Whatever the layers my be, I definitely take the approach that the innermost layer must be the item I always wear, and any other layers go over it in sequence and come off in sequence, so I never have to take off one item, then remove the one under it, and replace the one that was one the outside. I like it that way for simplicity's sake. I summer, I start with shorts and long sleeve wicking shirt. I hike in that no matter how hot it gets, and I might add a shell if its windy or for rain. I carry one warm layer in the summer, mostly just an expedition weight long underwear zip-t. If I could afford it this would get replaced with a light down jacket, but can't swing that now. For the legs, I have windpants which very rarely get used during the day except for bug protection in camp. But if I do need them they will go over my current shoes. I also have long johns but they are only for in camp.
For ski trips, the base is light long johns under shorts under wind pants, and the same long sleeve shirt as the summer (except it's white for the ski trips - can't wear the white in the summer because it gets too filthy). If it gets really warm, as is often does in the spring on the snow, I will take off the wind pants, and if really warm the shorts too for maximum ventilation. But the long johns stay on for sun protection (they must be white or you'll fry in that high-altitude sun on the snow). On top I may add shell or sometimes the expedition weight zip-t if it's colder or windy. I have puffy jacket and pants for in camp or at lunch.
So I am layering but I do have only one warmth layer in the summer in the sierra, which suits me fine. I generate lots of heat when I am hiking, and a shell is the warmest thing I ever need to wear on the move. So the warmth layer is only for when I am not hiking - lunch or camp, and it can't really be too warm as long as it can be unzipped - only too heavy in the pack. I don't consider the risk of getting my one warmth layer wet an issue in the Sierra - it never has to come out when I am moving, and I have no trouble keeping dry if I am stopped. If I were in a wetter climate and felt that to be an issue, I'd go with synthetic insulation. My puffy stuff is synthetic, mostly because it's homemade and I did not want to deal with down in a MYOG project, but also because it's for snow camping and the risk of getting it wet is higher.
I went to school in Colorado in the seventies, and down was the thing. In extreme cold, when x-country skiing, I wore thermal underwear, a pullover sweatshirt (somewhat light as they go), down vest, and a 60/40 shell parka with hood. I had a full down coat in my pack. Today, I backpack in VA and WV, mostly 3 season but get in some winter camping and snowshoeing when we are graced with a little snow. My basic load is fleece - longjohns still (silk rather than the wool fishnet I used to use), pullover lightweight polar tech, polyester, or powerflite shirt, fleece vest or jacket, with whichever I don't wear in my pack, and an REI taku jacket, which makes a versatile wardrobe. For the pants, I have a Mountain Hardware brand of outer winter pant that zips all the way up the side, eliminating the hassle of boots on and off. I also have a pair of cheaper fleece pants, that I use more often actually, that also zip up the side but only to just below the knee. With high gaiters, my bottom is taken care of. In this climate I usually hike in, there is little use for a lot of cold weather layering, and it is easier to err on the side of being too hot than cold. I honeymooned this November in Iceland, and I used the same ensemble I use here, just most all of it: longjohns, pullover polar tech, fleece jacket, parka shell; handwear - smartwool mittens with breakaway palms (you know, for fishing and active outdoor sports); headwear - fleece monkeyhat from REI (I bought an Icelandic sheepwool hat that I will use often now)over a light synthetic balaclava (in my parka pocket - I added it when the wind started really biting my face); feet - mukluks (arctic model, Steger). I have found that the key to warmth is feet, head, and hands. Keep those warm and the rest of the body is easier to manage. In Iceland I stood out in freezing night blizzard conditions toasty warm and happy thanks to mukluks and balaclava/hat combination. My layers are light, easy to carry and put on or strip off. Fleece is a workhorse and will take a lot of abuse. It drys fast as well. I love the side-zip pants for serious mountain cold conditions, but they are a bit bulky to just carry. I also like one piece coveralls, but since I overheat easily I don't own them, just have rented occasionally for day hikes and skiing.
I have viewed and explained "layering" as taking the right mix of clothing for the weather one expects to encounter, taking into account abnormal storms/temps and one's own physiology.
I layer differently than my hiking buddies because I generate enormous amounts of heat while walking around even in my everyday life. Whilst hiking I generally wear a wicking tee and have a lightweight long sleeve handy. That long sleeve may be a lightweight merino, or a button down hiking type shirt.
Even ascending 12k ft I am generally in my t shirt and when I "summitted" Humphreys (in AZ) I was in a sleeveless mesh nike shirt. Wasn't cold one bit for the hour plus I was up there. Most everyone around me had on some kind of puffy. I was hot as all git out.
Temps in camp have to get >50 before I am ready for more than a tee.
....just take whatever works for you (lightweight, of course!) and get out there and enjoy yourself... sheesh
We wonder wheather layering is the answer - then we say wearing anything is layering. This is pretty much a load of BS folks, trying to avoid the question.
The question is "should you carry a lot of (thinner) layers to put on and take off as the weather changes?" The operative part is "a lot of thin layers". The idea being that many thin layers are more adjustable.
Frankly back to the OP I think the answer to your sacred cow challenge is "NO, the layering concept was somehow one of those "good ideas" that should die and go away. It has no value because it doesn't mean anything. Its like the idea that you will stay found if you own a compass. A myth or a non-statement - sort of like political fact... Jim
Edited by Jimshaw (07/06/1310:40 PM)
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.
I agree - worrying about whether you are, in fact, "layering" in the classical sense is pointless. You carry enough of the right clothing for the season and area you hike in, and don't worry about whether you're properly classifying it. (This goes only for practice; if you're teaching a newcomer to the sport, the descriptive term "layers" is a nice shorthand to help him/her grasp the concept.)
As I'm continuing to move toward my dotage, I'm finding that technical classifications aren't really meaningful. This was brought home to me with a recent pack change. I kept trying to figure out whether my Atmos 50 was an "internal frame" or "external frame"; it has elements of both. Then I realized: it doesn't matter. The pack fits me better than anything I've used, and does everything I need it to do. What I call it is irrelevant.
Caarrying the concept further: does it matter whether the filter I use is "gravity" or "pump"? (The Sawyer Squeeze has elements of both.) Does it matter whether my stove is "gas" or "liquid"? But I'll quit there, for fear of hijacking the thread.
Loc: Portland, OR
Names are obviously irrelevant to the function of (almost) anything. Terminology is mainly useful when you want to talk about those things and be clearly understood by someone else. Otherwise we'd all have to carry around thousands of objects and point at them whenever we needed to speak about them in detail.
I will jump back in here since I had a specific concept of layering in mind. The concept is base layer, insulating layer(s) and weather-proof outer layer. What I am saying is that to achieve a certain "R" value and weatherproof, you can have multiple layers or one. Lightweight insulation such as down or a synthetic down substitute has to be contained between an inner and outer layer of nylon, which adds weight for the same "R" value. Ditto for that extra zipper, pocket, etc. One jacket, with sufficient down, with wind-proof outer material, probably weighs less than any "layers" of fleece or fleece, wool, down combinations. I have not seen any data that rigorously tests this hypothesis. Since jacket next to skin is not very comfortable, a wicking inner layer probably is needed regardless.
The major reason for layering, thus, is the flexibility of different combinations for different temperature/ weather conditions. But how many conditions do you really need to cover? Depends on when, where and style of backpacking.
When I hiked the Lost Coast (8 days - rain every day, temperatures only varying 5 degrees day to night), I started out with my normal layering and ended up hiking in my birthday suit under rain clothes, keeping only one set of light wool long johns and shirt dry to sleep in. Never used my "layers" because once they got wet they stayed wet, and ended up as heavy "boat anchors" inside my pack.
Second example, on a 3-week ski tour in very cold (high temps 0-degree F), very dry conditions, we had wool long johns and balaclava that we never took off. We skied in a wind suit. Once in camp changed into a hefty parka/with hood and down pants, ski mitts, and felt mucklucks. Quickly cooked dinner and went to bed. That was the "layering". It was so cold that parkas did not even need to be water resistant. In this case the "weather proof outer" layer was not needed. It was actually too cold to snow.
So, over the years I have been trending to less layering.
I fail to see how the term layering does not mean anything at all. What I see here is a general consensus that it is a broad term which helps us identify a topic for discussion.
So what if it is a ubiquitous word. Karate became a ubiquitous term, yet "we" did not throw it away.
Vehicle is a ubiquitous word which can mean anything from an automobile to a spoon (as in "a spoon is a vehicle to get food into my mouth") and yet we do not say that using that word or talking about it is B.S.
The concept of "lots of light layers" vs. "one or few heavy layers" is certainly never going to be settled for all of mankind, since YMMV applies to this topic just like it does to anything else.
Challenging sacred cows is good. I don't believe cotton kills.
Let's hope you continue to believe that until you die at home in bed...
This is one reason I always sleep on the floor.
Seriously, until about 1990, cotton was all we had in the military. It's what we used for survival school, and it's what we used to clean snow off jets before we flew in upstate New York.
When all you have is cotton, you take extra care to keep dry. I never wore synthetic clothes backpacking until a couple summers ago.I'll agree wet cotton can cause problems, but cotton is not inherently dangerous.
Besides, I think I'm going to get hit by a meteorite.
The layering principle is more important the longer you are exposing yourself to the elements. If you are going for a day hike, or even a 3 day trip, in moderate weather the layers seem unnecessary. On longer treks, you are going to be subject to various temperature changes of which you want to be able to control your body's temperature. While you are dealing with crossing stream, hiking in wet socks, cooking over a soda can, fighting off bugs, setting up your shelter, dealing with hot spots/blisters, layering will ensure that you are neither shivering or wiping the sweat off your brow, granted it takes practice and knowing your body.
Haha but it seems like there is a reason that since 1990 cotton isn't all that you have. It 'works', but its not as efficient as poly-fibered clothing. You can wear the clothes you have already and make it if you are careful, but if I am going to buy clothes to hike in I would rather choose a material that insulates better, weighs less, and dries more quickly.
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By lori
Don't listen to me. Listen to SCIENCE.
Originally Posted By ANDY KIRKPATRICK
APPLYING THE SCIENCE So what does all this mean to you, the storm-bound climber in the real world?
Thing is, I'm not a "storm-bound climber", I'm a hiker and backpacker, and I tend to not be hiking or backpacking when it's raining, so that "Science" doesn't really apply to me anymore than the science behind Kevlar, which I also don't wear while backpacking or hiking because no one is shooting at me.
So I still offer that this is a style, regional, and conditions based decision and there is no single solution that is best for all styles, locations, and conditions.
My style is bushwhacking off trail, the region I do this in is filled with bramble and briar and sharp rock, and the conditions I go out in are generally not when it's raining, or even much of a chance that it might rain. For that, cotton works great, but I still bring a lightweight backup of wool/fleece inner layer and a waterproof outer shell, which bring us back to "be prepared".
When it's really cold I wear fleece lined denim jeans. They're awesome for bushwhacking around here. They're heavy, but you can trudge right through heavy briar and not get ripped up.
Thing is, I am not a climber either, but the principle holds.
I can take people snowshoeing in the daylight and it will be a consistent 25F and they will still wear jeans, despite my repeated reminders not to, stomping in deep powder, and suffer miserably with frozen pants and cold legs the entire time while chewing ice out of their bite valves.
I have been stuck in driving snow at 3,000 feet elevation, and stuck in below 25F during the day in July. A cotton blend shirt I reviewed got wet and took a full day in the sun to dry on the back of a pack.
SAR teams call cotton "death cloth" for a reason - the majority of hypothermia cases happen in 40-50F temps in summer, when getting wet and having a little wind chill adds to the problem and people imagine they won't have any troubles because it's "summer."
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Yeah, I wasn't really thinking about snow when I wrote that. I wouldn't wear cotton if snow was in the equation.
I don't really have snow gear right now. I'll do day (and night) hikes in the snow if we get some, but I'm not really fitted out for backpacking in it. I'd need shoes before I could even think about it. I have fleece lined nylon pants that work okay and the rest I can scrounge up enough to make due. I'm not a huge fan of snow camping though. I've probably walked a thousand miles in snow and spent few handfuls of nights camping in it. I like camping without it better.
Sayings like "Cotton kills" is in my opinion replacing judgment with a rule. It would be more accurate to say "improper use of cotton kills". In many warm conditions, cotton is preferable. Last time I went up Taboose Pass in the Sierra (6,000 feet gain in 90 degree heat) I used soaked cotton as a cooling system.
But depending 100% on cotton in most mountainous conditions is not a smart idea. But as one piece of a system of clothing, I think cotton is at times very suitable. I usually take one fleece layer, one wool layer, one down item, and one light mostly cotton lightweight undershirt (simply for the comfort and the fact that it is cheap and does not stink like synthetics). Cotton certainly can be a PART of a layering system.
Bill, have you ever tried pack cloth nylon for pants? I would not bushwhack in jeans (not a tight enough weave). I have also seen really tough pants used by tree climbers/trimmers that are very tight weave canvas. I probably do not bushwhack in as severe brush as you, but I find wearing knee high pack-cloth gaiters works well.