So nearing the end of a wet winter of walking in the southern hemisphere, I'm wondering about the usefulness of walking in long sleeves in wet weather. This isn't massive downpour type wet, just consistently wet, drizzly, damp weather, walking through wet forest/bush/undergrowth.
One of the baselayers I've got is a long sleeved Macpac Mountain Versatile top which I picked up in a sale. It's mostly synthetic (12% merino?) and light (150g/5.3oz) and dries fast - probably comparable to a Patagonia Capilene 1/2 long sleeved top. So I figure well suited to the wet. But after having hiked exclusivly in short sleeved tops, after a couple of solid days in the rain I found the long sleeves more a liability over a short sleeved top:
- the arms got wet before just about anything else besides my feet. Your arms are always brushing against sopping wet undergrowth, grass, branches whatever. Plus my wet gloves wicked up moisture into the sleeves.
- they were very slow to dry out, if they did at all. I would have thought arms would dry before torso, but the reverse seems to be true - I guess there is much less warmth from your arms, (esp relative to the amount of material?) plus again they're always picking up more water.
- constantly cold wet material sitting on my arms didn't seem to be achieving much except wicking up water into my torso.
- the sleeves were more exposed to mud, rips and general wear & tear.
So I went back to walking in a short sleeved baselayer.
A purchase later in the season was a Patagonia Houdini windshirt, which I like (except for a non-adjustable hood obscuring my vision, but separate issue). But.. again, in damp weather walking through damp bush the arms are instantly & continually soaking out. Now I know a windshirt isn't proof against a downpour, but I'm not talking monsoon weather here: just classic windshirt weather - the old drizzle, wind, ridges in the cloud/mist, water being shaken off trees down your back etc. And in the main it does it's job really well: my baselayer stays drier for much longer than without it & I'm warmer without steaming myself like I do in my rain shell. Just that I find the sleeves wet out first, they're not especially comfortable wet, and I often look down & wonder how useful a very thin layer of soaked wet nylon really is for my arms (maybe it is more so than it seems though?)
So.. initially I sort of scoffed when I first saw the wind vests you can get from Montbell, Patagonia etc, but maybe they're better suited for this, and long sleeves should be relegated just to the waterproof shell in the wet? I would sort of miss the idea of the hood (in practice the Houdini's is a bit irritating anyway), but I maybe could get a windproof balaclava (not so nice at night though), and I still always have a hooded rain shell for serious rain. And an added benefit is that the stronger-than-it-looks-but-still-very-thin windshirt material isn't getting ripped & torn on my arms. So does anyone use a wind-vest instead of a windshirt, how do you find it in comparison?
Of course this is all specific to the wet - for cold dry days (eg in the snow, different climate) I can see the windshirt + long sleeve baselayer works well.