Waking up to sharp frosts over the past couple of mornings, coupled with needing an extra layer for my road walk yesterday afternoon, have brought into focus that the fact that winter is on its way, and that our glorious summer is fading away from us. Which got me thinking ahead about suitable clothing in the colder weather.
“There Is No Such Thing As Bad Weather, Only Inappropriate Clothing.”… a very well-known saying that is oft quoted, even if people cannot seemingly agree upon where it came from. However, I discovered last winter that appropriate clothing is not always an option for us curvier ladies, and I strongly feel that outdoor clothing manufacturers are really missing out on this!
Watch the news any day of the week and there is nearly always a report on the obesity crisis or some new groundbreaking link found between exercise and health etc. Us curvy folks are frequently encouraged to exercise more to become less curvy, improve our health etc. This is absolutely no bad thing, and something I am happy to advocate.
However, we all know that using the correct clothing for whatever exercise plan you’re about to embark on is important. If your clothing is not comfortable or appropriate, and is affecting your enjoyment of the activity, then it’s not an exercise regime you’re likely to continue with. We also know that in order for the clothing to be comfortable it needs to fit properly, and if you’re not a ‘normal’ size or shape. you’re unlikely to find it in the high street, and buying over the internet can be an expensive disaster! Which, for me anyway, rules out the numerous outdoor wear suppliers in the USA and elsewhere who seem to have extensive ranges of plus-size outdoor wear.
I can trawl only so many outdoor shops both here and in the UK, and try on only so many pairs of walking trousers that don’t fit, before I have to head home with my self-esteem in the gutter. feeling completely demoralised and whale-shaped.
So, through trial and error last winter I improvised and developed my own Curvy Hiker outfit for those cold days on the hills.
I won’t go into details on my headwear, neckwear and footwear as such, as they are obviously items that don’t need to come in plus-sizes. Although I will just say this with regard to boots – buy the best you can afford, and go to a proper shop to have them professionally fitted, by fully trained staff, to ensure you buy boots best suited to your planned activities.
Let’s work from the ground upwards…
Socks – a real bone of contention for me, as I have
fat wide curvy calfs, and I find the cuffs of many socks to be uncomfortably tight, leaving deep marks where they cut in, restricting the circulation. So I look for socks with a large, expanding cuff. My current absolute fave pair of socks are the Classic Coolmax Trail Sock from Tog24. Sooooo comfortable! A curious quirk of my thyroid issues means that my feet don’t get cold. No, I’ll rephrase that, they DO get cold, but I don’t feel it…I know that doesn’t make sense, however my feet can be like blocks of ice, but to me they feel totally fine. Yes, I can and do walk out in snow in flip-flops or crocs, and my feet simply don’t feel cold. So socks to keep my feet warm is not an issue, they just have to be comfortable and stay dry. If my feet (or hands come to that) ever do feel cold I know I need my bloods done and my thyroid levels checked, because the chances are I’ve gone hypo. 🙂
Gaiters – my curvy calfs are too wide for normal hiking gaiters, so when the going is likely to be very wet or muddy I use ankle gaiters…a total revelation and complete Eureka! moment when I first found them in a local outdoor shop! They are perfect for those of us with curvy legs! You don’t see them stocked in many shops, but I dare say they could/would order them in for you if you asked!
Trousers – they aren’t a technical ‘base layer’ but on cold days I wear a pair of nylon-mix leggings under my trousers. They came from Tescos and cost me around €6.00 Over those I used to have a pair of cotton mix plus size trousers, but then I discovered the Performance Sport range in Dunnes, which went up to size 20. They aren’t designed for walking or hiking, but they are elasticated and stretchy. There’s a vented side panel, a little like the aertex shirts we used to wear for PE back in my school days, which keeps you beautifully cool in the summer. Incredibly comfortable, and because they are designed for fitness use, presumably gym-wear, they wick sweat, they are very light, and whilst they don’t repel rain, they don’t hold water either, and they dry out very quickly. They may not be perfect for striding out across the hills but they more than do an admirable job of keeping my legs warm and dry-ish when I am
striding trudging across those aforementioned hills! I would love to have a decent pair of walking trousers, but so far I just haven’t found any that are anywhere near my size…so I have to improvise, and my priorities are that they are comfortable first and foremost, and that they won’t hold water and become heavy and uncomfortable in the wet.
Yes, I have heard of waterproof over-trousers, but let’s get real…I can’t find walking trousers to fit me, so finding over-trousers that fit is even more impossible!
Tops – again, I’ve struggled to find proper technical layers to wear under my jacket(s) so I just layer up with thin t-shirts, sleeveless tops,, sometimes a thin polo-neck and generally a Cotton Traders rugby shirt. I have an ancient and beloved Berghaus full-zip fleece, which is really getting to the end of its days, but it is still the warmest fleece jacket I’ve ever owned, so I will keep wearing it until it completely wears out. It zips into a cheap & cheerful waterproof jacket. I’ll be honest, I bought the waterproof jacket in a street market in the UK, for very little money. But at the end of the day, if fits me well. The zip meets and does up, it has a second set of zips inside, which means I can zip my Berghaus into it to make it incredibly warm. It has plenty of pockets, and it has so far proved to be 100% waterproof…and I have had it out in some torrential rain in the past! And I’ve owned it for about 8 years…so far, so good! It got promoted last year from ‘winter/wet-weather dog walking jacket’ to ‘Official Curvy Hiker Hiking Ensemble’. I did look last winter for a big ‘proper’ 3-in-1 jacket, but found nothing that would do up comfortably, let alone with any amount of layering underneath. So for now, I’ll stick to my surprisingly good, and exceptionally cheap, waterproof jacket.
It would be lovely to think that I was fully equipped, with all the correct clothing, for most weather and environment situations I may meet whilst out hiking – and maybe one day I will be – but until I either loose a shedload of weight, or the clothing manufacturers wake up to the growing (no pun intended) demand for plus size activewear…then I’ll ‘make-do’ with my improvised Curvy Hiker clothing 🙂
At the end of the day, my top half stays dry in wet weather, my bottom half dries quickly if it gets wet. My feet always stay dry and comfy. I can stay warm on most winter days, and I always have a complete change of clothes waiting in the car for me. So, if I do end up cold and wet, I can at least be dry and warm for the drive home. Ultimately I’m doing the best I can with the clothing available to me. Proper clothing for winter hiking, that fits, will just have to remain a pipe dream for now.