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A different kind of trip report: Dressing for the Outdoors

by Sara on November 15, 2010

The amazing and talented Tali of @cupcakemafia fame is a Denver-based yogi, gear reviewer (she’s got Flatterware and Pulse Activewear reviews in her pipeline right now), storyteller, dog whisperer, accomplished hugger, and a graceful cheek-kiss receiver.

Anyway, I digress.

Tali attended the recent “Dressing for the Outdoors” womens workshop at the REI in Denver.  There are still spots available in Seattle on the 16th and Anchorage on the 17th of November, so read on for Tali’s experience at the event, and then join in if you’re near Seattle or Anchorage this week!

Thank you so much for the guest post, Tali… I really appreciate it!


“Is it waterproof?  Is it windproof?”

I used to ask these questions when researching gear. They’re valid questions, right? Whether you’re a hardcore adventurer or an urban bike commuter everyone wants to stay dry and warm. It wasn’t until the Dressing for the Outdoors Women’s Workshop at REI Denver that I learned how much a difference it makes to ask “Is it GORE-TEX?” and “Is it WINDSTOPPER?”

Now before I get ahead of myself and tell you about the fun facts I learned about GORE-TEX and WINDSTOPPER let me start with the whole purpose of the workshop.

How do we dress for the outdoors, particularly in winter?

Most people know that for layering you want a base layer, mid layer and outer layer. However, the purpose of each layer can be tricky. That is why I was so pleased when Julie Hudetz, our awesome presenter/amazing athlete, introduced the VIP concept. VIP = Ventilation – Insulation – Protection. These are what you’re tasking each layer with.  Will your base layer allow your body to breathe and wick away moisture? Is the mid layer bringing you warmth? Is your outer layer protecting you from the elements?

After understanding what each layer should bring to the table we learned that not all fabrics are created the same and outdoor apparel is not always produced to the same standards. Julie brought us each a packet including one GORE-TEX Membrane mitt and a clear plastic mitt. We placed one on each hand and after we all wiggled our fingers and got our hands warm it was obvious what a difference GORE-TEX makes. The hand with the plastic was beginning to feel clammy. The GORE-TEX mitted-hand felt fine. Warm but not sweaty. That’s breathability at work.

Julie then passed around a can of compressed air with a fleece mitt. One side was made of WINDSTOPPER (fleece with a GORE-TEX membrane) and the other was standard fleece. After spraying the air on either side of the mitt you can feel a big difference. I have about three jackets with WINDSTOPPER and while I never understood the technology, I knew they kept me warmer.

Then there was a video about their rigid testing standards, making it clear what extremes a garment has to pass in order to wear the GORE-TEX or WINDSTOPPER label. We also learned how it can take 4 hours just to assemble one jacket because the specific construction and inclusion of  seam tape and specialized zippers.

After taking in a lot of detailed information we were able to check out some amazing items from Arc’teryx, Outdoor Research, Merrell, Salomon and Vasque. Some of the lucky attendees won raffle prizes from these brand partners and we all walked away with very nice goody bags.

If you have the opportunity to check out one of these workshops it’s well worth it. If not, spend some time on the GORE-TEX website and learn a little more about how great gear is an investment in comfort.

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