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idea Let's talk clothing systems.

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Lately I am into traditional pertex with pile clothing. Pertex is a very breathable skin that is wind/water resistant the pile under is a fleece with bumps that makes a micro climate that draws moisture away from the skin. This sort of clothing works well in varible wettish conditions, cold dry and then wet,  back and forth. The UK and Scotland  has weather that is similar to the cascades and British Columbia so their style and technique for clothing systems I think worth exploring. 

Pros  of pertex pile, it is simple and  tough, it pulls wetness from the body faster than anything else when generating body heat, it works wet or dry. Very good for crappy weather conditions with rough usage. Think military and SAR usage, also climbing/hikng in rain to snow to hail and back and forth.. Cons, it is more bulky and heavy than fluffy down or synthetic. Cons,  most modern soft shells are close fitting and made of stretchable material which is nice,  however traditional pile is the best for the creation of that dry warm microclimate at the skin ( as far as I know).

To my thinking there are two basic human body types, one type sweats a lot , the other does not, I tend to sweat a lot no matter if hot or cold while hiking.  I also tend to sleep cold. Some body types sweat little and sleep hot, those people hit the jackpot for alpine ability. 

In any case I find it is best to use a layering system even with pertex pile. No matter what clothing system or body type you want to start the hike cool to cold. This means a thin layer at the skin, the base layer. So far the best I found is the brynje thermal mesh. Synthetic material in general drys faster than wool so I favor any type of synthetic base layer. Merino wool is very good in cool damp.  conditions.but nothing is very warm when soaking wet. Wool is warm when slightly damp, not so warm when wet and takes a long time to dry. In my experience wet wool gloves and socks are wet in the morning inside the sleeping  bag and wet wool socks chill the feet all night. Synthetic gloves and socks are very cool when drying out in the sleeping bag for a few hours but after dried out are cozy warm. Note, fleece, pile and wool are all warm when damp, but wool drys much slower. Any of these wring and shake out much as possible before trying to dry out.

Goose down. So far for me goose down is the only practical insulation for a sleeping bag and be able to carry it and be warm. I find in wet conditions with down you may only have a few days before it wets out and useless.  Most trips this is ok as they are of a few days duration. If in very wet conditions then may need a synthetic insulation bag, the greater the wetness and duration of the trip, the greater the need for synthetic. Practically , goose down for a sleeping bag is the best by far for trips for a few days.

Goose down puffy.   It works very well. It is simple, check the weather forecast, if very low chance of rain for the trip duration, then bring it along. Know that a wet down garment insulates less than zero when soaked out, leaving you a wet cold frozen piece of meat. In the weather forecast if the greater chance of rain bring synthetic. For me if forecast is greater than 20% I lean strongly to synthetic. If I start off in rain I look lovingly toward pile, fleece, or pertex with pile. Good quality synthetic insulation puffies are good but I think pertex pile is better if you know your going to be in the wet.( personal opinion due to faster drying time for good pile or fleece, shake out water then put on). For good weather, goose down, worse weather, synthetic puffy, worst weather good pile and  best fleece.

Another possible system is a very hard shell with minimal under clothing. Especially  if a sweat little body type, .the key here is have a thin to no base layer and a hard shell that holds little to no moisture. Think very high quality breathable hard shell or non breathable hard shell.  You can basically take it off and shake it dry. The under clothes can be replaced with fresh ones at camp. Just know that it will be harder to dry out with body heat while wearing this type of clothing.

The worse thing you can do is start off warm, get the clothes soaked with sweat and have several wet layers sandwiched together  unable to draw moisture out, you stay wet and miserible, this can happen even with a high dollar clothing system.,. Ideally you want a system that has you cool  ( even cold on the the surface skin) and  mostly dry when hiking. When stopped, throw on over layer that warms you up and drys you out. That is as good as it gets. If ice climbing (stop and go) you want something more than a base layer but less than a puffy. You warm up when climbing cool down some when belaying, controlling with venting and or a over puffy. 

More later.

Edited by DanO

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1 hour ago, DanO said:

The worse thing you can do is start off warm, get the clothes soaked with sweat and have several wet layers sandwiched together  unable to draw moisture out, you stay wet and miserible, this can happen even with a high dollar clothing system

I agree with this and will often carry an extra base layer shirt in case I get sweaty or wet from rain/brush on the approach.  I might wear a windshirt over it if it's cold but I try to keep my good shell and puffy in my pack until the pace slows down or terrain becomes technical.

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On 11/26/2019 at 9:47 AM, Bronco said:

I agree with this and will often carry an extra base layer shirt in case I get sweaty or wet from rain/brush on the approach. 

Ditto. I often get sweaty hiking to the start of technical climbing and will change into a clean dry base layer before roping up and launching. Best to avoid getting sweaty in the first place, if possible, but carrying a pack swiftly uphill is going to lead to sweat for me in most conditions.

Don't be silly, start chilly!


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No matter the clothing system it is best not to overheat and sweat out the layers.

The best I have found so far is brynje mesh base layer for upper body. For hot weather hiking shorts and mesh t shirt, cold weather a mesh long sleeve shirt with a thin material nylon/spandex pant. One can find fairly inexpensive nylon/spandex pants in regular clothing stores these days.

If hot weather the nylon/spandex pant can be the overlayer for the legs or use something warmer if needed. I usually carry a wind shirt, or a very light water proof for the next layer. If warm enough and raining I take off the base layer and wear the waterproof alone, likely all vents open, dont sweat out the base layer. The best waterproof is one that won't saturate with water and can shake most water off of it when off. On trail I sometimes  use a 6oz rainO2 shirt, the most breathable material, cheap to buy, but fragile. 

The base layers and first over layers are the main ones. Often a base layer and maybe wind shirt is all needed while moving.  When stopped then the puffy overlayer, if perfect dry weather one can have goose down, check forecast . Otherwise some sort of synthetic. 

This is a layering system and works well.

If i was going to winter hike I may wear the nylon/spandex pant and brynje mesh shirt with or  without the wind shirt. Then have  a montane extreme bib and smock (heavy pertex pile) to throw over when needed. If warm enough to be rainy can use a rainO2 waterproof jacket instead of wind shirt, can size it big enough to go over puffy if needed (really dumping rain). Any light hardshell can serve this pupose.

I try to stay warm enough and dry as possible. But not always comfortable, a cold wind on the skin through a base layer is not comfortable, but in that way I keep dryer and more moisture inside my body while hiking. Only if getting cold in my body core i throw on another layer while hiking.

If doing a stop and go activity such as climbing. Then think about a warmer ventible clothing system on upper body. Maybe a base layer with ventible hard shell or wind shirt etc. If even colder maybe a mid layer fleece. 

If using a pertex pile system with venting, such as one of the buffalo systems smocks. At the correct temp range it can work,  let's say  around 40 degrees f, to something below zero f,  stop and go activity.

What particular set of clothing is not as mportant as the concepts. 

Remember the more layers sandwiched without venting, the harder to dry out. A outside hard shell does not breath well so can get wet from sweat. If wearing such then use least under clothing, maybe no base layer if warm enough. If rain stops shake off water from waterproof and put back on your dry base layer. Or if stopped to do a stop and go activity shake out waterproof put on dry base layer and a fleece if needed. 

One usually gets by with 2 layers on legs and three layers on upper body, if carrying more than this likely carrying too much weight.

Staying dry and have a way to dry clothing out with body heat if wet is a very good system of clothing and its usage in bad weather.

A small example, once on a winter hike on mt baker I fell in a creek, about 20 degrees F. The pack and snow shoes had me stuck down on my side in the water for some time. I did have montane pertex pile in the backpack but did not use it. But even though one leg and my side was soaked I was warm enough. I then hiked for about 30 minutes and was bone dry. The nylon spandex pant (only layer for my legs) with thin material will dry out quickly with body heat, same with correct upper body base layer. If your base layer is loaded with sweat when hiking then try to find something better, ie more breathable, thinner material, faster drying etc. Otherwise it is very hard to dry it out with body heat when needed.



Edited by DanO
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A article, so less is more. Three different states, one moving hard like uphill hiking, then need a thin breathable set of clothes. Then the stop and go, such as when climbing then need a bit more insulation, often something ventible. Then the standing still puffy to put on when very cold or not moving. Lastly some sort of waterproof to prevent dumping rain washing the heat out of the body. 

People who sweat little can get away with too much clothing but overheating still slows them down. They also can handle a good breathable hardshell a lot better in terms of not wetting out due to sweat. Water proof breathables or hardshell are not breathable enough very often. A hardshell is likely to be breathable enough for stop and go climbing.

It is nice to have a system that will dry you out from body heat. Pile and pertex , paramo, fleece with a pertex windshirt, thin nylon pants, etc can work. If a waterproof is left on top then hard to dry out under layers due to not enough wicking and breathability. 

The thinner and more breathable the base layer the better for not wetting out the base layer.

Multiple layers saturated with water can be harder to dry out. Layers with not breathable enough material will be harder to dry, wool is harder to dry than synthetic. Wool and fleece are warm when damp, wool and fleece not as warm when wet. 

It is best have clothes that will not hold much water, so can shake the water out of them or wring water out. Best is synthetic clothing in this reguard, some synthetic materials and clothing items are better than others.

It seems that surface layers slow drying, ie fewer layers may dry faster.




Edited by DanO

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A few clothing tips. 

If goose down wets out you have two thin layers of nylon with a couple of frozen feathers inbetween for insulation. That was happening once to me with a pair of goose down mitts, luckly it was a day trip and I was getting close to the car. I suggest primaloft mitts, for any winter conditions put them in the bottom of the pack, someday they will save your fingers. With good fitting mitts and determination one can do moderate ice climbing with them on--most of the time, handy skill when really cold with wind. It is good for the one of the party to have extra gloves or mitts, sooner or later over many climbs or hikes you drop a glove down a hole or over the side etc.

In high winds and cold need cover to every inch of skin, nice to have liner gloves for very cold.  

Most guys use goggles in very cold and windy, I find that my sweat freezes inside and can't see. As a alternative or backup use two balacavicas or a ski mask and a balacavica. Put  both on and arrange the fabric overlapping to make eye slits. Works very good and can easily adjust as needed the windy side of face gets the smaller eye slit. This also works in bright sun if you lose the sun glasses. 

If really cold bring all clothes and leather boots inside sleeping bag. If wet weather and have goose down sleeping bag, may have only a few days before it wets out. Wool drys slower than synthetic, it is harder to dry out wool socks and  gloves verses synthetic. Synthetic socks dry on the feet inside the sleeping bag in a couple hours making the feet cold while drying, then after the feet are dry and warmer. 

Wool verses synthetic, both warm damp, both not so warm wet, wool dries slower which can be better or worse depending situation. It seems wool gloves are warmer than knit synthetic gloves when wet. Primaloft mitts are the warmest hand wear in my experience. Wool does not smell  so better for long trips in this reguard.  

Chemical toe warmers work for 6 hours if not have ones left over from last season, dont trust the store. 

Buy the best fitting boots you can, you can save money with cheaper clothes. Cheaper clothes are plenty good enough, just bulky.  In most cases the first boots should be leather for summer alpine usage. For winter get leather insulated boots, the plastic boots are less useful unless very cold. 

Dont expect the waterproof breathable to be breathable enough while hiking uphill. In most cases a base layer with a breathable windshirt is all you need while on the move hiking. The puffy, hardshell, softshell, midlayer are most often used less. The wind shirt with base layer combo allows the hiker use the least amount of clothing to stay cooler,dryer and keep more moisture in the body. Of course as it gets colder heavier clothing can be used. You want a breathable windshirt, avoid those with low breathability. 

A basic self check for breathability is seal your mouth against the fabric and breathe . You can personally check the hype verses reality.



Edited by DanO

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Layering systems. Plans of usage.


There are countless ways to create a clothing system. One would need a gear truck to follow you up the hill to have all the possibilities you may want.

Whatever the system need a plan.

A plan to stay cool enough. This means a light enough base layer for hiking uphill and when in the sun, or in unexpected warm weather.

A plan to stay dry enough. This means a way to dry out , usually at camp. One way is to take off wet clothes and put on dry clothes at camp and do it over the next day.by putting back on wet  clothes next morning. Another way is to have a system to dry out clothes via a over capacity in warmth sleeping bag that won't wet out, via a Stephenson's warmlite sleeping bag or a heavy synthetic sleeping bag.

A plan to hike in the rain, snow, sleet etc. If using a traditional three layer system that often means a single layer on legs and a base layer with hardshell on top. Likely to get wet no matter what, if warm enough just use the hardshell alone, when stopped shake out the water and put on dry clothes. If intermittent light percipitation a soft shell or base layer alone may be used, body heat driving off excess moisture while moving, especially when  hiking uphill.

A plan to be warm enough. Most often adding another layer to go over legs and a puffy jacket. If carrying a sleeping bag to be the lightest weight, may do away with the puffy.

A plan to dry out while hiking. That means when the rain let's up a clothing system that will dry out by body warmth. A very breathable puffy, let's say a primaloft puffy, or a pertex pile garment. Or a fleece with a breathable windshirt, or a good quality softshell designed to move water out. For legs a thin breathable layer, most likely hardshell off the legs. I find a thin nylon spandex pant works well in cool to mildly cold weather.

A plan for a emergeny bivy. A pad and puffy, and a thin sack such as a SOL breathable bivy sack.  Or maybe a blizzard bag, or a bothy bag, or a light tarp with fire starter. Ect. Usually just enough to get through the night and be able to effectively move the next day.

Whatever the clothing system it is best to have an effective plan for all common situations. 

If you hike or climb enough,  you will have a unplanned night out, or you will be soaking wet and cold, or you will be too hot, all of these and more adverse situations happen sooner or later.

Edited by DanO

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