Dec 4, 2010 at 11:21 am #1266232
I've been trying to piece together advice from the various forum posts on clothing for winter camping along the AT (mostly in VA). I'm specifically looking for a flexible, but warm, top layering system. Last winter, I used the following in dead of winter here (20's F during day, and high single digits at night) and was OK, if a little cold (mostly at camp in the evening, and mostly my hands):
Base: Under Armour Cold Gear
Mid (if needed): Columbia soft shell
Shell: REI Shuksan
Stopped (add to Columbia mid layer):
Heavy synthetic crew of some sort (I can't remember brand)
No name fleece layer
This year, I want to get rid of heavy mid layers. So gear will be:
Base: Icebreaker Mondo Zip (200 g/m2)
Shell: REI Shuksan ( I know I could go lighter here, that's for another winter :) )
I'm generally pretty good dealing with cold, and as mentioned elsewhere on this forum, while hiking, I can generally get away with just base layer and shell down to pretty low temps. But need more warmth when stopped (and to go any lower on temps generally). I think it makes sense to go with a puffy here in terms of warmth/weight, and I really like the look of and the reviews on MontBell insulating gear. Any advice on which to get (I'm generally leaning towards down)? I care about weight, but moreso about flexibility in layering warmth. I'm mostly going to be using this in VA, but when I take trips to the mountains further North East or out west, I'd like to be able to layer whatever I get (maybe add a R1/R2 fleece, or another puffy?) to meet those conditions as well. The Down Inner and Ex Light look like good candidates, but I wonder if I need more warmth (if mainly used at camp) from something like the Alpine Light? Also, I see the synthetic thermawrap mentioned a lot as well here, but that seems as more of a secondary midlayer?
As for quick glove advice, I have smart wool glove liners, and MH Jalapeno gloves. I like layering and less bulkiness, but definitely need more warmth than last year (mitts on top?)
Any thoughts on the above would be really helpful! I can clarify as needed. ThanksDec 4, 2010 at 4:37 pm #1670855
Steven ParisBPL Member
@saparisorLocale: Pacific Northwest
Just suggestions, working outward from your Icebreaker top:
A lightweight down vest (like a Patagonia Nano weight)
A hooded wind jacket, like a Patagonia Houdini.
A Primaloft-insulation top (Thermawrap or maybe an EB/First Ascent Igniter, especially for the price).
Keep the Shuksan eVent jacket.
This might give you a lot of versatility, from a cold start (wool top, vest and wind jacket), to hiking (wool top and wind jacket) to stops (throw on synthetic top) to camp (just the vest + shuksan or primaloft + shuksan, etc).
For gloves, I'd add a light shell layer for wind over the smartwools, but at those temps I'd bring an additional warmer glove for camp.Dec 4, 2010 at 4:54 pm #1670862
Josh NewkirkBPL Member
I have both the thermawrap and the alpine light. I plan on using the thermawrap more for breaks on day hikes and use the alpine light for night time and stuff on overnighters during the winter. I think the alpine light would be more useful in your situation unless you wanted both for versatility.
Gloves, i guess you could get a pair of fleece gloves to go under your shells and over your liners.Dec 4, 2010 at 7:28 pm #1670919
@ken_bennettLocale: southeastern usa
The Montbell jackets are awesome, however in my experience the Down Inner isn't warm enough for me at single digits in camp. Just not enough puffiness. For winter I use an old Sierra Designs down jacket that weighs 25 ounces and is plenty warm.
For those sorts of temps (20s over single digits), while hiking I wear a wool long sleeve base layer and a Marmot Driclime jacket, light windbloc n2s gloves, and a light fleece beanie. In camp I put on a microfleece top — something like a 100 weight base layer — then the down jacket, then a rain shell if needed. Heavier mitts, w/b overmitts, and a heavier fleece balaclava for my hands and head.Dec 5, 2010 at 4:05 pm #1671153
Thanks for the advice.
So, one concern with the Alpine Light in terms of flexibility is how warm/heavy (relatively so) it is. I can see the Down Inner being used 3+ seasons around camp (and a no brainer to toss in any pack), whereas the Alpine Light seems too warm to use (or just too large to carry for the warmth needed) above say, 40 degrees. I guess a question I have is what can I layer that will equate the down inner parka's warmth with the Alpine Light Parka's warmth? Perhaps a R1 hoody, a thermawrap, or a warmer vest to go under the down inner parka? I will almost always have the Icebreaker Mondo Zip on below, and the eVent shell on top.
ThanksDec 5, 2010 at 4:58 pm #1671172
Allen ButtsBPL Member
@butts0989Locale: Northern Rockies
That may work but the fact is unless you have the alpine light you're not going to have the same loft with anything else. For winter camping it is a great feature to have a hood as well, an extra ounce or so for a good deal of comfort. If you've never owned any of mont-bell's clothing before I can assure you you will be very pleased with the quality and feel.Dec 5, 2010 at 5:13 pm #1671178
I've come to the conclusion (maybe the wrong one :)) that for those kind of temps you really need a dedicated "winter" down parka. I have MB Ex Light (very similar iclo to the UL inner) and it's a great jacket, but even w/ a decent mid layer (R1) and a shell- it's not enough
The Alpine Light on the other hand (combined w/ a mid layer and shell) should be. While the Alpine Light is "too much" for most 3 season endeavors, it should be fine for shoulder seasons and winter. If it was really cold, I'd throw in the Ex Light to layer under the Alpine Light- hopefully I won't be out much in those temps :)Dec 5, 2010 at 5:15 pm #1671179
I'll add for hands- I use a smartwool glove liner w/ OR Endeavor overmitts and throw in OR PL400 mitts to boot.Dec 5, 2010 at 7:21 pm #1671218
thanks for the advice…I think you guys are right – I'm trying to stretch my layers a bit too far in this case (hard to get enough iclo in general, let alone while not looking like the Michelin man)
That being said, before ruling out the Down Inner Parka for good, has anyone successfully done that layering (and if so, what garments underneath)?
So, say I get the Alpine Light Down Parka, you're probably right that that's all I need in shoulder seasons and the winters as described above (lower temps would require another layer, but like you said, not sure I want to be experiencing that :) ) What recommendations for staying warm on cool-cold summer nights in the mountains (30-50's maybe)? Do you use a puffy (if so, which one) under your wind shirt, or just the R1?Dec 5, 2010 at 7:31 pm #1671223
Jeff I use the Ex Light for almost all three season stuff- my base layers are either Merino 1 or Cap LS shirts- ex light over that at camp (cool stops), I'd add my Houdini over that if cooler yet (or breezy)- that's done me just fine to about freezing (that's w/ a beanie/gloves and R1 bottoms as well)
I think Will used a combo of a ex light w/ a WM Flash over for some pretty cold stuff- still two jackets and the Alpine Light would be warmer than the FlashDec 6, 2010 at 10:27 am #1671372
Mike, thanks so much for the great info. So, with the Ex Light, you don't even bring the R1 during 3 season? That'd be nice to just have base, light compactable puffy, and windshirt. I guess then you add the R1 to go lower in shoulder seasons, and once it hits a certain point, you bring your winter parka?
In terms of 3 season, I do think I might go for the down inner instead of the Ex Light for the hand warmer pockets (despite increased weight), and a bit more durability because of thicker outer fabric. Thoughts on those two things?Dec 6, 2010 at 10:47 am #1671378
Hiking MaltoBPL Member
I use a LS cap 1 base down to about freezing while hiking. The only addition that I generally will make is a windshirt if it raining/windy/really cold. When stopped I have a ex light and I can add the windshirt on top for some extra warmth along with gloves/liners and headgear. This setup is also my normal winter snowshoeing gear but I will add two caveats: I rarely stop and sit around and second because I go solo I am somewhat of a fair weather snowshoer and won't venture into the sierras if the weather is heading south.
I wouldn't hestitate to take this setup anywhere on the AT from VA south.Dec 6, 2010 at 5:09 pm #1671537
exactly- R1 isn't added until shoulder seasons/winter- then typically lose the ex light and replace w/ a warmer down parka
if you go for the UL inner (which I think is a fine choice- it's still VERY light!) I'd go w/ the parka version- having a hood, even in 3 season use can be very handy- if the ex light had that option I would have opted it for it
hand warmer pockets are nice too :)Dec 6, 2010 at 6:42 pm #1671578
@mzionLocale: Boulder, CO
I might be a little tolerant for discomfort in the cold but I just use a Montbell Ex. Light down jacket in conjunction with a wind shirt. If I need more insulation I just wrap up in my quilt. Your sleeping bag or quilt probably the warmest thing you're carrying, might as well use it for more than just sleeping in.Dec 6, 2010 at 8:00 pm #1671618
That's interesting – what kind of conditions have you comfortably experienced with the exlight + wind shell + your quilt around camp? And what about moving around trying to get things done with the quilt wrapped around you – any issues?Dec 6, 2010 at 10:46 pm #1671676
@mzionLocale: Boulder, CO
Sorry I forgot to mention I do use a Cap 3 base layer top too! But using the quilt to compensate for the cold has worked for me down to single digits out here in the CO Rockies and the teens in Washington's Olympics. Wrapping up in a quilt does get in the way with tasks like cooking but for just about anything else it certainly makes more sense to me to use the quilt than carry another jacket that I would only wear while in camp. If your looking for a more 'freedom of movement', Jacks R Better's quilts are designed for multi use.
Obviously, this is just my $0.02. I prefer to spend most of my day walking, especially during the colder months, and minimize the time I have to allow my body to cool down.
By the way, what part of VA will you be frequenting? Southern VA (Mt Rogers area) should be a lot colder than say Shenandoah. Spent several years stationed in VA Beach. I have a lot of love for VA and her mountains!Dec 7, 2010 at 12:11 pm #1671821
eric chanBPL Member
just look at it this way .. they're both 3 season jackets
UL inner … spring, summer, fall
ML alpine light down … colder spring/fall, winter
both together … colder winterDec 9, 2010 at 10:58 am #1672607
Thanks for all the advice. I actually ordered both jackets (no place around here to try them on in store), and am going to do some testing in the cold tonight. Might be dangerous move since I could end up loving both…
First impressions are "my god, how are these this light?!" – I can't even imagine the Ex-light. It's like wrapping myself in a cloud. Really like the ultra inner's style, but alpine down definitely feels warmer. We'll see.
Re: Matthew – I live in Charlottesville, which is a great spot to frequent many of VA's (and WV/NC's) mountains. Most day hikes are in Shenendoah, and most multi-day trips are in George Washington National Forest. Plan on doing more time in Mount Rogers area this winter.
Re: Eric – great point!Dec 9, 2010 at 11:53 am #1672628
please post up your impressions when you get a chance :)
also let me know how fitment is- if they differ between jacketsDec 13, 2010 at 7:32 am #1673788
So, I honestly am being careful to not wear these 2 jackets too much, because I'm planning on sending one back and don't want anything to happen to it. But my impressions are:
Down Inner Parka:
Feel: Unbelievably light, like putting on a cloud…seems like magic that it can keep me so warm with such little material
Fit: It's fitted (which I like, as opposed to some other down sweaters) but I can easily fit other layers underneath. I'm 5'10"/150 and the length + arms are perfect and the chest fits fine (though another 10-15 pounds on me would make it perfect). Easily fits layers underneath and shell on top.
Look: Actually, this was surprising a point of contention. The royal blue is pretty shiny (and reading some reviews of other colors says the same), to the point of looking over the top – fine for camping, but not as good for around town/out to dinner. Not sure how this compares to the Ex-light. Also, my wife says that the vertical lines on the fitted style, in combo with the logo being at the bottom of the jacket, make it look sort of like a girl's jacket (not sure I agree, but there you go). Neither of these things is a dealbreaker, because I'm generally after function more than style, but I do want to feel good about wearing the jacket around town.
Function: It has only gotten down to around 25 here the last few nights, and this jacket works fine at those temps, particularly when I put up the hood. This was a test of sitting on my porch with just a base layer + this jacket (no hat or gloves even) for an hour. I wish I could test it at lower tempatures. I certainly deal with the cold pretty well, and I really want to know how low I can go with this. Packs up into a softbell – I can definitely see throwing it in my pack during any season or condition as a result.
Alpine Light Down:
Feel: Definitely light, but after holding the down inner, can really feel the 7 oz difference in weight. Again, feels really good wearing, but feels like you're wearing a coat, not a cloud. That being said, it also feels warmer because of the extra weight/down.
Fit: More fitting than other down jackets like Patagonia down sweater, but not as fitting as the Down Inner. Size/fit are about the same as above. Fits fine over layers, and under my shell (though I look a bit puffy in the latter case).
Look: I got the black, and it looks pretty good. Not nearly as shiny as the blue down inner (though I wonder if the other alpine light colors are). I also like the more traditional baffle design, and logo on the chest. The jacket is certainly puffy, but not Michelin Man level. I do wonder if I'll wear this around town as much as I would the Down Inner style as a result.
Function: Totally comfortable down to 25 sitting outside – again, felt a bit warmer than the down inner, but hard to tell since I was comfortable in both. As with above, I wish I could test lower temperatures, and layer combinations. Packs down pretty small, but only to about twice size of down inner – still light/relatively packable, but I begin to question ease of throwing it in my pack at any time.
I like both jackets, but I'm concerned about the closet test on the Down Inner because of its shininess to wear around town or out to dinner, and the Alpine Light Down because of its puffiness for non-really cold days, and for general usage. I really wish I knew how low I could push the Down Inner, esp. with layers (base + fleece + down inner + shell) because I seem more inclined to want to pack up / wear it all year round. The Alpine Light Down seems like something I'd wear primarily camping in dead of winter, and other than that, I wouldn't need that sort of warmth.
Still no decision – I think that if there was a black down inner parka (or similar non-super hero color/sheen), I'd keep that and see how low I could push the temps with my layering system (my hands are what I always have issues with, not my core). In that case, I'd buy something heavier to augment it, like the Alpine Light Down, as needed. The one pro of keeping the Alpine Light Down now is that I'm pretty confident in not hitting a bottom in terms of coldness with it + layers (at least in places that I would want to visit… -20 or higher). I'm thinking I can push the down inner + layers to 0, but I don't really know for sure. Will keep thinking about it for next few days before sending one back.
Hope this helps someone else. Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions!Dec 13, 2010 at 7:49 am #1673792
thanks for the comments :)
I just pulled the trigger on a Alpine Light (actually two- one for the wife too-prolitegear is having a 20% off sale))- we needed a cold weather puffy, no way around it. I probably could have gone even further down the road of warm, but I'm confident that w/ additional layers we'll be fine (quite frankly if the forecast calls for below 0 temps, we're not likely to be going :))
I see the Alpine Light getting the nod in the shoulder seasons as well (late fall/early spring), the ex lights get the nod the rest of the time
For around town in the winter, when your not overly active and don't usually have too much for layers- the Alpine Light will likely get the nod as well
Pretty tough in northern climes to get by w/ just one insulating (puffy) layer imoDec 13, 2010 at 9:01 am #1673816
As much as I want to fight it, I think you're right about needing the heavier down :)Dec 13, 2010 at 11:28 am #1673871
eric chanBPL Member
pick whichever one you like better
for winter though youll likely get more use from the alpine light
what you might want to consider is if it fits over the UL … that way in the future you can get a lighter exl and use that as a combo layer laterDec 13, 2010 at 11:37 am #1673875
^ that's a good idea :)Dec 19, 2010 at 7:21 am #1675608
if i was buying 1 coat for the winter months, i would opt on the coat that is a tad too warm over the coat that was a tad too cold… i can always unzip the warm one :D
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