Home › Forums › Campfire › Editor’s Roundtable › Mountain SuperUltraLight Backpacking – Going SUL in the Mountains with Adequate Shelter, Insulation, and Rain Protection. Part 2B: Selecting the Lightest, Most Functional Gear – Rainwear, Insulation, Headwear, Handwear, and Footwear
May 21, 2013 at 7:04 pm #1303215
@maiaLocale: Rocky MountainsMay 22, 2013 at 5:54 am #1988592
The Integral Designs gaiters (and other products) are apparently becoming Rab, since Rab's parent company bought Integral Designs. I bought a pair of the Integral Designs gaiters in March and received otherwise identical gaiters with a Rab logo.May 22, 2013 at 5:58 am #1988593
I'm impressed, and not a little intimidated, by just how light some of the gear in your survey is. I recently bought the lightest hooded down jacket I could find to try on in a shop (Rab Microlight Alpine), and it weighs about a pound. Your list is about half that or less.May 22, 2013 at 7:38 am #1988618
…May 22, 2013 at 9:08 am #1988655
@christownsendLocale: Cairngorms National Park
Good article Will. No mention of Inov8 shoes? Any reason for this?
PHD has just launched a new range of ultralight down clothing. I've got a Wafer Jacket on test – it weighs 185 grams (medium size). http://www.phdesigns.co.uk/product_info.php?products_id=355May 22, 2013 at 9:37 am #1988665
From my years of cycling, I've found that arm and leg warmers work great in the mountains. As I'm hiking uphill, my core is always putting out more heat than a nuclear furnace, yet my arms will get cold and clammy. I keep arm warmers handy to slip on when the cold winds blow down the canyons. I spend most of my hours in shorts, but when I am out in the wee hours, or headed downhill for extended periods, I pull on leg warmers. They are both designed to keep your muscles warm, yet they also breathe well. It would be nice to see both made from the new 4 way stretch breatheable waterproof fabric I've seen (I might make a pair myself). The arm warmers can also slide down over the hands to keep them toasty. Both are adjustable on the fly according to temperature and heat output. Both are very light.May 22, 2013 at 10:45 am #1988691
@dianodaLocale: Chicago, IL
Some other gear worth considering (that I happen to own and use):
Rainwear – Rab Pulse/Kinetic WPB Jackets (the pulse is also available in a pullover) – similar weight to the other options referenced in the article (7-8oz) – great hoods, pertex shield+, great construction, functional design.
Gloves – Icebreaker Realfleece Gloves – 100% merino, but with quite a bit of loft for the weight (44g for a size medium), and have proven to be quite durable.
Insulation – Stoic Hadron down anorak/cardigan – 2.3/2.0oz of 850fp, my men's medium cardigan weighs 194g – occasionally on sale for less than $100, these are probably the best UL insulation bargain I've ever seen.May 22, 2013 at 10:51 am #1988695
@josh_kuntzLocale: Idaho & Montana
Great article, thanks for the very clear data.
Regarding insulated bottoms, in cold weather I like to use a pair of down shorts. I found that I get nearly as much warmth from just shorts compared to the full pants, and obviously save weight. The groin area has a tremendous amount of blood flow and therefore creates a lot of heat and it makes sense that shorts will trap it in. I am certainly not an expert but I can't imagine that my legs from the knee down are creating/losing much heat.
I have not been able to find any companies that produce down shorts. I currently use an old pair of Cabelas down pants that I cut into shorts. They do their basic job of making me warmer but there is certainly plenty of room for improvement. Here is a list of some of the features that I think would be good to have. Please feel free to respond with any ideas/thoughts of your own.
1) Ultralight zippers on the outside of each leg so you could take them on/off quickly over your pants without removing shoes.
2) Drawstring closure at the bottom of each so you could cinch the shorts tight around the leg to minimize drafts and heat loss.
3) A durable enough fabric on the rear to allow for sitting without the risk of tearing.
4) Pocket or stuff sack that they can compress into.May 22, 2013 at 11:33 am #1988705
Great article – kind of consolidates major BPL tests of the past.
I use a very similar system. This summer, I will however try an experiment: I will ditch my phd down pants for my RAB generator primaloft vest. The idea being I can use it as an emergency insolator on trail (e.g. if my rain shell would fail or during serious flash off). My PHD minimus pull over is baggy enough to layer it.
Any (critical) comments are of course welcome.
As Chris T. mentioned: Inov8 would have been worth mentioning. Currently using the Trailroc245 and they rock indeed.May 22, 2013 at 11:47 am #1988710
@mikuLocale: Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
Wow. Thanks Will. Very comprehensive and very current. Great consolidation of information.
DerrickMay 22, 2013 at 1:57 pm #1988758
@aubothogmail-comLocale: Upper Midwest
what comes after SUL? geez.May 22, 2013 at 2:46 pm #1988787
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
My Patagucci Capilene 4 base layer bottoms are quite warm–certainly enough (when combined with the rest of my clothing) for stormy 3-season weather in the northern Rockies. I have several 100 weight fleece tops (for around home) and find the Cap 4 bottom fabric warmer. Mine (women's M) are 5.4 ounces. I imagine that would be about 6 oz., similar to Will's microfleece pants, in a men's large.May 22, 2013 at 3:14 pm #1988795
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
My bottom insulation stable includes silkweight base layer long johns, some Duofold polyester/merino wool layered long johns and for the cold stuff, a pair of Power Stretch bottoms. The lighter ones layer well with light soft shell pants for cold wet shoulder season stuff and they all work great with rain pants. The Power Stretch bottoms make the best back country pajamas around.
I do prefer layering vs monolithic insulated bottoms, but I don't get into snow camping, just miserably cold and wet :)May 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm #1988813
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
"what comes after SUL? geez."
extreme ultralight.May 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm #1988817
@butukiLocale: Kanto Plain, Japan
I have not been able to find any companies that produce down shorts.
Montbell makes down shorts. Also a down short-sleeve T-shirt, which I have.May 22, 2013 at 5:19 pm #1988828
I've used the Montbell down shorts for some years, they are real useful and perform well.May 23, 2013 at 1:27 am #1988966
No mention of ponchos in this article. I have tried different raingear system and am a convert to the 200g mountain poncho described on this site. I had it sewn to cover the groin area. This is perfect and sufficient for 90% of rainy conditions. Superb ventilation, speed of deployment, and ease of use (particularly doing various tasks while walking go without stopping). I can even tuck my head and arms inside and look at maps without taking it off or worrying about getting maps/smartphone wet. In colder rain I also take MYOG silnylon chaps and VB socks. The whole combo weighs about 300g and is a LOT cheaper and, I believe, more practical than the systems reviewed here.
Also, regarding handwear. I am a believer in mitts with a retracting finger box. It's inconvenient to have to keep taking off the gloves to do tasks (poking smartphone screen for map reading; clipping flashlight to tarp clip; assembling stove, etc.). My moderately windproof fleece mitts are so much more convenient than PossumDown, as much as I like the feel (and they also require an additional windproof layer for cold/very windy conditions).
I realize that preferences differ, but these are mine after a year total of mountain backpacking over the past 6 years :) Among the items/systems I've rejected are: poncho-tarps (2 models; clumsy tie-out storage; poor poncho functionality), eVent rainjacket, goretex socks (stinky, slow dry), rain mitts (for most conditions at least, I now just tuck mitts into poncho sleaves or use umbrella), merino wool baselayers (low insulation quality per weight; unduly expensive, nondurable; switched to PowerDry baselayer and very pleased after 100+ days of use).
NOTE: I'm referring to Roger Caffin's "mountain poncho" design, for which MYOG instructions can be found in a detailed article here at BPL. It's suitable for any kind of rain, including horizontal.May 23, 2013 at 3:40 am #1988977
I tried ponchos. As long as there is no strong wind driven rain, great for (lengthy) walks. Weighs virtually nothing. Ditched it however, after I got soaked after a stormy walk with strong horizontal rain along some mountain ridges @ Lake District. So yes, good in 90% of situations, but hell during the other 10%.
WimMay 23, 2013 at 4:09 am #1988980
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> hell during the other 10%.
Nah, just wrong sort of poncho.
CheersMay 23, 2013 at 4:41 am #1988983
Ponchos look OK so long as they're not ponchos. If they have sleeves, and a hood, and a zip up the front, and a drawcord waist, and maybe tie-ons for each leg like a duster or drover's coat… i.e. they're a bit like Roger's MYOG raincoat that he called a "poncho", then yeah. They provide a free pack cover, and they work with chaps to keep your smelly bits ventilated.
Actual ponchos, pass.May 23, 2013 at 6:04 am #1988997
Yes, that's precisely the sort of poncho I have, based on the Roger Caffin's article of some years back: full-length sleaves, drawcord around the bottom, covers pack fully, front zip with velcro, and seam sealed. I wouldn't consider a poncho without these features.
Here's the link to that article, once more: MYOG mountain poncho
Roger, you need to set up a little cottage industry to produce those ponchos!:) or set up some sort of agreement with an existing producer. Everyone should have one of those:)May 23, 2013 at 10:49 am #1989114
granted, I used a the golite poncho/tarp (sleeveless).May 23, 2013 at 1:13 pm #1989174
Wim, I've used the Golite poncho too. The difference in functionality between that and the mountain rain poncho is very substantial… In the Golite, you have ends flapping about in the wind and you have to hold onto the lower parts with your hands, you often can't see your feet well, and your sides and arms are likely to get wet. The mountain rain poncho is a totally different experience.May 23, 2013 at 2:19 pm #1989195
"I have tried different raingear system and am a convert to the 200g mountain poncho described on this site."
I probably missed it in the article but you say it's only 200g? That's pretty impressive compared to Packa's advertised 13oz (368g). Any issues besides a hunchback when wearing it without the pack?
Edit: Re read the article and yup, I missed the very conspicuously posted weight.May 23, 2013 at 2:32 pm #1989202
Yes, 200g for my version of it. I rarely wear it without a pack. It's floppy in the back without one and the arm holes drift forward further down the arms. It's certain okay though.
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