M Midlayer Technology: Patagonia Capilene 4 v. Mountain Hardwear Desna Hoody

by David Chenault

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Article Summary:

When things get colder and a baselayer plus shell will no longer do, the backpacker will need a midlayer. Insulation is the primary motive here, but preempting other ways of getting cold is just as important. First among these is moisture management, as it's easy to sweat a bit no matter how cold it is, especially while breaking trail uphill in fresh powder. A midlayer that works in concert with baselayer to move moisture is desirable. There can be too much of a good thing here, and particularly expedient wicking can cause flash off evaporative cooling, not good after cresting that hill into a strong wind. Wind resistance in colder temperatures is also a salient factor, and given the mostly direct and inverse correlation between wind proofing and breathability, having just enough but not too much wind resistance can assist in both of the aforementioned goals. Picking a midlayer well suited to certain conditions can make life much better in already hostile environments.

To this end, I will here consider two standout midlayers with similar features but different fabrics: the Capilene 4 Hoody by Patagonia and the Desna Hoody by Mountain Hardwear. This article will review each individually, but focus more on the strengths and weaknesses of the different fabrics. It is hoped that this can then be generalized by readers to other garments of comparable fabrics.

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