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Fleece top as a staple for backpacking?
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Jason Klass
(jasonklass) - F

Locale: Parker, CO
Re: Fleece top on 08/29/2007 17:09:42 MDT Print View

Thanks Michael. Actually, I have a pretty good down jacket that I use only in winter. It's two warm for 3 season use.

Bill B
(bill123) - MLife
Richard Thanks on 08/29/2007 18:08:59 MDT Print View

Thanks for taking the time to write such a long explanation. I tend to use a single base layer and wind shirt as well. I was just curious why so many articles I read insist that only the thinnest base layers next to the skin are effective

Jon Rhoderick
(hotrhoddudeguy) - F - M

Locale: New England
Re: Fleece believer on 08/29/2007 21:45:49 MDT Print View

Well Andrew Skurka, for his Icebox hike, which i think your referring to, used vapor barrier clothing, which by trapping all moisture through non breathable means, eliminated the need for any water resistant clothing. I am a big fan of fleece. Its something that you can wear outside of a hike too, as opposed to a down jacket where I live, (sadly also has been absorbed into the hip hop culture) and I find that the heavier it gets the less practical it is. Power stretch and R1 always seem to catch my eye, not just for their lightness, but for their versatility, though I will attest that I currently am in need of a long sleeved base for when even light fleece is too much. I have once climbed in a women's R2 (long story) with its sleeves up above my fleece on a drenching, (as in raincoat unstoppably as weight on the inside as the other)and been almost too warm. Fleece loses out when you need higher loft, and another place to err from is that wind stopper fleece. I have a mountain hardwear windstopper vest that I don't think I want to see again, the inside fabric is far to uncomfortable and its not very breathable.

Long story short, fleece rocks so long as you don't buy another North Face denali fleece for your UL backpacking.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Fleece+Thermawrap or down jacket on 08/30/2007 02:19:57 MDT Print View

I have fleece, and nylon shelled jackets such as the Montbell Thermawrap(synthetic fill) and Light Alpine down jacket..
I hike with one fleece and one nylon shelled jacket, except in summer time. The fleece for use while moving and the lofting nylon jacket while stationary or in camp.
I strongly prefer fleece while moving. Nylon shells are sticky, sweaty and do not breathe much.

When it is merely cool a 100 wt fleece adds a few degress of warmth and breathes so well it is essentially transparent to evaporating body moisture.
For a colder trip, 200 wt does the same, and putting a 100 gram wind shell on top turns it into an insulated jacket that still breathes well.
My recent experience is only down to -10C or so, so maybe a high-lofting nylon jacket is bearable at lower temps, but not for my typical hikes.

Here's my typical combos:
Summer: poly top and Houdini
Spring/Fall: LW wool top, 100 wt fleece and the Thermawrap
Winter: MW wool top, 200 wt fleece and the down jacket.

Note, I dont like windblocker fleece because it defeats the breathability.

Bill B
(bill123) - MLife
Houdini Over Fleece on 08/30/2007 06:37:23 MDT Print View


Edited by bill123 on 08/30/2007 06:41:34 MDT.

Bill B
(bill123) - MLife
Houdini Over Fleece on 08/30/2007 06:37:23 MDT Print View

Why do you leave the Houdini behind for Spring/Fall & Winter trips. I would think that the Houdini over the 100 & 200 weight fleece would give you a great deal more temp. range for a small ammount of weight. Then add the down or Thermawrap when you need it.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Bill, actually I take it.. on 08/30/2007 06:52:31 MDT Print View

I left out the details of using that wind layer since the discussion was about fleece..
I carry the Houdini windshirt year round, but only bought it recently (within the past year). Last Winter I used it once over wool-1, down to 0'C while moving and it breathed great. The wool, Houdini, and Fleece can be used in any combination while moving; the Nylon jackets only while stationary for me, just too hot.

Nikolas Andersen
(nsandersen) - MLife
Fleece + windshirt on 09/03/2007 13:44:00 MDT Print View

Thanks for the Skurka update!
Fleece + windshirt is indeed great in the Autumn & Winter. I must admit the shirt stays at home for multi-day trips to save weight (too much redundance together with a waterproof, which I have to bring anyway).

Andrew Hedges
(alhedges) - F
DriClime windshirt on 09/04/2007 22:09:54 MDT Print View

I took a fleece pullover for years during 3-season hikes, but I eventually replaced it (and a long-sleeved nylon shirt I used to bring as well) with a dry-clime windshirt. In my experience, the windshirt keeps me as dry as the fleece but is much more versatile. It weighs only slightly less, but is much less bulky, making packing easier.

Note that I am talking about conditions where it might get down to about 50 degrees at night; for colder conditions I take different gear.

And I'm LW, not UL.

William Webber
(micwebbpl) - F
Some Fleece is Pretty High Tech on 05/07/2008 18:35:04 MDT Print View

People keep talking about 100, 200, 300 fleece, which is a useful comparison when you are dealing with generic fleece pieces, but not very much about the so-called "technical" fleeces like the Patagonia R2, their now discontinued "Body Rug," and the Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man with "Monkey Phur."

All of these provide a lot more loft than traditional 100/200/300 pieces, and for that matter there are variations in Lands End, Target, and LLBean fleece pieces.

Besides being lighter and warmer, the "technical" pieces usually fit better (less baggy) and sometimes you can get pullovers (Patagonia's old Expedition Weight Capilene, their R2 pullover, the Body Rug etc.).

You can leave these "as is" or, like me, give them a durable water repellent treatment with Nikwax etc. Then they tend to keep the rain on the surface in light rain, and dry really quickly.

In comparison, puff pieces are very hard to wash and dry. The double nylon etc. covers (inside and outside) keep water in and keep drying air out.

I also find dual shells and fleece to be very versatile. Windshirt (Houdini) alone; fleece alone; Houdini windshirt over fleece; old Wild Things Gear nylon windshirt pullover under the fleece to give me that "jacket effect" where the inner layer acts like a mild vapor barrier, the fleece inside is dry and effective, and the outer layer keeps the rain and wind out. Except that unlike a jacket, you can disassemble your home-made piece to clean and dry.

So don't write off fleece yet.

mario hosay
(silkRoute) - F

Locale: Upstate NY
very interesting discussion, I am learning a lot on 05/08/2008 11:30:23 MDT Print View

based on what has been discussed already, I would like to make a few points:

1. nothing, no gear idea or decision is universal. Gear decision varies person to person, region, season, fitness and physical condition of the user, pack weight, etc. etc........So, most of these Fleece VS Synthetic fill or down......or Boots vs. trail runners are kind of pointless.

2. Fleece has become a rather complicated fabric item anymore. There are weight differences like 100wt, 200wt, 300 wt.....Construction differences like Thermal Pro, wind Pro, wind block etc........also, Power Stretch and Power dry.....

3. fit and design is as important, if not more, as the fabric (material choice). So, a fleece made with great material (thermal pro) but designed for urban street usage (like the TNF Denali, with unnecessary pockets, patches and zippers) would not function as effectively in many outdoor situation and specially when you are on the move (during hiking/backpacking).

Fit and design also dicatates how a fleece would work as a part of a layering system. I find that many fleece that are made for mass market feels very bulky and are poor choices for a mid layer. Fit also influences the moisture management capabilities of a fleece jacket.

4. What I understood from the OPs discussion that he/she was talking about usage of fleece when you are on the move, as opposed to when you are at the camp or a rest stop. This is a significant point and influences the decision (fleece VS .......) substantially.

5. fleece not only cheaper and more widely available they are also easier to maintain.

my personal experience and what works for me (I am from northeast myself).

I have tried a few different options over the years. I started off with a 200wt fleece, moved on to thermal Pro (Patagonia R2 and Monkey Man, Lowe Alpine Thermal Pro jackets etc.). at this point my goal was to use something that works both during the hike and in the camp. these 200wt level fleece were too warm during hiking (except from really really cold and windy days) and not adequate during rest stops or at the camp.

I changed my layering system after this experience. I moved to either a 100wt fleece zip t (mountain hardwear micro chill, fits close to body and manages moisture very well), Polartec Power Stretch or Power Dry (Cloudveil Run Dont walk) and Patagonia R1 Flass pull over. I have been using these pieces during hiking for about 4/5 years now. I find them extremely effective in keeping me warm and relatively dry. I have purchased a hooded Primaloft One Jacket with water resistant shell for rest stops and for the camp. This way I am covered.

I dont take a full-on fleece jacket to my backpacking/hiking trips any more (they are great for car camping or walking the dog though). But, I rely heavily on newer fleece material for my outdoors needs. I also pay a lot of attention to what fits me right.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Fleece top as a staple for backpacking? on 05/08/2008 11:33:37 MDT Print View

I would try a 100 wt fleece as baselayer on a cold three season hike, when temps might not get out of the 40's or maybe 50's. For warmer I wear a button down shirt, for colder I wear powerdry base layer. For insulation I would not use fleece but high loft down or synthetic instead.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Fleece as a staple for backpacking on 05/08/2008 11:42:20 MDT Print View

A 100wt fleece is always on my list. My baselayer is always a merino top. Weight varies by season. A Pertex windtop is also on my list. These 3 are my go-to for hiking.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Fleece as a staple for backpacking on 05/08/2008 14:26:32 MDT Print View

Ditto what Mike just wrote, with the addition of a down jacket...MontBell UL inner for expected warm trips, Skaha hoody for colder trips (most of the time actually, as it's difficult to forecast more than a day in advance here). The down is also an integral part of my sleep system, so I would rarely wear it while hiking. It's mostly for rest stops or around camp and in bed. The fleece is for active cold weather hiking.

Terry Morris
(TerryM) - F

Locale: Northern California
Windshirt Questions on 05/09/2008 03:52:44 MDT Print View

I usually hike in the Sierras in Sept and bring a long sleave shirt, lite fleece vest, and a down jacket. The days are warm and dry and I don't really, but the nights are cold - 30's. We are often stay up talking after dark, without a fire, and I'm one of those people who is most comfortable with the 7 extra levels of insulation when it is cold. NIght and up at dawn or the only times I use the down jacket ( and for the luxury of a pillow), but it is worth it to be warm. I counter its weight a bit with a lighter sleeping bag

I recently bought a Marmot windshirt, and i have found it perfect for walking around town or out to the windy beach, but if I speed up a bit, or if the wind drops, it gets too clammy real fast, even unzipped. So I am taking it off and on a lot as there is no other way to make adjustments. This doesn't work well with a pack on, so i may not take it backpacking, tho i love how lite it is and the wind protection is great.

This doesn't seem to have been a problem for anybody discussing windshirts here. Maybe I have the wrong windshirt,

Are there are different kinds of wind shirts with different levels of breathability, or pit zippers, etc.? Doesn't anybody else notice how fast you get too damp hiking in them? How do you vent all the moisture?

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Fleece top as a staple for backpacking on 05/09/2008 04:34:38 MDT Print View

You're right, there are many different fabrics used in windshirts. A lot of them have a DWR coating added too. Everyone has different needs but my preference is for breathability over water resistance. Most windshirts depend on a tight weave for their windproofing. I like windshirts made from Pertex. I have used windshirts from Montane and Rab. My current favourite is a Rab Quantum windtop. I can hike at a fast pace, and run, and only get a little moisture build-up which is soon spread out over the fabric to evaporate off.

Josh S.
(Stumphges) - F
Terry's Windshirt on 05/09/2008 06:08:52 MDT Print View

Hey Terry,

Regarding your Marmot windshirt, I don't know which version you have, but I noticed that the Marmot Ion windshirt (unlined windshirt w/ hood), particularly from certain production years, has an infamous reputation around this forum. I recall a member ranking fabrics based on breathability, with the Ion coming in as less breathable than a garbage bag. I think they had a production issue at Marmot where they used heavily calendered sleeping bag fabric for the Ion by mistake. So you might have the wrong windshirt.

The gold standard around here seems to be the Patagonia Houdini (air permeability of about 5 CFM - which, according to Patagonia, is the point where most people can't detect wind coming through but still offers good enough breathability for most activities and temps), although the Arcteryx Squamish was recently reviewed favorably by the BPL staff as well (and is tempting me with its soft, quiet, matte-finished fabric).

I've noticed good windshirts can be had on eBay for decent prices, so you may want to check out the reader reviews here then search eBay for a replacement.