most outdoor enthusiasts, the vast majority would probably believe that woollen base layers are more environmentally friendly than synthetic versions. You can understand why. It’s a natural product that rots down and absorbed back in to the earth. But scratch a little further and all is not as it would seem. Wool is not something you just sheer off the back of a sheep and wear. There are a lot of energy intensive processes involved to get a finished product that is relatively soft and user friendly. So if you are having to buy one woollen base layer a year, over your lifetime that is a lot of energy and resources used.
In contrast, a synthetic base layer may not be biodegradable but it will last a long time and is a lot more robust. You may only ever need one thermal set in your lifetime if you are lucky enough to stay the same shape. Once you have finished with, it can also be recycled in to the next base layer for someone else lifetime.
For just coming off a sheeps back, the cost of a finished wool product is very expensive, mainly due to the amount of processes involved. A new set every year is going to be cost prohibitive to a lot of people, especially with the added risk of laundry damage and natural wear and tear.
A good quality synthetic base layer of comparable weight and style will probably be around 15-25% cheaper. Once you start to multiply the cost by the lifetime of the garment, you are getting a lot more bang for your buck with a synthetic base layer.
When Wool Should Be Used
There are certain situations where we would advise woollen base layers to be used. If any person has the possibility of contact with fire such as in the aviation industry or the emergency services, then woollen base layers are ideal, as the fabric chars rather than burns. There are also industrial applications, such as welding, where sparks or high temperatures may be around the wearer.
If you have ripped your favourite down jacket then there are a number of options available to fix the tear. Our down jacket repair tips and tricks are quick and easy to follow without being onerous on your pocket.
You can of course do nothing, but over time the down insulation filling will billow out and you will be left with a very expensive windproof!
Preparing The Down Repair
Before you do anything you must ensure that the down filling is pushed back in to the hole. If the rip is small then use something thin and blunt such as closed tweezers or the end of a pen.
Try and avoid using items with a sharp tip that could push through the fabric if you slip, or a finger, as they often make the hole bigger.
If the fabric is dirty around the hole then you will need to clean it before applying an adhesive patch or tape.
Duct Tape Fix
Good quality duct tape is a quick way to prevent any further loss of down insulation from your jacket. Just cut the required shape and apply it. If you spend a bit of time pressing down the edges then they will not peel away very easily.
A lot of people use this technique as a permanent fix, but if you want something more aesthetically pleasing then you could use this as a temporary measure.
Down Jacket Repair Tape
Repair tape is similar to Duct Tape but it is a bit more refined in appearance and is easier to cut in to the required shape. These tapes come in both an adhesive form and an iron on system in both fabric and plastic materials.
If you are handy with a needle then you can always stitch the rip in your down jacket. This can be a very permanent solution if done correctly. However, it can look very messy as you need to pull in a lot of fabric around the tear.
Down Jacket Repair Patches
This is probably the best looking fix for small to medium sized tears in down jackets. The self adhesive backing on these waterproof flexible fabric patches is very sticky, allowing for good coverage over seams.
Most packs come with both oblong and circular shapes to avoid patches lifting off when edges are caught.
If your boiler gives up the ghost in the middle of winter then you are going to be cold unless you take some practical steps. Our ten top tips for keeping warm indoors are easy to follow and require very little preparation.
Get It Fixed
A no brainer you would think but a lot of people procrastinate over important decisions like this. The truth is the sooner you contact a heating engineer for a call-out, the quicker your boiler will be fixed. Always check your home insurance policy first as you may be covered for emergency breakdown cover.
Cuddle A Loved One
We have all seen it in survival movies and documentaries, and even Luke Skywalker used a Tauntaun to beat the cold – although he was technically inside it rather than cuddling it – but sharing body warmth with a partner or a loving pet is a great way to keep warm.
Wear Extra Layers
Before your house starts to cool down, apply more clothing layers to trap body warmth. You don’t need to go over the top and look like the Michelin Man, but digging out your thermal base layers and woolly jumpers would be a good start.
Standing still in a chilly house will soon lead to you getting cold. Do something active such as hoovering and cleaning to generate body heat and take your mind off your predicament, plus you get a gleaming house in the process.
Stay In One Room
Heat rapidly dissipates through an unheated house so close all the doors and concentrate heat in to one living area. If your house is relatively draughty then think about blocking the bottom of doors with a towel or old coat.
Light A Fire
If you are lucky enough to have a wood burner then now is the time to light it! Burn it hard to start with to warm up the fire and the room, and then reduce it for a steady release of heat.
For those people without a log burner, getting instant heat needn’t be difficult if you have an electric ceramic, halogen or fan heater. They are relatively inexpensive to buy these days and are always handy to have as a back-up.
Eat and Drink
Try and keep yourself well fed and watered to ensure your bodies internal heat supply works at maximum efficiency – mainly through digestion. Avoid foods that will chill your body such as iced drinks and frozen foods, and try and consume foods you can warm up.
Electric kettles are not the most energy efficient of devices, but they can be used to fill hot water bottles for a quick heating fix, as well as providing a hot drink – just remember to check the bottles rubber seal before use.
Close Your Curtains
Windows can be one of the biggest areas of heat loss in your house. Even double glazed units will allow warmth to be lost. To prevent unnecessary cooling of your room, ensure your curtains are closed at night.
Keeping Warm Conclusions
Obviously prevention is better than cure, so ensure your boiler is serviced regularly to avoid preventable breakdowns. Should you be in a situation where you heating is not available in cold weather, common sense is often the best remedy.
If you are struggling to heat your house and pay your utility bills then speak to your supplier or get further advice and help from Citizens Advice