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How to Choose

Versatility first
In choosing technical garments we need to abandon prejudices and the common thinking patterns which typically lead us to the obsessed search for the "right" model of the "best" brand, made specifically for a certain sport. Instead, we need to try, as much as possible, to seek for versatility. In total antithesis with what manufacturers want us to believe, for the large majority of outdoor activities you don't need a specifically designed garment. 

Whether you go bird watching, hiking, camping, fishing, or climbing, in 90% of the cases out there you'll always have the same simple needs:
  • protection from the elements
  • maximum comfort (which means to be warm or cool depending on the varying temperature)
  • maximum freedom of movement
Having only a few versatile clothes, instead of many specific ones, also offers a fundamental advantage in terms of optimization of resources:
  • less weight and volume to carry (e.g. in the backpack or luggage)
  • reduced costs at the time of buying
  • higher adaptability to the varying weather conditions 
Therefore, the first and most general suggestion, valid for the choice of any technical outdoor garment, is to
always opt for the most versatile garments

Waterproofness or breathability?

One of the main concerns in the design of outdoor sport-clothing is to obtain sufficient breathability and protection from the element at the same time on a single garment.

On one hand, sport clothes should be breathable, that is they should always allow efficient regulation of body temperature through evaporation of sweat. The breathability of a garment indicates its capability to transfer water vapor from the surface of our body to the environment. 

On the other hand, when practicing sport outdoor we want to be prepared to any change of weather conditions and in particular in bad-weather conditions (rain or snow), we want to keep our body sheltered. The waterproofness is the capability to stop the passage of water droplets from the exterior to the inner side of a garment.

Waterproofness in sport clothes is obtained thanks to the use of water-resistant membranes combined with synthetic fabrics. Manufacturers claim that these membranes are at the same time water resistant and breathable. However, in reality, anyone who tried to do any kind of moderate physical activity when wearing a waterproof membrane, has certainly noticed that the result is always and inevitably a sauna!

The highly praised breathability of waterproof membranes that many companies advertise still keeps being only a dream: it may be working at rest, but when doing any physical activity, the level of breathability of the synthetic membranes is insufficient to prevent condensation.

For obvious reasons, this poses strong limitations to those who wear waterproof clothes to practice sport. The choice of wearing a complete shelter from rain and snow, such as a waterproof hard shell, must be left as the very last option when the weather conditions are really bad or in case a sudden shower catches us in a place where we cannot rapidly find a shelter. In all the other situations, especially when physical activity is involved, wearing an external, relatively stiff shield is not necessary and it only prevent us from maintaining the comfort condition, that is dry skin and temperature of about 37°C.

The ultimate goal is therefore to seek for a material that guarantees waterproofness, but at the same time also sufficient breathability. And that's the idea at the origin of the concept of soft shell.

It is therefore important to consider what is the use that you are going to make of your waterproof garment. In general, when the weather turns bad, choose

more waterproofness for very light activity, to stand, or to rest
more breathability for any activity, to move and to do sports

more waterproofness for very light activity, to stand, or to rest
more breathability for any activity, to move and to do sports