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Why do I need technical clothing?

Why do I need technical clothing?

Posted by Candice Bagley on 4th Mar 2020

Years of energy and research invested in technical clothing strategies means that you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don't invest in quality, purpose-designed clothing.

Whether you’re a gym climber, boulderer, sport climber or a seasoned hiker and trad-climber (maybe a little bit of them all!) you’ll find the garments that are built for the things that drive you.

Technical clothing can look really cool, but, make sure you choose the clothing that’s right for your purposes.

If you’re a sport climber or boulderer, look no further. Pants designed for climbing will blow your mind with their impressive functionality. While you can climb in many pairs of pants, climbing pants are superior because of their flexibility and tailored shape balanced with abrasion resistance. In climbing pants you can get a variety of styles, from casual looking denim to brightly coloured space suit pants.

Climbing pants are usually built from rugged polyamide materials. The most commonly known polyamide is nylon, however there are also blended options which change the effect slightly such as the nylon elastin blend for more stretch. These blends can withstand a good kneebar and the thrashing around that climbing sometimes requires.

You’ll find features in the gusset (that bit between your legs) that allow for high steps and easy climbing movement. Some models have cool bouldering features like a stowaway spot for a boulder brush for those moments when you’re scrambling up to brush holds. Most climbing pants are either slim-fit while still allowing for movement, or tapered around the ankles, preventing that awkward moment when you step on your pants and not that minuscule foothold in the crux. We definitely recommend the stretchy PrAna men's Zion and women's Halle pants. With their abrasion resistant material and DWR (durable water repellent) coating, these pants were built to climb in and you'll appreciate the thought that went into their design. The Ocun Mania (men's) or Pantera (women's) offer a stylish alternative with maximum comfort.

In warmer weather, a solid pair of shorts that is designed for climbing will provide moveability and durability. The added bonus of shorts is the obvious ventilation. Remember that climbing shorts should be longer to protect your legs if you find yourself in a kneebar often. Check out the short version of the PrAna Zion and Halle pants, or the Ocun Honk (men's) or Noya (women's) shorts. These will all do the job, and more. 

When you’re venturing a little further into the fynbos, where the trek-in is off the beaten path, it’s probably in your interest to invest in a pair of technical hiking pants.

Technical hiking pants are often not designed with a high step in mind – so if you’re a die-hard climber-type, these might not be for you. They are designed for long approaches and hiking. 

I’d say that if you’re anywhere close to a thorny terrain or even rough bushland, you should invest in a good pair of hiking pants. The fabrics are usually light and breathable allowing airflow on those sweaty hikes, while hard wearing enough to protect your legs from the rough foliage.

Choosing a technical upper garment is critical if you plan to be active in it. The fabrics selected for these items are made to increase capillary action. Capillary action is also known as wicking and is the ability of a liquid (sweat in this case) to flow in narrow spaces without the assistance of, or even in opposition to, external forces like gravity.

So when we sweat in technical fabrics such as polyesters, bamboo’s, merino and nylon, sweat is drawn from the skin, through tiny synthetic (or natural) tubes to the outside of the garment. The microscopic drops of liquid (sweat) is then dried out by air passing through and around the garment, leaving you feeling dry in in areas where you’d usually feel damp during exercise.

Ask your CityROCK Gear Shop Assistant to help you with identifying what would be a good technical shirt. Remember, cut and fit play a big part too, so make sure to try the item on. Generally speaking, a slightly tighter fit will create a better wicking effect.

Many of the well-known climbing and outdoor brands have branched out from purpose-built clothing into a range of lifestyle items. Just because it has an outdoor brand logo on the T, doesn’t mean it was built for what you need it to do. These are often used to generate brand ubiquity and a sense of brand loyalty. Keep these lifestyle items for a night on the town or for those movie nights at the climbing gym or a slideshow about your mate’s latest expedition.

The best part about these less technical options is you will still look like a climber without the hefty price tag that the technical fabrics garner. For this reason, if you’ve popped in to the gym from work and forgot to pack kit to train in, you’ll be thankful for their affordable price tags and may sacrifice a sweaty night at the gym to save a few pounds.

Some of the better graphic Ts are designed with more technical fabrics. PrAna and Ocun both produce technical t-shirts and tops that are made for active wear but look as cool as their competitor lifestyle counterparts. 

The jackets topic is a seperate blog post entirely. There are so many kinds of jackets, rain, snow, wind, you name it. We’ll delve into this as the weather cools down. For now, I’d say, remember that any jacket you buy must be light enough to carry in to the crag or on that hike while warm and weather-proof enough to keep the chills at bay. Don’t compromise here, a good technical jacket will not only keep you alive when the temps drop below freezing, it will make life much more pleasant. 

Consider owning both a rain jacket with good specifications, and an insulated down or synthetic puffy jacket. The combination of these two will keep you warm or dry depending on the conditions. A softshell, as a neat addition to your jacket quiver, offers wind protection and insulation without the packing size of a down jacket, and more breathability than a rain jacket. 

Browse our selection of technical clothing online and in store at CityROCK Gear Shop Johannesburg and Cape Town. 

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