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Favorite Mid-Layer?
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Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Favorite Mid-Layer? on 08/10/2010 09:30:57 MDT Print View

I find mid-layer clothing to be the hardest to get good performance/weight ratios on. What is your favorite?

So far, Power Stretch is the best I've found and about 10oz for a LS top.

Michael Febbo
(febbom) - F
Driclime windshirt on 08/10/2010 14:53:20 MDT Print View

What conditions/temperature range? I love Powerstretch, but a marmot Driclime windshirt is hard to beat as an "anything layer" (next to skin, mid or outer)

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
mid layer on 08/10/2010 15:08:27 MDT Print View

Powerstretch is really good stuff. Some wind resistance, tough, and absorbs very little water. Unfortunately I find it too warm for use in anything but very cold weather.

My Patagonia R 1/2 (now Capilene 4) hoodie is a bit lighter and more breathable than P-stretch, and gets used a lot.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
cap 4 on 08/10/2010 16:13:26 MDT Print View

^ another fan of cap 4- I didn't even know they ever made a R 1/2 :)

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Favorite Mid-Layer? on 08/10/2010 17:25:22 MDT Print View

depends on what you define as a mid layer.

I tend to use Patagonia Cap 3 as a mid layer.

If you call Cap 4 a mid layer, my Patagonia Nano Puff is lighter weight than my Cap 4 zip, and much warmer.

Nano Puff can serve as a mid layer or outer layer depending on the situation.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Favorite Mid-Layer? on 08/10/2010 17:36:14 MDT Print View

I guess it depends on what you call the mid layer. My current skin has nylon (supplex) against my skin, then a puffy layer followed by a rain/wind barrier.

Oh, I forgot to add that I haven't experienced a situation where I need more than my "base" layer and a rain/wind barrier so long as I'm hiking and the temperature is greater than 20F.

Edited by leaftye on 08/10/2010 17:38:46 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Favorite Mid-Layer? on 08/11/2010 08:41:26 MDT Print View

Art wrote: "depends on what you define as a mid layer.

I tend to use Patagonia Cap 3 as a mid layer.

If you call Cap 4 a mid layer, my Patagonia Nano Puff is lighter weight than my Cap 4 zip, and much warmer.

Nano Puff can serve as a mid layer or outer layer depending on the situation."

Good points, Art. Thanks!

I was thinking of wicking fabrics that provide more insulation than a base layer, but not fiber "puffy" layers like the NanoPuff, down , etc.

It does get to be a "heavy base layer or insulation" quandary. What I had in mind as a mid-layer was warm wicking layer to wear under a shell in cold wet conditions, bivouac, or sleep.

The insight on the weight of the Cap 4 vs. the Nano Puff is good stuff. Do you have the weights handy on the Cap 3,Cap 4, and Nano Puff?

I see the same issue with a Mont Bell Thermawrap, which is about the same weight as the Power Stretch.

What I've wrestled with is duplication of shells and thinner insulation layers. The Nano Puff and Thermawrap are great products, but if you use a wind shirt, you are hauling two items that incorporate an outer shell, plus one thin layer of insulation. If I were to wear something like a Cap 4 or Power Stretch plus my windshirt, I end up with some intermediate insulation, plus wind and light rain protection, plus the wicking and breathability of the synthetic mid-layer. There is also the versatility of the mid-layer plus wind shirt-- each can be worn alone or together. I agree it would have to be pretty cold to be moving uphill with much more than a base layer and shell on.

The question comes up for cold camp/bivouac use, where thicker vests or jackets can come into play, like down or Primaloft. The layering scheme I had in mind was a short sleeve silkweight base and a wind shirt, supplanted by a long sleeve mid-layer like the Power Stretch or Cap 4, plus a down or Primaloft layer.

This is a three season package. I might escape the mid-layer in July/August in the Pacific NW, but not much more than that.

This July 4th found me at 4500' with cold mist and light rain, cold air from snow fields a few hundred feet above, and temps below 50F at camp. Of course, there was no direct sun at all under these conditions--- literally sitting in a cold cloud. Under way, there was a steep climb and I went a good part of the way in just a base layer, adding a wind shirt when things leveled off or out of the timber-- the open slide areas having more wind and rain. I wasn't cold until stopped at my destination and I added a poly fill vest and rain shell. I found I needed just a bit more insulation to be comfortable and something like a wicking mid-layer would have been perfect. I guess something like a Primaloft jacket might have worked too. The jacket weight would be near equal to a mid layer and vest (about 19oz), but versatility fails again-- it's all or none with one monolithic layer.

Shoulder season hikes can often be in cloud cover and rain. In Spring there are camps where a lake is in a cirque with cold air falling from snow covered peaks all around, dropping the local temp below the forecast for the area. Typical conditions are 45-50F and with high humidity. With no direct sun, nothing dries out unless it is from your body heat or a camp fire. This is where down sucks and poly fill excels-- and a wicking mid layer comes into play.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Favorite Mid-Layer? on 08/11/2010 09:01:24 MDT Print View

Arc Teryx Breva fleece vest (5-6 oz). It is tight fitting and pretty warm for its weight.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
the clothing quiver on 08/11/2010 09:02:39 MDT Print View

Dale, excellent points and I agree across the board. Sometimes the weather makes life simple and you need clothes for three situations: moving, moving in the rain, at rest. Other times life is a bit more complex.

For the Parcour race across the Bob last October, I had to plan for -10F, 50F and sunny, and everything in between, including the possibility of the worst weather on earth, 35 and raining (which we had plenty of). I brought the following, and wore almost every permutation:

Wool t-shirt
Cap 4 hoody
Soft shell windshirt
Rain coat
Hooded down coat
Wool beanie

I'd also add that while Primaloft does very well in the wet, pile still rules when you know your puff layer will be getting wet.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
100w fleece vest on 08/11/2010 09:18:53 MDT Print View

I've considered 100w fleece (the Arc Teryx Breva is micro grid 100w), but comparing apples and apples-- long sleeve 1/4 zip tops, the 100w only saves an ounce or so off the Power Stretch. Never thought about a micro fleece *vest*. Seems it might have to go with a LS base layer top, but it should make a good combo with a windshirt. 100w fleece shirts are cheap and plentiful-- it would be pretty easy to whip the sleeves off one {{{SNIP}}}. A 1/4 zip sleeveless pullover might have its place. Or a Power Stretch vest (about 7oz)... hhmmm.

The chess game with a vest is getting limited coverage for the weight/item. Somewhere along the line, I will want to cover my arms for warmth. For camp, a down vest at 8-9 ounces trumps the microfleece vest I think. The fleece vest strikes me as a good day hike option, combo'd with a wind shirt or under a rain shell. My 200w vests come in at 11-12oz, which I also threw in the day hiking category.

Good input-- thanks!

Edited by dwambaugh on 08/11/2010 09:38:38 MDT.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Re: Re: Favorite Mid-Layer? on 08/11/2010 09:49:48 MDT Print View

Dale, my gear weights as requested.

Patagonia Cap 3 crewneck shirt, size L (mens) - 214g
Patagonia Cap 4 zipneck shirt, size XL(mens) - 285g
Patagonia Nano Puff Pullover , size M (mens) - 274g

note: arms of a Cap 3 L and Cap 4 XL fit the same, but body of the Cap 4 XL is slightly looser.
Size M Nano fits looser than a base layer ( I can fit it over both a Cap 2 and a Cap 3) but is a trim fit, not blousy.

Cap 4 probably works better for active motion, Nano better for less active motion at same temps.

Brian Camprini
(bcamprini) - MLife

Locale: Southern Appalachians
Re: Re: Re: Favorite Mid-Layer? on 08/11/2010 10:37:08 MDT Print View

For active use--I love a plain old 100 weight fleece half zip. Hard to beat while moving and sweating. And I use it as a base layer by itself to sleep in if my hiking shirt is really disgusting. Long shirt tails and deep zip. Mine is getting pretty old, so I've been eyeing that new Melanzana Nano Grid Hoody, but half zips are great because you can vent them.

I have a Cap 4 half zip, but to me, it excels as a base layer and not a mid layer--it really wicks sweat like a champ. It's a little form-fitting for mid layer use, and it doesn't stretch as much as R1 or powerstretch. The cap 4 comes out when daytime temps are in the 30s, maybe low 40sF. Any warmer and I prefer a lighter shirt as a base and the 100 wt fleece over it for a wider temp range. If things get really cold (rare in the SE), I put the 100 wt fleece over the Cap 4 base. Maybe I'd opt for Primaloft if I were in colder temps and didn't want to get too Michelin-manned in fleece.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Midlayer on 08/12/2010 00:13:40 MDT Print View

I don't like carrying a heavy baselayer (ie. Cap 3 or 4) for use as middle insulating layer. This isn't using the garment for which it's designed (it's a baselayer) and it's an inefficient way to insulate.

I start with a really light, quick drying baselayer (ie. GoLite DriMove @ 50-80g for a top). I like one that is extremely fast drying so I just wash it at a stream during the day and toss it back on and it's dry in 15-30 min. This way I only need one, although sometimes I'll carry a spare if I'm not packing too light.

I also carry one insulation piece (usually a Montbell UL Down Inner parka) and a windshirt and do this:

Hot: just the short sleeve baselayer
Medium: SS baselayer + windshirt
Cold: SS baselayer + Down Inner + Windshirt

The above upper body setup is simple, light (12-16oz) and it works in summer and moderate 3 season trips. If it's going to be a cold trip then I'll add a down vest or replace the down inner with a warmer down jkt.

Edited by dandydan on 08/12/2010 00:28:44 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Midlayer on 08/12/2010 01:16:32 MDT Print View

Thanks, Dan

I put together a similar layer set on paper. I can see your point about the efficiency using a base layer as insulation, but it is insulation none the less, and it wicks too, as well as being very comfortable.

What low temperature is your combination comfortable to at rest?

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Warmth on 08/12/2010 01:29:56 MDT Print View

With SS Baselayer + Down Inner Parka + Windshirt I'm comfortable to about 45F relaxing outside without a fire. If it's getting colder than that it's probably time for bed anyways, but I can go a bit colder by layering up on the lower half of my body with my awesome down pants made by Ben from GooseFeet and adding wool gloves & toque. I could also wrap myself up in my sleeping quilt if I really wanted to be outside and that would certainly keep me warm.

This setup is pretty good for most 3 season trips but I could use a bit more insulation for the colder 3 season trips. I'm considering adding a down vest which I would take as my sole insulation layer on warm trips. I would take both the down inner parka on medium trips and I would take both on the coldest 3 season trips. I like the versatility of this, but carrying a down inner and down vest would be heavier on cold trips than just carrying a warmer down jkt so it's a tough call. Ideally if I was rich I'd just have a vest (4-5oz) for warm trips, down inner (7-8oz) for medium trips and a warmer 13-16oz down jkt for colder trips.

Edited by dandydan on 08/12/2010 01:31:44 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Warmth on 08/12/2010 09:29:56 MDT Print View

Dan wrote, "...but carrying a down inner and down vest would be heavier on cold trips than just carrying a warmer down jkt so it's a tough call. Ideally if I was rich I'd just have a vest (4-5oz) for warm trips, down inner (7-8oz) for medium trips and a warmer 13-16oz down jkt for colder trips."

These are the quandaries I'm dealing with. There is that factor of being able to throw on a medium layer while fiddling around in camp and something like a full zip 200w fleece is great on the comfort level, but loses over the efficiency of a down sweater; the down can be too warm and loses some points in wet weather.

This is where I toss the ball around: UL base layer, no problem; high loft insulation for colder weather, again no problem; hot weather, easy. It's that 45F-ish cold-n-damp stuff where I like the Power Stretch plus something like a vest and the option of sealing it up with a shell. All of those can be worn in several combinations and used for sleep too. And yes, it adds up on the scale.

Some fleece has been made fairly lofty--- I think Synchilla is a great example. LL Bean, Woolrich, and Russell turned out some clones that weren't half bad. But most fleece tops in my XL size hover around the 16-19oz range, which is fairly heavy in the UL world. That is 16oz stand-alone, but only 6oz more than the Power Stretch and 1000x more versatile, tougher, and can be found for pennies used.

The intermediate jackets like the Mont Bell Thermawrap and the Patagonia Nano Puff are great, but they don't provide much more insulation than a fleece and suffer on breathability. They seem to duplicate a windshirt, which is my main falling out with them.

Weight aside, a nice fleece in conjunction with a windshirt makes for a super versatile combination. Again, the fleece works in the worst conditions with your rain shell too. We need a SuperFleece that is very lofty, compressible and light, could be worn for sleep, etc. It would need to come in around 10oz to be weight competitive with the thin quilted polyfill jackets. Currently, my best loft/weight fleeces come in around 11oz for a vest and 16oz for a 1/4 zip top (all XL). Again, I'm thinking of a system that includes a windshirt.

Thanks for all the input, everyone. I think an UL layering system is one of the more difficult (and expensive) parts of getting an UL kit together. We talk about the Big Three, but I think it should be Big Four. Look at your gear list after pack, shelter, and sleeping bag--- that clothing section is heavy, expensive, and critical to comfort and safety. It is also the most variable in terms of climate and the user's perception of comfort.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
The Down Mid-Layer on 08/12/2010 11:51:50 MDT Print View

After reading the extensive reviews on light down jackets Will Riveted recently posted I've got to say that these light down jackets/"sweaters" may be the most used backpacking midlayer within the next few years.

That said I have often used a 200 weight pile vest as a mid layer in the summer. I do have a 300 wt. pile jacket that I use when ski patrolling and hunting in bitter weather but it's really too heavy for backpacking.

For winter backpacking I use my ThermoLite Micro insulated jacket for its ability to stay warm when damp with perspiration. I have also used my Thermolite Micro pants with the jacket to successfully extend the range of my WM Megalite down bag. This synthetic jacket is actually warmer than my 300 weight pile jacket but lacks the pile jacket's pit zips.

But I'll venture to guess that many backpackers and hikers most often use wool sweaters for their mid layer insulation. I sometimes also use synthetic (acrylic knit) sweaters if I know I'll be sweating a lot.

As we all know, our mid-layer insulation is determined by the seasons and activity level. There are few mid-layer garments that really work in all situations. Synthetic fiber insulated light jackets may come closet to the all- around answer.

/A .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: The Down Mid-Layer on 08/12/2010 12:48:01 MDT Print View

@ OP - I often use a wind breaker with hood as a mid-layer, as it traps quite a lot of heat when put on and breathes adequately. I do like lighter polyester for everyday use (ps, 100, r1, etc.) but only take down if I am going as light as possible. The lightweight down garments dry surprisingly quickly, from what I hear, but I have always managed to keep my down dry by God's grace.


@ Dan + Dale: re: "carrying a down inner and down vest would be heavier on cold trips than just carrying a warmer down jkt so it's a tough call."

From the face of my scales, the following set-up comes in at 10.3 oz. for jacket + vest, with 3.2 oz. total down fill. That is lighter than many down jackets of similar warmth to the combo.

The MB Alpine Light or WM Flight would probably be the closest in comparable warmth, with 4 oz. of 800 fill. The dead air space between the vest and jacket, however provide quite an extra boost in insulation, hence the size up in the Vest. The only thing that would round this system out would be a nice down balaclava. I don't think the combo would be quite as warm as a FF Hyperion or NB Fugu, but I'm yet to compare all 3 set-ups adequately.

Montbell Ex Light Vest L: 3.9 oz. + .2 oz. stuff sack (1.8 oz. 900 fill down)
Montbell Ex Light Jacket M 5.4 oz. + .2 oz. stuff sack (1.4 oz. 900 fill down)

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Down on 08/12/2010 14:41:57 MDT Print View

I recently added a down First Ascent vest and a jacket to my clothing kit. The vest is light enough that I would throw it in for any dry weather pursuits, and the jacket should be great for cold-and-clear winter walks. But there is the 50% of the year that getting outside in the Pacific NW means 40F-50F temps, high humidity and rain.

From what I've seen in this thread so far, a 100w fleece 1/4 zip shirt would blend well with a windshirt, with a vest for colder stuff.

That would leave a 4 season selection layer system like:

Layer 1: Wicking polyester base layer (4-5oz)

Layer 2: 100w fleece top -or- Power Stretch top (10-11oz)
Down or polyfill vest (9.5-12.5oz)
Down or polyfill sweater/jacket (13.8-19oz)

Layer 3: Windshirt/windbreaker (8oz) and/or rain shell(12oz), depending on use of a poncho-cape shelter.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
mid-layer on 10/30/2010 17:41:45 MDT Print View

revining this thread :) I agree w/ Dan that for three season use- no real need for a "mid-layer", insulating layer-yes.

I make a distinction between mid-layer and insulating layer (maybe wrongfully). When I think of mid-layer I think of something that is going to be worn hiking- not something I do much (maybe never) w/ my insulating layer, but something I do frequently w/ a mid layer when hiking in the fourth season (most often on snowshoes)

I like to use a very light top base layer (Merino 1 or Cap 1) and then if needed, layer a R1 (or similar) over it as my mid layer. I still carry a windshirt and I still carry an appropriate insulating layer.

thus for me- four layers for winter (three, w/ no "mid-layer") for three season