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mid-layer struggles
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Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
mid-layer struggles on 08/31/2009 20:17:39 MDT Print View

I'm struggling a bit w/ a mid layer strategy- I know there are many variables that influence choice (not in the least of where and when your hiking occurs)- the vast majority of my hiking will be three season in the Rockies (I do have a spring trip planned in the SW however). I tend to be on the warmish end of the thermo-regulatory scale (which vexes my wife sometimes as she tends to be closer to the other end :) )

I've been using a lightweight fleece (Patagonia Expedition weight zip neck Capilene) as a mid layer, a long sleeve Capilene 1 as a base layer. It has done pretty well as a camp layer, been adding a Houdini if the conditions are windy or moist. Works pretty well as part of my sleep system when chilly. It's not overly heavy (or light for that matter) at ~ 10 oz

I'm thinking about either adding a down vest to supplement the fleece in colder conditions, but am also considering a down jacket and nixing the fleece altogether. I'm pretty sure down will be my addition as most of my hiking is confined to relatively dry climes.

Clearly the down jacket would be a lighter option (~10-12 oz) vs a light fleece + a vest (~ 10 + 6 oz), but part me of thinks the versatility of a fleece layer and a vest might be useful. The light fleece does layer well under both my wind shirt and rain jacket- this is when it's especially cold and windy or cold and rainy- granted this doesn't occur a lot, but it does occur. The vest would add more to my sleep system than the just the fleece, the jacket on the other hand would add more than both.

Another concern (unfounded?) is that the down jacket in many instances might prove to be a little too warm- where a vest or fleece (or both) might be just right.

Anywho- would appreciate hearing what works for others and any advice they might have.

thanks in advance


Zack Karas
( - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
fleece schmeece on 08/31/2009 21:10:59 MDT Print View

Most of my backpacking is in similiar climes. Here is my setup:

Long sleeve button up hiking shirt (9oz)
Montane windshirt (2.5oz)
Either a Montbell UL Inner Down Jacket (5oz) or a WM Flight Jacket (10.5oz) depending on expected temps
Rainshield jacket (5.5oz)

I've used this setup (Flight jacket in shoulder seasons, Montbell jacket in summer season) for most of my thruhikes and have never had a problem. I even sometimes go without the rainjacket and bring a 1oz emergency poncho if my trip will be short and no rain is expected (it almost never rains in Tahoe). I say ditch the fleece--it's bulky and there are better alternatives out there, especially since you hike in a predominately dry climate.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: mid-layer struggles on 09/01/2009 09:09:40 MDT Print View

If somebody put a gun to my head and forced me to pick only one mid-layer for the rest of my camping life, I'd take the Montbell UL Down Inner Parka at 8.5oz(L).

When backpacking in the Sierra, I wore a l/s Cap 2 zip neck, and had a Houdini along as my wind jacket.

I own a MB thermawrap vest as well, and have used it in combination with the houdini to be comfortable into the 40s (completely subjectively).

However, for 3 more oz, the parka is so much more flexible.

I feel like the Cap 2 + the convective heat loss prevention of the houdini + fleece beanie (1.5oz)will keep me comfortable in any temps the vest would be necessary. At worst, I'd be a bit chilly, and I could always put on the jacket.

Too warm? Unzip. I can't envision a scenario where I'd be too cold not wearing the jacket but too warm wearing it unzipped.

I bought the vest before the jacket, and with access to a time machine, as nice as the vest is, I'd go back and just get the jacket and forgo the vest.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Montbell on 09/01/2009 11:21:31 MDT Print View

I'm currently scouting the web for a MontBell U.L. Down Inner parka as that seems to be a great piece for 90% of trips. The WM Flash Jacket looks really nice too but it's a lot more expensive ($260 vs. $160) but the Flash is warmer.

Zack Karas
( - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Flash on 09/01/2009 11:24:01 MDT Print View

I think the Flash has twice the down than the Montbell jacket has. I know the price is up there, but I really want the flash jacket now.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
mid-layer on 09/01/2009 13:23:19 MDT Print View

If you only occasionally need the fleece for cold rain I would consider getting the jacket and then also carrying the fleece for those few times when you think extended cold rain is possible. The fleece and vest option could be good if cold rain is more common.

It all depends a bit on what conditions you are comfortable in with only a base layer and windproof and rain jacket and when you need to add a fleece. I am also working through this myself right now. Unfortunately there are no easy answers. I feel I can handle pretty cold, rainy conditions by using a merino base layer, windproof AND rain jacket together, merino gloves, fleece balaclava and waterproof mits. Hiking speed also comes into play here. If you have too slow down you can chill quickly. If the only extra insulation you have is down and you are still cold in wet conditions then you are a bit stuffed. You also have nothing too put on at rest stops.

Another potential option is a synthetic insulation piece, as it can be used at rest stop in wet conditions and also potentially for hiking in an emergency e.g. you feeling cold in the rain and didn't bring the extra fleece.

Edited by jephoto on 09/01/2009 13:24:09 MDT.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: mid-layer struggles on 09/01/2009 17:40:31 MDT Print View

I tend to run hot when active... and my style is to be active until the minute I get go to bed under my quilt so I have pretty modest insulation needs. In cooler conditions I typically take a light base + vest + driduck (wind and wet protection). In warmer conditions I bring supplex shirt which provides enough wind protection in warmer temps, and then layer the driducks over in cooler conditions where I am not fighting overheating. This has worked well when the daytime temps are above freezing. My arms can get chilled, but so long as I am active, that doesn't last long.

The vest + fleece is a heavy option but it is a great combination... especially since fleece is so air permeable. Makes it really easy to tune clothing to match conditions. A couple of years ago Richard started the thread best clothing combo argues that the 100wt fleece is extremely valuable. At the end of last seasons and this coming season I plan to mix the R1 hoody back into my kit to see if it's worth the extra weight.

In colder conditions a jacket (or especially a full parka with a good hood) is really nice an cozy to have.


Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
very useful info on 09/01/2009 21:12:31 MDT Print View

gents- thanks for the advice thus far, much appreciated

looks like there isn't an easy answer, which given the variables- I didn't really expect there to be one

I think the advice of saving the fleece for known/expected wet conditions is pretty sound

known/expected " dry and cold"- the jacket clearly is a no brainer

the in between stuff I'm still a little torn, but the jacket is single piece (that also happens to be relatively light and pack small).

I'll read through the linked thread- thanks for posting it

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
great thread on 09/05/2009 14:30:23 MDT Print View

that's a great thread (must read IMO)- also this one is pretty darn good on wet ^ conditions where light fleece looks like it really has a niche (talks about a light fleece vest which I've never given much thought to before)