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AT NOBO Thru Down Jacket HELP!
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Sam Ridge

Locale: North Carolina
AT NOBO Thru Down Jacket HELP! on 01/02/2012 23:09:45 MST Print View

Ok this is my first down jacket I've ever bought.

I'll be starting ~March 28th. I have a Summerlite (WM) and a bivy and whatnot but I want my jacket to supplement that so I can go colder. Basic stuff.

Which is going to take more insulation (pertaining to the down jacket)? Taking my sleeping system rating down 10 degrees, or keeping warm at camp?

I feel like its either the Montbell EX Light or the alpine light. And I think the answer is to get the ex light, but I lack in natural insulation (I'm skin and bones) and adding extra beef could make my trip more pleasant. (However, going overboard on it for no reason would go against all my hard work to shrink my pack weight)

I feel like the down jacket is were I want that extra beef too. Down is most weight/warmth.

My clothing layering system might be like this:

golite T (3oz) -> midweight LS/hood synthetic (havent got yet) -> Windshirt (3oz)->DOWN

I really like the WM Flash Hood jacket too.

How does everyone feel about hoods? I kinda want one. Recommended? Does it matter?

Keep in mind I'm doing a thru-hike too. My insulation will most likely be ~80% rather than 100 many nights as you all well may know.

PS. if your going to tell me I should get a thermawrap instead, then I'm sure it works great for you.

Nicholas Martin

Locale: SoCal-High Desert
re on 01/02/2012 23:14:40 MST Print View

you may be able to get away with a beefier down vest....although ive heard really good things about both of the jackets your looking at, i think you may be able to get away with a vest along with your fleece + baselayer + rain shell around camp...

Serge Giachetti
(sgiachetti) - M

Locale: Boulder, CO
the flash on 01/02/2012 23:37:43 MST Print View

i think the flash is super warm for the weight, and the hood, pockets, hem and extra warmth definitely justify the extra 3 oz over the ex light. I don't think its worth buying a big puffy like the alpine light. Also, the flash paired with a wind-shirt should be about as warm as the alpine light. I'm pretty convinced that the quality down in WM garments makes a significant difference in warmth (honest fill ratings). It sounds like you are plane not interested in a synthetic, but if you do decide to look that route, check out the rab xenon. I think its hands down the warmest and lightest in the category (light weight synth hoodies.) My size large is 11 oz. IMO, its a more functional garment for an AT thru hike, as you'd be more likely to hike in it on cool mornings and evenings, deals with moisture better, and doesn't sacrifice much warmth compared to similar down garments. Also, the shiny shell material looks like something created by NASA. Very astronaut chic.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
temps? on 01/03/2012 00:11:36 MST Print View

what is the temp range yr expecting in camp (not sleeping but outside the bag)

the summerlite is a 34F en-rated male comfort bag .... a puffy sweater and pants can add ~10F depending on the amount of down/synth fill

since you are a member you can read the reviews on the SOTM reportsof down jackets to get an idea

edit ... temp ratings

Edited by bearbreeder on 01/03/2012 00:43:53 MST.

Stephan Doyle
Re: AT NOBO Thru Down Jacket HELP! on 01/03/2012 00:39:09 MST Print View

10º for a bag is tough when you're adding insulation to only your torso. IME, a down sweater will add ~5º and your bivy will also give you ~5º so you're set in that regard.

The WM Flash is a wonderful piece, top-notch quality but a bit of a strange fit. Also, expect higher weight (WM's garments are always overweight, I don't know if this is from overstuff, but be prepared).

Feathered Friends makes a lightweight jacket/hoody that should also be great quality, and the fabric they use on those is supposed to be better against the elements.

Lots of choices in the ~3oz of down range. As Eric mentioned, the SOTM report is excellent and there are very few additions since it was published. Montbell's EXL and UL will be a bit less warm, but might be enough for you. If Eddie Bauer runs another big sale on First Ascent, you won't find a better deal anywhere else (the $29 costco down jacket comes close).

I recommend looking at a hoody, the extra weight is well worth it. If not, the Black Rock Down Hat will be lighter than just about anything else and warmer.

Sam Ridge

Locale: North Carolina
cool on 01/03/2012 00:55:53 MST Print View

Nicholas: I will say that I could see me going overboard on the torso layering. I would do the rain jacket thing you said but I use a poncho/tarp :). I don't usually sport it less its rainin.

Serge: You make a good point with the Xenon. I think I would rather get an 11oz down jacket tho. Just feel like the down would be warmer despite the conditions. I want to know what you think about this. Part of me wants to swim upstream on this one just feels right. Although it sounds like you have tons of experience with both and I have none. I like WM too! I wish I bought that flash you sold.

Eric: Temp range in camp could be 30-60 degrees within a period of 30 days. I've heard 36 on the summerlite too. And I read that article but I'm just looking for something a lil bit different.

Edited by samridge817 on 01/03/2012 01:17:11 MST.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
MB UL Parka on 01/03/2012 03:24:20 MST Print View

Is there a reason you went from considering the EX light to the Alpine light and skipped the UL Inners?

I have the Montbell UL Parka and while it's nearly an ounce under spec, it has more than replaced a heavy 300 wt fleece. I find the hood is excellent at keeping in extra warmth (I used to under appreciate head wear's insulating value) and have been toasty walking around town in sub freezing temps.

Regardless of what you settle on, I would highly recommend you get something with a hood. It may be the single most thermally efficient design feature of any torso insulating product. Protecting both the skull AND the carotids from cold allows some much more hot blood to be sent to the extremities.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: cool on 01/03/2012 06:45:13 MST Print View

Given we're getting a very late start to winter here in the SE and it was 7F with wind when I got up this morning, I suspect you'll see temps a lot colder than 30F at elevation with your dates. You may even find yourself post holing in the Smokies. IIRC, people were finding a fair bit (feet) of snow there in May this year. I'd start out with a bag/quilt rated to at least 20F and take something pretty warm for camp wear (at least 4 oz 800+ fill).

I'm not "skin and bones" but I do have a lean build and quite low body fat percentage, which leaves me easily chilled. I find myself cool to cold in the low-mid 40s with a 60g PL1 hoody. Something like the UL Down Inner parka might get me to the low-mid 30s (more likely mid). In fact, it took a UL Down Inner jacket + a 60g PL1 hoody to get me in to the high 20s/low 30s last year. For anything lower, I have a Rab Infinity Endurance. My small is 14.8 oz and should keep the avg male in typical layers thermo-neutral (warm) to 15F. If you run cool like I seem to do now, I wouldn't take anything less to start.

Edited by simplespirit on 01/03/2012 06:54:25 MST.

Chris Bowman

Locale: ORF
first ascent on 01/03/2012 09:28:28 MST Print View

+1 on the first ascent. Picked one up recently with their 50% off coupon. They should be going on sale soon in time for your march start. Well made, availabe in tall sizes if needed.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Sleeping bag is indeed a factor on 01/03/2012 09:33:49 MST Print View

I own a summerlite, and would be nervous about starting in late March with a Summerlite unless I had a really beefy parka. In 2010 I started in late Feb with a WM Ultralite (20F rated), which was pushing it, but I carried a Montbell alpinelite parka and down booties to wear inside the bag at night.

If the bag is non-negotiable, I'd look for --- well, much more of a down jacket than you'll want after the first month or so.

Really, I think that if at all possible you want to beg, borrow or buy a warmer bag to start out with, then swap around Pearisburg or so. That's where I swapped for my Summerlite and was happy with it for the rest of the trip. At that point you won't need a terribly warm jacket; I used a thermawrap jacket and was fine.

Sam Ridge

Locale: North Carolina
I need to meditate on all this.. on 01/03/2012 11:28:54 MST Print View

Dustin: Idk I just felt like it was one or the other. Perhaps I'm too black or white.

Chris: Ya I think I could see temps down to 20 degrees. Eric asked for "out of the bag temps" and I didn't want to say anything bout the morning. Ur right on the 20 degree bag. Dunno if I'll make the switch. When you talk about "not starting with anything less" are you factoring in the 20 or 32 degree bag? Or regardless of what bag? Want to make a guess on when I could start with the summerlight and RAB infinity endurance? Thank you.

Brian: Ya I'm scared of your gear list haha. I saw lotsa warm(expensive but awesome) clothes for that hike. How hot did it get after you switched to your summerlight? Maybe not too hot b/c you started in Feb? If I start in April I could get hot in that?
Sorry for the tangent. I like "beg, borrow, or buy." And "well much more of a down jacket than you will want after the first month or so" : I kinda plan on sending the down jacket home in Pearisburg.

General Comments: Sounds like my midweight layers gona be something more like a R1 hood than and cap3 LS shirt. And thank you for helping me out.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
20f on 01/03/2012 11:49:28 MST Print View

sam ... ill say that should you take the advice of the more experienced people here with a 20F temp ... youd likely want something with 4+oz of 800 down fill .... ie an alpine light

you likely want something with a hood as well, as that adds to the warmth on stops especially in the wind

also as someone mentioned, you may have issues using only yr down jacket as a booster when sleeping without additional insulation for the legs, unless you use something like a hawt nalgene, etc ...

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: I need to meditate on all this.. on 01/03/2012 12:51:53 MST Print View

Definitely. You could very well see temps in the 20s during the day as well. The Summerlite wouldn't be enough for me below freezing alone and probably wouldn't be enough below the low 20s even with something like the Infinity on.

Unless you plan on doing the wake up, hike all day, go straight to bed thing you need to factor in clothing to keep you warm while sitting around and chatting with others.

I'd start with a 20F bag/quilt minimum or wait until early May. I'm actually planning to try 0F-10F quilts out over the next few months as I'm not even sure my 15F WM Apache will be enough for me in winter here.

Wallace Hunter
(jeepingetowah) - F

Locale: South Central
My AT down jacket choice... on 01/03/2012 13:51:16 MST Print View

I did 1500 miles on the AT in 2011. I took along my MontBell UL Down Inner Parka. The greatest, the awesomest.

PARKA, PARKA, PARKA! Don't skimp, get a parka.

7 oz for the whole thing, should be fine.

2.5 oz of down or more would suffice.

IMHO... meet those criterium, and I don't really care who makes the jacket honestly.

Edited by jeepingetowah on 01/03/2012 13:56:10 MST.

Sam Ridge

Locale: North Carolina
A fool may appear a fool and yet may not be one. on 01/03/2012 17:31:34 MST Print View

Wallace: What degree bag did you start with and when?

Chris: I will factor in keeping warm in my clothing while at camp... Temps in the 20s during the day!?... How many nights in April you think it's going lower than 20 degrees?... I believe I've been in colder temps with my Summerlite than early May. Thanks for helping me. Sometimes you gotta tell people things they don't want to hear. I'm dealing with this post traumatic stress.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: A fool may appear a fool and yet may not be one. on 01/03/2012 17:51:36 MST Print View

It's honestly very hard to say as it varies year to year. You *might* be ok assuming you aren't moving too fast.

If it was me, I'd expect to be to Clingman's Dome by mid-April. At the higher elevations, it looks like temps avg high 20s to high 30s for April days and mid teens to mid 20s nights. May averages 8 to 10 degrees higher. I probably wouldn't expect it to be much different for GA and the first part of NC.

As above, it can vary widely. Ex. It's January - Mt Mitchell is showing a wind chill of -20F tonight and we had close to 0F wind chill in Asheville today. Yet Friday is supposed to be back to the 60s during the day.

Worst case, you wind up with warmer insulation than you really need and can change it out along the way. If you do go under insulated though, and make it to Mountain Crossings, you're going to pay a fortune to buy something you probably could've gotten a lot cheaper ahead of time. :-)

Edited by simplespirit on 01/03/2012 18:05:25 MST.

a b
Down or not Down? on 01/03/2012 18:06:40 MST Print View

I notice you "put aside" the idea of a MB Thermawrap.
I have to wonder why?
I just hiked the AT last year.
I started March 15th and finished June 21st.
The coldest temperatures I saw were in the Smoky mountians where it dipped into the low 20's a few nights.
The biggest weather related factor I had to deal with on the AT was rain and moisture.
Here is what i used from Amicalola to Katahdin:
Columbia Long sleeve Titanium Shirt.
US Army surplus PT shorts.
Lightweight Smartwool long john bottoms(Bounced at Pearisburg, had from Hanover NH to Gorham NH then donated to hiker box).
Montebell Thermawrap Parka.
Patagonia Down sweater(had from Amicalola to Pearisburg, bounced to Hanover but donated to angel there).
TrailLite designs cloud cape (used as VBL)
Home Made fleece and nylon mittens.
Katharina's Baby Alpaca wool knit hat (Gave to a trail angel in Hanover.. she was a nice angel!)
Columbia Sun Visor
Wearing all these clothes I was just comfortable into the lower 20's using an MLD 30 degree Spirit Quilt.
I used the quilt the whole way.
The only thing I bounced was the Patagonia Down sweater at Pearisburg. I actually gave the sweater away in Hanover to a trail angel cause it was just plain dead weight.
A word about the Thermawrap Parka.
I met a lot of other hikers using the thermawrap jackets as well.
We all found that we could walk directly in the rain with our thermawraps and they stayed warm and even dried on our bodies while hiking less than an hour after the rain stopped.
The hood on my Parka was awesome! What ever you choose, a hood is HUGE especially for a quilt user.
I had both a synthetic quilt and parka so moisture never bothered me.
I met a few folks that had problems dealing with their down gear after the 10th straight day of rain on the AT last year.
This had nothing to do with they way they stored their bags. The moisture in the air saturates the down regardless of pack covers, liners, etc.
It might be worth considering that if your bag or quilt is down, your jacket or parka could be synthetic.
Worked for me!
By the way, you'll probably toss your gloves or mittens in Pearisburg like i did.
When you get to the White Mountains of New Hampshire you can save money on replacement gloves by doing the following:
Put a wool sock on each hand. Then cover each with a Fritos corn chip bag.
this will easily last through the Whites and over mount Washington where it was below freezing for me.
After Mt Washington it's hot and sweaty all the way to Big K. The only cold from then on occurs in the Bigelows or up high during thunderstorms. I didn't need anything more than my Thermawrap.

Edited by Ice-axe on 01/03/2012 18:18:13 MST.

James Stewart

Locale: New England
AT NOBO on 01/03/2012 20:00:11 MST Print View

Great insight Matt. I'm planning on a slightly earlier NOBO start than you did, and I've looked over your gear list a couple of times. Did you used one of the jackets to cover your legs?

I'm planning to bring a Katabatic Palisade with +2oz. (12 oz. total) and with a Montbell UL parka, cap 3 bottoms and a z-lite torso pad over a 3/8 evazote, I've been good to 20, and I usually sleep pretty cold. I'm planning to beef up my base layers and add some down booties and an r1 balaclava for my Feb. 28 start, and bounce what I need to when I need to. I'll also likely bring a Rab Xenon rather than the Montbell for the sake of not having all down insulation.

My overall plan is to be able to be comfortable to 20, and I don't see that being a problem. Chances of seeing prolonged daytime temps of 20 or nights much below that aren't enough for me to warrant bringing a ton of extra gear that I can't afford. Being a little chilly for a night isn't going to kill you. Have a snack, do some sit-ups.

Michael Fleming
Re: AT NOBO Thru Down Jacket HELP! on 01/03/2012 20:15:52 MST Print View

I used a montbell ex light and it worked great, sent it home after damascus though! I started march 19th

Sam Ridge

Locale: North Carolina
"At Elevation" on 01/03/2012 20:20:17 MST Print View

Check this article out. If you don't feel like reading the whole thing, then just look at the conclusions and Fig 4.

Basically says the average degree of variance between 1500 and 5500 ft at the park is about 3-6 degrees lower with the lows and 10-13 degrees lower with the highs. But don't take my word for it: Read it!

Here are Gatlinburgs Temps for last April:((Gatlinburgs elevation is like 12andchange)

Chris: "Worst case warmer than what I need" - I might rather be cold one night in exchange for keeping my current bag/staying lighter. Brain Frankle said there are three kinds of backpackers: ones who build their gear setup to be comfortable over their most difficult stretch of hike, ones who setup up for conditions present 95% of the time, and the ones who pack their insecurities. Think its bad that I fall into the second category? Ya I don't want to buy anything at Mountain Crossing. Already looked at their website and I'm scared of selection and price. I don't plan on picking anything up there. I'll be sleeping outside a lot this winter figuring things out. Wish I had my setup more dialed in so I could test it out tonight (19 degrees in Raleigh). Thanks again Sensei.

Matthew: I have seen your gearlist as well and congrats on making it! The temps you described are more similar what I'm expecting. I like that you used a thermawrap and down. I've been out for 8 days so I kinda know how the down gets clammy. I got faith in the down, I want that to be my primary insulating layer. I would love to use a thermawrap instead of a midweight layer perhaps depending on breathability/ temperature conditions. Is that what you did? I could see it doing well in the rain that's awesome. 10 days of rain with no "halfway convenient" town/dryer/sunshine/anyway to dry out your down? Thank you for talking about it being "hot and sweaty all the way to Big K"; its nice that someone else knows I'm making it all the way!

General Comments: Really think I'm keeping the same bag. I think the start dates more likely to change than the bag. Weather might be the main factor in my departure. Who knows what I will do. If gonna buy stuff and test it out this winter.

Edited by samridge817 on 01/03/2012 21:40:06 MST.