I've been fiddling with different layering schemes, trying to get a versatile, warm, and dry kit for the Western Cascades and Olympics for Fall weather. Emphasis on rain and temps to around freezing with some fudge factor.
I was concentrating on core layering and really working on easy changes on the trail. I see that I didn't include hats and gloves-- assume a fleece beanie and lightly lined shell gloves.
I based my selection on fairly ordinary shells and base layers. It is the mid-layers and insulation that I find challenging. Because of wet conditions, I'm not using down, just polyester variants. I would be wearing a base layer top with windshirt and softshell pants for starters.
The new items for me are the softshell pants, the Power Stretch vest, and the Mountain Hardwear Compressor jacket.
What I had in mind with the vest was to have something light and easy to change (and stow) on the trail that could be worn with my base layer, or with base layer and windshirt. Breathability was high on my list too. And I wanted insulation that did not incorporate another shell. I think the Power Stretch vest is a good compromise. I do have a similar fabric weight polyester hoodie (Lowe Alpine Ninja) at 12.9 ounces if I need to ramp up a bit for that layer.
Going to camp insulation, I've tried Thermawrap and Nano Puff models and again, I found them too warm on the trail and too thin in camp. I think you get 99% of the same animal by using a light fleece and the windshirt already in the kit, ergo the vest mentioned above.
I found the Mountain Hardwear Compressor jacket and I like the feature set --- a more loft than the Nanopuff, pockets, drawstrings, very compressible, good fit, and a full front zipper for temperature and moisture control, and 15.7oz weight-- that is about 50% more than a Nano Puff in my size.
The vest and jacket can be worn together and are comfortable enough for sleeping in. The whole works will fit under my rain shell without feeling too much like a Michelin Man.
Stowing has become an issue for me as I am experimenting with a tent (Utopia 1) rather than a poncho shelter (SMD Gatewood). That means adding a rain parka along with the extra tent parts and it put a big dent in my pack space. Adding a warmer sleeping bag for Fall trips sucks up yet more space (and weight). Those easy 8 pound summer base weights can turn to lead around September 21st!
I was working on a list for a trip to the Olympic beaches last night and adding a $%^&* bear can sure put a kink in the works. Between the tent and the bear can, I was considering putting in an ad for a team of Sherpas :)
Anyway, here's the list: