Preparing for a cold weather hike? Then it's time to bring out your fleece pants and get ready to do some serious layering.
Outdoor enthusiasts have long recognized the benefits of dressing in layers. Layered clothing keeps you warm in the winter and keeps you from overheating in the summer. Adding or removing garments is a practical way to adapt quickly to temperature changes and to different activity levels. A three-layer system of cold weather dressing is recommended. In the case of fleece pants, the layers look like this:
Fleece Pants layer #1: Underwear While cotton was once the mainstay of long underwear and cold-weather clothing, it is no longer recommended since cotton soaks up moisture, leaving your clothes damp and heavy, and your skin wet with the risk of chilling.
High performance underwear made from fleece, on the other hand, is famous for its "wicking" properties: Fleece underpants move or wicks moisture away from your skin to prevent chilling, and carry moisture into your outer layers of clothing where it can evaporate.
Fleece Pants layer #2: Mid-layer Insulation Fleece pants are an ideal second layer over your long underwear. Made from 100% polyester, fleece pants trap your body warmth while continuing to wick away moisture. While essential on cold days, fleece pants hit the mark even in warmer seasons, when a mid-layer is useful to have during rest stops and for those times you begin to chill. Many times, insulating fleece pants are combined with the underwear or base layer to form a slightly thicker fleece pant with a snug fit similar to tights.
Fleece Pants layer #3: Outer Shell Pants
As the name suggests, outer shell pants are the third layer in the Three Layer System. These pants are waterproof and breathable. Outer shell pants are often worn over a combined fleece base and fleece insulation layer pant to form the full three-layer system. While one could dress in 3 separate pant layers, i.e. full-length fleece underwear, followed by fleece insulation layer pants, and finally an outer shell, many prefer to have just one layer or combine all three functions in a single pant. Today, there are fleece pants that do it all!
With advanced fabric technology, Polartec (made by Malden Mills, the inventors of modern day fleece) has developed sophisticated, improved fleece features that are designed into or applied to existing fabrics. Fleece pants are now available with all three layer functions combined in one light, high quality fleece! Polartec's line of Element Control fleece fabrics are designed to keep you warm and dry, even under the harshest conditions. For example, fleece pants made from Polartec Wind Pro have four times more wind resistance than traditional fleece. Fleece pants with Polartec Windbloc ACT are claimed to block 98% of the wind while Polartec Windbloc is completely wind-proof. Polartec Power Shield fabric has a woven nylon outer surface, for fleece pants that provide protection from snow and light rain.
Today, you can find fleece pants in many updated fits and styles. Find fleece pants that are trim, but not tight-fitting. Fleece pants with a non-roll waistband. Fleece pants with convenient zippable bottom parts that allow you to convert them into shorts. All season fleece pants. Stretchy fleece pants. Water resistant fleece pants. Wind resistant fleece pants. Fleece pants with pockets. Front zip fly fleece pants. Side zip fleece pants with an internal draft flap for easy entry/exit. Fleece pants with an adjustable belt. Fleece pants with an internal draft flap to seal in warmth. Elastic waist fleece pants. Abrasion resistant, reinforced knees and seat fleece pants, and more.
Here are some TIPS on choosing fleece pants:
Look for a good configuration of pockets. Pant pockets are ideal for storing items that you want access to without having to undo your backpack.
Fleece pants with unzippable pant sleeves are ideal for most of your outdoor activities.
Try to buy your fleece pants and other outdoor apparel and gear at the same time. This way you can assure that your chosen fleece pant is compatible with your torso shells, jacket and even your backpack's hip belt.
Look for ventilation vents. Especially in insulating fleece pants, you want to have ventilation vents that enable you to let go of heat created from a period of exertion without having to undo your pants.
In cold weather, it is very important that the underwear pant layer protect your delicate areas from chafing.
Fleece pants are normally sold under the name Hiking Pants or Outdoor Pants.
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| September 17, 2019
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