Outdoor Gear: What Materials to Watch For


Ready to take a hike, climb a mountain, camp out or set sail? You’re going to need the right kind of gear, especially when it comes to clothes and sleeping bags. Just pulling on a few extra layers from your closet can be a mistake if you don’t pay attention to what materials you are using, and what they are made for. Pick up materials that will protect you the right way. Here are a few great examples of common outdoor gear fabrics and what they do right.

Moisture Wicking

Moisture wicking fabric helps get rid of moisture quickly, before it can chill the skin or cause odor problems. Look for this type of fabric in a number of shirt and underclothes options. It is often found in synthetics, but is a quality of other materials too, like bamboo clothing. This is a great bonus when venturing out into humid conditions, but it also works if you are planning on working up a sweat in any type of weather.

Men Jacket

Gore-Tex and Others

Gore-Tex is a brand name for a very popular type of waterproofing material. Gore-Tex and its like create a layer that is impermeable to water but is more forgiving of air, allowing it to be flexible and letting you dry off a bit inside even when it is raining outside. If you are braving water or storms for your hiking or sports activity, then make materials like these a priority for your outerwear instead of more traditional coats.


When people think of wool, they tend to think of itchy fabric that they can’t ever quite scratch. Today’s wool tends to be a lot more hospitable. New weaves and additional materials have made wool a much more comfortable material, and it is still excellent for protection and holding in heat. So reconsider wool socks and wool headgear when you are ready to make your next purchase. However, try to stay away from options like cotton: While they may feel a little more comfortable on your skin, cotton fabrics do poorly in the wet and cold and can trap moisture next to the skin.


Fleece is a bit different from wool, providing a lighter layer of fabric that is often encased in a separate, potentially waterproof material. Fleece is a more refined product than wool and can do a great job at keeping you warm. If you fear the cold, invest in middle and outer wear that uses internal fleece to form a thick heat barrier.

Men's Jackets

Microfiber Synthetics

Microfiber synthetics are those extra-thin, form-fitting fabrics that you often see in sports and outdoor stores. They make excellent workout clothes and are perfect for an inner layer when you need to bundle up the smart way. Not only do they have water wicking abilities, they are also good at keep you surprisingly warm in cooler areas.


Down is an ideal material for jackets and sleeping bags alike. It packs up very tightly, but it also excels at trapping in warmth. Plus, synthetics can’t really beat the great feeling of down.