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home : health : health May 25, 2016

11/8/2011 1:04:00 PM
Layer up to stay warm, dry and safe

Fall is a season of dangerous beauty in the Sisters Country.

Beautiful sunshine and vivid colors lure us outdoors, but temperatures can plunge 40 degrees in a matter of hours, and a sunny day can turn cold, wet and blustery in no time at all.

"The classic Central Oregon thing -if you don't like the weather, wait 30 minutes - is true," says Rand Runco, leader of Sisters High School's renowned IEE (Interdisciplinary Environmental Expedition) program. He teaches his students the critical process of layering clothing to stay warm, dry and safe in the outdoors.

Runco's layering protocol calls for a "skin" layer -essentially long-johns -that hugs the skin tightly, followed by a base layer that wicks moisture away from the body. Next is an insulating layer that traps warm air next to the body, topped with a shell to keep the wind and moisture off the body.

Cotton is a forbidden fabric in the fall and winter outdoors: it gets sodden and traps cold against the body. Runco cites the experience of experienced Sisters Country outdoorsman and search and rescue operator Kirk Metzger: Most people rescued in hypothermic condition are wearing inappropriate clothing that has gotten wet.

Quoting Metzger, Runco notes that "The No. 1 rule is, don't get wet. It's a lot easier to stay dry than to get dry."

Getting wet and staying wet can be fatal, and your clothing is a major line of defense.

Not all winter clothing is created equal. Runco emphasizes that the base layer should have no more than 20 percent lycra or spandex content, which compromises its wicking ability.

"You almost have to become a label-watcher," he says.

The insulating layer can be of wool, fleece or down. Down is a fantastic insulator, but useless if it gets wet; wool works great even when wet, but it gets heavy and bulky. Fleece is a good alternative, being light and ubiquitous.

Local manufacturer Black Crater Clothing Co. offers everything from base layers to shells, and Runco encourages use of their products.

"Black Crater -I think she (proprietor Sue Yocum) does a great job. It's affordable, with really quality material."

Shells can be a challenge. Runco notes that to be truly effective, a shell must have breathable material like Gore-Tex and have sealed seams. Not every jacket sold as an effective shell really is. A truly waterproof, breathable shell is liable to be expensive.

Runco also notes that ski and snowboard jackets with attached insulation, while great for their purpose, do not breathe well enough for someone who is working in the woods or exerting themselves on the cross-country trail. The shell should be just that -a shell with no attached insulation.

The idea is to take breaks during the day, rehydrate and either shed or add a layer as the weather dictates. An active outdoorsman might make several changes in a day's activities.

The cold season can be one of the most and exciting and enjoyable times in the Sisters Country. A little investment in proper clothing and adherence to a layering protocol can help ensure that your fall winter and winter activities stay fun and safe.

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