Layering for 6000 m

9:59 p.m. on December 28, 2013 (EST)
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Hi, I am going down to South America for a mountaineering course followed by a climb of Aconcagua. This all lasts from the end of January to mid March. I live in Arizona and climb in the High Tatras and Eastern Alps in summer, so I do not have much experience with cold weather gear and layering. Here is the layering system I was thinking of using:

Upper in order:
Patagonia Capilene 1, and 3 for cooler days

Patagonia r1 or similar

Maybe a wind shell here?

Arcteryx Atom LT (60 gm primaloft insulated jacket)

Marmot Spire GTX Pro Shell (large enough to fit over atom LT)

Eddie Bauer Peak XV

Lower in order:

Patagonia Capilene 2

Polartec Powerstretch pants

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants (lightweight nylon softshell)

Schoeller fleece lined softshell pants

Arcteryx Atom LT insulated pants (or similar)

Outdoor Research Paladin Shell Pants

How does this look? I was thinking of going with a heaver mid layer (Arcteryx Atom SV instead of LT) but not sure if it is a good idea. Also my guide service said I needed a shell that would go over every layer. Since my Eddie Bauer Peak XV is basically waterproof I did not think it was needed--and since my current shell would not fit over it I would need another. Thanks!

10:54 p.m. on December 28, 2013 (EST)
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interesting combination of layers.

Bauer's online site says the Peak XV is sold out (Christmas rush I suppose). In any case, though, the jacket is water REPELLENT, not water PROOF (the StormRepel DWR is ok up to a point, but definitely not waterproof). And as a down jacket to be worn on Aconcagua, where you are likely to have heavy rain at the lower elevations, you really do not want to go without a waterPROOF shell (Goretex Pro or equivalent eVent).  Go with your guide service's recommendation.

The Capilene is reasonable as a base layer, though if you have any worries about cost (there is a reason it is called PataGucci), you can go with the equivalent medium plus expedition weight CampMor long johns. I have used these in the Andes, Antarctica, and Denali, though once I discovered a Patagonia Outlet store near where I often go to the mountains, I now use and prefer Capilene (the Pata outlets have as much as 60% off a couple times a year, IF they happen to have your size). Since you are considering the Capilene for the base layer, you might consider Patagucci's Alpine Guide pant. Again, I got mine at the outlet store at about 50-60% off. They are almost the same, though slightly better than the Schoeller pants you mention (I have had a pair of these from Cloudveil for about 5 years now but prefer the Pata)

Marmot, Rab, and Patagonia have Primaloft jackets very similar to the Arc'Teryx you list, but actually cheaper (Arc' seems to have the highest prices for equivalent clothing - good, but I look for equal or better performance at lower prices).

You mention the Marmot Spire GTX shell. I prefer their Alpinist 3 shell (I have had 3 Alpinist 3's over the past 20+ years and used them under hard conditions - they have evolved slightly with each generation, but have kept the powder skirt  ) Rab and Patagonia also have similar shells (and bibs and sapolettes - I prefer bibs in those conditions). Again less than Arc'. I am reviewing a Patagonia Knifeblade shell and pant/sapolette for the Gear Review Corps, but we haven't had enough snow in the Sierra to do the snow part of the review yet. The Knifeblade is supposed to "bridge the gap between a soft shell and a hardshell". It is more like a soft shell than a hard shell, though, so far. The jacket and pants are pretty windproof (more than the typical soft shell) and shed water well for something short of a full-on hard shell.

You will have days that are dry, but very windy. So a wind shell would be good for that. I did 3 reviews of wind shells a couple months back here on Trailspace. I have used all 3 in cold, dry, windy conditions (Antarctica, dry days in the Cascades and Sierra), and think such a shell is a good idea. They are light and pack small.

I have to wonder why you want to mix so many different manufacturers. Although I have had many different manufacturers' versions of many pieces of gear, some manufacturers are easier to deal with when there is a problem, and if you can establish good relations with one, rather than having to call a bunch just before leaving on a trip, I think you will make it easier on yourself.

I also suspect you are deviating a bit from your guide service's recommendations on the layering. What are their recommendations?

11:52 p.m. on December 28, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks for the detailed reply! My layering system is based upon one of Dane Burns'. I have taken his recommendations on and been quite happy. I just added wind shirt, capilene and shell. (If you google 'coldthistle layers' the article title is 'Clothing Layers In The Outdoors?', the first result probably).

The reason why I am using different companies is due to a combination of what I have already (capeline baselayers, and all the pants except the insulated ones) and some pro deals. The pro deals have dollar amount limits so I am using them for what I can and looking elsewhere for other stuff. The arcteryx stuff is just an example, due to price I doubt I will use them unless I find a deal.

The guide service was not very specific on layers. Basically it was:

Lightweight baselayer

Heavyweight baselayer

Two midlayers (lightweight and midweight)




I would post a link but I cannot because I am new, and it is not an easy page to access via google.

12:31 p.m. on December 29, 2013 (EST)
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1,630 forum posts

Upper in order:
Patagonia Capilene 1, and 3 for cooler days-Good

Patagonia r1 or similar- i would want something a little thicker, i would use a thicker wool sweater or fleece pullover here. Like a pantagonia r2 or r3 as example

Maybe a wind shell here?- i would forgoe this altogether and just use the marmot shell, but thats personal preference

Arcteryx Atom LT (60 gm primaloft insulated jacket)--good, but i think i would want more of a puffy synthetic layer than this, think pantagonia nano puff etc. This jacket seems more like a softshell jacket.

Marmot Spire GTX Pro Shell (large enough to fit over atom LT)-good

Eddie Bauer Peak XV-good, i assume this ifs for camp only

Lower in order:

Patagonia Capilene 2-good

Polartec Powerstretch pants-good, just make sure they arnt too tight

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants (lightweight nylon softshell)-good

Schoeller fleece lined softshell pants-why?

Arcteryx Atom LT insulated pants (or similar)-why? between this layer and the schoeller they both seem kinda pointless. I would add a synthetic puffy pant in place of both of these and plan to use it primarily in camp.

Outdoor Research Paladin Shell Pants-good

I use different items, but my layering for down to -30F(which is just a little colder than the average low of -30C/-22F at the summit there, and the average low elsewhere on the mountain appears to be -10C/14F) is about the same. So i think you look pretty good overall. Don't forget to get a good laying setup for your head, hands, and feet.


3:59 p.m. on December 29, 2013 (EST)
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I found the Peruvian Andes to be warmer at any given elevation that the North American counterparts I have trekked, so using our analogous mountains – the Alaskan Ranges up high, or even the Rockies and Sierra for lower elevation comparisons would be off mark.

A quick glance at your layers leads me to state you have unnecessary redundancy, specifically up to three shell articles on top.  Take the GTX Pro Shell and the Peak XV for example.  Perhaps you intend to leave the GTX Pro Shell behind as you ascend, going only with the Peak XV up higher?  In any case the garment listed as “maybe a wind shell here” would definitely be redundant.  Since my climbs were all alpine style, weight factors played into my clothing options, and I never carried two or more shell type garments into the snow, except when packing an artic parka (although on the more ambitious trips the groups did carry spare shells in case someone needed a replacement, etc).  I would carry a hard shell to keep dry for instances where rain is a possibility at lower elevation, but either left it behind and used a wind shell higher up, or used only a hard shell in lieu of a wind shell.  In any case my shell - hard or soft – was sized to fit over the bulkiest layer configuration I intended to wear under it.  I looked like a child in dad’s clothes on warmer days, but it worked, and saved weight.  Lastly you will find the Peak XV a bit on the warm side for activity in all but the very coldest of environs, though ok for around camp use higher up.  You will be traveling during the warm season, however, so this may be overkill.  In any case I find jumpsuits uncomfortable for a camp garment, as they grab at you in the crotch and lumbar area when you try to sit down or stand up. 

As for under layers, two weights of skin layer are ok; though I would prefer going with two medium or heavy weight skin layers, doubling them up if necessary.  I also prefer using one or two fleece shirts for main insulating layers while underway in very cold conditions.  I use a down puffy for camp main insulation layer.  Usually I do not use the down puffy and fleece together, but I do have a second puffy sized to fit over the first puffy and it also fits over the fleece layers.  My outer warm layer (if needed) is duty rated to the coldest condition I expect to encounter.  The two puffies are good to 10°F around camp as an outer warm layer, but otherwise I use an artic style down parka for colder temps.

I deviate from most campers when it comes to lower layers.  I reserve long johns for bed clothes and use cycling thermal tights for active wear warmth.  These work well down to low temperatures under shell garments.  Tights are prone to damage from rocks so I wear a pair of shorts over them.  I have a bib down pant I use around camp that can also supplement the tights if needed during rest stops while under way.  I prefer a hard shell bottom as an outer layer for all but the coldest conditions, as I find ice and snow can still melt and find its way to your base layers in even pretty cold conditions.  Lastly I use breatheable gaiters to protect my leather footware and ankles, as I prefer to ski whenever possible.  I find water proof gaitors trap sweat and feel uncomfortable.  Even if you use plastic technical boots you will want to keep the cold stuff away from your ankles and calves.

You did not mention hand or head gear.  These can be critical items, and a serious problem if they don’t perform well.  I carry two balaclavas into the cold, and an alpaca scarf to fill voids under the hood.  The scarf can also be used to help protect the exposed face areas too.  Wearing this head gear to bed allows me to leave a larger opening on my mummy bag (more comfortable).  I sometimes bring booties on base camp snow trips, but only bring them on treks where I expect to spend extended time tent bound in poor weather.  In any case bring enough socks so you can have a dedicated pair that is dry for camp use  (same thing goes for skin layer top and bottoms used only as pajamas).  As for gloves I bring two types.  The first is for around camp, generally a leather palm, wool, XC glove.  The other glove is a water proof (so they claim!) glove or glove system.  If I am skiing This is simply a skiers’ glove, but if I expect to be close up to the snow and ice, doing technical climbing, I will go with a two piece glove system.  Always carry spare water proof gloves, not only in case the primary pair gets wet, but also because a lost glove is a very serious concern.  Make sure gloves and headware used on inclines are tethered by a lanyard - they have a habit of blowing off and away on the steeps


4:29 p.m. on December 30, 2013 (EST)
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the peak xv is made of waterproof/breathable outer shell fabric - they claim 20k/20k, which places it pretty clearly in the 'waterproof' range.  it has been my primary jacket for sitting around while winter camping since last winter.

setting aside the utility of hydrostatic head as a yardstick for waterproofness, and though the FABRIC is waterproof, the peak XV (like most down parkas with waterproof/breathable outer shells) isn't seam-sealed.  if you think about it for a minute, why would anyone seal the seams on a jacket that is primarily worn in sub-zero weather? plus, it is extremely warm, comfortable at -20f and colder. 

based on those characteristics, as well as my personal experience with the jacket, it's too warm to wear if it is raining out, and the insulation will eventually get damp via the un-sealed seams in a steady rain.  you definitely need a separate waterproof/breathable outer shell jacket.

i would ask for help with a shell that would fit over "every layer." it will be hard to find an outer hard shell that fits over the peak XV without seriously compressing the insulation. 

11:52 p.m. on December 30, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks for all of the ideas everyone!

So what I am thinking here is that the system is alright, but I think I will cut the midlayer and maybe go for an Outdoor Research radiant hoody or a substitute for the R1 that can cut the wind a little bit. Also might cut the schoeller pants and use gaiters more to save weight.

For the Peak XV then if I have a heavier synthetic insulated jacket (ie 100 g primaloft) then I won't be using the XV in warm enough temps to rain, so I could size a shell to fit over the synthetic layer and not the XV? Not sure why I would need a shell over the XV except for rain protection (but I haven't much experience in cold weather, so I could very well be wrong)?

For head gear I'll have a sun hat for approach, warm hat, balaclava, and two buffs. Plus hoods from all the upper layers.

For gloves I'll have fleece liners, BD Arc Gloves, OR Remote Gloves, and Marmot Expedition Mitts.

Are the head and glove systems good?

For boots I am set with La Sportiva Baruntses with a variety of socks. I also have Salewa Rapace for approach.

9:54 a.m. on December 31, 2013 (EST)
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as someone observed above, spare hat and warm mitts are worth thinking about.  losing a mitten, which can happen, can have devastating consequences if you run into very cold weather. 

June 22, 2018
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