For the past 9 months, I have volunteered to mentor my old Boy Scout Troop. I’ve attended several meetings to give lectures, lead a hike for some of the beginners, and gone on a winter camping trip with the boys and their leaders. One of the lessons I’ve really been trying hard to teach is how to select safe and comfortable outdoor clothing for scouts.
In this post, we are going to cover a much more diverse topic: accessories. These are all the small items added to a clothing system to enhance effectiveness. These items include hats, gloves, scarves, and gaiters.
On top of the Head
The head requires protection from the sun, wind, rain, and cold. It needs to be kept warm, but also needs to breath.
- I always carry a simple cotton bandanna because they have so many uses. When it is very hot out, I tie it around my head to keep sweat out of my eyes.
- In the late spring and summer, when it rains a lot, I wear a wide-brimmed hat. The full brim is excellent at keeping rain and sun off my neck and out of my eyes.
- In the cooler months, I wear a hat that is mostly mesh around the skull, with a small visor over the eyes. The sun stays closer to the horizon in the bottom half of the year, so the eyes need extra protection.
- At all times of the year, I carry a wool or fleece pullover beanie. It can be pulled down over my ears, rolled up just to cover the top of my head, or tucked away in a pocket. I carry this even in the summer for sleeping. Consider orange for hunting season.
- The hood from a rain jacket helps keep all of the under layers dry.
Nearly every layer of my clothing system has a hood, right down to the base layer. This gives me a lot of flexibility. Unlike hats, hoods can’t get lost. They do a great job protecting the neck, and they carry body heat to the neck, head, and ears.
Around the Neck
In colder weather, the neck and face need protection from the wind and cold.
- A wool or fleece scarf are good options. Scarfs are very flexible and can be used in many ways to protect the face and neck.
- A wool or fleece neck warmer, shaped something like a tube, is easier to keep in place than a scarf, but not as flexible.
- A balaclava can cover the neck, face, or even the top of the head. A lot of people like them, especially when it is very cold, but they causes glasses to fog up.
- Again, protecting the neck is a lot easier with hoods.
I have to Hand it to you (if you’ve read this far)
The hands also need multiple layers of protection:
- A very thin pair of fleece or wool gloves (called liners) should be carried year round. Thin gloves protect the hands from wind and the cold air and provide moisture management while still allowing the fingers to work. I prefer fleece over wool because it is a little more durable. In the winter, always provide two pairs of these in case one gets wet.
- I recommend also carrying a pair of the grippy gloves they sell at hardware stores. I’m talking about the ones that have a rubber coating on the palms but are vented in the back. These work great alone or over a pair of fleece gloves to protect the hands from rocks and other sharp or abrasive things. Because they’re vented, they can be worn even on a hot day without the hands overheating.
- When its cold, a thicker pair of wool or fleece gloves may be worn as an insulating layer.
- Over the top of everything come the mittens. I like mittens better than gloves because they keep the fingers together, reducing the surface area that may radiate heat. Mittens should be waterproof, thin enough so that they don’t add too much insulation, and roomy enough to allow wearing of multiple thin pairs of gloves underneath.
You might wear your Crocs around home, but bring your Gaiters to the woods:
- Gaiters are thin, waterproof “sleeves” that cover the lower part of the leg. They keep the pants and socks dry and clean.
- In the muddy spring or summer, gaiters help keep mud and dirt out of the socks and shoes. Dirt is abrasive and may damage the skin if too much accumulates in the shoes. Summer gaiters should be made of thin breathable nylon. I haven’t named any brand sin this series, but I will here: Check out Dirty Girl Gaiters for a wide variety of sizes and patterns.
- Gaiters are very important to have the winter, especially if your scout doesn’t have snow pants. Winter gaiters are very waterproof and come up almost to the knees. They keep the pants and socks dry and keep snow out of the shoes. Remember how important it is to try and keep the feet as dry as possible.
This is Part 4 of a Five Part Series
Materials: What clothing is made of matters! Footwear: It starts with the feet! Layering: What are these layers they speak of? Accessories: Hats, and gloves and mittens, Oh My! Shopping: Gear is expensive, shop smart!