Post-Trip Assessment of Lightweight Gear for Long Distance Hiking
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Benjamin Smith
(bugbomb) - F - M

Locale: South Texas
Post-Trip Assessment of Lightweight Gear for Long Distance Hiking on 01/01/2008 20:58:55 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Post-Trip Assessment of Lightweight Gear for Long Distance Hiking

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Oz thermals on 01/02/2008 08:21:27 MST Print View

Nice report Roger.
Can you describe your thermals (you mention they are unlike US thermals)?

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Post-Trip Assessment of Lightweight Gear for Long Distance Hiking on 01/02/2008 09:16:02 MST Print View

Roger,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post-trip gear report. The extensive gear list you presented previous to the hike seemed overwhelming to me but I chocked that up to experience and your expected (and known) levels of desired comfort. It pleases me to read the afterthoughts and see that you were mostly content with the choices you and Sue made. It also pleases me to read that you weren't afraid to point out some of your misgivings (cotton underwear, bulky repair and first aid, et al). All in all the read was a nice break from the work day.

Thank you,
Sam

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Oz thermals on 01/02/2008 13:33:32 MST Print View

Hi Carol

> Can you describe your thermals (you mention they are unlike US thermals)?
Sure thing.

First I should mention that I have been a Tester at BGT for about three different brands of USA thermals, and I have to say I was disappointed in all of them. OK, maybe they were all off-beat companies trying to get attention - maybe, but none of them turned out to be much use and none of them went into my 'active bushwalking stock'. If you can suggest more suitable USA brands, I would be interested.

Second, the current fad for Merino is largely marketing-driven in my opinion, rather than being based on any technical advantage. Sure, fine Merino wool is both comfortable and warm (I spent 27 years associated with wool research), but it takes AGES to dry. The synthetics dry very fast in comparison. Also, the synthetics last a lot longer imho, although some of the wool/synthetics last fairly well. However, I suspect that the big (overwhelming) market is to the trendy fashion market for whom style (ie marketing) matters far, far more.

My favourite thermals were the Macpac Geothermals, but these are no longer available from them. Macpac has gone woolly like Icebreaker. Sad. But the company nearly went broke with their 'Made in NZ' policy, and a new management took over and outsourced all the manufacturing to Asia.

The local Boy Scout chain shop (Snowgum) still sells polypropylene thermals, see http://www.snowgum.com.au/Product_ProductDetail.aspx?ProductID=2966
for an example. Not the easiest colour to display unfortunately.

The excellent UK firm Peter Storm does some very good thermals in chlorofibre - see the pic of 'Thermal underwear' on this page http://www.peterstorm.com/products.htm . You don't have to have pink btw - Sue uses the model 521 in a navy blue. You can get colour pics on the their ebay store page.

Another NZ company called Kathmandu sells something similar, see item 3 on http://www.kathmandu.co.nz/102.html - Page 102 of their catalog I think.

The Australian company Wilderness Wear makes thermals in polypro, chloro and using merino - see http://www.wildernesswear.com.au/department.asp?departmentID=125&expandlist=|125||2|
for examples of each. Love the jazzy colours for the polypro.

Hth, Cheers
Roger

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Hmmm on 01/02/2008 13:49:22 MST Print View

Hi Roger,
I wasn't really able to see detail from the products I could find. Are the OZ thermals thicker maybe? I see that one has a brushed interior. That makes me think of the various Patagonia base layers. Anyway, just curious wondering why there was such a big difference.

Rand Lindsly
(randlindsly) - MLife

Locale: Yosemite
Windscreen.... on 01/02/2008 17:00:01 MST Print View

Roger:

Great writeup! I noticed you commented that "In the end [you] took a basic Trail Designs 8 inch high windshield instead of the BPL titanium foil". Was this the Vari-Vent design you detailed in the Spotlight Review....or the 8" Classic Windscreen?

Thanks for supporting the non-caldera products....and hope you don't get in trouble for not using the BPL gear!

Rand :-)

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Hmmm on 01/02/2008 19:55:10 MST Print View

Hi Carol

> That makes me think of the various Patagonia base layers.
Look, really, I am probably woefully ignorant of what range is available in the USA.
Looking at the Pat web site, the Capilene 2 and 3 may well be just the same as the Oz ones. I dunno - need to get one and try it out.

Cheers

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Windscreen.... on 01/02/2008 19:58:51 MST Print View

Hi Rand

The Vari-Vent had been well exercised by the time it came to pack, and the Classic was still like new. So I took the Classic.
It survived quite well, just starting to tear at one end by the end of the 3 months. I fixed that by trimming off 5 mm and folding the end over (each end), like the top and bottom edges.
My wife objects to the noise the titanium foil makes (and it does make a lot of noise), so it has been sort of retired.

Cheers
Roger

Joe Westing
(pedro87) - F
USA base layers on 01/02/2008 20:10:27 MST Print View

Roger and Carol -

The base layer with a brushed interior reminds me of the Pat R1 bottoms (I just got a pair on a recent Pat closeout sale which I think is still going on). I could be way off though w/o seeing the actual thing. I like the R1 a lot so far.

Michael Church
(machurch) - F - M
Base Layers on 01/03/2008 14:11:43 MST Print View

Thanks for a good post-trip report. Roger, I must say I agree 100% with your opinion of Merino wool base layers (or thermals as you call them). I have read and heard so much hype about Merino base layers the past few years that I was beginning to wonder if I was the only person around who preferred synthetics to wool. The only things in which I like wool are socks (I like the Thor-lo wool-blend socks). I also use liner socks, and I have the Gobi liners that you use. They work OK, but I am replacing my Gobi liners with the absolutely wonderful Fox River synthetic liners (not their silk liners, their synthetic ones). I have found that you must wear the Fox River liners inside out because of the seams but this does not affect their functionality at all, they are the most comfortable liners I have ever worn. Congratulations on your successful European trip and thanks for your trip report.

Alan Garber
(altadude) - F
merino wool on 01/03/2008 19:54:02 MST Print View

Roger:

Interesting and well-written. I thoroughly enjoyed your article.

Merino wool: I find that when it is raining or snowing and I sweat that wool continues to keep me warm when wet. Yes, it takes longer to dry but no synthetic keeps me as warm as wool when wetted out . The closest is Under Armour-UA-(despite being used by professional athletes in the US it is good stuff). UA stinks after a few hours as do all other synthetics......
Wool is the only layer I can wear and still sleep with my wife...........another story entirely.....but she has a very discriminating nose..........
Perhaps you guys didn't cuddle so successfully when sleeping because you were inhibited by your "aromas." Just kidding........

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Hmmm on 01/03/2008 21:45:59 MST Print View

Roger,
Have you had any experience with Helly Hansen base layers, either pure polypro or polypro/merino wool blends? I'd be very interested in your opinion, if you have one. They are widely available in the USA.
Cheers,
Tom

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
Re: Re: Oz thermals on 01/04/2008 02:05:57 MST Print View

Of the thermal brands Roger mentions available in Oz, I have owned and used all but the Peter Storm stuff. I have also used Mountain Designs Thermals.

Of them all, the wilderness wear polypropylene thermals, which are made in Australia, certainly seem far superior, in terms of thickness (I think they are even thicker than the MD Premium thermals) and also feel. They seem much tougher than the others, and, so far at least, haven't started to pile like all the others or wear on shoulders from pack use. I haven't had them that long though-only 6 months.

If you want to buy them, you can get them through the Adelaide Scout Shop:
www.scoutoutdoorcentre.com.au
They'll organise postage overseas if you ask.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Hmmm on 01/04/2008 13:24:06 MST Print View

Hi Tom

I know of the Helly Hansen brand (of good repute), but I don't think I have ever tried their thermals. More a case of not having found any I think.

Cheers
Roger

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Base Layers on 01/04/2008 13:26:17 MST Print View

Hi Michael

> Gobi liners that you use. They work OK, but I am replacing my Gobi liners with the absolutely wonderful Fox River synthetic liners
Interesting. I must see if I can get some to test.

Yes, we do agree about wool socks: the Darn tough Vermonts are quite wonderful, and the Thor-Lo ones are not bad either.

Cheers
Roger

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: merino wool on 01/04/2008 13:30:47 MST Print View

Hi Alan

> Perhaps you guys didn't cuddle so successfully when sleeping because you were inhibited by your "aromas."
Ha! Definitely just kidding. :-)

With UL gear and the weather close to zero and wet ... I think the body odour rubbed off on the wet clothing some of the time, and anyhow, after a few weeks we smelt the same and didn't notice.
When it was really cold, which was NOT rare, we were close enough that I could put both sleeping bags over the top of us as a double layer. This worked excellently.

Cheers
Roger

Dondo .
(Dondo) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Oz thermals on 01/04/2008 17:18:02 MST Print View

>>Second, the current fad for Merino is largely marketing-driven in my opinion, rather than being based on any technical advantage. Sure, fine Merino wool is both comfortable and warm (I spent 27 years associated with wool research), but it takes AGES to dry. The synthetics dry very fast in comparison. Also, the synthetics last a lot longer imho, although some of the wool/synthetics last fairly well. However, I suspect that the big (overwhelming) market is to the trendy fashion market for whom style (ie marketing) matters far, far more.

Yeah, Roger, I suspect that you are right about this. I got sucked into the whole merino thing for a couple of years but switched back to synthetics for reasons of durability and quick-drying. Synthetics are also less expensive. I still haven't found a synthetic top that's as odor-free as merino, though.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Merino wool on 01/04/2008 17:47:02 MST Print View

I don't have anywhere near the amount of experience that most of you guys have, however I see that people discuss Merino as if it was all the same.
I happen to be great fan of the IceBreaker stuff and from my limited experience but more importantly from comments from other users, most if not all of IceBreaker user will not go back to another Merino brand or synthetic.
Franco

Per Hansen
(pereqa) - F

Locale: Sunny Southern Greenland
merino wool/synthetics on 01/06/2008 18:36:09 MST Print View

First I must compliment you Roger on the very informative report, evaluating gear after ones actual experiences is always the most valuable. Though as usual you are always every bit as opinionated as the rest of us, but at least you never try to hide it.
This brings me on to the merino wool/synthetics discussion. After years of using every different piece of underwear I could get my hands on to the point of failure, I largely agree with your observations, though Alan's and Franco's writings more accurately sums up my opinion on merino wool. I have completely stopped buying any thin woolen bottoms though, long or short I always wear through them in 2 weeks or less and this is simply no where near satisfying, so my bottoms are synthetics now.
The tops are a whole different story, I find they hold up quite nicely though not as tough as the synthetics. But I find the woolens to be the most comfortable in any weather, when wet I seldom even feel it. I have never timed drying a woolen contra synthetic shirt, but my woolen base layers are usually dry in less than an hour and this is fast enough for me.
Besides I fully agree with the BPL gospel that base layers should be as thin as possible no matter the temperature, anything else seriously compromises drying times and the overall function of a base layer.
To me it sums up as a question of comfort; most synthetics make me feel like I am walking with a tropical climate taped to my body most of the time and after a day the stench is almost unbearable. With woolens there is just this comfy feeling most of the time and even after wearing the same for 2 weeks, I only notice a slight odor.
Speaking of synthetics, this past year I began using Paramo Cambia's for the first time. These have turned out to be the best synthetics I have tried, they are real close to be as comfortable as wool, very tough so far, the smell is reasonable and lightning fast drying times.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Thin Merino on 01/07/2008 01:56:00 MST Print View

Forgot to mention
My top is a 140GSM. Just as not all wool is the same, the 140 dries a lot quicker than the 200. (my cooler weather one layer top). Cooler again and the 140 is back plus other layers on top.
But now I also need quick drying underpants.....Lycra is just not it.
Franco