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Layers: Too many? or Stopping too soon?
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Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Layers: Too many? or Stopping too soon? on 06/29/2013 20:54:59 MDT Print View

A friend who is a world-class adventurer (he single-handed his yacht over 10,000 miles through the South Pacific to Hawaii and Alaska) recently asked me to join him on a 5-day pack trip in & around Point Reyes in August, which is north of San Francisco along the coast. (He also mentioned we might substitute with a trip to the Sierra Nevadas.) I'm rusty on my BP skills, and here I will be backpacking with an accomplished survivalist. I don't want to look like a neophyte, but I am, so I come to you for help.

My major concern is whether I've got decent enough clothes, can you help me with that? I started with virtually nothing but cotton in my entire wardrobe, but have assembled the following at relatively low cost ($220 new gear and $0 for a smattering of socks and belt already in existing wardrobe):

*** "Base" or "warm weather" and/or "sleep system" layers include (copy/paste from spreadsheet):

Shirt. Long sleeve tee. Hanes CoolDri. (Walmart.)
Shirt. Short sleeve tee. DriStar. (Walmart.)
(Under) Shorts. Champion Power Core. 2 pair. (Target.)
Socks. Liners. Polypro. 3 pair.
Socks. Wigwam hiking. 2 pair.

*** "Mid" or "moderate weather" or "outer" layers include:

Belt (REI buckle strap! Dual duty!)
Hat. Cotton baseball cap w/ bandana for shade on neck.
Pants. Golf pants (!) Polyester, light colored. Champion. (Target)
Shoes. Merrell Continuum. 2 lb 2.8 oz.
Longjohns Bottoms. Polypropylene. Weight unknown...midweight? 6 oz for m's size medium.
Sweater. Fleece. LLBean. Weight unknown...midweight?? 10 oz for m's size medium. (How can you tell if your polypro or fleece is light, mid, heavy weight?)

*** "Cool weather" or "wet" layers include:

Glove liners, 1.2 oz, unknown fabric (feels woven synthetic), for sure not waterproof.
Head Net, Mosquito
Rainsuit Jacket. DriDucks Ultra-lite 2 Frogg Toggs.
Rainsuit Pants. DriDucks Ultra-lite 2 Frogg Toggs.
Cap. Mountain Gear. Polartec. (1 oz)
Vest. Nano Puff Patagonia.

All told, this totals to 7 lbs of clothes...4 lbs are worn (likely minimum for warm weather) and another 3 lbs in the backpack. Am I going to freeze or cook? or both?

Here are a few options I could also take, but don't want to overdo it, and I know that overloading with clothes is the typical noobie mistake:

A really warm Patagonia Synchilla sweater (and really heavy, too, at over 17 oz)
A heavier Turtlefur watch cap at 3 oz
A "polarweight" fleece pair of pants/longjohns at 8 oz
A pair of silk longjohns (7 oz for top and bottom, considering for "pajama" use only under RevX 30 quilt)

...if I add the options, I rack up over two more pounds! For context, the base weight of my pack is around 15 lbs.


Edited by Bolster on 06/29/2013 22:30:45 MDT.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
Re: Layers: Too many? or Stopping too soon? on 06/29/2013 21:41:27 MDT Print View

i might start with dropping 2 pr of sock liners.
then look closely at the long john's (it's august ... )
then i'd toss the #2 undershorts.
if you are reasonably warm on top, there should be no need of fleece bottoms.

have a great trip.


Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Layers: Too many? or Stopping too soon? on 06/29/2013 21:50:49 MDT Print View

First of all, realize that it will probably be very hot in august. Just wear shorts and a shirt. Cotton is great for hot weather. If you are going to be hiking off trail at all then wear pants because there are a lot of stinging nettles and prickly stuff near the coast.

You do not need any kind of rain gear or wind resistant clothing. It is very, very unlikely that it will ever rain in August and if it did rain you would be sweating buckets in your rain gear- just let yourself get wet.

Your clothing list is massive and excessive. The only clothing you need for an August trip at sea level is the clothing on your back. You won't even touch anything in your pack. A light sweater for the evening is completely optional.

Edited by justin_baker on 06/29/2013 21:58:34 MDT.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Layers: Too many? or Stopping too soon? on 06/30/2013 08:02:03 MDT Print View

I sea level in August wear lightweight clothes (some people prefer long pants...I'm a shorts and long sleeve shirt gal), MAYBE something dry to sleep in (this is considered luxury, by the way) and that's it. One pair of underwear, 1-2 pairs of socks (on warm weather trips <7 days I just bring a single pair, rinse them out at night)...maybe some sleeves to protect against bugs or a slight chill. Nothing else.

I think the easiest change to make - and biggest weight savings - besides spending a lot of cash on the big 3, is to stop taking so many clothes. Think about what you really need, do NOT think about fresh clothes for each day.

Now, if you go to altitude in the Sierra, that's a different story. I am not experienced in the mountains so I'm not the best person for that, but then you will need rain and cold protection.

Look at other people's gear lists and see what they bring for clothes. I think you'll be amazed...

For example, I'm going on a 5 day trip to the upper peninsula of MI this weekend. Here is my clothing list
Columbia nylon shorts
Arcteryx motus LS shirt
Patagonia active briefs
1 pair darned tough socks

Rab windshirt (bug protection)
Arcteryx SL tights (for warmth and sleeping)
Rab pulse pullover (rain jacket)
Montane featherlite wind pants (mostly bug protection)

That's it. No more. Temps mid 70s in the day, low 60s at night. Long enough to consider rain as a possibility, and the wind stuff is to protect against monster biting flies and Mosquitos.

And don't worry about being a noob. We all have been there...and some of us still are.

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Liberating! on 06/30/2013 08:36:43 MDT Print View

Liberating replies! Gleefully lightening pack as we speak. Thanks folks! Follow-up questions:

(1) Is there a good source for checking what local temps are long-range forecast to be? Part of what's hung me up, is that old comment attributed to Mark Twain: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."

EDIT: Found

(2) A major problem I'm having is: I've never made a study of how much to wear at what temperature. Is there perchance a list of typical clothing needs per every 10 degrees of temperature, for the average person?

(3) I've noticed nobody has been critical of the *quality* of clothing I'm carrying, which on the whole is pretty low. Apparently the Target and Wal-mart items will be serviceable enough? Those of you who own up-scale brands...are you buying up-scale for warmth, durablility, lightness, or...? Is my strategy of wearing cheap clothes (such as $30 golf pants) and replacing them as needed an OK strategy?

Edited by Bolster on 06/30/2013 09:49:07 MDT.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Liberating! on 06/30/2013 11:06:35 MDT Print View

I use the weather channel website for most of my forecasting. It's as reliable as one can be with weather forecasting, and you should have an idea about the next 10 days' weather before you walk out the door.

As far as cheaply clothes...go for it. They work as well as anything, they just don't last very long....meaning a dozen washes or so and you're done. I frequently buy running and hiking clothes from target. It's perfect for what you need.

Now, for what clothes you should wear in what temperatures...only you can figure that out. Some people hike in shorts until it snows, some wear fleece until its 90. You have to know what you wear comfortably during what season, right?

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Layers: Too many? or Stopping too soon? on 06/30/2013 12:09:56 MDT Print View

You might like to watch this .

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Liberating! on 06/30/2013 19:21:24 MDT Print View

"I've noticed nobody has been critical of the *quality* of clothing I'm carrying, which on the whole is pretty low. Apparently the Target and Wal-mart items will be serviceable enough? Those of you who own up-scale brands...are you buying up-scale for warmth, durablility, lightness, or...? Is my strategy of wearing cheap clothes (such as $30 golf pants) and replacing them as needed an OK strategy?"

I hike around in clothing that I picked up at a goodwill. In the summer I wear any kind of synthetic shorts and polycotton or cotton button up shirts. I even wear those $3 cotton t-shirts you get at target. For bushwacking I wear a pair of cheap jeans that I don't mind tearing up.
You don't need high quality clothing. You are really over thinking this. Just put on some light breathable clothing and go for it, they can even be cotton and it won't be a problem for the summer.

I have been to Point Reyes and I would recommend bringing a light sweater, light long underwear, and an extra pair of light socks in addition to the clothes you are hiking in.

Your post makes it sound like you haven't hiked much. My advice is to get out there and do it. There isn't much that can go wrong this time of year, the weather is warm and stable.

Joe Lynch
(rushfan) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
try convertible pants on 06/30/2013 21:16:22 MDT Print View

You can get nylon pants with zipoff lower legs and have both long pants and shorts covered by one piece of clothing. I like these.

You should plan on temps from 55 to 85, depending on where you are in Point Reyes, with wind potentially making it feel a little colder. If you get too hot, head towards the beach. If I was doing your trip, I would bring convertible pants, a shirt to sleep in, a good pair of hiking socks for backup, spare pair of underwear (rotate the pair I'm wearing every day), and a light jacket or fleece or sweatshirt. I would wear the pants, a comfortable shirt to hike in, good socks, and a hat for sun protection. Rotate the socks too.

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Deletions. on 06/30/2013 22:15:00 MDT Print View

Point Reyes sounds much milder than I had anticipated. Based on your collective advice, I’ll delete the following:

- one pair of sock liners (I had planned 2 for hike and one for sleeping)
- the longjohns bottoms, seems unnecessary for the temps
- the fleece sweater
- the gloves (my friend insisted on gloves, but he was likely thinking of a Sierra trip)
- Dri Ducks pants

That should save a tidy 23 oz!

As far as “overthinking it,” guilty as charged. I suffer from an affliction psychologists call “high need for cognition.” I actually enjoy it, which makes the malady all the worse. But I do prefer to weigh your collective judgment BEFORE the trip, rather than blundering along and learning everything the hard way--there will be plenty of that sort of learning anyway. Thanks all.

BTW really enjoyed the video clip posted above. I started to feel a little sorry for the guy, an elite hiker, who earns a living taking neophytes on the trail. OTOH, he gets to earn a living outdoors, doing what he loves. So good on him.

Edited by Bolster on 06/30/2013 22:17:28 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Deletions. on 07/02/2013 00:29:53 MDT Print View

Actually now that I think about it, you should carry a windshirt. It can get really windy at the coast and it could be enough to chill you a bit. It would be more useful than any sweater.
If you don't have a windshirt, you can use a dri-ducks which is very breathable.

Just remember that you generate a ton of heat while hiking. It's not a big deal to be a little cold during the evenings, you have a warm sleeping bag you can get in.