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Winter gear and layering advice
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Ryan C
(radio_guy) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Winter gear and layering advice on 11/15/2010 11:31:53 MST Print View

I will probably going on a 4 day trip in the Smoky Mountains N.P. at the end of the year. Temperatures can vary but I am to expect around ~0*F at night, 20-35* during the day.

I have decided to order a W.M. Antelope MF 5* bag. What I need now is a decent down jacket. After reading the multi-part State-of-the-market Report earlier this year, I am torn between the Mont-Bell Alpine Light Parka and the Eddie Bauer First Ascent Downlight Hoody.

For colder temps while hiking, I plan on layering a 200wt merino wool, M.B. Thermawrap synthetic jacket, and a rain jacket (if needed). Bottoms are regular convertible pants and 200wt merino, smartwool socks with silk liners. The down parka or hoody would be used in camp and stops.

Is this a pretty good system for these temperatures?

I am leaning more towards the Alpine Light Parka due to it's more rugged fabric. I wear a medium Thermawrap. Would a large Alpine Light fit good over my other layers?

Can anyone provide a good in use comparison between the down jackets? Any comments on my insulating system would also be great.

Edited by radio_guy on 11/15/2010 11:54:52 MST.

Dave Gordon
(diplodocus) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
Insulation Info on 11/15/2010 11:56:50 MST Print View

Regarding your insulation, you may find these threads by Richard very educational if you haven't seen them already:

A New Paradigm for Understanding Garment Warmth

The best clothing combinations for backpacking or hiking?

Another jacket you might want to consider if you want something a little bit warmer than the Alpine Light is the new Montbell Frost Line, which contains a bit more down without costing too too much more money.

Ryan C
(radio_guy) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Re: Insulation Info on 11/15/2010 13:10:04 MST Print View

That chart on the first link is awesome. I am still trying to understand CLO but that thread is very useful.

The Frost Line Parka is made of the same materials as the Alpine Light but is about 9.5oz heavier for 2.4oz of more down. Very warm (per the chart).

I am trying to get gear that is adaptable for many uses. Having one big puffy jacket like the Frost Line may be overkill for some situations. The way I understand it is that if I combine the clo values of the Alpine Light and Thermawrap, I still get a combined clo of 4.25 and have two different jackets for different uses rather than one 25.2 oz very warm 5.33 clo jacket that would be of limited use at other times. Having the two separate jackets also allows me to balance out warmth of down to moisture benefits of synthetic. With two jackets, some of that missing 1.08 clo may be made up for in dead air space between while still being about 1oz lighter with the two jackets.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Winter gear and layering advice on 11/15/2010 13:18:53 MST Print View

Metabolisms are different, but I can't imagine hiking in a 200-wt & the Thermawrap... just way too warm for active hiking in my experience, even lower than 20s. I'd try the wool & shell, maybe start out w/the Thermawrap, but it'd likely come off after a half-mile...

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Winter gear and layering advice on 11/15/2010 13:47:56 MST Print View

The Mont-Bell Alpine Light Parka and First Ascent Downlight hoody are similar garments so it might come down to which ever one you can find cheaper. I have no experience with First Accent, but I have always been very pleased with my Mont-Bell insulation pieces.

I tend to agree with Brad that that is likely too much insulation while hiking. You will probably find yourself fine with just a wool baselayer top and convertible pants. Of course you will want some sort of gloves (I like the Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch gloves) and lightweight breathable hat (like the Mountain Hardwear Micro Dome), and perhaps even a windshirt, but you would overheat while active in a Thermawrap and/or Rain Jacket for any kind of distance.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
insulation on 11/15/2010 14:11:18 MST Print View

1. youll do most of your hiking in your base layer and windshirt ... you may start off in yr thermawrap, but itll likely be too hot after a bit of mileage ... its not that breathable either, i personally use a light fleece if i expect to be hiking in cold temps

2. if you dont have a windshirt id get one, or a light stretch membrane softshell ... i prefer the latter for winter but its a personaly choice ... you could use a rain jacket if its highly breathable like event

3. what is the coldest temp youll expect to be siting around in camp ... the alpine light is not the warmest jacket in the world ... by itself its probably good for around the mid 20s while bumming around

4. your stategy in winter should be to keep cool while moving to minimize sweat, and the instant you stop throw on your big puffay to not lose yr hard earned heat ... whatever you do dont sweat into your puffy layers

personally i think most people in winter layer too much ... IMO the traditional layering concept with think removable layers doesnt work too well in winter as its a biatch to stop and remove layers all the time when yr on shoes/skis and wearing gloves ... not to mention that the temperature swings youll deal with will be greater ... from cold to overheating to cold again, forcing you to constantly stop to remove or add clothing

just have an "action suit" and throw on a big puffay anytime u stop, use yr zippers to temp control on the move

Edited by bearbreeder on 11/15/2010 14:15:49 MST.

Ryan C
(radio_guy) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Re: Winter gear and layering advice on 11/15/2010 14:49:35 MST Print View

I have a Marmot Mica lightweight rain jacket that can be used as a wind shirt. In the future I may get a lightweight one.

Would I still be better off getting the Alpine Light and double layering with the Thermawrap or get a wind shirt and the Frost Line?

If it helps, I am trying to get gear to use for multiple seasons and purposes. I do not want to get things that will see very little use and would prefer items that can work with others as a system.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
winter layers on 11/15/2010 20:26:53 MST Print View

might be worth peeking around a bit as there have been several good winter layering threads of late

I'm going to be using a similar setup as you have originally posted, my expected temps are roughly what you anticipate

I prefer the multi layer vs the couple of layer- eric's reasoning is sound, but I prefer multi layers as it gives me a few more options, probably as important it gives me pieces that I can use in a wider array of situations

I use a R1 as my midlayer in lieu of a syn jacket(I don't typically need it a lot-a base layer and windshirt are usually adequate, but when I do it performs very well)

I'm going w/ a Alpine Light (or equivilant) as I feel combined w/ a base layer, mid layer and windshirt I should be comfortable to temps around 0- I tend to be a little on the warm side, if I wasn't I'd probably go up a notch w/ down jackets

Ryan C
(radio_guy) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Re: winter layers on 11/15/2010 21:31:34 MST Print View

I would prefer using a system as you describe Mike.

The R1 seems interesting, I recently got the balaclava to supplement my current gear. I have a 100wt North Face pullover that is similar to the R1.

I am always a little on the cool side and thought the Thermawrap would be a good hiking layer with the merino. Supplemented with the Alpine Light, I figured that it would maybe work down to about 10*. My legs usually do not get very cold though.

Problem is, it will be a while before it is cold enough here for me to experiment so I am having a hard time trying to figure out what would be best for me in varying conditions.

Here is what I am considering for 0-10*F in camp:

R1 Balaclava (2oz)
Merino head cap (1.5oz)
200wt Merino long sleeve and bottoms (15oz)
260wt Merino gloves, generic winter gloves (16oz)
Smartwool socks with silk liners (4oz)
100wt Fleece pullover (13oz) (ditch the Thermawrap)
Wind shirt (2oz Mont-Bell?)
Alpine Light Down Parka (16oz)
Thick nylon hiking pants (16oz)

I may consider swapping out 200wt merino bottoms with Thermawrap pants that could be worn over my hiking pants when stopped or in camp.

And while hiking for 20-35*F:

Merino head cap and 200wt merino top
100wt Fleece pullover
Wind shirt
Nylon pants

Sorry if I seem quirky about everything. This has been my first year of real backpacking and I am still acquiring gear over time on a budget. I have no winter hiking experience but am going with two very experienced "heavyweight" veteran backpackers that are yet to see the light regarding their packs and techniques.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
test on 11/15/2010 23:27:58 MST Print View

test yr clothing system on day hikes at that temp ... make sure you test yr camp puffy jacket outside at the temps youll be siting around camp in

the last thing you want to find out is not having enough insulation ... personally at anything below 20F id be taking at least a frostline equivalent, you should be able to play poker outside at yr camp temps IMO

bring more than is necessary the first time ... winter has no margin for error

Edited by bearbreeder on 11/15/2010 23:48:19 MST.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Re: Re: winter layers on 11/16/2010 08:13:32 MST Print View

Ryan- eric's advice is very sound, the last place you want to find out your made an err is in the backcountry, much better in your backyard.

If your a little on the cold side (I'm just the opposite) that certainly could make a difference.

your upper layers are exactly what I'm going w/,
you might be a little shy on the bottom layers- at 0-10, I'd want some light down pants around camp (they can help in the sleeping bag if need be too)

I'd consider some overmitts for hands- gloves get cold quickly (even a two layer setup)

also some down booties that you can wear around camp will be very much appreciated- there are several manufacturers that make a two part setup- down bootie w/ a waterproof outer shell- and still very light :)


Here There
(cowexnihilo) - MLife
Re: Re: winter layers on 11/16/2010 09:32:43 MST Print View

I've been really happy with the Alpine Light Parka, and would be quite comfortable in the conditions you mentioned in conjunction with the other items listed.

I would definitely take the Thermawrap Pants for those conditions and agree with Mike that some shell mitts and foot insulation are in order. Otherwise, it looks like you have a good setup to start with, and all that's needed is some experience to see what does or doesn't work for you.

Ryan C
(radio_guy) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Re: Re: Re: winter layers on 11/16/2010 10:48:33 MST Print View

I really appreciate everyone's input.

I like the Frost Bite but at 25oz it seems a little heavy and it may not see much use outside winter. The Alpine Light combined with the Thermawrap would weigh the same and give me two pieces of gear to use in different scenarios. I would still take the 100wt fleece for a mid layer.

Christmas is coming up and people are begging me to pick out stuff. Should I get the lighter Alpine Light that could be used more often in 3 seasons (supplemented with the Thermawrap in winter) or the Frost Line that would most likely only be used in winter? I am probably going to get some Thermawrap pants. Too bad I missed out on some recent sales.

I do plan on a long thru hike sometime in the next few years and want to try and pick gear that would be light but work with other items as a system in many different situations.

Here There
(cowexnihilo) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Re: winter layers on 11/16/2010 13:33:27 MST Print View

I think you would be fine getting the Alpine Light and layering, and if you find that you really love the cold weather stuff you can upgrade to a more serious winter parka. From what you've described, I'm guessing you'll find that the Alpine Light suits your overall needs quite well.

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: Winter gear and layering advice on 11/16/2010 18:48:05 MST Print View

I have two different down jackets -- a hooded down sweater that I use most of the time, and a 24 ounce down jacket for winter use. Trust me, when the temps get down into the single digits, a lightweight down jacket, even layered over that Thermawrap, is going to be awfully cold.

The Antelope is a good bag for your intended use. I've had mine out to 0-F and it's worked well. Be prepared to layer up with the down jacket inside your bag at night. I like to layer it over my torso, rather than wear it inside the bag.

Good warm (and dry) base layers are crucial for camp and sleeping at these temps. This is when the heavier microfleece and Powerstretch fabrics are great.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: winter layers on 11/16/2010 22:05:36 MST Print View

Ryan... your proposed list looks like it would generally work. If your camp life is either active or in your sleeping bag than legs with base + nylon hiking shoe works fine. If you are going to be standing / sitting out with friends in the evening then I would go with the thermawrap pants.

My favorite top layer now is the patagonia r1 hoody + the rab alpine pullover (replacing your base, 100wt fleece, and windshirt). I also really liked using the Rab Vapor Trail by itself, or with a featherweight tech-tee.

Like others I recommend either a base + windshirt (or a highly breathable softshell or lined windshirt like the marmot driclim) while active, and then layer over a puffy jacket.


Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Winter gear and layering advice on 11/16/2010 23:32:17 MST Print View

Aside from base layer + windshirt, when you get to the insulated layer(s) for camp, in what order would you layer down and synthetic jackets?

For instance, with the Thermawrap and Alpine Light combo mentioned above, the synthetic layer would be inside. Would you want the synthetic on the outside? There is a similar thread about winter sleeping bags which seem to indicate that a synthetic bag should go outside of a down bag to move the condensation point away from the down.

For me personally, in the PNW, I have a MH Nitrous (very light down insulation) and a MH Phantom (thick down insulation), but I want to add a synthetic piece (and maybe lose the nitrous). Thoughts?

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
synth out on 11/16/2010 23:40:05 MST Print View

steve ... synthetic outside if feasible ...

1. vapor travels outward ... if yr last layer is down itll end up there

2. yr outer layer is more likely to get wet from external elements ... better it be the synth that gets wet,

for you id find a primaloft belay jacket that fits over the MHs ... they are designed to fit over shells, down mid layers, etc ... patagucci DAS is the gold standard, other brands are often on sale ...

Edited by bearbreeder on 11/16/2010 23:40:51 MST.

Ryan C
(radio_guy) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Jacket and Sleeping Bag on 11/17/2010 23:12:45 MST Print View

I held off on ordering the 5* W.M. Antelope and got a 15* Marmot Helium for a good price. The Helium can be used more for spring and fall. For this winter trip, I am going to experiment with using my W.M. Summerlite as a top quilt over the Helium or stuffed inside if it fits well (the Helium is bigger). I know it is about 13oz more to carry both bags but the Summerlite and Helium do pack down small enough. Spending $$$ for an Antelope that would see little use did not seem worth it right now. I needed something for 15-20* anyway. I would have gone with the W.M. Apache for 15* but it is the same fit as the Summerlite and would compress puffy layers.

I tried posting a hyperlink but it did not like it:

I am going to experiment with the Alpine Light and layers as it gets colder. It would see more use than a dedicated winter jacket.

Edited by radio_guy on 11/17/2010 23:17:37 MST.