I figured with it being mid-June that I should probably start putting some thoughts into the 2012 shoulder and winter hiking season. If you have been following my articles for very long you know I am not a big fan of that white stuff that so many others seem to enjoy so much, and thankfully here in the Redwoods of Northern California we do not get a lot of it.
Earlier today I was catching up on some fellow hiker articles and one of my favorite hikers from New Zealand posted a article about his planned base-layer for the rest of the year, and that is what got me thinking that it is getting close to that time of the year where I need to start planning my own setup.
So below I will outline what I am planning at this point in time for my 2012 shoulder and winter hiking season clothing setup. I would love to have other hikers out there who are planning and writing up their own shoulder/winter gear lists drop me a comment with your own setup! Each year the hiking industry is getting larger and larger and I am sure there is gear out there that some of you are using that I have no idea even exists and could be better than what I am planning to use!!
How Things Are Changing For Me This Year:
The 2012 year has taken me in a direction I had never expected when it comes to clothing. More and more, it has seemed, I have been lead to start researching clothing that is designed for runners and bikers. I think the reason for this is two-fold, but I am still not sure about either of these points, because I honestly have not figured out the ‘why’ at this point. The first reason is that over the last half-decade, much as we have seen in the hiking industry, the running industry has really exploded with some amazing clothing options. We hikers who are out there with lightweight trail running shoes have runners to thank for this (say for example fell runners) as they have been the industry really pushing for lighter weight shoes. The same goes with moisture wicking clothing. Two prime examples of this would be the GoLite Wildwood shirt and Mountain Hardware Way2Cool shirt which are truly amazing shirts at helping to pull your sweat away from your body.
The shoes that I use, the Inov-8 X-Talon-212 were designed for off-road racers (for those unaware, it is pronounced “cross-talon” and not “x”, the “cross” meaning it is designed for cross terrain environmental) and I had never even heard of them until a hiker with over 15,000 miles hiking had shared that he had been using them for a few years and had fallen in love with them. When I first looked them up I was thinking the guy was crazy, but awhile later I found them on sale and bought a pair, and now I have nearly 3,000 miles of hiking using them.
The base layer shirt that I use is the aforementioned Mountain Hardware Way2Cool t-shirt. It is crazy light (a little over 100 grams) which is sadly a bit heavier than the GoLite Wildwood (at 80 grams), but GoLite has not had anything but black colored versions of this shirt in stock for a very long time, and I am not going to wear an all black shirt when it is 80+ degrees outside – plus most runners have switched over to the MH W2C shirt, so that was another sign that I should go with it, and I am glad I did. It has worked very well for me. Eventually I will get around to writing a full article review on this base layer shirt.
So this is just two of many examples where I have found myself going into the ‘runners world’ in order to find gear that suites my needs as a SUL/XUL hiker.
Sorry if that all of that seems a bit off-topic, I just felt I should explain why some of my gear looks a little odd to those who use traditional hiking clothing gear.
Planned 2012 Shoulder/Winter Gear:
So here is the gear that I plan to use this shoulder and winter season, though as always it can change in an instant should some item prove to no longer be viable.
After a number of years of being a die-hard Black Rock Gear lover, owning both the Original and the Hadron I have finally decided to switch things up. For the better part of two or three years I have been asking BRG to come out with a hat that has ear covers (think a bomber style hat, that has flaps that protect your ears) and so far they have not released one, not that I expect companies to build a product just for me, but it seems like this would have been a rather simple addition to the design and could have given us shoulder/winter hikers a bit of wind protection and ear warmth at a minimal addition of weight.
Instead I have decided to go with the The North Face Windstopper High Point Hat. It is heavier at 84.9 grams but it gives my ears protection from the wind and keeps my head just as warm as the BRG hats have. This results in an additional 57.9 grams (2.04 ounces) of weight for the shoulder/winter season, but the additional protection from the wind on my ears and neck play key roles in keeping my core-temperature regulated.
Core Body: (top)
This has changed drastically since the 2011 hiking season for me. For the last few years my top layer system has been (from body outward): Patagonia Capilene 1 Silkweight Crew, than the Patagonia Capilene 3 and the Mont-bell U.L. Down Inner Parka.
I have now made the switch away from Patagonia and over to Icebreaker, so my 2012 layer system (from body outward): Mountain Hardware Way2Cool, than the Icebreaker Long Sleeve Chase Zip Multisport 200 (I think this has been discontinued, so the link is to amazon, which still seems to have it), than the Icebreaker 260 Midweight Tech Top. And than rather than using the MBULDIP the decision to go with the Black Rock Gear Vest combined with the Jacks R Better Sleeves is a whole new approach for me.
The decision to move away from a full jacket to a vest has been simple for trial purposes. This will be my first winter using a vest so it might not work out very well for me. By adding the down sleeves the weight for these two items together is less than what the MB Parka is – but heavier when you factor in the North Face Windstopper, as the vest does not have a hood. The down sleeves can also be duel-purpose items, such as additional warmth for my feet or legs, as a little extra comfort as a pillow, or whatever.
The decision to move away from Patagonia Capilene to Icebreaker was not an easy choice. Icebreaker is rather expensive gear. I have also had amazing results from the Patagonia Cap3 system (four years with the same set of uppers/lowers) but after I put on my first Icebreaker top I was pretty much convinced right there on the spot that I was going to make the switch. The comfort is unbelievably amazing, the way it moves with your body is much smoother than the Patagonia Cap, the thumb loops are a delight to have when you are trying to put on and take off a bunch of layers in the cold weather, and so far they seem to be handle multi-day hikes without stinking up as well as my Patagonia Capilene shirts have.
The use of the Way2Cool shirt is something that may or may not work out. For the summer time it has so far worked out very well. How that shirt works when it has two layers above it will be something I will have to determine once the snow starts falling. I truly do love the Patagonia Capilene 1 Silkweight Crew so I might end up taking it simply as a dedicated sleeping top.
I will be sticking with what I have the last few years for my lower body. The ExOfficio Give-N-Go Boxer, Patagonia Capilene 3 Bottoms, and of course the Mont-bell Dynamo Wind pants (read my review on them).
Given the price of the Icebreakers I did not make the switch to them for lower body layers. They are rather expensive and even I have a limit on what I am willing to spend on something. If Icebreaker were to ever sponsor me I would without a doubt be using them.
I do not wear rain pants, that just seems like a stupid amount of weight to be carrying. Your legs are eventually going to get wet. Deal with it. If you find that your core-temperature is causing you problems because you are wet, set up your shelter and get into your sleeping bag. Problem solved. Lost mileage because of the need to protect your core-temp is just a fact of hiking at some point in your hiking life.
I am sticking with the same setup that I did in 2011. The New Zealand made Possum/Merino gloves, the Black Rock Gear Undermitts, and the Block Rock Gear Overmitts. I have not encountered a situation where they did not provide me with enough protection to keep my hands warm and dry. If it is so cold that these items are unable to do so, I would just rather not be outside anyway, just to be honest.
While hiking I use the aforementioned Inov-8 X-Talon-212 shoes. For socks I switch it up between a pair of Darn Tough No-Show Mesh Coolmax Running socks (I prefer Coolmax over the Merino due to its ability to dry quicker) and a pair of Injinji Performance Series Midweight Toesocks. Mostly what determines which pair I use each day is how abusive I know the trail will be. For sleeping I use a pair of Injinji Performance Series Lightweight NoShow socks. Because I apply Hydropel to my feet every night, I do not like getting the inside of my bag all covered with it, so I just slip on a pair of very light weight and highly breathable pair of socks after I have applied the Hydropel (for those wondering, yes I have tried the other stuff out there, and Hydropel, though it is more expensive, continues to prove itself to me.) When the weather gets really cold and beyond the rating limit of my sleeping bag I will pull out my Feathered Friends Down Booties. Some of you who have followed me for a few years might remember that I have usually carried with me SealSkin socks as a tool to help keep my foot warmth regulated (a trick I learned from some tripple crowners) but I have switched away from SealSkin and am now using NRS Wetsocks. I use them while hiking if I discover my feet are starting to get really cold. They have pretty much zero purpose at keeping water out of my socks and shoes, however like the SealSkin, due to the layering material within them, they provide a microclimate that helps keep your feet temperature regulated.
An eventual goal of mine is to find a way to do a ten day hike that is SUL (base pack weight of under 5 pounds) but without buying a whole new sleeping system I am just not sure that is going to be possible. The last few years my winter season BPW has been 5.3 pounds to 6.4 pounds and without spending a lot of money on a new sleeping bag and such, I just do not see how it would be possible at this point in my hiking experience.
I think if anything where to be on my winter wish list it would probably be:
ZPacks 10-degree Wide/Long sleeping bag with a draft tube. 685 grams (1.51 pounds).
And if I went with the ZPacks sleeping bag I would have to buy a hood because it lacks a hood, so my choice for a down hood would be (and unquestionably, without any hesitation at all) the Nunatak Down Balaclava, which is 113 grams (4 ounces) in the Epic material (and a hiker might as well go with the Epic material so you can wear it while hiking in the snow/rain if you find you need too).
Together these two items would be 798 grams (1.75 pounds), verses my true love, the Mont-bell U.L. Super Spiral #1, which is 1,048 grams (2.5 pounds), so that change alone would save me a half pound (8.8 ounces) which is a rather significant amount in trying to break that 5 pound mark for a full on winter weather setup. It would be an expensive change though, at $531 dollars before shipping costs. It is, however, well over a hundred dollars more than the luxury of the MBULSS#1 sleeping bag, if you do not have any winter setup and have to buy all new gear.
That gives a good overview of the gear that I plan to use this shoulder/winter season and hopefully a bit of explanations for each item.
Again if you have posted your own 2012 shoulder/winter hiking setup, please take a moment to post a comment to this article with a link to yours!! And again, thanks to my friend over in NZ for posting his to get all of this started!
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I think I will create a series of articles, all based on preparing for the Shoulder/Winter season, with this first one being on ‘Clothing’, and next could be ones on my Sleeping Setup, Safety Gear, and Ditty Bag items. Could be a fun four part series!
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