… You should wear a waterproof coat!

Today I experienced my very first forest schools session. It was an amazing experience, making fires, using tools and exploring the woods, and I can’t wait for future sessions. That being said, I realised within the first hour just how unprepared I was. I thought that I would be alright, I had a waterproof coat, a pair of old tracksuit bottoms and my trainers on, surely that would be enough for a few hours in the woods? I was wrong. Within the first ten minutes I had mud splashed up to my knees, water had soaked through my trainers and I was slipping all over the place. I have definitely learned from my mistakes, and sitting here at home in a warm change of clothes with a cuppa I have thought of several ways to make these sessions more comfortable.

First and foremost, wear suitable clothing. Nearly everyone else was wearing wellies or walking boots, I was the only one wearing trainers (in my defense, mine were at home around 200 miles away). Needless to say, while I was dealing with cold, wet feet, everyone else’s were nice and dry in their boots. In addition to good boots, a good waterproof will make a lot of difference. A waterproof coat is the main thing, however if you have waterproof trousers (or failing this trousers made of a synthetic material) you should wear them. Jeans or fabric jogging bottoms will only absorb water and mud, and will be much harder to clean. depending on the weather you may wish to add layers of jumpers and thermals underneath your coat, but staying as dry as you can is the main thing.

This leads nicely onto my next point, bring a change of clothes! At the very least a change of socks and trousers (the items most likely to get wet or muddy). If you are wearing a decent waterproof your top or jumper should be dry(ish) but most people don’t have waterproof trousers. Having a change of trousers means that when you inevitably slip over, kneel on the ground to tend to a fire or simply get splashed, you won’t have to endure a journey home wearing wet clothes.

It is highly likely you will spend quite some time sat round the fire, whether learning, having food, or doing an activity, and the only seating available will be tree stumps which are not the most comfortable of seats. To change this, simply bring a spare jumper, wrapped in a couple of carrier bags or bin liners. I actually have a pair of cheap, old pillows I will be using (Wilko, 2 for £3!). This will give you some much needed padding, and if it rains you will have some dry clothing to change into at the end of the day.

Finally, just take some time to enjoy your surroundings. Going into the woods offers a welcome break from the hectic pace of daily life, so embrace the opportunity you have and make the most of your time in the woods. Whether you do this by going off exploring or sitting against a tree, closing your eyes and focusing on the sounds of nature, is completely up to you, just take the time to do something!

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7 thoughts on “… You should wear a waterproof coat!

    1. Thanks Lauren! There are two types of ‘waterproof’ coat, water resistant (sometimes called showerproof) and waterproof. Water resistant jackets are made of fabric which is coated in a waterproof coating, often polyurethane. These coats are generally cheaper and are suitable for everyday use, however prolonged exposure to more than a light shower can overwhelm the coating and allow water through. In addition to this, the water resistant coating can be worn off through regular activity.

      Waterproof coats on the other hand are made from a breathable waterproof membrane, such as Gore-Tex, which allows water vapour out but prevents liquid water entering. This prevents the build-up of condensation which causes the clammy feeling sometimes experienced in cheap cagoules. Waterproof coats also tend to have taped seams, which are heat sealed to prevent water seeping in, and are then coated with an additional layer of waterproof coating. while these coats tend to be more expensive, they are longer lasting and more waterproof.

      When I talk about a ‘decent’ waterproof I generally mean a waterproof coat with a Hydrostatic Head (the measure of waterproofness) of between 5000-10,000mm, the higher the better! This level of waterproofing will cover most weather conditions, rain heavy enough to overwhelm this will probably mean the trip to the woods will be called off! I personally have a Peter Storm 3-in-1 coat with a detachable inner fleece which provides an extra layer of warmth and padding but can be removed in the summer. This coat has kept me warm and dry in all weather so far, and I would definitely recommend it to you!

      I hope this helps, and if you have any further questions please let me know!

      (Advice from http://www.mountainwarehouse.com/expert-advice/waterproof-jacket-guide/)

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      1. Hi Duncan, thanks for asking! GoreTex coats are actually made from layers of material, normally Nylon, Polyurethane and ePTFE or expanded Polytetrafluoroethylene. the Nylon and Polyurethane are used to provide strength and wind proofing respectively, however it is the ePTFE which is the key ingredient. In it’s standard form, PTFE forms a solid which we know as Teflon, which is used to provide the non-stick coating in saucepans, however in 1969 Bob Gore discovered that by rapidly stretching heated rods of PTFE they formed a microporous substance which was approximately 70% air, making it incredibly light. The material contains around 9 billion pores per square inch, each of which is approximately 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet but 700 times larger than a molecule of water vapour which allows vapour to penetrate it but prevents water from doing the same. This fabric is produced in large sheets which are then laminated with Nylon and Polyurethane to create a single fabric which is then processed into waterproof clothing and footwear. I hope this has helped!

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    1. Hi Tom, thanks! Layers keep you warm by trapping warm air between them, keeping you warm. The more layers you have on the more warm air is trapped so you stay warmer. This is the same principle that allows wetsuits to work, as they trap a thin layer of water inside them which is warmed by your body heat and keeps you warm. Your inner layer should be made of a synthetic fabric ideally, as cotton clothing (such as t-shirts) absorb moisture such as sweat rather than transporting it away from the body which can lead to you getting cold. On top of this you can layer fleeces, thin jackets and merino jumpers (depending on how cold it is) then finish with a waterproof coat if needed.

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