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The Technical Aspects of Layering

2:21 a.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Winter is upon us, even though I don't see myself as ever doing any backpacking in that "fourth" season. But even with 3-season backpacking, early-Spring and late-Fall trips at elevation can sometimes throw some unexpected and really cold weather at you.

Given the above, I have been trying to inform and educate myself on proper layering, both when active and when static. During my search, I ran across a number of articles written by Andy Kirkpatrick (climbers probably know who he is) and found them most interesting and very informative. Although his specific audience is made up of climbers, most of what he talks about is still valid for hikers and backpackers.

Searched TS but didn't see those articles posted so I thought others who might be interested in getting their layering right might be want to read them, too. Since the articles are related to gear (clothing) selection, I hope this is the right place to post the links.

The Art of Not Suffering

The Comfort Game

The Truth About Breathable Waterproofs

The Best Softshell in the World

I think this last article is mostly for climbers:

The Belay Jacket

9:13 a.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks George! That link to THE BEST SOFTSHELL IN THE WORLD is the best explanation of a Softshell that I've ever seen.

11:22 a.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks for the links.  I just copied them for my next trip (read and burn).

A couple years ago I came up with a good definition of Backpacking---Managing Discomfort.

1:11 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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I always liked Arctic explorer Will Steiger's lline- "There is no bad weather, only bad clothes."

1:37 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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ppine: That's a common Norwegian saying: "Det er ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlig klær." It rhymes!

1:38 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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I stumbled across those articles late and once I started reading the first article, it didn't take long to realize that, when it comes to layering, that guy seems to really know what he's talking about. Turns out, proper layering is a bit more complicated than I realized, so I intend to reread the articles again today.

If a person is really into winter backpacking (or climbing, or whatever), I can certainly understand how your very survival could depend on grasping the scientific and technical aspects related to proper layering, which the author of those articles does an excellent job of explaining.

I liked the line in the first article: "...there is no such thing as cold... only the absence of heat."

Glad some of you are finding the articles helpful.

2:04 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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A related saying was posted on the wall of one of the places we stayed in the Austrian Alps a couple weeks ago:

"Rather than suffer and complain in the Storm, learn to Dance in the Rain"

(since my German lacks a bit in fluency, my translation lacks the beauty and rhyme of the original).

Actually, layering has been discussed a number of times over the years On Trailspace.

2:28 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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I have no doubt layering has been discussed numerous times here on TS. The intent with my post was not to start yet another discussion on how to layer but simply to pass along some technical information contained in articles that seemed to be a cut above what you might typically find on the Web about layering.

3:39 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks George good articles..

9:26 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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One difference between layering for hikers and for climbers is the intensity of the activity. A hiker has to be comfortable at rest and while exercising at a wide range of moderate levels. Once the approach is over, a climber will be layering primarily for high levels of activity, with lots of sweat to get rid of and lots of heat to vent.

10:06 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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@Peter1955

Quite true, but, from my perspective, the scientific and technical aspects of proper layering remain relevant regardless of the intensity of the activity -- each layer still has a job to do -- and if you don't understand the science behind it, you won't be able to layer properly, whether climber or hiker/backpacker. And the value of those articles is that the science behind proper layering is well laid out.

10:39 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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LAYERING is my worst enemy...for some reason it is like math to me! ARGH...thanks for this, it helps.

10:42 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Bill S said:

A related saying was posted on the wall of one of the places we stayed in the Austrian Alps a couple weeks ago:

"Rather than suffer and complain in the Storm, learn to Dance in the Rain"

(since my German lacks a bit in fluency, my translation lacks the beauty and rhyme of the original).

Actually, layering has been discussed a number of times over the years On Trailspace.

 After my cousin was murdered a few years back and my family was really having a hard time, my friend sent me this sign and it hangs in my office to this day:

"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass,
It's about dancing in the rain."

2:34 a.m. on October 7, 2013 (EDT)
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@giftogab

Well, it's physics... and physics is math! :-)

@melensdad, Tipi Walter, denis daly, giftogab

More than welcome. Good to see others who are also interested.

11:51 a.m. on October 9, 2013 (EDT)
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Went to the local DICK'S SPORTING GOODS and tried on several different brands of soft shells.

All seemed more FASHIONABLE than FUNCTIONAL.

Going to have to drive up to Chicago one of these days and hit the REI store and try on more brands. The local-ish Eddie Bauer store doesn't seem to have the FIRST ASCENT brand by Eddie Bauer and I'd like to try one of those too.

2:36 p.m. on October 9, 2013 (EDT)
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Hi, again, George. Have a look at the Marmot Alpha Pro review I posted a couple of days ago. 

Its a great piece of equipment for an ice climber, since it breathes incredibly well while keeping the core warm, but for approaches or for use by a hiker on a breezy day, it needs to be worn with a wind shell. 

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/marmot/alpha-pro-jacket/#review29717

It's a good example of the technical applications and the interaction between various fabrics.

4:40 p.m. on October 9, 2013 (EDT)
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@Peter1955

I did take a look but I already have a hi-loft fleece on the way to use as my mid. And since the low temps I am willing to operate in are much higher than what you are willing to endure, I think the fleece will work out okay.

I already had some UA Coldgear "Fitted," so I will use those as my base. Then the Patagonia R3 Hi-Loft Fleece as a mid. I exchanged my Patagonia NanoPuff for a NanoPuff w/hood (to be used as kind of a lightweight belay jacket). And have two wind/water proof shells w/hoods, one lightweight Mountain Hardwear and one medium-weight TNF. Plus, I already have a TNF hard fleece, and a TNF Apex Bionic Softshell (that's really not), both the jacket and the vest, although they aren't the same as the Marmot Alpha Pro. So anymore clothing will have to wait.

Once my stuff arrives and I get settled in Vegas, I will take my gear out on a shake-down cruise to see how it performs. After that, if you never see me post again, you will know it was an "epic" fail!! Please send someone to recover my carcass. BTW, my carcass will be the one with the, "Oh, #$%@. It didn't work!" look frozen on its face. ;-)

4:50 p.m. on October 9, 2013 (EDT)
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@melensdad

Yeah, Dick's Sporting Goods (DSG) is big on fashion over substance. Like those articles mentioned, most people who buy outdoor gear don't really go outdoors much, at least not to the extreme that TS folks do. IMO, those are the very people DSG targets with their advertising.

4:56 p.m. on October 9, 2013 (EDT)
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ondafringe said:

@Peter1955

I did take a look but I already have a hi-loft fleece on the way to use as my mid. And since the low temps I am willing to operate in are much higher than what you are willing to endure, I think the fleece will work out okay.

I already had some UA Coldgear "Fitted," so I will use those as my base. Then the Patagonia R3 Hi-Loft Fleece as a mid. I exchanged my Patagonia NanoPuff for a NanoPuff w/hood (to be used as kind of a lightweight belay jacket). And have two wind/water proof shells w/hoods, one lightweight Mountain Hardwear and one medium-weight TNF. Plus, I already have a TNF hard fleece, and a TNF Apex Bionic Softshell (that's really not), both the jacket and the vest, although they aren't the same as the Marmot Alpha Pro. So anymore clothing will have to wait.

Once my stuff arrives and I get settled in Vegas, I will take my gear out on a shake-down cruise to see how it performs. After that, if you never see me post again, you will know it was an "epic" fail!! Please send someone to recover my carcass. BTW, my carcass will be the one with the, "Oh, #$%@. It didn't work!" look frozen on its face. ;-)

 Would love to introduce you to some of the locals if you would like, George. :-)

 

5:19 p.m. on October 9, 2013 (EDT)
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@giftogab

Sounds good, but won't get out there until the first part of November and would need to get settled in first. Once I am at the point where I can relax a bit, I'll get in touch. Thanks!

BTW, I've already joined Vegas Hikers and Las Vegas Backpackers. Group hiking/backpacking is okay as long as the group size is small, preferably six or less people. I also intend to do some solo backpacking. A year or so back I did a group hike here in Albuquerque that filled two vans; something like 19 people. We were strung out all over the place!

7:00 p.m. on October 9, 2013 (EDT)
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Those are great groups. I don't go with them...usually bigger groups than I like. I like 3 or 4 to 5 people and so go with a few people I kow. The Vegas Rock Climbing group is my fave...we do Wednesday night in the gym and people get climbs together from there as well. Just a great group. Canyoneers are too. And if you Kayak, Las Vegas Kayerers is good too! I am up at the 9th Circuit early November and adding a new puppy to the household early Nov. too...so likely ready by the time you settle in!

8:51 p.m. on October 9, 2013 (EDT)
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Andy has an interesting article in the current Alpinist magazine (issue 44).

9:32 p.m. on October 9, 2013 (EDT)
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@giftogab

I may never go with them, either. Like you, it all depends on group size and the personalities of those involved, especially the trip leader. Anyway, look forward to meeting you a little later this year.

@Bill_S

Although I'm not a climber, I was very impressed with Andy's articles on layering. Would have read the article in The Alpinist but don't have a subscription. However, I did find a mention on UK Climbing News about Andy's ascent of Troll Wall, along with some pics that drive home the reality of the dangers involved in that sport.

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