Sunday, February 11, 2018

My 2018 Winter and Spring Complete Clothing Breakdown


So I finally have a few section hikes coming up!  I will most likely do a gear list breakdown for my spring base pack weight (BPW), but I don't think I will have the time to do one for my winter kit for the trip coming up soon.  However, it has been a while since I've gone over my clothing combos for all the different seasons I encounter (my older one you can check out here, also includes BPW), so figured I should at least update my current clothing choices.  Not to mention that I still get plenty of questions from friends, family, and sometimes online about what my clothing choices are for hiking.  Later on in the year I'll do another breakdown like this for my two summer outfits (one for the mountains, one for the woods), so stay tuned for that.

Two years ago I showed off my winter gear list in a video, and not too much has changed since then as far as gear goes.  But there have been some significant changes to my clothing, in spite of still using some garments for about half a decade or so.  Some of the more hardcore UL backpackers may cringe and/or scoff at some of the relatively heavy choices of clothing I have.  But everyone has their limits, and when it comes to clothing worn I am more likely to shrug and say "good enough" with slightly heavier choices.  

I think because I obsess so much over my BPW down to every little detail, I just don't have the energy to really dial in my clothing combos to be lighter and (this is key) just as warm.  I'm also just not into clothing in general, as say a fashion or social statement, so it's hard for me to get excited about buying say, a pair of pants or a shirt.  But I've spent plenty of time drooling over packs, shelters, quilts, and other BPW gear, and have literally had my pulse rise after getting a package slip in my mailbox for new gear.  Not to say that clothing is any less important for backpacking, it should almost go without saying!  And also note that quite a lot of this gear gets used in my day-to-day life to work and on day hikes, so it's not just collecting dust in the closet when I'm not on section hikes.

So let's get down to the breakdown of my full winter and spring outfits.  First up is some context:

  • Both trips will be in south-west Sweden to woodland areas below treeline.
  • The winter trip has expected average temperatures of a high of 0C/32F and low of -4C/25F, but with possible cold snaps and wind chill down to -10C/14F.
  • The spring trip has expected average temperatures of a high of 10C/50F and low of -2C/28F, but with possible cold snaps and wind chill down to -5C/23F.
  • I'm a man in my late 30's that is about 183cm/6ft tall and of average build.


Let's begin with winter clothing, starting with the tops:

Left to right:
  • The North Face "waterproof breathable" rain jacket, size x-large, 490g/17.3oz
  • Montbell Alpine Light down parka (2015 version), size large, 410g/14.5oz
  • Generic gridded, medium polyester hoody, size x-large, 415g/14.6oz
  • Handmade, 100% silk shirt, size large, 220g/7.8oz
  • Generic, medium merino wool base layer, size large, 225g/7.9oz 
First the jacket.  Most experienced backpackers will tell you that "waterproof breathable" doesn't really exist, and that such garments are really just buying you some time before they wet out.  I don't recommend WPB for much, but one place where it shines from my experiences is in colder (i.e. below freezing) temps as a hard shell--and also works well as rain gear on day hikes or to work.  There are expensive and heavier WPB fabrics out there that will extend the amount of time you have before wetting out, such as Gortex and the like.  But in addition to the cons of costing more in terms of both money and weight, they are also really hard to dry out once they inevitably wet out, and I've read many people complain on forums (and a few in person) that Gortex also gets really stinky and gross after getting soaked.

I'm a huge fan of rain ponchos, but in the winter when temps are below freezing, it will be snow and not rain.  Snow doesn't usually soak my pack (as long as it's cold enough for it to be powdery, naturally), so the added benefit of a pack cover that a poncho has is made pointless.  A light WPB jacket will also keep you warmer and block wind better than a poncho, so this is my go-to outer layer in the winter.

The down jacket is kept in my pack until I make camp, and also doubles as added warmth to my sleep system.  Great jacket!  Nothing but good things to say about it, really.  Very warm and comfy, and fits nicely under my hard shell jacket, which I bought one size larger to accommodate all my layers.

Then comes my medium thickness poly-grid hoody, which is a great mid layer that is also quite affordable and durable.  This one cost me one-third of the price as some of the name brand hoodies that are nearly identical as far as fabric and design go.  Tho this one is a bit heavier than some of those name brand ones, for example the super-popular Melly hoodies over on /r/ultralight are listed as 346g/12.2oz for a men's size large--but in fairness, this generic hoody of mine is size x-large.

Next up is a 100% silk button-up, short sleeve shirt that I got as a gift from a family member.  They picked it up in Thailand while they were on vacation, and it's a great shirt for colder trips for added warmth and to wick moisture as well.  Silk, like merino, is also great at not stinking for a while.

Finally for winter tops is ye olde merino base layer.  I've had this top and its matching bottom for around 5 or 6 years now, and they have both served me well.  Slightly heavier than some other base layers, but then again, also slightly warmer than thinner ones too.  Warm and much less stink than synth base layers, so I prefer wool for most of the year as a base layer, especially when it becomes more or less like a second skin on colder trips, when swimming and washing are much less common (for me at least).

Now on to bottoms and extra clothing:

Left to right:
  • Generic WPB rain pants, 310g/10.9
  • MLD eVent gaiters, 60g/2.1oz
  • Swedemount medium nylon hiking pants, 410g/14.5oz
  • Joe Nimble Cuddletoes, wool-lined, barefoot sneaker boot, EU size 45, 775g/27.3oz
  • Generic, medium merino wool base layer, 195g/6.9oz
  • Generic, thin merino wool boxers, 65g/2.3oz
  • Generic, thick ski socks, wool/nylon blend, 95g/3.4oz
  • Generic, medium merino wool glove liners, 35g/1.2oz
  • Generic, thin merino wool liner socks, 30g/1oz (x2, other pair not pictured)
  • Trucker cap, poly and mesh, 60g/2.1oz
  • Smartwool medium merino wool buff, 50g/1.8oz
  • Blackrock down hat, 35g/1.2oz
  • Generic, thick synthetic mittens, 120g/4.2oz
  • Enlightened Equipment Sidekicks, 2oz Climashield Apex, 10D/10D nylon, size x-large, 45g/1.6oz
I've already explained the whole WPB use in winter above, so I would only note that for rain pants I suggest you save your money and go for something cheaper--especially if you like to go off-trail and/or bushwhacking, like I do.  From my experiences pants seem to get more wear-and-tear than other garments, so no need to blow your dough on fancy pants.  And the performance of the newer generations of generic WPB are pretty close to the name brand versions.  

That being said, because you sweat more from your torso (especially arm pits for many people), you might want to invest a bit more cash in a nicer WPB top with an emphasis on the "breathable" part.  If a hard shell doesn't breath well, water vapor that is trapped in say down insulation layers will not only make things clammy and uncomfortable, but will also decrease loft, and thus you will be less warm.

Next up are some medium thick nylon hiking pants for warmth and to wick moisture, followed by ye olde merino wool base layer, which depending on how cold it is may be packed as a sleep/camp layer.  Also don't miss my winter hiking shoes of choice (kind of hidden on my pants in the picture above), which are warm and super comfy.  Only problem with them is that they are so warm I can only wear them when it's really cold out, otherwise they are too warm.

The rest of the extras are fairly self-explanatory.  The cap may seem strange to some people for use in the winter, but after years of using an alpaca or wool hat while hiking in the winter, I've found more utility and comfort in using a trucker or baseball cap, so long as you have hooded tops.  Trucker/baseball caps block sun, helps to keep snow out of your face, and also helps to keep hoods out of the way of your field of vision.  The hoods negate the problem of cold ears, and if it gets really windy and/or cold, then the buff can be pulled up over the ears if needed.

Total weight of all my winter clothing: 4075g/9lbs

Not bad if you ask me, considering that includes all clothing worn (including boots!) and packed garments too, and that this will mos def keep me toasty down to -10C/14F.  I'd be warm enough with everything on down to around -15C/5F, perhaps even a bit colder.

Spring (and Fall/Early Winter)

Now on to my spring outfit, which I'd also use in the fall and even into early winter if it is mild enough.  As before, first the tops:

Left to right:
  • Golite poncho/tarp, 200g/7oz (or my MLD poncho tarp, 300g/10.6oz, depending on what shelter system I am using)
  • Enlightened Equipment Torrid jacket, size large, 20D/10D nylon, 285g/10.1oz
  • Borah Gear down vest, size large, 105g/3.7oz
  • Generic, medium polyester hoody, size large, 385g/13.6oz
  • Generic, thin merino wool base layer, 185g/6.5oz
For the trip I have planned in the spring I'll be taking another tarp and use the Golite tarp as the front door/vestibule of my shelter system.  And of course it's rain gear and a pack cover too.  Other trips with different conditions and I will take my other poncho/tarp listed above.  This Golite poncho is another piece of gear that I've had for about half a decade, and it has had a lot of good use.

The Torrid is a new addition to my lineup, and so far I've been very impressed with it.  Warmer than I expected--slightly warmer than my circa 2013 version Montbell UL down jacket--and comfortable, it has been a pleasure to test out on day hikes and to work.  I want to take it out on a few trips before I do a full review, but so far so good.  I added a pull-tab on the zipper to make it easier to open and close.  One minor complaint is that the zipper is pretty tiny and a bit tricky to use on its own, but it's an easy fix.

The Borah vest is another personal favorite that's served me quite well over the past four years I've owned it.  For it's low weight, it really packs a punch of warmth, and it's normally tucked away in my pack for sleep/camp/cold snap use.

Found a slightly lighter weight (non-gridded) poly hoody in the bargain bin at a sporting goods store and couldn't resist.  It's nearly as warm as the grid poly hoody I have, and fits better under the Torrid as a mid layer, so glad I scored it.

Finally a newer, thinner wool base layer for warmer temps.  I'm a big fan of merino wool, you may have noticed.

On to the bottoms and extras:

Left to right:
  • Silnylon rain pants, 80g/2.8oz
  • MLD eVent gaiters, 60g/2.1oz
  • Generic, thin nylon hiking pants with DIY silnylon knee patches, 380g/13.4oz
  • Generic, medium merino wool base layer, 195g/6.9oz
  • Lems Boulder Boot in leather, 750g/26.5oz
  • Generic, thin merino boxers, 65g/2.3oz
  • Generic, medium merino wool glove liners, 35g/1.2oz
  • Generic, thin synthetic work gloves, 40g/1.4oz
  • Generic, medium merino wool hiking socks, 70g/2.5oz (x2)
  • Trucker cap, poly and mesh, 60g/2.1oz
  • Custom made thin merino hat, 30g/1.1oz
  • Smartwool medium merino wool buff, 50g/1.8oz
  • Enlightened Equipment Sidekicks, 2oz Climashield Apex, 10D/10D nylon, size x-large, 45g/1.6oz
As before, most of these items are pretty self explanatory and/or have been commented on already.  So I won't go into too much detail here.  

The hiking pants are yet another garment that I've been using for about half a decade, and they have been remarkably durable, especially from a generic brand.  I've put a few small patches of Zpack's nylon tape on a few small holes, but it was not until recently that I got the idea to sew--or rather, my awesome wife was kind enough to sew for me!--some knee patches of some silnylon I had laying around.  This will keep my knees dryer while kneeling, no more soggy knees after staking out my tarp in damp moss!

This spring combo of clothing will keep me toasty down to -2C/28F, and warm enough down to about -6C/21F and perhaps a bit more.

The grand total weight of my spring clothing: 3090g/6.8lbs

El Fin

That brings this big clothing breakdown to an end.  If you've enjoyed it or found it useful, as I mentioned earlier, my two summer outfits will also get broken down in a future post.  As always, feel free to ask questions or give feedback.  And same old disclaimer: I'm still not sponsored, still never got any free gear, and still no ads on my blog.

Happy trails to you this winter and spring seasons, and make sure to keep warm out there!

*Update 18/02/2017: Fixed up some minor typos and formatting errors.  Also just came back from a short section hike, and wanted to report that my winter clothing line up worked out great!  I was very comfy hiking in roughly -2C/28F temps in moderate snowfall, and never had to layer up all the way.  The down puffy stayed in my pack until camp, and at camp I had no need to put the hard shell over the down puffy.  So I'm confident that I would be toasty to my given limit of -10C/14F and would survive beyond it to around -15C/5F.

*Update 27/05/2018: I recently did a breakdown of my summer clothing, which also includes a video where I talk about my clothing choices (and possible alternatives) in detail.  Check it out here!