Looking for equipment for wet and cold conditions

12:48 p.m. on May 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Hi all

This automn I am planing trip to a mountain region in the outbacks of China - walking about 2 weeks, most of the time in the wild. The area is quite high (up to 4500 metres) and I should expect close to freezing temperatures the higher I get. The area is also very humid - it is expected to be foggy, and rain practically every day. The terrain is also quite difficult - hard to find hunters trails, walking practically in the jungle and so.

Picking the right equipment is crucial for success, and this is where i should ask for your help. I am looking for the best stuff to take with that fits the conditions, preferably to be as light as possible. Money is not a problem, expensive stuff is fine as long as it's good.

So my questions are:

1. What kind of a jacket should I take? Is a goose down jacket with poliyester outlining good enough for these conditions or should I go for something else? I prefer goose down as it is very light, however I'm afraid it's just not going to as effective when wet.

2. Ditto for sleeping bag. I have a polyester sleeping bag with a comfort level of -2 celsius degrees. Considering that I will not encounter any sub-zero temperatures, do you think it should be enough? From my limited experience, the companies are quite "liberal" in their ratings.

3. Any more advice on good equipment to take? Especially on what materilas, which companies etc.

Thank you for any advice you might provide! Ari

3:05 p.m. on May 20, 2012 (EDT)
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What other equipment do you have and how much does it weigh? Are you expecting to sleep in shelters or are you packing a tent? Do you expect any high winds?

It sounds like you are expecting to be walking in the rain a lot with the accompanying humidity. I would suggest a large coolie hat or umbrella to go along with your jacket.  Even the best Gortex/E-vent type jackets don't breathe enough when you are hiking especially if you really seal them up. 
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Even though it might be near freezing you will warm up significantly while you are walking and carrying a pack.  The down jacket would probably be fine for wearing when you stop and cool off. You probably want to have some kind of soft shell that will fit over it if you have to go out in the rain with it because if it gets wet enough to make the down clump it won't provide much, if any, insulation value. You will probably want some rain pants also.  

Are you going to be bush whacking?  If you are will will want to make sure your outer layers are durable enough for it.

As for the sleeping bag what brand and model is it? Bags with European ratings have gone through a standardized procedure, American bags have not.  Comfort levels also depend on the individual person also. Do you like a lot of covers or not?  In your case a good prima-loft synthetic insulation bag might not be a bad idea do to not only rain issues during the day, but to condensation issues at night from fog.  Every sleep high enough that you wake up in a cloud.  I have, literally couldn't see more than 4-5 fee in front of me. Every little breeze would cause a shower of cold water. I don't care how good the venting is in your tent, when the air is that humid you will get some condensation. 

3:56 p.m. on May 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Ventable gear

12:13 a.m. on May 21, 2012 (EDT)
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No no, no down equipment!  Even if you manage to keep the elements off of it, the accumulation of humidity and sweat over time will degrade performance.  I found exposure to sustained weather of the nature you describe requires toughness, more so than magical solutions.  As Mark pointed out, goretex and other membrane garments do not breathe enough to keep cool while back packing, even when the climate is cool (around freezing), so sweat is an issue.  One thing to avoid is getting all your garments soaked in sweat.  My solution is warming up before I put on the pack, then stripping down to just running shorts (or cycling tights) and a light synthetic top - I use those cheap Hawaiian shirts. Over both goes the rain gear.  Yea, I feel uncomfortably cool, but as long as I keep a brisk pace I do not shiver, and do not get all my gear soaked with sweat.  Both shorts and shirt quickly dry, once I stop sweating.  The trick is maintaining a pace you can keep for the duration of the day's walk.  Plan trail meals that can be eaten while under way.  Once at your destination put on some layers to warm up. 

Bring a rain fly you can use to cook under, as well as hang wet stuff out to dry.  

One thing that will help make you less damp is carrying an umbrella.  This allows you to remove your head gear, and open up your coat; this will help provide better ventilation.

Ed

12:56 a.m. on May 21, 2012 (EDT)
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I would not suggest synthetic shirts for that region. The indigenous peoples there wear wool for a reason. Its ability to keep perspiration from soaking you is every bit as good as synthetics and if it does get wet from either you or the humidity/rain it retains it's insulating value even soaked. Something no synthetic can do. Synthetics may be fine where it is hot & dry all the time but that is not the conditions he is describing.

Look up Ibex Merino Wool clothing. Can't go wrong.

3:29 a.m. on May 21, 2012 (EDT)
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JerseyWreckDiver said:

I would not suggest synthetic shirts for that region. The indigenous peoples there wear wool for a reason...

Yes wool works, but so do synthetics.  A primary reason folks of the region use wool is they can make it on their own, saving money.  BTW I and many of my mountaineering friends have been using synthetics and wool interchangeably for decades, in all manner of mountain environments, from Peru, to the Rockies, Cascades and Sierras, and the ranges in Alaska, to name a few venues.  The main differences IMO are related to individual comfort preferences, not performance.

Ed

4:06 a.m. on May 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Hi all

first of all many thanks for your help. I think I am beginning to get an understanding of what is needed for this trip. I went travelling in that remote region of China last year and had to turn back early because of poor preparation. Therefore the issue is quite important to me, as I don't want to fail again this year!

Unfortunately I cannot include a link to pics of the rearea. The scenery changes quite dramatically - from rainforest to pine trees to an arid region in such a short time. also the trails are difficult. There is no much use for an umbrella, a hat etc. Also, parts of the trail are practically walking in the jungle, so getting waterproof pants and jackets is essential.

So I will try to narrow down the questions with your permission:

1. my sleeping bag is the North Face Aleutian which is also reviewd in this website: http://www.trailspace.com/gear/the-north-face/aleutian-3s-bx/ - it is synthetic and supposed to be good up until mid 30's farenheit. Will it function better than a down sleeping bag in wet, humid conditions?

2. I doubt that the trick of dressing light to let the sweat evaporate would work out for me. I need to have at least 2 layers - a thermal shirt and a second layer, plus a third layer the higher we go. So no down jacket - that's quite a good advice, as this is what I was thinking of taking! Now I am contemplating a polyester jacket or a wool shirt for the second layer and a fleece for the third layer. It is quite comfortable, but problems is  they are quite heavy, espcially the fleece. And also the issue of sweat evaporating. So is there a better alternative?

3. Mark also mentioned rain pants. what exactly does it mean, and especially which material? Last time I had cotton pants which naturally got totally soaked and had to be dried by the fire every night. Which pants should I take this time?

Sorry for the bombardment of questions, this issue is really important for me, I don't want to mess up this time! Thank you in Advance for your help...

Erap

9:25 a.m. on May 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Erap,

From the questions you ask and your reply now, it seams that you don't have much experience at all. Not trying to be insulting, but it seams like the trip your looking to do might be beyond your skill level right now. I'm glad you were smart enough to turn back the first time. Aside from that, you've done two things very well though. 1) You realize your deficiencies and are asking questions. 2) You found Trailspace.

I'm wondering were you are from? Would help to know what kind of terrain/environment you are used to.

Some of the classic mistakes that you are making that elude to your inexperience;

Never, EVER, wear cotton in the backcountry. Cotton absorbs moisture and stays wet virtually forever. Experienced hikers/backpackers, climbers etc. all wear synthetics &/or Merino Wool because when you perspire, water vapor will move right through it and moisture from you skin will be wicked away by it but not absorbed and evaporated off quite quickly. If it gets wet from rain or humidity, it dries very fast & again, wool retains its insulating value even soaking wet.

Typical backpackers ensemble, slanted to my preferences;

Nylon hiking pants, typically convertible (the lower legs zip off to become shorts) - I have a preference for Outdoor Research, Mountain Hardwear, but there are many good brands out there.

Synthetic or Merino Wool underwear. I wear Merino Wool

Synthetic or Merino Wool baselayers. Again I prefer Merino.

Dependent on terrain/weather a mid layer. Even with a preference for wool, I often go with a synthetic here.

Merino Wool Socks - Appropriate weight/thickness for the weather.

Rain shell if needed. - Highly breathable fabric but venting options, (Zippers that can be opened to bleed heat) are extremely important. - Again, I have a preference for Outdoor Research and everyone has there own.

Breathable headwear - Wigwam merino pullover.

You want most, if not all of your layers to be variable. Again, zippers that can be opened when you start exerting yourself to bleed off heat and keep from getting warm to the point of sweating. Removing layers when opening things up is not enough.

Whomeworry gives good advise;

Never hike in down. As said, that is for when you stop & your not exerting yourself anymore, take off anything wet and put down on over dry layers in camp.

Many of us hike in not much more than a shirt & maybe a fleece or windproof layer in very cold conditions. While hiking, especially with a full load on your back, your body will produce a lot of heat. If you start to sweat, you will not get warm after that until you dry off. You need to master regulating your bodies heat as you hike., opening and stripping layers.

As Ed said, I will keep warm until I'm about to hit the trail then strip of all but a shirt and maybe a light breathable fleece, then hit the trail. My body engine will be producing more than enough heat as soon as I start exerting myself. If I hit a serious uphill section, I will remove, hat/gloves, open the zipper on my fleece [BEFORE I start to get too warm] because I know it is coming. I may stop & remove my fleece altogether. I keep my hat accessible where I can put it back on as soon as I level off/hit an exposed ridge and start cooling down.

It's key to anticipate the exertion and prevent sweating.

10:37 a.m. on May 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Let me first qualify my statements; I live in the PNW and hike in the winters here. Temps in the lower 20's F. Non stop rain and fog.

You state " Picking the right equipment is crucial for success" I think that you are thinking that the best gear will somehow save you. This assumption is incorrect, it will only make you feel save. Truth is it will be your skill level that will keep you alive. One mistake, one week into this trip, and baby you are in some deep shit.

You state; " Last time I had cotton pants which naturally got totally soaked and had to be dried by the fire every night" Just what were you thinking? This statement tells me that you are a an inexperienced hiker, at least in these conditions.

Now you might be in great shape, and think that the world is your oyster. But when hypothermia sets in. And you are a pool of wet goo that can't flick a bic. Then what do you do? No expensive gear is going to save you. Do you have a back up plan? Will there be anyone out there to help you?

I know that I'm being rough on you but you really need to think this out more.

Consider my statements as tough love. Cruel  to be kind.

12:46 p.m. on May 21, 2012 (EDT)
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whomeworry said:

JerseyWreckDiver said:

I would not suggest synthetic shirts for that region. The indigenous peoples there wear wool for a reason...

Yes wool works, but so do synthetics.  A primary reason folks of the region use wool is they can make it on their own, saving money.  BTW I and many of my mountaineering friends have been using synthetics and wool interchangeably for decades, in all manner of mountain environments, from Peru, to the Rockies, Cascades and Sierras, and the ranges in Alaska, to name a few venues.  The main differences IMO are related to individual comfort preferences, not performance.

Ed

 I'm not putting synthetics down as a whole, I just think for the more damp environments wool has an advantage.

Personal preference I'm sure does play a big role. Everyone's bodies are different and what works well for one isn't definitely going to be the best for another. I personally feel cold in anything with too much Lycra in it. I do though have a few synthetics I like.

While I have a preference for wool, my wife prefers synthetics more often than not. She has a very different metabolism than me. But on our recent trip in the rainforest in Puerto Rico, she in synthetic shirt and me in my wool, she got pretty cold when we ascended up into the cloud cover. I was fine from the hot & humid trailhead, up into the clouds on the peak & back again.

7:06 p.m. on May 21, 2012 (EDT)
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JerseyWreckDiver said:

I'm not putting synthetics down as a whole, I just think for the more damp environments wool has an advantage.

Personal preference I'm sure does play a big role. Everyone's bodies are different and what works well for one isn't definitely going to be the best for another. I personally feel cold in anything with too much Lycra in it. I do though have a few synthetics I like.

While I have a preference for wool, my wife prefers synthetics more often than not. She has a very different metabolism than me. But on our recent trip in the rainforest in Puerto Rico, she in synthetic shirt and me in my wool, she got pretty cold when we ascended up into the cloud cover. I was fine from the hot & humid trailhead, up into the clouds on the peak & back again.

Since both wool and fleece absorb very little moisture, and both experience minimal loss of loft when wet, both can have similar efficiencies wet or dry.  The key with synthetics is they come in different weaves and materials, intended for different applications.  For example I use cycling tights intended to provide warmth.  They are great wet or dry for that purpose, and also cut the wind pretty good.  On the other hand I recently purchased a pair of runner’s tights that were almost useless for cold.  They were designed to wick moisture and keep one dry, not keep one warm.  The runner’s tights also did little to protect from wind.  Both were lycra, but the weave was different, and the thread had a different texture.  So perhaps selecting synthetics requires more product knowledge.

As for the husband wife comparison, I am not sure any relevant conclusions can be drawn.  I have found most women have a narrower range comfort zone than men, which easily explains the experience you describe.  Heck my wife wears sweats when the temp dips below 72, and sweats in shorts when it’s above 74.  Likewise individual comfort zones vary person to person, as you site.  Even an individual’s tolerance to climate will vary across time. 

Some will claim fleece is a lighter for the same warmth, but I think that is only a partial analysis.  For example I used to have winter issue army wool trousers.  They were pretty heavy.  I found my fleece bottoms kept me just as warm for less weight - that is until the breeze kicked up.  The close weave of the wool pants reduced wind borne heat loss better than the loose weave of fleece.  The fleece became more efficient when a wind shell was added, but that also eliminated any weight difference between the fleece and wool systems.

----------------------------

Erap21 said:

..I don't want to fail again this year!..

I agree with John, that equipment is a tool that can keep you dry and warm, but you need technique and skill to effectively utilize these tools.  By the OP's own admission they have yet to learn what it takes to travel in this environment and keep dry.  Rather than travel half way around the world and learn by trial and error, I suggest setting up a laboratory in your backyard, under a sprinkler, and practice techniques you read about, regarding enduring wet weather.  You will find an umbrella does have its place, especially when entering/leaving one’s tent.  You will find hats have their place too, even in fairly dense jungle.  You will find a well pitched mediocre tent can be more dry than a poorly pitched top quality tent.  You will find it is easier to stay warm when you keep your layers dry, than struggling to dry them out once wet.  You willl find wearing fewer layers when under way will keep you warmer overall, than getting layers soaked with sweat, then trying to dry out once in camp.  You do have to have an open mind.  You ask questions but have already discarded some of the suggestions posted to your inquiry.  May I suggest you figure out how these suggestions succeed, before you try to argue they don’t.  Rain is rain, and every forest is green.  If these techniques work in the Pacific Northwest, then certainly they will suffice in central Asia.

Ed

10:04 p.m. on May 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Ed, I'll concede you probably, obviously know a lot more about the synthetics than I do. But one thing I'm hearing from what your saying is that wool can perform over a much wider range of conditions without having to get this weave and that fiber. For the most part, the wool is always just wool and goes from one condition to the other without needing to be changed with something else.

What I know is that after a few years of wearing a lot of both, I consistently reach for my wool almost all the time now. Still like my synthetic fleece outer layers, but then again, I can't afford, or at least justify, yet, a $300.- wool fleece/jacket.

Curious also about any factual/research info you know about in regards to synthetics performing/continuing to insulate well when wet. I have an expensive pair of diving gloves that are lined with wool inside to allow the use of thinner neoprene on the outside. They work well when I'm spending 45 minutes in 48 degree water at the bottom of the North Atlantic.

12:34 p.m. on May 22, 2012 (EDT)
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i agree, down jackets and sleeping bags are risky in those conditions.

you need a hard shell for rain, preferably something that will allow some moisture to escape via mechanical means (armpits that unzip).  or a poncho if that works for you. 

some kind of light insulated jacket might work if it's not down - patagonia nano puff, wild things insulight jacket, or an equivalent.  lighter weight and much more wind resistant than fleece, won't suffer the same loss in insulating properties as down.

for me, synthetic vs/ wool is mostly a wash.  you can find different thicknesses of shirts in both that will give you some insulation.  the main differences for me? wool doesn't get that synthetic shirt stink, and synthetics dry faster than wool. 

2:29 p.m. on May 22, 2012 (EDT)
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JerseyWreckDiver said:

..Curious also about any factual/research info you know about in regards to synthetics performing/continuing to insulate well when wet...

My conclusions are based on subjective, personal, experiences of me and my camping buds.  Our experiences cross the spectrum and combinations of hot/cold/dry/wet/humid/desiccated.  As Leadbelly states, we also think the choice between wool and synthetics is a wash, and mainly driven by comfort preferences. 

I don't know about spending $300 on a synthetic coat, since I usually use two or three layers of fleece shirts under a shell to fill that function; the shirts cost a combined $100.  But I will agree equipping with synthetics may require somewhat more knowledge than what one needs when shopping for warm woolies, especially when it comes to items like tights and other base layers. 

Ed 

2:44 a.m. on June 24, 2012 (EDT)
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hi

I climbed four girls mountain on 20.fer.2012.Located in the southwestern region of China.5276 meters,temperature was -2 c。But the climate was dry and clear.

I will share my gear list with you ,hopeful to give you a litter help

1.coat

   Patagonia C3 Capilene 3  suit

   PCU GEN III L2 suit

   Mountain Hardwear monkey jacket

   Patagonia Down Sweater 800

   Arc'teryx  beta ar

2. trousers

    Ex Officio Give-N-Go

    Patagonia C3 Capilene 3

    PCU GEN III L2

    Mountain Hardwear Escape Gore-Tex pants

3.shoes

   SmartWool Ultimate Hunting

   Lowa

 

 

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