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Clothing weight rating defined


Is there any standard temperature ranges for clothing categorized by "light/mid/heavy/expedition weight." Or even if they give numbers such as "100/200/300" weight.

Yeah I know it sounds like a silly question. But I have no experience with the fancier fabrics and can't compare it to regular street clothes that I know just going by thickness.

I'm sure Bill can give you the best answer you could ever hope for but I don't think so light,med,heavy is just kind of a rule of thumb.

Not a silly question.

Hey Budric, welcome to Trailspace.

The rating seems to vary by manufacturer, there may be a universal rating I'm not aware of though.

Patagonia makes a base layer (first layer you put on) called 'Capilene' it comes in 4 different weights, 1 thru 4, 1 is for mild temps and 4 is their heaviest weight.

Patagonia does have a rating guide on the clothing tag that is indexed along with the level of activity you will be engaging in. I think there is one on their website as well.

Some manufacturers offer weights like 160 - 200 - 240 etc.


With other types of clothing, base layers, insulating layers, socks, etc, there are light-weight, mid-weight, & expedition weight like you mentioned, you probably should check with the manufacturer or on the manufacturers website for the ratings they offer with their clothing.

For example, here is a link to the 'Icebreaker' site, they make merino wool base layers, among other things, in 150 - 200 - 260 weights with an explanation of the weight ranges:

I understand that it's a rule of thumb and varies from person to person. But I see those terms constantly used to describe clothing. So what exactly do they mean in terms of degrees C?

Well to try to relate to the street clothing you are used to, maybe think of it like this:

sweater - lightweight

coat - midweight

parka - expedition weight

Above freezing your going to be in the lightweight and midweight category, below freezing your going to be in the midweight to expedition weight catagory.

What one person feels warm in may be freezing to another, so with out knowing you, and where you live, along with the activities you will be engaging in it's difficult to offer any substantial advice that you could rely on to make purchases that would work for you, just too many variables.

Why don't you tell us your location (where you will be using the clothing), temps you expect to encounter, and the activities you will be engaging in.

That way some of us could offer much better advice.

The temp rating is more dependent on your level of activity, so no mesure in degrees can be given for a piece of clothing really. For exemple, if you're skiing in powder with a heavy pack, the lightest weight sweater will keep you warm at -25c. But if you're standing around doing nothing, it will take a thick down parka to stop shivering at the same temp, plus everything else you can lay your hand on.

So keep moving!

Very true good point Franc. Also dressing in more lighter layers is more effective than few heavy layers.

Also the same thing applies to sleeping systems some people sleep cold some people sleep hot, If you a cold sleeper you would chose a sleeping bag that has a lower comfort range and if you were a hot sleeper you would chose a sleeping bag with a higher comfort rating.

Welcome Budric. It sounds like you are looking for a way to easily tell how warm a garment will be by reading a standard rating. For the most part, that is not possible. But also for the most part, your can "compare it to regular street clothes that I know just going by thickness".

Thicker is still warmer no matter what the fabric or construction.

Without knowing your intended use it is hard to make suggestions, but the currently-favored many-thin-layers is a good way to think about what to buy for most activities other than sitting on a bench.

I don't think there is such a thing as a temp rating for base layers like there is for down jackets or sleeping bags. I have a midweight Capilene top and bottom from back when they just had 3 different ones. I wear mine in all conditions down to around 10F doing things like hiking and skiing and sleep in them as well. I've worn the top just as a shirt and worn the bottoms with a pair of short over them in cool weather around 50 or so while hiking (50 is cool to me).

On top of my base layer, I often wear a fleece jacket (probably 200 wt.), a rain jacket or in really cold weather a down parka. I have two down parkas-a TNF Nuptse for mild weather and a Baltoro (now called the Himalaya) for really cold weather.

The 100/200/300 is usually a rating for fleece. Here is a little story about fleece. There are others on the net.

Well, I bought a north face mid-weight base layer based on the specification by the manufacturer that it was intended for cold days. And in the morning when the temperature reached around 5C/40F (which I wouldn't even consider in the cold category, -10 is "cold") I wasn't exactly warm wearing it around the camp ground.

Also it wasn't windy so it's not like I was missing a wind breaker. So either you just don't wear base layers without a jacket like you might regular sweater, or the whole midweight/cold definition is way off.

If I understand correctly, you were wearing ONLY the base layer?

This type of clothing is meant to be worn as a system, in layers, thus the term BASE LAYER. You were only wearing one component of the layering system.

I don't think the layering system, or the ratings are way off, I think you do not yet understand how the layering system works.

The base layer is a 'wicking' layer, to pull your body moisture away from your body, it is not an insulating layer.

The next layer is the 'insulating' layer, which can be one or two layers in itself, I personally use one insulating layer for milder temps and carry an additional one for below freezing. I like micro fleece for the second insulating layer.

The other layers consist of a 'wind' layer, and a 'waterproof' layer.

You may, or may not, need both. Just depends on the conditions you will be encountering. Some people can use a 'shell' or 'rain suit' to do both, I think it depends largely, again, on the type of conditions you will be in.

For a wind beak I like a fleece layer with a wind stopping fabric, this works well for me in the areas I go to. If it starts raining / sleeting, I put on my Mountain Hardwear Shell. In dryer months I just carry a rain suit.

You simply carry adequate clothing that will meet any possible conditions you may encounter, (do you're homework of course) and adjust your layering system as needed throughout the day and as your activity level increases or decreases.

Some of this you can learn by reading, or from a mentor, and some you can only learn by getting out there and gaining some experience of your own. Everybody is different.

I have found out over the years that I prefer top layers that have quarter zips, as my body heat increases due to activity (backpacking) I can adjust my clothing just by unzipping a couple layers, allowing some body heat to escape. This cuts down on how often I must stop and remove a layer as the day warms up.

Here is an article you can read at the REI website:

I would also recommend you get a book or two that discusses these types of subjects.

Maybe try:

The Backpackers Handbook, by Chris Townsend and/ or The Complete Walker, by Fletcher Collins

Thanks [b]trouthunter[/b] and everyone else.

I've got plenty of pictures of me wearing just my base layer, but believe me, the temps were way up, the sun was out and I was skiing or hiking. In my avatar pic, I am wearing my base layer (midweight Capilene), Marmot Precip pants (rain gear with full zips), and a fleece jacket. The gold things are Cordura gaiters. What is hard to see are my plastic boots and lightweight gloves. The temp was probably in the 40's at the least, full sun and as you can see, I have my sleeves up and the pants are probably unzipped about half way.

You need at least a fleece jacket or wind jacket of some kind over a base layer for it to really work right, as Trouthunter says. As I said above, however, I've worn them alone (with nylon shorts), but in pretty warm weather. Don't let that lead you astray. That is what works for me.

When I am out in winter, I keep mine on all the time and adjust the rest of my layers to the weather. Since I only have one set, I try not to sleep in them, but will if it's really cold.

Trouthunter, fyi, it's Colin Fletcher, gone, but not forgotten by all of us who learned a lot about backpacking from him over the many years.

Yeah, that's true. Base layers do have insulating properties, and I have hiked in just my Capilene top & pants before. But if your cold, you need the fleece, poly-pro, or wool insulating layer.

I have been using Capilene during the day, and silk to sleep in, but the silk does not seem to hold up as well as the Capilene. At least not the silk I have, Terramar Thermasilk. It is however very comfortable.

September 26, 2021
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