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Winter(ish) Layering Advice
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Corey Downing
(hardcorey) - MLife

Locale: Denver
Winter(ish) Layering Advice on 10/05/2011 12:42:53 MDT Print View

Now that I'm finally comfortable with my 3-season ultralight gear, I've decided to start working on winter.

Where I live, winter temps often average around freezing but can range from below 0F to 40F. However, the average case is often the worst case because the precipitation can be dry snow, wet snow, sleet, freezing rain, or rain and often we get those dreaded middle three.

Some pieces of gear I already have:
Assorted merino base layers
Patagonia R1 Hoody
Patagonia Houdini
Patagonia Nano Puff
MontBell Down Inner Parka
REI "Ultra light rain jacket"
Dead bird Gamma AR soft shell (no hood)
Patagonia Alpine Guide Pants
MH Monkey Man Jacket

I think I need a thicker insulation layer and a more capable shell for these conditions. However, I'm not sure what to get. Could I make a hooded soft shell work for this? What about the new NeoShell jackets?

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: Winter(ish) Layering Advice on 10/06/2011 00:24:16 MDT Print View

the only thing you need is a toasting puffy IMO

good till 20F or so when moving ...

base - thin merino
mid (optional if above freezing) - R1, add cheap fleece vest if still cold
shell - houdini ... renew DWR
legs - guides pants ... renew DWR

colder than 20F when moving ...

1. exchange the houdini for gamma


2. put nano over R1/houdini (preferred as you dont need to take anything off and thus lose body heat), use zipper to ventilate


3. put monkey man over R1 under houdini

and add light long johns

when stopped ...

put on the warmest effing puffy you have ... something with much more down than a MB UL ... the MB UL under the nano at stops will get you down to around 20F IMO, not below that you need a real poofay ... and if you get cold legs in camp get some insulated pants

no need to buy anymore yuppie gear except for the poofay ...

YMMV of course

Edited by bearbreeder on 10/06/2011 00:27:52 MDT.

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Layers on 10/07/2011 14:25:14 MDT Print View

I agtree with Eric (which doesn't mean anything since I'm not an expert) but here is a tiny bit of a slide-show lecture by top mountaineer Colin Haley:
- Base layer, fleece, then windshirt. Add a hard shell if it gets colder."

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Re: Layers on 10/07/2011 18:57:58 MDT Print View

you've got a lot of pieces that will carry over to winter season (almost all :)), the one piece you are missing is a more substantial insulating layer (I'd recommend one w/ a hood)

I've had good luck w/ a thin base layer (merino or syn) top/bottom, soft shell pants, windjshirt over the base layer on the move if necessary- if still too cool then I add a mid-layer- R-1 vest or pullover, if bitterly cold- talking below 0 then I have a nanopuff I can put on, at stops I have a down parka (MB Alpine Light) that gets pulled out

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Winter(ish) Layering Advice on 10/07/2011 21:05:19 MDT Print View

> dry snow, wet snow, sleet, freezing rain, or rain ...
I am not sure there is a 'good solution' for the middle three.

The problem is that when you are moving fairly fast you generate a fair bit of heat. You might need little more than a thermal layer under a windshirt. But when you stop, especially when you are wet, ... oh dear.

OK, a good windproof outer layer IS essential most anytime. It does not have to be waterproof or even WP/B, but it must block the wind from wind-chilling you.

In practice, with a whole lot of experience, some of us travel really lightly dressed even in stinky weather, and rely on training and experience to make the transition from fast movement into static shelter. But care is needed, plus a partner, for this to be safe. There have been times when we have been so wet and cold by the time the tent is up that my wife Sue has not been able to get her wet clothing off by herself. I have had to help her, and sometimes she has had to help me too.

Where the experince bit comes in is in two places: knowing just how far you can push it before you are in serious trouble, and having the confidence that you *will* warm up once you are changed. Getting that experience *safely* is not a fast process, so take care!

There are no really good solutions.


(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Replace Belay Parka with a tent on 10/07/2011 22:00:47 MDT Print View

Roger makes an interesting suggestion: DO NOT PUT ON A BIG PUFFY AFTER YOUR ACTIVITY CEASES IF IT IS RAINING. Apparently he is thinking that a big down parka, or even a synthetic like the DAS, will get soaked in an instant, and you are in trouble. Just let your body absorb the chill, work fast, set up the tent, and work on warming up after you are inside. Personally, in wet-cold situations I like a medium-thick synthetic Belay Parka with a rain shell big enough to cover the Parka, but Roger's technique seems to have a lot of advantages.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
note on 10/08/2011 20:08:24 MDT Print View

two things i missed that others have picked up on ...

youll need a WPB jacket for freezing rain and heavy snow IMO should you encounter those conditions

and puffy should be synthetic if yr in humid enviroments near freezing, otherwise down is fine in dryer climates well below freezing

Corey Downing
(hardcorey) - MLife

Locale: Denver
Re: Re: Winter(ish) Layering Advice on 10/10/2011 13:56:33 MDT Print View

My inquiry comes from the trip I took last new years when it started raining in the middle of the night our first night and didn't stop until we got to the car the next day at 4 or 5pm. We were supposed to spend another night out but we decided to finish the hike out because we were soaked. It was probably around 40F all day and we ended up with about 2" of rain that day. I wore my baselayer, R1 Hoody, and REI rain jacket on top and was able to stay comfortable and only got wet on the hood and the wrist section of my sleeves soaking up water from the outside. It did not help that there was about 2' of snow melting at the same time and we had creek crossings that nearly swept someone away.

I learned a lot from that trip, which represented pretty much the worst conditions I've ever met in the back country.

I think I'll be needing a warmer puffy layer. Is the MB Alpine Light warm enough for hanging around camp in the teens? What about recommendations for my fiance who is always colder than I can comprehend?

And what about hard shells? The conditions of that trip required WP/B everything. The disappointing parts of my REI shell would be the weight (~13oz), the hood kept slipping off despite cinching it down with the draw cords, and it is unlikely to fit over a larger puffy.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Alpine Light on 10/10/2011 17:44:51 MDT Print View

you want the parka version imo, I'm comfortable around camp into the teens w/ the Alpine Light layered over a R1 and base layer (along w/ appropriate headwear, hand wear, bottom layer and footwear)- my internal temp tends to run a little on the warm side so ymmv :) I got my wife a Alpine Light as well, but she hasn't got to test it out, if she runs really cold probably something more- if she already has a light down jacket- layered w/ the Alpine Light might be just the ticket

I use a OR Helium- it's very light and thus far relatively rugged- it doesn't breathe great, but I've yet to find a jacket that has (personally I don't think they exist yet)

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
depends on 10/11/2011 00:22:15 MDT Print View

corey ...

it depends on the conditions you are expecting

if you are expecting a lot of slush and freezing rain then youd want a better ventilated shell with zips, and synthetic puffies

if you are more expecting dryer snow and colder temps ... a UL shell like the helium which i use for just in case, and a down puffy will work fine

for women, get a warmer puffy than you would expect ... women run 10F or so colder than men in terms of insulation need, same with bags