need advice on layering

11:40 a.m. on July 28, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

I'd like to get some advice on layering and hear comments on some of the new products that have recently been made available to complement the layering system. My clothing is looking to take me to Mt Shasta, Mt Rainier, Mt Elbert, Mt Kilimanjaro, and then perhaps Mt McKinley.

Outer shell: Seems that the best materials in this category are the new 3 layer XCR Gore-Tex fabrics. Items I've looked at include the Northface Kachatna Parka, the Northface Ama Dublam jacket and the Arcteryx Alpha SV jacket.

Insulation: This category is becoming really confusing with some recent additions. It used to be a simple insulating fleece in 100, 200, or 300 weight but now there are a number of "wind blocking" type fabrics. I've looked at a number of windstopper garments and most seem fairly thin and with only a minor layer of 100 fleece on the inside. Some of these are calling themselve "softshells" to combine the outer layer with a supposed water-resistant fleece layer..... So, I guess my question is, for climbing the above mountains, is a regular 300 weight fleece better for an insulation layer or is there something to this windstopper stuff that makes this an improvement to the insulation layer? Gear I've looked at in this area is the Northface Denali fleece, the Arcteryx Gamma SV (polartec Power Shield), and a Marmot Tongass jacket. Would really like your advice for which way to go here?!

Base layer: I've used both the REI MTS stuff and the Patagonia capilene and prefer the capilene. The only question is which weight? Do most prefer an all around mid-weight or do they start with expedition weight (which is basically a fleece next to your skin)?

Now putting this all together, any additional layers to consider or will an outer shell, heavy or windstopper fleece, and good base layer do it?

Thanks in advance for your input? I've learned so much from this board, it's been truly a god-sent!

3:37 p.m. on July 28, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

Hi Matt,
As far as I can see, for general mountaineering, all you need is the standard layering system. All the specific brands and styles don't matter that much. All of the top brands have very similar offerings. So get what you like. The main thing is go light! You don't need anything heavy duty, like abrasion resistant patches on elbows shoulders and knees, when you're just going to be walking around in the snow! The air's thin up high, so it's too much work to carry around all that heavy stuff you don't need.
I can't see any reason to go heavy with the shell jackets. I have a TNF XCR Ama Dablam that I picked up at the last TNF Outlet sale for about $130 that works great! It's several oz lighter than my old one. A lot of those other jackets have heavy re-enforcements here and there, extra zippers and pockets etc. ... for what? For the next layer, a fleece jacket is what I use(I really like my MEC Slipstream hooded fleece, I have an older model TNF Denali that is way too heavy) and a capilene under layer. I like to bring a cotton t-shirt for comfort & staying cool when it's sunny & warm out on the glacier. You will also want a light down jacket or one of the really nice synth ones like the Patagonia Puffball (I think all the companies have a similar one, I've got a TNF Redpoint from the outlet sale that has a hood that I really like which is the same thing)
For bottoms I think Shoeller Dryskin is the way to go. I use Patagonia Guide pants (I also have a pair of MEC Ferrata), and if it's really cold, I'll wear light capilene under the pants. Add shell bottoms, and you can get up any of those peaks. Except Denali, where you will need a Big down parka like the TNF Baltoro, and down pants (which you can rent), just for summit day.

Just get a brand (style, colors, price) you like. Layering is the way to go. The new fabrics and designs don't allow you to skip the layering you need to do for general mountaineering. The only advantage all the new stuff can give, is to allow you lighten up. So I would keep weight as the biggest priority. Extra features many times add extra weight. One feature I don't understand is pit zips. They are heavy, and what for? It's faster to take the jacket off then try to fool with those things when you get hot and start sweating. Once you're sweating, they don't add enough venilation anyway. The nice thing about full zip fleece pants is you can put them on/off without taking off your boots, and you can pretty much unzip all the way to vent, but they are very heavy. The Shoeller Dryskin is just about as warm, very wind and water resistant and super breathable, and light. It's all I use now. I climbed Toclloraju 6032m in Peru with just my Pata Guide pants and a capilene layer last month. And almost all my ice climbing in just the pants only and a light cool shirt (and a heavy jacket for the belays and standing around). There's only been a few times when I got too hot and just pulling the legs up over my calfs wasn't enough, then stopping to change is a pain, but I've never had to change out of my pants on a big mountain. I'm not sure the windstopper fleece type jackets are such an advantage, I guess thinner insulation + wind blocking = same warmth + lighter weight. Some people claim they are not warm enough. The regular fleece certainly breaths better than the windstopper varieties. I just use regular fleece jackets. Remember you are carrying a new G-Tex XCR shell to block the wind. Check how much it weighs, and consider you are using it as part of a system of layers, not as a single jacket that does it all. Some of the designs are more for technical climbs where weight and bulk are big issues, and one jacket instead of 3 is better to bring combined with a little planning around weather. I think that is where the "softshells" are good - one layer does it all. But those might not be so great for general mountaineering where you need to be more prepared for full conditions, then the combo of multilayers works best. So the bottom line is get the stuff that gives you the most comfort and best protection in the conditions you are likely to experience. On most of the mountains you mentioned, a down jacket might not even be that necessary (if the weather is warm enough) because you can get in your sleeping bag in your tent when you are not moving around. And one more layering comment... It's OK to put on layers in the wrong combination. I was on Shasta a few years ago with a friend who was very anal about his clothing systems. High up we ran into high cold wind. He decided he needed to put on his shell bibs. He already had his shell top and fleece top on. Instead of throwing his down over his shell top while he fiddled with getting the bibs on, he takes the shell top off because it is supposed to go on last, then puts the bibs on, then the down jacket and then the shell top. Taking much longer because he can't work the zippers because his fingers are cold. By the time he is properly dressed, he is so hypothermic he has to go down. All the fooling around cost him the summit. Everyone else made it. You might need to have all layers on in the exact order in a cold, windy, rainy, sleety gale, but I am usually sitting in my bag in my tent in those conditions. If it's warm out, then you cross the ridge into the high winds, you might just need to add your shell. But then if you stop for a break, add another layer over the shell, don't take it off and lose all your heat.
Anyway, I hope some of my opinions here are of some use.
-s

Quote:

I'd like to get some advice on layering and hear comments on some of the new products that have recently been made available to complement the layering system. My clothing is looking to take me to Mt Shasta, Mt Rainier, Mt Elbert, Mt Kilimanjaro, and then perhaps Mt McKinley.

Outer shell: Seems that the best materials in this category are the new 3 layer XCR Gore-Tex fabrics. Items I've looked at include the Northface Kachatna Parka, the Northface Ama Dublam jacket and the Arcteryx Alpha SV jacket.

Insulation: This category is becoming really confusing with some recent additions. It used to be a simple insulating fleece in 100, 200, or 300 weight but now there are a number of "wind blocking" type fabrics. I've looked at a number of windstopper garments and most seem fairly thin and with only a minor layer of 100 fleece on the inside. Some of these are calling themselve "softshells" to combine the outer layer with a supposed water-resistant fleece layer..... So, I guess my question is, for climbing the above mountains, is a regular 300 weight fleece better for an insulation layer or is there something to this windstopper stuff that makes this an improvement to the insulation layer? Gear I've looked at in this area is the Northface Denali fleece, the Arcteryx Gamma SV (polartec Power Shield), and a Marmot Tongass jacket. Would really like your advice for which way to go here?!

Base layer: I've used both the REI MTS stuff and the Patagonia capilene and prefer the capilene. The only question is which weight? Do most prefer an all around mid-weight or do they start with expedition weight (which is basically a fleece next to your skin)?

Now putting this all together, any additional layers to consider or will an outer shell, heavy or windstopper fleece, and good base layer do it?

Thanks in advance for your input? I've learned so much from this board, it's been truly a god-sent!

8:50 p.m. on July 30, 2002 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
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Layering - a long discussion

Matt, you should print this out and study it at leisure, rather than trying to digest it on the screen ....

Ummmmmhh, Matt,

I hope, from the posts you have been making, that Denali is a long-term goal. You are asking some pretty basic questions (which is good, considering what level all too many of the folks I saw on Denali over the past 5 years were at - better ask now than when you get on the glacier). Let me suggest some reading material that will answer a lot of questions, then let me suggest you take some courses from the guide services that do expeditions on Denali. The courses will also help you select which guide service is more compatible with your needs and personality.

Reading material - (1) my website (of course! {;=>D) http://home.pacbell.net/wstraka and click on the links to "Denali 2002" and the gearlist. I discuss my personal, biased take on gear. But keep in mind this is for Denali, and would be overkill by a huge amount for *any* of the other mountains you mentioned except for Rainier, Shasta, and Elbert in the winter (recommended as a good way to test your gear, as is Mt. Washington, NH, in winter).
(2) Jonathan Waterman's Surviving Denali and In the Shadow of Denali - memorize these two!!!
(3) Ed Darack's 6194-Denali Solo - this guy started out knowing zero and learned by trial and error, mostly error. He is lucky he lived through it.
(4) National Park Service's Mountaineering:Denali National Park and Preserve - this is required reading, and the NPS will ask you if you have read it at your safety briefing in Talkeetna before you go on the mountain, even if you are with a guided party. You can get it on-line at the Denali NP web site.
(5) Glenn Randall's Mount McKinley Climber's Handbook. This discusses gear in detail.
(6) Colby Coombs' Denali's West Buttress. More than a detailed climbing guide to the Butt Strut. It discusses gear in some detail.
(7) RJ Secor's Denali Climbing Guide. This has more than just the Washburn West Buttress Route, and also discusses gear.
(8) MFOTH - Mountaineering Freedom of the Hills. This is your starting point. If you have not already committed it to memory, buy one _now!!_ and do so! This is the basic bible of mountaineering. Admittedly, like all holy writ, it is subject to a lot of interpretation, and people come up with diametrically opposed interpretations of some of what it says (the "10 Essentials" is a prime example - is it literally to be followed whether in desert or arctic, or to be used as a foundation to be modified to fit the environment?) And then there is the fact that it has evolved tremendously since the first edition. Still, it is the basic starting point.

Next, courses - I would highly recommend you take courses from American Alpine Institute and at least one of the other guide services authorized to guide on Denali. Alpine Ascents International would be my strongest suggestion for second choice. I would place RMI as last, unless you take one of their 5 day or longer courses. The courses to take are the basic and advanced alpine climbing courses, winter climbing courses, and expedition courses.

Another suggestion is to change your choice of preparatory mountains. Andean 20,000 foot peaks (Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru) and the Mexican volcanoes are better preparation for Denali than Kili or Elbert. Shasta and Rainier are good choices, especially if you can do one or both in winter conditions. Also, the Andean and Mexican peaks give you a chance to get high altitude and to evaluate the guide services on expeditions, rather than just courses.

Now to the layering - To a large extent, I agree with "s", but there are several significant disagreements. First and foremost, I do not believe that it is necessary or desirable to go with the Big Names for your wicking layer. Second, the mix of wicking layers for Denali is quite different than for the other four peaks you named. All four can be done with no more than light long johns, again unless you do Rainier and Shasta in winter (which I highly recommend to test your Denali gear). All four are wet, where Denali is very dry, so down is a mediocre choice on them for insulating clothing and sleeping bag, but an absolute requirement on Denali (yeah, I know, the ice dawg, whose opinion I highly respect in most matters, disagrees with this). On the lower 4, when you get to the insulating layers, and maybe even the sleeping bag, you should consider Primaloft - about as compressible as down, close to down in warmth for the weight, and doesn't have the wet problems of down.

But I get ahead of myself. While I have Patagucci longies, I have found that good old cheap Campmor works just as well and is just as durable and light for the warmth. Maybe, as some people claim, Pata and TNF longies don't stink as much, but after the 2nd or 3rd day of constant wearing, and out in the hills with only your fellow climbers, who cares? I will state categorically that by the second week on Denali (or any other mountain), it does not matter what the brand is - they all stink equally.

As I said, on all four of the lower mountains, lightweight longies are adequate. On Denali, you will need one each top and bottom light through expedition. You can buy them from Campmor cheaper than REI, and for the full set needed, cheaper from Campmor than just the one top plus bottom from TNF or Pata. I would suggest getting zip-T necks where possible. I also would suggest considering a "ninja" suit for your medium to expedition layer (a one-piece, usually sleeveless, such as Marmot's Power-Stretch suit). This works very well from 14,200 up. Just be sure to get one with a through-the-crotch zipper, or at least a seat flap, because it is awkward and very cold to have to undress to answer nature's call at -40F and 50 knot winds.

For the insulating layer, I agree that the profusion of fancy names is confusing. For example, how exactly does Pata's "R" system compare to Malden's "100, 200,300" Polarfleece (answer is they don't compare directly). Schoeller fabric, the new Pata variation on Schoeller, and Marmot's DriClime are in some ways more desirable than straight fleece, but their wind-proofness can be a problem. I recommend against Windbloc-type fabrics for any situation where you are likely to be exercising hard. The jackets do not provide much insulation (less than 200 fleece), but do not breathe when you are pushing hard - in other words, the comfort range is pretty narrow. I like my windbloc jacket for ski touring, where I throw it on over my other clothes when I stop for a short break, then stuff it back in my pack when I start moving again. But my wife's DriClime works just as well, maybe better, and my buddies' Schoeller seem even better (but too expensive for the impecunious pensioner).

I have been using my Integral Designs Dolomiti jacket (stuffed with Primaloft) instead of fleece over the last couple years - stuffs more compactly, breathes well, but is windproof. It does not have pitzips, which I would like. Here, again, I disagree with "s". The thing about pitzips is that I can change the ventilation on the move. With appropriately placed zippers, I can vent to cool down while moving hard, then close up to conserve heat on the downhills or during a short break. Without pitzips, I would have to (as "s" noted) stop to stuff the jacket (especially with fleece, or even more with windblockers), losing a couple minutes, then haul it out when I stop for a break (losing a couple minutes) and stuff it back in the pack when ready to go (yet another couple minutes). If you add up the time lost getting into and out of your pack, compared to just adjusting pit, torso, and frontzip vents, you can easily lose an hour out of a 4 hour climb, even more when you have, say, 4 people in a party (seems like andother version of Murphy's law - no two people need to adjust or take a break at the same time).

For the legs, you will need nothing more than the light longjohn pants (plus your wind/waterproof shell pants) for the lower 4 peaks (except, again, Shasta and Rainier in winter, and I suppose Elbert in winter, but there are a lot more fun mountains than slogging your way up Elbert). On Denali, you will need either fleece pants or down pants, depending on exactly when you go up. I did not take down pants my first three times on Denali, and took the down instead of fleece this year. Unless you go at the first part of May, you will not need both. The only time I used the fleece pants was sitting around at 17,200 for a week in storms (did that twice). And even then, my expedition long pants were almost adequate. I didn't put the down pants on at all this year. The fleece and down pants *must* be full side zip, to make it possible to get them on and off without removing your boots and crampons (or in my BC ski tours, without taking my skis off). You also want the capability of dropping the seat when answering nature's call (easily done with full side zips).

I definitely recommend against a full down suit for either Denali or the lower 4 (unless you do Denali in winter).

Also, on windbloc, many people find that a windbloc hat or balaclava cuts their hearing significantly, enough to potentially constitute a safety hazard.

The big insulating layer - If you combine your light longies, a fleece jacket, something like the Dolomiti or other belay jacket, and your wind/waterproof layer, you will not need a big down jacket on the lower four, even in winter on Rainier or Shasta. On Denali, it gets really cold sometimes at 14,200 and frequently at 17,200. You will be grateful for something like Marmot's 8000 meter jacket, or the Feathered Friends equivalent. I recommend against the TNF jackets, and in fact most TNF gear, because it is overpriced, overrated, overweight, and no more durable than their cheaper competitors. I base this on the TNF gear I have gotten over the years. A couple decades ago, TNF gear and clothing was pretty good, but their stuff made with slave labor in 3rd World countries is much poorer quality than it used to be (yeah, yeah, some of the others use 3rd World slave labor, too, but somehow they seem to have better quality control than TNF). I do use my TNF Kichatna as a beater jacket, but it doesn't hold its waterproofness anywhere near as well as my Marmot equivalent (Alpinist 3). All Gtx does have to have its DWR renewed from time to time, but the TNF gear seems to only go half or less as long between needing it. The Kichatna was the second TNF shell I got, and will be the last. I only use it now for light, everyday use during rainy season, since I can't depend on it for expedition-level use.

Anyway, I get ahead of myself, since that's the wind/waterproof layer. "s" suggested (and I have seen others suggest similar in past discussions of this) a much lighter "heavy" down parka. There are three reasons for suggesting something like the 8000 meter parka. (1) it gets cold sitting around for a week at 17,200, waiting for the weather to break, sometimes -40F, with 50 knot winds (winds got to 130 knots this year at one point. We were sitting at 14.2k when a tent blew away with people in it and a couple others were shredded at 17,2k). You will want to get out of your tent and exercise, and the warm jacket will be a blessing. Plus, eating meals is a lot more pleasant when you are warm. (2) You will need a warm parka on summit day. The peak is 3000 ft higher than high camp, meaning something like 10-15F colder. (3) if something goes wrong (delays due to other parties, problem in your team, weather change and weather on Denali can change in a heartbeat), you may be using your parka as your sleeping bag. Which is why you carry your down or pile pants to the summit, even if it is a warm, sunny day like I had this year - warm being relative, of course.

Now to the shell layer. As I already said, I recommend against TNF gear, despite other people's suggestions. I have found my Marmot wp/b shells to be superior to the ones I got from TNF (or REI, for that matter). My wife's SD wp/b is quite good (I won it for her at the Telemark Festival at Bear Valley a couple years ago), again better than my TNF jackets. For light use, such as your lower 4, my Marmot PreCip is more than adequate. But you might as well get a good shell for your future Denali trek. It will work well enough on all five of your tic list. Remember, though, that wp/b do not "b" very well (breathable is what the "b" stands for, remember?). There will be times on the lower 4 when you will want a lot of venting, along with a bit of protection from the downpour. That's when the pitzips, ventral/torso vents, and front zip become desirable. Do not get an anorak. You want the full front zip for ventilation, plus ease in taking off and putting on. I suggest you look at Integral Designs, Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, and a couple others (yes, MH is another TNF, but at least their stuff is better quality and a lot more durable).

The final thing (I won't go into socks, gloves, and mittens) is your lower body shell. Again, like your fleece and down pants, this needs to be full side zip so you can get them on and off without removing boots, crampons, skis, snowshoes, etc. Some shell pants do not break apart at the waist, meaning you may have trouble getting them on and off of boots, crampons, skis, or snowshoes. Make sure you have full access for nature's call - rainbow zip, full drop seat, through-the-crotch zip. Make sure it works with your harness (which needs to be full drop seat, so you can stay roped in when doing nature's thing). I prefer a bib. In any case, you need integral suspenders. I have had two Marmot bibs, with the newest ones being a significant improvement over the earlier ones. On the other hand, I have watched many people struggle with their TNF overpants. Arcteryx makes a very nice bib that several friends like very much.

Check to see that you can work the side zips while hiking along, and that when you open the sides up to vent, they really do open to vent. Some pants have velcro wind flaps that will catch closed even though the zipper is undone, negating the ventilation. Again, being able to adjust your venting while moving saves precious time.

A possible alternative is a one-piece shell suit. However, many of these do not open enough to allow easily removing over boots, snowshoes, skis, crampons. Also, they do not allow the range of venting options that separate shell jacket and pants do, although they are warmer when it gets really cold.

On that note, I will mention that sometimes it is desirable to hike or climb without the shell layer. For this, it is common to just wear light long johns with nylon or supplex shorts. I have seen it warm enough at 14,200 on Denali to dress like this. In that case, modesty and consideration for others also says wear shorts over your long johns. It seems that not everyone is clean when they answer nature's call, and it is more polite to cover that brown stripe on your backside with the shorts.

Well, that's more than enough for now.

9:52 p.m. on July 31, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

Re: Layering - a long discussion

Quote:

Next, courses - I would highly recommend you take courses from American Alpine Institute

How about saving some money and get better guides in Canada. They have a little different style, but it works. One Canadian Company is Yamnuska. + they have incredible mountains up there!

Quote:

Another suggestion is to change your choice of preparatory mountains. Andean 20,000 foot peaks

Mostly just for altitude. With few exceptions, most of those peaks are just day trips from a hut or high camp and involve no carries as you would do on Denali. And the Mexican volcanoes are fair weather walk-ups.


Quote:

Now to the layering - To a large extent, I agree with "s", but there are several significant disagreements. First and foremost, I do not believe that it is necessary or desirable to go with the Big Names

I agree. Everything you really need to get to the top of Denali (exept for crampons & ice axe), you can find at (or order from) your local Army/Navy Surplus store. Even "Mickey Mouse Boots" like they used on the first winter ascent of Denali (see the book -148 Degrees) Or you can pay a more premium price for gear that is lighter and hopefully works better.

 

Quote:

Without pitzips, I would have to (as "s" noted) stop to stuff the jacket (especially with fleece, or even more with windblockers), losing a couple minutes, then haul it out when I stop for a break (losing a couple minutes) and stuff it back in the pack when ready to go (yet another couple minutes). If you add up the time lost getting into and out of your pack, compared to just adjusting pit, torso, and frontzip vents, you can easily lose an hour out of a 4 hour climb, even more when you have, say, 4 people in a party (seems like andother version of Murphy's law - no two people need to adjust or take a break at the same time).

Really?!!!! A whole hour in a 4 hour climb just for changing clothes? How often do you need to change? And do you really always "stuff" everything neatly away in the pack? Someone on the run with your mountaineering experience would be able to strap it on, or clip it under the hood, and keep moving mountaineer style.


Quote:

I recommend against the TNF jackets, and in fact most TNF gear, because it is overpriced, overrated, overweight, and no more durable than their cheaper competitors. I base this on the TNF gear I have gotten over the years. A couple decades ago, TNF gear and clothing was pretty good, but their stuff made with slave labor in 3rd World countries is much poorer quality than it used to be (yeah, yeah, some of the others use 3rd World slave labor, too, but somehow they seem to have better quality control than TNF).

Slave Labor?!!!! Do you have proof for this allegation? How about some studies, stats, or objective reviews to back yourself up? This TNF is crap mentality is pure BS. All Gore products are seam taped and guaranteed waterproof by Gore. TNF and many others also back their products with a lifetime guarantee. Get the shell with colors, style, cut,fit and price that you like.


Quote:

Anyway, I get ahead of myself, since that's the wind/waterproof layer. "s" suggested (and I have seen others suggest similar in past discussions of this) a much lighter "heavy" down parka.

I suggested going light on all the mtns except Denali. Many climbers I know swear by their Pata Puffballs. The ID Primaloft is the same thing. Of course you need a big heavy parka for the Big One.

Quote:

(yes, MH is another TNF, but at least their stuff is better quality and a lot more durable).

Now Mountain Hardware is another The North Face?!!! Why? Because those are the only companies that sponser expeditions? Please give me a break on the TNF is crap rant, unless you can offer just a little proof.


Quote:

I have watched many people struggle with their TNF overpants. Arcteryx makes a very nice bib that several friends like very much.

No, that's not proof. Now if you could say that you saw several experienced world class mountaineers stuggle with their TNF pants, and had other witnesses to back you up, Then you've got an argument!

10:12 p.m. on July 31, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

One more note about TNF

Quote:

I recommend against the TNF jackets, and in fact most TNF gear, because it is overpriced, overrated, overweight, and no more durable than their cheaper competitors.

Bill claims TNF jackets are "overpriced, overrated, overweight, and no more durable" "No more durable" is the same as Just as durable. You can compare similar gear from different companies, and you'll find it is pretty damn similar! Same overprice, same overrate, and same weight! Hard to pick the one you think is best! In California, just about everyone wears TNF. The reason is price. We can get it at the Outlet store. And the regular TNF stores are always having great sales too. In fact their summer sale at the reg stores starts tomorrow (30-50% off). The trouble with the outlet stores is the life time warrenty is voided. If you go to the outlet stores when they are having a sale, then you get the real deals :)

If you look around and be patient you can find great deals on many of the other brands too.

3:50 p.m. on August 1, 2002 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
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Re: Layering - a long discussion

Quote:

Quote:

Next, courses - I would highly recommend you take courses from American Alpine Institute

How about saving some money and get better guides in Canada. They have a little different style, but it works. One Canadian Company is Yamnuska. + they have incredible mountains up there!

You took this out of context. I said AAI or one of the others who guide Denali My recommendation for AmerAlp is because they are one of the companies guiding on Denali and have more courses than the others. Using any of those who the NPS authorizes to guide Denali for courses is a good way to see whether you are compatible with them. Yamnuska comes highly recommended from a number of friends, but they do not guide on Denali (actually some of their guides do, but under agreement with the NPS-approved 5 or 6 companies). While a course from Yamnuska (especially their winter courses) will teach you a lot, you can kill two birds, so to speak, by taking the course from one of the NPS-listed services.

Quote:

Quote:

Another suggestion is to change your choice of preparatory mountains. Andean 20,000 foot peaks

Mostly just for altitude. With few exceptions, most of those peaks are just day trips from a hut or high camp and involve no carries as you would do on Denali. And the Mexican volcanoes are fair weather walk-ups.

Well, Elbert is "just day trip", too, and Kili is done with porters carrying essentially all of your gear. The Andean peaks and Mexican volcanoes can be done with some of the companies that guide on Denali, again giving a chance to try them out, and they require carrying your own gear. So again, you changed the context and omitted the important point of getting to evaluate the NPS-listed services for Denali.

Quote:

Really?!!!! A whole hour in a 4 hour climb just for changing clothes? How often do you need to change? And do you really always "stuff" everything neatly away in the pack? Someone on the run with your mountaineering experience would be able to strap it on, or clip it under the hood, and keep moving mountaineer style.

Some years ago, I got curious when a friend who is a professional guide complained to me about how much time his clients wasted in breaks, especially with the layering adjustments. My thought was, as you said, with my mountaineering experience, I would be much more efficient. But after looking at the logs in my Suunto, and more recently the heart rate monitor that records, I was astonished at how much the time added up for breaks. This included, of course, time for water, snacks, and relief in addition to layer adjustments. Then I used the stopwatch feature to just time the breaks for adding and shedding layers on some winter trips and on Shasta and Rainier.

Try having someone time you in the comfort of your living room. Your living room is not the same as being on the mountain, and will be faster. But have someone time you in taking your pack off, removing a layer (try it with your fleece layer and putting the shell back on), putting it in your pack (just tuck it under the pack lid, don't fold neatly - putting it all the way in the pack and strapping the lid back on will cost even more time), and putting the pack back on. It takes a lot longer than you think. Now add up 3 or 4 breaks during a 4 hour climb where you haul a layer out to keep from cooling too much then take the layer off when you start up again, plus that initial stop 15 minutes after you started the climb with too much on. Don't do it as a race against the clock - do it at your normal pace. If you only take a minute to add or shed a layer, you lose almost 10 minutes. But most people take several minutes to do the pack shedding, layer adjusting, stuffing the removed item into the pack (even worse if they have to dig a layer out), and mostly getting the pack back on and doing all the fiddling with the belt and sternum strap adjustments (especially heavy packs). You can also add in the time people lose digging in their packs to get to their snacks and the water bottle that is hidden inside the pack instead of being in a side pocket or on their pack belt, or better, a hose from their hydration pack. Yes, I have seen people lose up to an hour on a 4 hour climb. And no, I did not say that I myself lose that much time.

Keep in mind here, s, that you and I may be experienced and efficient, but most people reading this board are not. The original questioner is probably not very experienced (or he wouldn't be asking all the questions). It takes a lot of trips to work out the smooth, efficient routines. Things that you and I know almost instinctively by now are hard to believe sometimes. For example, starting cool, because you will warm up within the first 15 minutes of climbing, and avoiding having to make that initial stop to change layers just doesn't seem reasonable when you are standing there shivering, waiting to start. It takes a bit of experience to understand that. Knowing to have your water bottle close to hand or your snacks in easily reachable pockets are things that save lots of time, but have to be pointed out sometimes even to moderately experienced climbers and backpackers.

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I recommend against the TNF jackets, and in fact most TNF gear, because it is overpriced, overrated, overweight, and no more durable than their cheaper competitors. I base this on the TNF gear I have gotten over the years. A couple decades ago, TNF gear and clothing was pretty good, but their stuff made with slave labor in 3rd World countries is much poorer quality than it used to be (yeah, yeah, some of the others use 3rd World slave labor, too, but somehow they seem to have better quality control than TNF).

Slave Labor?!!!! Do you have proof for this allegation?

Personally, no. I have not gone to the factories. I only get that information from reading the press (and you know how dependable the press is). I will note that a number of the companies using the SE Asian factories have put out statements about having to re-think and to put pressure on the factories to change their practices. Probably most of the "slave labor" accusations come from the wages being so much lower than in the US (but then, the cost of living is much lower as well).

>...This TNF is crap mentality is pure BS. All Gore products are seam taped and guaranteed waterproof by Gore. TNF and many others also back their products with a lifetime guarantee.

My opinion of TNF quality is based on the TNF gear I have personally owned and that those I climb/ski/backpack with have owned and I have seen them use. It is, of course, a personal opinion. By the way, you should look into what "lifetime guarantee" means (actually, it is called "lifetime warranty"). It does *not* mean your lifetime. It means the lifetime of the garment. Further, if you will read the warranty, it does *not* say it will be waterproof for your lifetime or for the lifetime of the garment. The hangtags, and Gore's website, say that you will have to properly care for the garment, meaning washing and renewing the DWR. The warranty is limited to defects of manufacture, although some of the manufacturers are pretty generous with people who damage or abuse the gear.

I have gear from a number of manufacturers and have found from experience that many of the others stand up better than the corresponding TNF item, perform better, and are lighter in weight. I gave the example of my Kichatna jacket, supposedly TNF's top expedition shell, compared to my Marmot Alpinist III. The Marmot is lighter (not by much, I agree), holds its DWR much longer (including the renewals per Gore instructions using Gore's renewal product), lists for less (I got both on sales), has better quality construction (such as the taping being straighter and better centered over the seams), and just generally does the job better.


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(yes, MH is another TNF, but at least their stuff is better quality and a lot more durable).

Now Mountain Hardware is another The North Face?!!! Why? Because those are the only companies that sponser expeditions?

Sorry, I meant that MH makes gear that is heavy and expensive for what it does, as is the case for TNF. MH is better quality (put an MH item next to a TNF same item and compare point for point) and, based on how I see it standing up in use by friends on climbing/skiing/backpacking trips, is more durable. It has nothing to do with sponsoring expeditions.

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I have watched many people struggle with their TNF overpants. Arcteryx makes a very nice bib that several friends like very much.

No, that's not proof. Now if you could say that you saw several experienced world class mountaineers stuggle with their TNF pants, and had other witnesses to back you up, Then you've got an argument!

I am afraid I do not know what you mean or want by "proof." I am reporting my observations. TNF uses a rainbow zip on most of their pants, bibs, and one-piece suit that is placed awkwardly for most harnesses (it's the arrangement of the zipper pull). For many harnesses, you have to remove the leg loops completely at the least and if the leg loops are not releasable, you have to remove the whole harness. Marmot, Arcteryx, and several others use a dropseat design or through-the-crotch design that is much easier to open for nature's call with at most releasing the strap that holds the back of the leg loops (dunno what it is called - anti-droop strap??) rather than completely undoing the leg loops.

Again, though, most of the readers of this board are not world-class mountaineers. Many are just getting into the game. You can't say that the way Mark Twight does it is this, so everyone should have the same gear or do it the same way. As the acronym says, YMMV! What works for me may not work for you and almost certainly does not work for most other people. To repeat, this is just my personal experience and opinion. It happens that I fit Scarpa boots and Dana packs (originals from when Dana Gleason ran the company, that is) as if they were custom made for me, but lots of folks cannot get a decent fit from either. I find Koflach boots significantly too narrow, but lots of people find them a perfect fit. I cannot get comfortable with a Gregory pack, but I have friends who swear by them. Some people love TNF gear, but I find in my personal experience that it does not live up to TNF's advertising.

Oh, yeah, not everyone lives here in the SFBay Area and has access to the TNF outlets. Even on sale, most people have to pay a lot more. But then, they do get the full "lifetime" warranty.

11:23 p.m. on August 1, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

Thanks Bill

Thanks for clearing that up. Just wanted to be sure all you were saying were opinions. So I don't have to worry that I've been misinformed, or misinterpreted my own experience.

1:23 p.m. on August 2, 2002 (EDT)
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also..

note that I did not say that TNF is crap. Rather, in my experience, there are a number of other companies that make better gear at lower prices. "Better" means better quality manufacture (my 2 TNF gtx parkas have crooked seams and poorly applied seam tape, for example, and the Kichatna DWR has to be renewed far more frequently than any other gtx I have or have had, there are manufacturing defects in both my TNF sleeping bags, one a significant design flaw that showed up in use, and the TNF tents I have used have also had manufacturing defects), lighter weight for the same function with no loss of durability, and better designs for the function, among other things. When I have gone back to TNF (the retail store here in Palo Alto), the response has been that the defects are not defects at all or did not affect the function of the jacket, and the leakage that the Kichatna developed within the first week was "normal wear and tear." Yeah, I know, there are lousy clerks everywhere, so maybe I should blame the clerk. But since every TNF product I have gotten has been of lower quality than the Marmot, Integral Designs, Feathered Friends, Sierra Designs (even during the couple years that TNF owned SD), and several other companies, as well as lower quality than items costing less, I have to conclude that TNF stuff is, as I said, overrated, overpriced, overweight, and no more durable than other brands costing in some cases half as much. This does not say it is crap. The TNF gear has been adequate for my uses. It does say that in my experience and that of my less-than-world-class mountaineer friends, there are better alternatives.

I will be the first to agree that my experience is limited. But then, so is everybody's experience limited. I will also be the first to agree that I have frequently been misinformed, and often discover it by buying a product of great reputation, then finding it to be less than adequate or flawed in significant ways.

The *only* standard by which to judge gear is whether in your own use, it is adequate by your own criteria for your own purposes. If your purpose is, like the TV reporters in the SF Bay Area, to look woodsy when standing in the rain reporting that "it is raining out here" and display the jacket manufacturers logo prominently, well, then that's your choice. If your purpose is to have some level (you decide the level) of protection from the elements when on Denali in the typical Denali weather or in the Sierra backcountry in a midwinter blizzard, then the jacket that provides the protection for the duration of the trip (or many trips) is the one to use (the manufacturer's logo provides zero protection, no matter how prominent - yeah, yeah, they all put the logos on the gear prominently these days. But ya know, if they want me to advertise their brand, they should pay me, rather than charging a premium).

Oh, and I also fall into the less-than-world-class category of mountaineers. On rock, if I can make it up the route, it is no harder than 5.1. On ice, if I can climb it, then it is no more than WI1 or AI1. Climbing Magazine had a "special" issue about the 7 "hardest" summits, which said that the route I did on Denali is a simple, trivial, little "dog" route (well, after all, Susan Butcher is supposed to have taken some of her sled dogs to the summit). Further proof that I am far from "world class."

To be a little serious about your "all you were saying were opinions" remark - I consider anything and everything posted on the web or published in magazines to be purely opinions. Yes, there are some measurements, but having spent a career in first academic and then industrial science, I am well aware that "facts" are subject to interpretation, and that "facts" change over time. TNF used to make higher quality gear than they do now. Maybe under VF Corp they will again bring their quality up. In your experience, TNF gear may be just fine. In my experience, it falls short, with other options being equal for far less cost or superior for the same or somewhat less cost. Since I do not go overseas to visit their factories, I have to be cognizant (if somewhat skeptical) of reports done by the organizations that do visit the factories. If they keep reporting that certain companies significantly underpay their overseas workers (compared to what? local standards, then I worry. compared to US union labor with the high US cost of living, then give me a break), or that their working conditions are poor (again, compared to what standard?), then I will consider patronizing other companies, who are reported to be more humane.

10:15 a.m. on August 3, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

Re: Layering - a long discussion

Bill,

Thanks for the informative post. One thing is for sure, you always go 'above and beyond' with your replies and I do appreciate it. Unbiased opinions and user experiences are exactly what I'm looking for out of a newsgroup.

Regarding my selection of mountains..... I am somewhat new to high altitude mountaineering but am very experienced with extended backpacking and survival trips. So, the new variables for me here are altitude, altitude, and altitude (and of course everything that comes along with that such as extreme cold, ice, and large temperature fluctuations). All in all, this new variable is why the need to go back to basics. And trust me, Denali won't be the first of these (thus the notation 'possibly') until I build up with summer and winter climbs on Shasta and Rainier (for warm and cold), Kili (for altitude), and a few others. Of course, these will also be good tests of new gear for me personally..... thus the desire to hear your opinions on gear. Frankly, doesn't sound like I'm too off at this point minus the Pata puffball and the doubles!

And btw, nice website! Hope to see you up there someday!

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Matt, you should print this out and study it at leisure, rather than trying to digest it on the screen ....

Ummmmmhh, Matt,

I hope, from the posts you have been making, that Denali is a long-term goal. You are asking some pretty basic questions (which is good, considering what level all too many of the folks I saw on Denali over the past 5 years were at - better ask now than when you get on the glacier). Let me suggest some reading material that will answer a lot of questions, then let me suggest you take some courses from the guide services that do expeditions on Denali. The courses will also help you select which guide service is more compatible with your needs and personality.

Reading material - (1) my website (of course! {;=>D) http://home.pacbell.net/wstraka and click on the links to "Denali 2002" and the gearlist. I discuss my personal, biased take on gear. But keep in mind this is for Denali, and would be overkill by a huge amount for *any* of the other mountains you mentioned except for Rainier, Shasta, and Elbert in the winter (recommended as a good way to test your gear, as is Mt. Washington, NH, in winter).
(2) Jonathan Waterman's Surviving Denali and In the Shadow of Denali - memorize these two!!!
(3) Ed Darack's 6194-Denali Solo - this guy started out knowing zero and learned by trial and error, mostly error. He is lucky he lived through it.
(4) National Park Service's Mountaineering:Denali National Park and Preserve - this is required reading, and the NPS will ask you if you have read it at your safety briefing in Talkeetna before you go on the mountain, even if you are with a guided party. You can get it on-line at the Denali NP web site.
(5) Glenn Randall's Mount McKinley Climber's Handbook. This discusses gear in detail.
(6) Colby Coombs' Denali's West Buttress. More than a detailed climbing guide to the Butt Strut. It discusses gear in some detail.
(7) RJ Secor's Denali Climbing Guide. This has more than just the Washburn West Buttress Route, and also discusses gear.
(8) MFOTH - Mountaineering Freedom of the Hills. This is your starting point. If you have not already committed it to memory, buy one _now!!_ and do so! This is the basic bible of mountaineering. Admittedly, like all holy writ, it is subject to a lot of interpretation, and people come up with diametrically opposed interpretations of some of what it says (the "10 Essentials" is a prime example - is it literally to be followed whether in desert or arctic, or to be used as a foundation to be modified to fit the environment?) And then there is the fact that it has evolved tremendously since the first edition. Still, it is the basic starting point.

Next, courses - I would highly recommend you take courses from American Alpine Institute and at least one of the other guide services authorized to guide on Denali. Alpine Ascents International would be my strongest suggestion for second choice. I would place RMI as last, unless you take one of their 5 day or longer courses. The courses to take are the basic and advanced alpine climbing courses, winter climbing courses, and expedition courses.

Another suggestion is to change your choice of preparatory mountains. Andean 20,000 foot peaks (Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru) and the Mexican volcanoes are better preparation for Denali than Kili or Elbert. Shasta and Rainier are good choices, especially if you can do one or both in winter conditions. Also, the Andean and Mexican peaks give you a chance to get high altitude and to evaluate the guide services on expeditions, rather than just courses.

Now to the layering - To a large extent, I agree with "s", but there are several significant disagreements. First and foremost, I do not believe that it is necessary or desirable to go with the Big Names for your wicking layer. Second, the mix of wicking layers for Denali is quite different than for the other four peaks you named. All four can be done with no more than light long johns, again unless you do Rainier and Shasta in winter (which I highly recommend to test your Denali gear). All four are wet, where Denali is very dry, so down is a mediocre choice on them for insulating clothing and sleeping bag, but an absolute requirement on Denali (yeah, I know, the ice dawg, whose opinion I highly respect in most matters, disagrees with this). On the lower 4, when you get to the insulating layers, and maybe even the sleeping bag, you should consider Primaloft - about as compressible as down, close to down in warmth for the weight, and doesn't have the wet problems of down.

But I get ahead of myself. While I have Patagucci longies, I have found that good old cheap Campmor works just as well and is just as durable and light for the warmth. Maybe, as some people claim, Pata and TNF longies don't stink as much, but after the 2nd or 3rd day of constant wearing, and out in the hills with only your fellow climbers, who cares? I will state categorically that by the second week on Denali (or any other mountain), it does not matter what the brand is - they all stink equally.

As I said, on all four of the lower mountains, lightweight longies are adequate. On Denali, you will need one each top and bottom light through expedition. You can buy them from Campmor cheaper than REI, and for the full set needed, cheaper from Campmor than just the one top plus bottom from TNF or Pata. I would suggest getting zip-T necks where possible. I also would suggest considering a "ninja" suit for your medium to expedition layer (a one-piece, usually sleeveless, such as Marmot's Power-Stretch suit). This works very well from 14,200 up. Just be sure to get one with a through-the-crotch zipper, or at least a seat flap, because it is awkward and very cold to have to undress to answer nature's call at -40F and 50 knot winds.

For the insulating layer, I agree that the profusion of fancy names is confusing. For example, how exactly does Pata's "R" system compare to Malden's "100, 200,300" Polarfleece (answer is they don't compare directly). Schoeller fabric, the new Pata variation on Schoeller, and Marmot's DriClime are in some ways more desirable than straight fleece, but their wind-proofness can be a problem. I recommend against Windbloc-type fabrics for any situation where you are likely to be exercising hard. The jackets do not provide much insulation (less than 200 fleece), but do not breathe when you are pushing hard - in other words, the comfort range is pretty narrow. I like my windbloc jacket for ski touring, where I throw it on over my other clothes when I stop for a short break, then stuff it back in my pack when I start moving again. But my wife's DriClime works just as well, maybe better, and my buddies' Schoeller seem even better (but too expensive for the impecunious pensioner).

I have been using my Integral Designs Dolomiti jacket (stuffed with Primaloft) instead of fleece over the last couple years - stuffs more compactly, breathes well, but is windproof. It does not have pitzips, which I would like. Here, again, I disagree with "s". The thing about pitzips is that I can change the ventilation on the move. With appropriately placed zippers, I can vent to cool down while moving hard, then close up to conserve heat on the downhills or during a short break. Without pitzips, I would have to (as "s" noted) stop to stuff the jacket (especially with fleece, or even more with windblockers), losing a couple minutes, then haul it out when I stop for a break (losing a couple minutes) and stuff it back in the pack when ready to go (yet another couple minutes). If you add up the time lost getting into and out of your pack, compared to just adjusting pit, torso, and frontzip vents, you can easily lose an hour out of a 4 hour climb, even more when you have, say, 4 people in a party (seems like andother version of Murphy's law - no two people need to adjust or take a break at the same time).

For the legs, you will need nothing more than the light longjohn pants (plus your wind/waterproof shell pants) for the lower 4 peaks (except, again, Shasta and Rainier in winter, and I suppose Elbert in winter, but there are a lot more fun mountains than slogging your way up Elbert). On Denali, you will need either fleece pants or down pants, depending on exactly when you go up. I did not take down pants my first three times on Denali, and took the down instead of fleece this year. Unless you go at the first part of May, you will not need both. The only time I used the fleece pants was sitting around at 17,200 for a week in storms (did that twice). And even then, my expedition long pants were almost adequate. I didn't put the down pants on at all this year. The fleece and down pants *must* be full side zip, to make it possible to get them on and off without removing your boots and crampons (or in my BC ski tours, without taking my skis off). You also want the capability of dropping the seat when answering nature's call (easily done with full side zips).

I definitely recommend against a full down suit for either Denali or the lower 4 (unless you do Denali in winter).

Also, on windbloc, many people find that a windbloc hat or balaclava cuts their hearing significantly, enough to potentially constitute a safety hazard.

The big insulating layer - If you combine your light longies, a fleece jacket, something like the Dolomiti or other belay jacket, and your wind/waterproof layer, you will not need a big down jacket on the lower four, even in winter on Rainier or Shasta. On Denali, it gets really cold sometimes at 14,200 and frequently at 17,200. You will be grateful for something like Marmot's 8000 meter jacket, or the Feathered Friends equivalent. I recommend against the TNF jackets, and in fact most TNF gear, because it is overpriced, overrated, overweight, and no more durable than their cheaper competitors. I base this on the TNF gear I have gotten over the years. A couple decades ago, TNF gear and clothing was pretty good, but their stuff made with slave labor in 3rd World countries is much poorer quality than it used to be (yeah, yeah, some of the others use 3rd World slave labor, too, but somehow they seem to have better quality control than TNF). I do use my TNF Kichatna as a beater jacket, but it doesn't hold its waterproofness anywhere near as well as my Marmot equivalent (Alpinist 3). All Gtx does have to have its DWR renewed from time to time, but the TNF gear seems to only go half or less as long between needing it. The Kichatna was the second TNF shell I got, and will be the last. I only use it now for light, everyday use during rainy season, since I can't depend on it for expedition-level use.

Anyway, I get ahead of myself, since that's the wind/waterproof layer. "s" suggested (and I have seen others suggest similar in past discussions of this) a much lighter "heavy" down parka. There are three reasons for suggesting something like the 8000 meter parka. (1) it gets cold sitting around for a week at 17,200, waiting for the weather to break, sometimes -40F, with 50 knot winds (winds got to 130 knots this year at one point. We were sitting at 14.2k when a tent blew away with people in it and a couple others were shredded at 17,2k). You will want to get out of your tent and exercise, and the warm jacket will be a blessing. Plus, eating meals is a lot more pleasant when you are warm. (2) You will need a warm parka on summit day. The peak is 3000 ft higher than high camp, meaning something like 10-15F colder. (3) if something goes wrong (delays due to other parties, problem in your team, weather change and weather on Denali can change in a heartbeat), you may be using your parka as your sleeping bag. Which is why you carry your down or pile pants to the summit, even if it is a warm, sunny day like I had this year - warm being relative, of course.

Now to the shell layer. As I already said, I recommend against TNF gear, despite other people's suggestions. I have found my Marmot wp/b shells to be superior to the ones I got from TNF (or REI, for that matter). My wife's SD wp/b is quite good (I won it for her at the Telemark Festival at Bear Valley a couple years ago), again better than my TNF jackets. For light use, such as your lower 4, my Marmot PreCip is more than adequate. But you might as well get a good shell for your future Denali trek. It will work well enough on all five of your tic list. Remember, though, that wp/b do not "b" very well (breathable is what the "b" stands for, remember?). There will be times on the lower 4 when you will want a lot of venting, along with a bit of protection from the downpour. That's when the pitzips, ventral/torso vents, and front zip become desirable. Do not get an anorak. You want the full front zip for ventilation, plus ease in taking off and putting on. I suggest you look at Integral Designs, Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, and a couple others (yes, MH is another TNF, but at least their stuff is better quality and a lot more durable).

The final thing (I won't go into socks, gloves, and mittens) is your lower body shell. Again, like your fleece and down pants, this needs to be full side zip so you can get them on and off without removing boots, crampons, skis, snowshoes, etc. Some shell pants do not break apart at the waist, meaning you may have trouble getting them on and off of boots, crampons, skis, or snowshoes. Make sure you have full access for nature's call - rainbow zip, full drop seat, through-the-crotch zip. Make sure it works with your harness (which needs to be full drop seat, so you can stay roped in when doing nature's thing). I prefer a bib. In any case, you need integral suspenders. I have had two Marmot bibs, with the newest ones being a significant improvement over the earlier ones. On the other hand, I have watched many people struggle with their TNF overpants. Arcteryx makes a very nice bib that several friends like very much.

Check to see that you can work the side zips while hiking along, and that when you open the sides up to vent, they really do open to vent. Some pants have velcro wind flaps that will catch closed even though the zipper is undone, negating the ventilation. Again, being able to adjust your venting while moving saves precious time.

A possible alternative is a one-piece shell suit. However, many of these do not open enough to allow easily removing over boots, snowshoes, skis, crampons. Also, they do not allow the range of venting options that separate shell jacket and pants do, although they are warmer when it gets really cold.

On that note, I will mention that sometimes it is desirable to hike or climb without the shell layer. For this, it is common to just wear light long johns with nylon or supplex shorts. I have seen it warm enough at 14,200 on Denali to dress like this. In that case, modesty and consideration for others also says wear shorts over your long johns. It seems that not everyone is clean when they answer nature's call, and it is more polite to cover that brown stripe on your backside with the shorts.

Well, that's more than enough for now.

10:17 a.m. on August 3, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

S,

Thanks for the thoughts! I'll check out a couple of those items!

I just happen to live in the SF bay area so the TNF store (and their on-going sale) and the outlet are within reach. For that matter, so are Sierra designs, Marmot, and multiple REIs.

M

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Hi Matt,
As far as I can see, for general mountaineering, all you need is the standard layering system. All the specific brands and styles don't matter that much. All of the top brands have very similar offerings. So get what you like. The main thing is go light! You don't need anything heavy duty, like abrasion resistant patches on elbows shoulders and knees, when you're just going to be walking around in the snow! The air's thin up high, so it's too much work to carry around all that heavy stuff you don't need.
I can't see any reason to go heavy with the shell jackets. I have a TNF XCR Ama Dablam that I picked up at the last TNF Outlet sale for about $130 that works great! It's several oz lighter than my old one. A lot of those other jackets have heavy re-enforcements here and there, extra zippers and pockets etc. ... for what? For the next layer, a fleece jacket is what I use(I really like my MEC Slipstream hooded fleece, I have an older model TNF Denali that is way too heavy) and a capilene under layer. I like to bring a cotton t-shirt for comfort & staying cool when it's sunny & warm out on the glacier. You will also want a light down jacket or one of the really nice synth ones like the Patagonia Puffball (I think all the companies have a similar one, I've got a TNF Redpoint from the outlet sale that has a hood that I really like which is the same thing)
For bottoms I think Shoeller Dryskin is the way to go. I use Patagonia Guide pants (I also have a pair of MEC Ferrata), and if it's really cold, I'll wear light capilene under the pants. Add shell bottoms, and you can get up any of those peaks. Except Denali, where you will need a Big down parka like the TNF Baltoro, and down pants (which you can rent), just for summit day.

Just get a brand (style, colors, price) you like. Layering is the way to go. The new fabrics and designs don't allow you to skip the layering you need to do for general mountaineering. The only advantage all the new stuff can give, is to allow you lighten up. So I would keep weight as the biggest priority. Extra features many times add extra weight. One feature I don't understand is pit zips. They are heavy, and what for? It's faster to take the jacket off then try to fool with those things when you get hot and start sweating. Once you're sweating, they don't add enough venilation anyway. The nice thing about full zip fleece pants is you can put them on/off without taking off your boots, and you can pretty much unzip all the way to vent, but they are very heavy. The Shoeller Dryskin is just about as warm, very wind and water resistant and super breathable, and light. It's all I use now. I climbed Toclloraju 6032m in Peru with just my Pata Guide pants and a capilene layer last month. And almost all my ice climbing in just the pants only and a light cool shirt (and a heavy jacket for the belays and standing around). There's only been a few times when I got too hot and just pulling the legs up over my calfs wasn't enough, then stopping to change is a pain, but I've never had to change out of my pants on a big mountain. I'm not sure the windstopper fleece type jackets are such an advantage, I guess thinner insulation + wind blocking = same warmth + lighter weight. Some people claim they are not warm enough. The regular fleece certainly breaths better than the windstopper varieties. I just use regular fleece jackets. Remember you are carrying a new G-Tex XCR shell to block the wind. Check how much it weighs, and consider you are using it as part of a system of layers, not as a single jacket that does it all. Some of the designs are more for technical climbs where weight and bulk are big issues, and one jacket instead of 3 is better to bring combined with a little planning around weather. I think that is where the "softshells" are good - one layer does it all. But those might not be so great for general mountaineering where you need to be more prepared for full conditions, then the combo of multilayers works best. So the bottom line is get the stuff that gives you the most comfort and best protection in the conditions you are likely to experience. On most of the mountains you mentioned, a down jacket might not even be that necessary (if the weather is warm enough) because you can get in your sleeping bag in your tent when you are not moving around. And one more layering comment... It's OK to put on layers in the wrong combination. I was on Shasta a few years ago with a friend who was very anal about his clothing systems. High up we ran into high cold wind. He decided he needed to put on his shell bibs. He already had his shell top and fleece top on. Instead of throwing his down over his shell top while he fiddled with getting the bibs on, he takes the shell top off because it is supposed to go on last, then puts the bibs on, then the down jacket and then the shell top. Taking much longer because he can't work the zippers because his fingers are cold. By the time he is properly dressed, he is so hypothermic he has to go down. All the fooling around cost him the summit. Everyone else made it. You might need to have all layers on in the exact order in a cold, windy, rainy, sleety gale, but I am usually sitting in my bag in my tent in those conditions. If it's warm out, then you cross the ridge into the high winds, you might just need to add your shell. But then if you stop for a break, add another layer over the shell, don't take it off and lose all your heat.
Anyway, I hope some of my opinions here are of some use.
-s

Quote:

I'd like to get some advice on layering and hear comments on some of the new products that have recently been made available to complement the layering system. My clothing is looking to take me to Mt Shasta, Mt Rainier, Mt Elbert, Mt Kilimanjaro, and then perhaps Mt McKinley.

Outer shell: Seems that the best materials in this category are the new 3 layer XCR Gore-Tex fabrics. Items I've looked at include the Northface Kachatna Parka, the Northface Ama Dublam jacket and the Arcteryx Alpha SV jacket.

Insulation: This category is becoming really confusing with some recent additions. It used to be a simple insulating fleece in 100, 200, or 300 weight but now there are a number of "wind blocking" type fabrics. I've looked at a number of windstopper garments and most seem fairly thin and with only a minor layer of 100 fleece on the inside. Some of these are calling themselve "softshells" to combine the outer layer with a supposed water-resistant fleece layer..... So, I guess my question is, for climbing the above mountains, is a regular 300 weight fleece better for an insulation layer or is there something to this windstopper stuff that makes this an improvement to the insulation layer? Gear I've looked at in this area is the Northface Denali fleece, the Arcteryx Gamma SV (polartec Power Shield), and a Marmot Tongass jacket. Would really like your advice for which way to go here?!

Base layer: I've used both the REI MTS stuff and the Patagonia capilene and prefer the capilene. The only question is which weight? Do most prefer an all around mid-weight or do they start with expedition weight (which is basically a fleece next to your skin)?

Now putting this all together, any additional layers to consider or will an outer shell, heavy or windstopper fleece, and good base layer do it?

Thanks in advance for your input? I've learned so much from this board, it's been truly a god-sent!

9:28 p.m. on August 4, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

MY....advice on layering

I for one dont beleive in the layering system we all hear about, for one thing it just doesnt work climbing. There is no way you can add / subtract layers on your legs with a harness on, gaiters. And its quite hard to layer on the torso with a harness, rack and pack on. Those who think layering is done or try to stop and add / sub layers whilst on the move are kidding themselves and are just waisting time, energy and carrying way too much. If you disagree with this, I sure want to see you accomplish this standing on a tiny little ledge of ice / rock or hanging at the belay. For those who slog up slopes, OK you stop and layer; take the pack off, unzip, open up, push, pull, you know the routine but why do you waist all this time when you could be using this time "going up". If its a rest you need, trying not carrying all that layering clothes and go lighter. Put light layers on at the beginning of the day and climb, you will warm up and when stopped / belaying, add belay jacket / pants over your entire clothing.


Quote:

Outer shell: Seems that the best materials in this category are the new 3 layer XCR Gore-Tex fabrics. Items I've looked at include the Northface Kachatna Parka, the Northface Ama Dublam jacket and the Arcteryx Alpha SV jacket.

All these are way too heavy. The Marmot PreCip is much lighter and cheaper and does the job. You can buy almost 4 PreCip jackets for the price of 1 brand name Goretex. To do one better, go with a super light microfiber such as Pata Crushell, 16oz, $159. I wear Pata Pneumatic pullover, 11oz with pants, 7oz for about 90% of my climb time in Ak year round. A bud uses the Pata Dragonfly as his shell while guiding on Denali. You dont need waterproof shell gear, if the weather is that bad, why are you out in it.

Quote:

Insulation: This category is becoming really confusing with some recent additions. It used to be a simple insulating fleece in 100, 200, or 300 weight but now there are a number of "wind blocking" type fabrics. I've looked at a number of windstopper garments and most seem fairly thin and with only a minor layer of 100 fleece on the inside. Some of these are calling themselve "softshells" to combine the outer layer with a supposed water-resistant fleece layer..... So, I guess my question is, for climbing the above mountains, is a regular 300 weight fleece better for an insulation layer or is there something to this windstopper stuff that makes this an improvement to the insulation layer? Gear I've looked at in this area is the Northface Denali fleece, the Arcteryx Gamma SV (polartec Power Shield), and a Marmot Tongass jacket. Would really like your advice for which way to go here?!

100wgt is about the heaviest I would suggest and its what I use fall - spring here, Pata Light Wgt Capilene for summer. I prefer activist fleece / powerstretch as it stretches for climbing, sheds wind and light blowing snow but breaths tons of heat off. Windstopper is for soccer moms to wear around town, not climbing in the hills. Once you get beyond 100wgt, fleece is way too heavy and bulky, I use primaloft vest, sweater. You want your clothing system to breath and breath well and block most wind and light precip such as blowing spindrift. I you think Goretex breaths, I got some sunny beach property in Nome I will sell you.

Quote:

Base layer: I've used both the REI MTS stuff and the Patagonia capilene and prefer the capilene. The only question is which weight? Do most prefer an all around mid-weight or do they start with expedition weight (which is basically a fleece next to your skin)?

I prefer the exp wgt or 100 wgt activist fleece and its my only layer besides the primaloft. I have climbed at Caribou with just 1 layer of activist and a primaloft vest under Pneumatic shell in -15f with a stiff wind. You gotta move, not stand there and get cold.

Having something lighter in wgt and white is prescribed for glacier travel but why are you out there in the heat of the day. Travel at night when there is a cool breeze and not much sun, safer too, the slots are more frozen and so are the hangers above your head. Advertising and even some report there are better undies than Capilene at not stinking but after one day, you stink, they all stink, get over it. Take a sample size stick deoderant and use it daily on your feet, crotch and armpits. Rub it on the Capilene too.

Quote:

Now putting this all together, any additional layers to consider or will an outer shell, heavy or windstopper fleece, and good base layer do it?

My whole clothing system consist of; single base layer of LW Cap or Activist fleece, primaloft sweater / vest and Pneumatic shell. Over all this I layer an ID Dolomitti and Denali pants which are synth filled and can be layered OVER everthing while belaying. This is the system I have used all over Ak, the range to local climbing, in -40F ambient to just around freezing. It works and is very breathable and light. Yea i know, there are pix of me with my XCR goretex 1-piece ID suite, but thats mostly to have PR pix.

Quote:

Thanks in advance for your input? I've learned so much from this board, it's been truly a god-sent!

Belay-Off
Ice Dawg
Commitment, Not Equipment

2:12 a.m. on August 5, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

accessory followup.....Re: need advice on layering

Nobody happened to mention recommendations for gloves or hats. Would be interested in which gear you use for these as well.

Thanks,
M

Quote:

I'd like to get some advice on layering and hear comments on some of the new products that have recently been made available to complement the layering system. My clothing is looking to take me to Mt Shasta, Mt Rainier, Mt Elbert, Mt Kilimanjaro, and then perhaps Mt McKinley.

Outer shell: Seems that the best materials in this category are the new 3 layer XCR Gore-Tex fabrics. Items I've looked at include the Northface Kachatna Parka, the Northface Ama Dublam jacket and the Arcteryx Alpha SV jacket.

Insulation: This category is becoming really confusing with some recent additions. It used to be a simple insulating fleece in 100, 200, or 300 weight but now there are a number of "wind blocking" type fabrics. I've looked at a number of windstopper garments and most seem fairly thin and with only a minor layer of 100 fleece on the inside. Some of these are calling themselve "softshells" to combine the outer layer with a supposed water-resistant fleece layer..... So, I guess my question is, for climbing the above mountains, is a regular 300 weight fleece better for an insulation layer or is there something to this windstopper stuff that makes this an improvement to the insulation layer? Gear I've looked at in this area is the Northface Denali fleece, the Arcteryx Gamma SV (polartec Power Shield), and a Marmot Tongass jacket. Would really like your advice for which way to go here?!

Base layer: I've used both the REI MTS stuff and the Patagonia capilene and prefer the capilene. The only question is which weight? Do most prefer an all around mid-weight or do they start with expedition weight (which is basically a fleece next to your skin)?

Now putting this all together, any additional layers to consider or will an outer shell, heavy or windstopper fleece, and good base layer do it?

Thanks in advance for your input? I've learned so much from this board, it's been truly a god-sent!

2:15 p.m. on August 5, 2002 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,457 reviewer rep
5,393 forum posts
To layer or not to layer, that is the question

First, I have tremendous respect for ice dawg and have learned a lot from him (yes, even the Old Greybeard is still learning, even from youngsters like John). And John makes some really good points. But I just can't resist a tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic remark (all in fun, John).

Hey, Mr. Dawg, are you telling us you have found the perfect onepiece garment that serves as underwear, insulation, and wind/waterproof all in one? Tell us about this wonder garment. And it seems to me that you were the one who convinced me to get the belay jacket to throw on when stopped at belay stances. That's layer changing, bud. (yeah, yeah, I know what you really meant, and I thoroughly agree, at least for climbs. But I mostly do climbs on rock down here in sunny Calif, so we just wear T-shirts and shorts, except for the fluorescent spandex crowd. Now just try layering spandex).

Ok, to be a little serious (but not much), Matt's original question is aimed at a snow slog (Matt, make no mistake. There is very little climbing on Denali or most of your other 4 peaks. They are slogs, some snow, some dirt and dust). With a guided party on Denali, you stop often (far too often, in my opinion), so you can change your insulation. But you can waste a lot of time doing this, as John says. I will note that on my Denali and Rainier climbs (to pick 2 from your list), I did not change layers (add or subtract) between start of moves and finish. This was in part my point about starting a little cool. You will warm up. If you have a few zippers in strategic spots, you can adjust a fair amount and minimize the stops. If you have to stop to add or shed layers, you lose a lot of time. I think the dawg will agree (since he is the one who convinced me) that a jacket to throw on at extended stops is useful, but you still should minimize the need for changes of layers.

Simce there is no single garment that serves as everything from skin to waterproof, you do have to choose your combination of layers at the start of the climb/hike/ski tour. But choose in such a way as to eliminate or at least minimize your changes (and even zipper or hood adjustments) during your travel/climb time. If you can carry your snacks and fluids in such a way as to eliminate or reduce stop times, so much the better (stick the snacks in pockets and keep the water bottle handy - hydration bladders are not very practical on Denali). Stops waste time. Taking a pack on and off and digging stuff out or putting stuff in wastes time. In the same line, pace yourself so you don't have to make rest stops, or at least minimize them. If you do not stop, or minimize the length of stops, you will eliminate any need for changing layers or adjusting beyond the zippers. Don't fall into the "hare" side of the tortoise and hare race. I hiked the "4-Mile Trail" in Yosemite Saturday and passed numerous young hotshots who had raced past me early on. It took me 2h10m to the top (it's more like 5 miles and 3100 ft of climb), and after spending 15-20 min taking photos at the top, I passed most of these folks still coming up, while I was headed down. If you race, you overheat, and then when you have to stop, you will chill. Keep the pace even and you will go faster overall.

5:31 a.m. on August 6, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

a.k.a. Scott K
My humble opinion

TNF= sucks @$$ Patagucci= Kicks @$$ If you have ever had a problem with pata clothes and have called customer service, you will know that they are the real deal and they care about the customers that they serve. Campmor is awesome for cheap warez, but still patagonia trumps them all for supreme customer support. They have never, ever let me down, did I say never ever? Thats right, never ever. Sure you have to pay a lot, but isn't it worth it. MH has dissapointed me repeatedly, will never buy another thing from them ;(.

10:06 p.m. on August 7, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

Quote:

S,

Thanks for the thoughts! I'll check out a couple of those items!

I just happen to live in the SF bay area so the TNF store (and their on-going sale) and the outlet are within reach. For that matter, so are Sierra designs, Marmot, and multiple REIs.

And the Pata outlet in Santa Clara. There might not be any left, but about a month ago they had terrific deals on shell jackets like the Driect X and the stretch jacket with the name I can never remember for about $100.

December 21, 2014
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