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Help with Clothing System
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Dan Parisian
(Ezmate) - MLife
Help with Clothing System on 05/08/2008 21:00:49 MDT Print View

My wife & I have been backpacking for the past 2 years. We started out with a somewhat lightweight philosophy with some items (Six Moon designs Europa, alcohol stove, freezer bag cooking, WM down bags, dehydrating every speck of our food - even tuna packs). With other items, we weren't so lightweight - a Big Agnes Air Core pad, Osprey packs, and not a single piece of titanium anywhere!

Anyway, the real problem has always been clothes. I never really understood the purpose of a wicking layer, a windshirt, etc. I just grabbed stuff from REI that seemed to fit our needs and was on clearance. Since most of our hiking has been in the mountains or the desert, the clothing choices never really bit us in the butt.

We're currently planning on hiking the West Coast Trail & I've decided I really need to take a serious look at clothing. I read the articles on clothing systems & backpacking in sustained, cold rain, but I still need some guidance.

Here's what I'm currently thinking:

Shoes: We've recently converted to trail runners with decent ventilation. They're nothing fancy - again, whatever felt good and was available at REI.

Socks: Teko's EcoMerino socks (haven't tried them yet...could be convinced of something better). We'll probably have 2 for hiking, one for sleeping or a backup dry pair.

We plan on using the shoes & socks for stream crossings and hoping the shoes dry themselves out over time. We'll also use Hydropel to avoid blisters.

Shorts: Our REI cargo shorts - maybe even with the zippered legs.

Gaiters: Event Shorty Gaiters for me. Montbell Stretch for her.

Raingear: 8.9 oz sil-nylon poncho for each of us. PLUS lightweight Waterproof/nonbreathable top & bottoms.

The rationale is this: We'll always use the ponchos - at a minimum, it's a pack cover and acts as a cook tarp if it's raining. If the weather is warmish and/or the wind is low, it's a nice way to keep dry without feeling clammy.

The ultralight top & bottom are there for very windy and or cold rain conditions. I'd only wear them if a poncho was dangerously inadequate.

Finally, I was thinking of doing a lightweight merino baselayer (Patagonia Wool 2) & a light windshirt. This pairing would be an upgrade from our random shirts that we currently use (just one thick layer).

Finally, we'd have our Micro-Puffs with us for insulating our tops, and tights for keeping our legs warm (usually only used on very cold nights - I don't know if we've ever needed 'em for walking).

Any comments on this? Specifically, is a merino base layer a bad idea in such humid conditions? Is the poncho AND top/bottom just silly? Are the shoes/socks for stream crossings an ok way to go, or should we pack some crocs for that?

Thanks in advance for any advice.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Help with clothing system on 05/09/2008 08:07:29 MDT Print View

Hi Dan.
I can't comment on the poncho set-up as it's usually too windy where i hike to use one. I would only wear non-breathable waterproofs for short periods though, as you will end up soaked by sweat otherwise. I've hiked for over 30 years and i think that merino and a breathable windshirt is the best combination i've found. I use Icebreaker merino tops simply because the first merino top i ever used was an Icebreaker, and i've never had a reason to swap manufacturer. In the heat i use a lightweight ultra-fine tech tee, and in colder weather i change to a long sleeve heavier weight top. In very hot and humid conditions, any fabric will become wet, but IMHO merino feels more comfortable next to the skin than other base-layers i've tried. I sometimes just wear the Windtop on it's own as well.
Windtops come in many fabrics and some are DWR treated. They range from very breathable with little water-resistance, to almost waterproof but less breathability. My preference is for maximum breathability, but others have different preferances. I like Pertex windshirts.

A merino base-layer and breathable windtop are always first on my list for any hike.

Rod Lawlor
(Rod_Lawlor) - MLife

Locale: Australia
Shoes and socks on 05/10/2008 18:05:29 MDT Print View

If it's warm, keep the socks on, they'll feel fine after another 5-10 min on the trail. If it's cold, pull the socks off, put the shoes back on, and replace the socks after the crossing.

(Actually, I hardly ever take the socks off, even crossing streams in the middle of winter, at 2am. I use a slightly thicker sock though. After 5 min they're still wet, but they feel warm, even in a full mesh shoe)