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#146638 - 02/19/11 11:28 AM Staying Warm in the High Sierras
Katie Offline
member

Registered: 09/11/10
Posts: 29
Sorry if this is in the wrong forum, I wasn't quite sure where to post it.
Well, after reading many trail journals, gear lists, etc about the JMT from the same time we will be on it (July/August), I've noticed almost all of these people bring (and use, almost daily) a down jacket, in addition to what I was planning on bringing. I was planning on a long base layer top and bottom (mostly to sleep in), a very thin/light fleece jacket, a wind/rain layer, liner style gloves and a hat. I thought that would be enough since it will be July, but I'm beginning to wonder if we might need extra to keep warm. We will be spending a bit of time at camp every night as we are tackling the trail pretty slowly, so we won't be jumping into our sleeping bags as soon as we set up. The problem is we definitely did not budget in backpacking weight down jackets, which are pretty darn expensive for our very low budget...about $150 each.
So I guess my question really is, is there another way to keep warm out there without carrying a bunch of additional heavy layers? Would another light fleece do the trick? I guess it depends on the individual, but what would you do? I've already looked on GearTrader and there seems to not be any light down jackets in our budget frown

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#146640 - 02/19/11 11:46 AM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: Katie]
Howie Offline
member

Registered: 06/02/03
Posts: 481
Loc: Canora, SK, Canada
I would be looking in the second hand clothing stores. You might even find a down vest that would work.

Howie

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#146641 - 02/19/11 11:52 AM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: Katie]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
My trips in summer/fall are mostly Sierra. I take a midweight base layer plus a thick pair of wool socks, usually only for sleeping, and wear nylon lightweight pants, a light wool or synthetic shirt, a sun hat, and trail runners. I use lighter weight wool socks. I have with me a fleece beanie, liner gloves, possibly a pair of heavier gloves to go over them if forecasts are for subfreezing temps already, and the waterproof layer of choice - if I'm out for more than a couple days I take a rain jacket, rain pants, and emergency poncho. If just for a few days the jacket and poncho. My midlayer is a down jacket - Marmot Venus, really not a big puffy one for lower than freezing - or, a Montbell Thermawrap - synthetic but about the same warmth level of the Marmot jacket.

You don't need a big box baffled down jacket. Look at Eddie Bauer - they have a sub-100 down jacket, lower quality down than the Marmot jackets for sure, probably leaks feathers, but it will work. You can also find down jackets on sale elsewhere. My Marmot I found at REI on a 30% off sale - it was originally 120 I think. Check at Sierra Trading Post and other outlets. Or check backpacking forums - my Thermawrap was a used buy, from someone at backpackinglight, for half its full retail. Not a thing wrong with it.

Previous to the down jacket I took a 300 wt fleece - but that wasn't nearly as warm for me.

You could also (if the weather is fair and clear and you're not sitting at a fire) sit around camp in your sleeping bag.

One of the things I discovered as I began to hike more and more was that my metabolism shifted - I am able to withstand cold better than I used to. And I'm also better at not getting cold in the first place; layer management is a skill. Put on the hat first, with the liner gloves. Then think about a jacket if you're still cold. When I'm stopping for the day before sundown, I put on the base layer immediately and put the pants back on over them for wandering around camp. Gives me a chance to wipe down some, clean the feet, put on the clean camp socks, and get ready for bed well before the temps drop for the evening. (I got good at Wet Wipe bathing.)
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#146643 - 02/19/11 01:22 PM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: Katie]
verber Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/04
Posts: 269
Loc: SF Bay Area, CA
I have personally never seen the temp below ~30F on the JMT July/Aug. Not saying it can't happen, but I think it's unlikely. It also has a tendency to warm up fairly quickly. To get a sense of likely daily temps, you might want to look at the sensor data. I often use tioga pass as my stand-on for the high sierras, and then subtract 10f to make up for elevation differences.

so what to do about clothing? Depends on you camp life plan. I have some friends who are either hiking or they are asleep. A number of these folks have done the JMT with zipoff pants, a tech-tee, 100wt fleece, and rain shell. That's it. When it's cold they are either under their quilt, or hiking hard (early morning) where activity level removes the need for much insulation. On the few days they want to be up and inactive when it's the coolest, they use their quilt / bag as a cape, wrapping it around the body.

That time of year I bring a down vest (you should be able to find something decent in an end-of-season clearance someplace like landsend or Eddie Bauer, sierra trading post, etc for less than $40, sometimes as little as $25) because I don't always start so quickly in the morning and might want to watch the stars for a bit. Honestly though, the vest is used more consistently as a pillow than an insulation item. part of this is because my metabolism seems to shift when I am going 15+ mile days. So long as I have enough food I run pretty hot at the end of the day. Around town I am pulling a light jacket on when it's in the low 60F. After a day of hiking (even after I stop), I often find myself setting up camp in my hiking clothing when it';s in the upper 40F.

If you are going to be sitting around, especially if you have a leisurely start in the morning outside your sleeping bag, then you would want something that would keep you comfortable down 30F.

--mark


Edited by verber (02/19/11 01:27 PM)

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#146645 - 02/19/11 01:32 PM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: Katie]
Trailrunner Offline
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Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
If you do choose to bring a jacket, is there a reason why it has to be down? There are many good synthetic jackets out there that are reasonably priced. Many are warmer than 300 wt fleece but lighter and way less bulky.

I did the JMT (thruhike)in August and I really don't think you need a full blown down jacket to stay warm with the layers you already have. Temps will drop after the sun sets but it won't be terribly cold. If you want to sit around camp you can drape your sleeping bag over you.

Also, have you considered an insulated vest? Down or synthetic, they add an extra layer to warm your core without as much bulk or expense as a jacket.
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#146651 - 02/19/11 02:59 PM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: Katie]
phat Offline
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Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Originally Posted By Katie

So I guess my question really is, is there another way to keep warm out there without carrying a bunch of additional heavy layers? Would another light fleece do the trick? I guess it depends on the individual, but what would you do? I've already looked on GearTrader and there seems to not be any light down jackets in our budget frown


Katie, a lot of this is going to depend upon you and your backpacking style.

If you tend to hike for some of the day, then stop and enjoy camp, you may want something poofy and comfortable to sit around in in the evenings.

If you tend to walk all day, and only stop in the evenings and if it is cold hop into your sleeping bag you may not need as much.

It also depends a lot on you and how warm or cold you tend to get.

I do three season backpacking trips in the canadian rockies and I don't take a down jacket. I have a good shelter (hammock or tent) and a good sleeping bag. I hike in a pair of synthetic pants, sythetic shirt, and in my bag I usually take a base layer (synthetic long johns) a couple of merino wool long sleeve shirts, and then a fleece or wool sweater and an outer shell jacket (rainwear, goretex, shell, etc.) You could replace two merino shirts with just another light sweater - such as a cashemere or merino sweater from a local thrift shop.

Now to put that in context, I know I'm quite warm in that in almost any situation I'll encounter in all those layers, and if the weather is really foul I'm content to dive into my sleeping bag..

Now, if you're likely to be stopping, and spending a lot of time in camp, and if you tend to be "cold" easy, you may wish to take a little more stuff. Down jackets are a lightweight way to stay warm in camp, but certainly not a necessity.


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#146656 - 02/19/11 03:57 PM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: Katie]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3967
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Katie,
I think everyone here with any Sierra camping experience will tell you that it can rain, snow or hail any day of the year. I've been hailed on in early August. Unless you are so tough that being wet and cold doesn't bother you, you might want something warm and dry, but it doesn't have to be down, its just that synthetics will weight twice what a down jacket does, but may perform better in above freezing temps. I ski in fleece, camp in down. For any aerobic activity you don't need a lot of insulation, but it should breath well.
Jim smile
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#146660 - 02/19/11 05:48 PM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: Jimshaw]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 2026
Loc: Napa, CA
I'll add my voice to the crowd here. WE take a sythetic underlayer that we sleep in, and then a shirt to hike in. And a nice big, lightweight fleece, and a rain shell. When it is really cold, we put on all four. We don't take down jackets, but there are days (cold ones) where we do put on all this stuff. And if it is really cold, we get into the tent and into our bags...but that's happened only once in the last 350 miles or so.

Keeping dry is essential. But when I am hiking, if I am more or less dry, I won't get cold because my body is generating heat. When I stop for the day---that's when it can get colder. But it won't get that cold that often.

In the end, it's all about personal choice, and personal comfort.

My wife gets colder than I do, so she carries and extra fleece vest.


Edited by balzaccom (02/19/11 05:50 PM)
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#146661 - 02/19/11 06:31 PM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: balzaccom]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
If you don't mind the weight, a thick wool sweater would work. They will keep you warm, even if wet and can be had cheap. As far as down is concerned, I have a TNF Nuptse, but it isn't waterproof at all. I got mine at a TNF outlet store. If you do buy any TNF gear, be wary of where you get it-there is a lot of counterfeit TNF clothing and gear on the Internet, including eBay.

I would look at LL Bean, EMS, and STP (Sierra Trading Post). You should also start to see sales on winter gear about now and next month for sure. You have plenty of time, so don't buy too soon-wait til the sales start.

Just saw a post on another site that Dick's and Eddie Bauer have sales on now. Probably for Presidents' Day weekend.


Edited by TomD (02/19/11 06:41 PM)
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#146662 - 02/19/11 07:25 PM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: verber]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By verber
I have personally never seen the temp below ~30F on the JMT July/Aug.


Has anyone seen a -30F temp in the Sierra in July/Aug?

That's a little colder than I could tolerate even WITH a down jacket...

Quote:

If you are going to be sitting around, especially if you have a leisurely start in the morning outside your sleeping bag, then you would want something that would keep you comfortable down 30F.

--mark


I am female. When stopped and sitting around camp, the down jacket goes on when it hits 45F. Y'all male types forget we freeze easy. Fortunately, my jacket(s) work well for me down to actual freezing temps. That's when I get out the quilt.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#146666 - 02/19/11 09:03 PM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: lori]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2865
Loc: California
I just bought a synthetic puffy vest at Target for $3.75 - closeout. It is bulky but warm. This is a good time of year to find end of winter stuff. If you only need a "sitting around camp" jacket or vest, you always have your sleeping bag as back up, so it need not be huge.

I do not take a down jacket ever in the Sierra from May to end of OCtober. I have a down vest that I throw in if weather reports are for colder than average. (in addition to three 100-wt. fleece layers or medium weight wool layers, a light wind jacket, 100-wt fleece long johns and rain gear). FOr very little extra weight, take two hats one regular stocking cap and a balaclava . Another idea is set up tents all facing each other and you can all be in your sleeping bags inside tents and still socialize. Perchance it gets cold, just retire to tents.

The extra layer or down jacket is really more convienent for mornings. Not essential, but really nice. I have seen many early mornings in the Sierra where it was in the mid-20's when I got up. And this includes August. But I was aso above 10,000 feet.

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#146674 - 02/19/11 10:44 PM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: wandering_daisy]
Katie Offline
member

Registered: 09/11/10
Posts: 29
Thanks soooo much for all the great info guys! Y'all are extremely helpful. I'm glad I asked, even if it's a dumb question :p.

We, in fact, will be sitting around camp for a couple of hours every night as we are going with a film producer/photographer who is making a documentary. That's why I was thinking I'd need the extra "something", whatever that something might be.

After a lot of looking around, I've found a down jacket (heavier and bulkier than I'd like) for about $45, but I also just found out that REI will be having one of their garage sales in March. So I'll wait till then and see if I get lucky there. And yes, good point, I have plenty of time so I can wait around for some good sales.

Again, thank you for your thoughtful responses. They make me feel less stressed about the "what ifs"! smile

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#146679 - 02/20/11 02:03 AM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: Katie]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
WD's advice about a balaclava is a good one-that and a pair of fleece gloves and a pair of mitt shells if the weather gets really dicey. Shells weigh very little and will keep the gloves dry.

btw, yours is not a dumb question. You really don't want to be cold and out in the middle of nowhere.


Edited by TomD (02/20/11 02:05 AM)
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#146683 - 02/20/11 10:57 AM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: lori]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2124
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Some of our CA group had temps in the low 20's at least about three years ago in early August I believe it was, AFTER it snowed on them. Forrester Pass area I think. I get by with a down vest and a Polartec 100 top. And hit the tent if its too cold and windy.

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#146690 - 02/20/11 12:54 PM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: hikerduane]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3967
Loc: Bend, Oregon
I should have added this before, but I didn't. You always want the clothes required to move through bad weather. So many rescues in the Sierras are of hypothermic people who assumed that they would not need warm dry clothes. Have the warm clothes to get up and hike in what you think will be the worst weather. Err on the side of warm hiking clothes.
Jim
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These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#146697 - 02/20/11 02:38 PM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: Jimshaw]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2124
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Yes, good point Jim. If you can't get warm or stay warm hiking you didn't bring warm enough clothes. A dry change of clothes also. My hands get cold and loose strength, I'm sunk if I don't have critical things done before then.

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#146703 - 02/20/11 07:07 PM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: hikerduane]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
A friend and I started at Onion Valley and continued on the JMT toward Whitney. When we got to Crabtree the ranger said forecasts were in the teens and the wind was increasing in higher elevations. Forecast only three days before was for a full 30 degrees warmer and we had prepared for 10-15 degrees lower, just because... rather than huddle together for warmth and brave the winds we hiked on to Horseshoe. Last day over New Army my friend had every single stitch of clothing on while hiking (I still had my midlayer packed, wore the rain jacket as a windbreaker). We got to the parking lot where it was 40F - felt warm.

It pays to be prepared, and to be willing to alter plans when you are surprised despite your planning. We didn't go out there to suffer. We contemplated getting a day permit and just summiting as a day hike (what's a few more thousand feet of gain after you've done 12,000 cumulative in four days?), but opted to head for home instead - mountain is still there, we'll do it this year.
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http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#146707 - 02/20/11 07:28 PM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: lori]
Howie Offline
member

Registered: 06/02/03
Posts: 481
Loc: Canora, SK, Canada
A sign in my friend’s aircraft hanger reads, “It is better to be on the ground wishing you were flying than flying and wishing you were on the ground”. (Warning against flying in bad weather). As a hiker it translates, better to be carrying extra clothing I may not even need, than to be hiking unprepared and wishing I was at home.

Howie

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#146720 - 02/20/11 08:46 PM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: Katie]
BrianLe Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Washington State, King County
I've not read the (already many) responses on this thread, so forgive me if this is redundant, but I think that it can make a lot of difference how many miles you can do in a day, how much elevation gain/loss you (realistically) anticipate doing. As part of a PCT thru-hike, I went through there starting in early June when there's lots of snow, but key was that I (and all PCT thru-hikers) had hiked 700 miles to get to the start of the Sierras, and could do pretty decent miles. The result was that it was not difficult to follow the old adage of "walk high and sleep low".

When "walking high" I was fine with a wind shirt over a hiking shirt, with the key there that you don't stop for long breaks that way. Definitely gloves or mittens however (and I strongly recommend mittens of the two).

When "sleeping low", I had a thermawrap jacket and a thermawrap vest that I could layer, but in fact I rarely needed the vest. Sleeping every night below the snow line, just cooked and ate, crawled into the sleeping bag and that was it.

But if your process is different and/or your mileage (such that you might end up sleeping at higher elevations) or your metabolism ... etc etc. Pretty hard to calibrate this stuff among different people.

Since you (O.P.) say you're taking the trail slowly and won't be jumping into the bags right away --- I can't really comment. I was on a snowshoe and winter camping trip with a group this weekend, and I had cold feet a lot, which I pretty much never do --- because of a lot of built-in "sitting around" time that I'm not used to. This stuff can vary so much.

Oh, one somewhat random comment I read on another thread recently --- Cabelas is selling their 650 fill down vest for $20 right now, this might be well within your budget (if a size medium or small will fit you).
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#146784 - 02/21/11 07:25 PM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: lori]
footmobile Offline
member

Registered: 02/05/11
Posts: 20
Originally Posted By lori
I am female. When stopped and sitting around camp, the down jacket goes on when it hits 45F. Y'all male types forget we freeze easy. Fortunately, my jacket(s) work well for me down to actual freezing temps. That's when I get out the quilt.


I was just going to mention my girl gets cold a lot quicker than I do. She takes a nano puff along with the rest and then if she is still cold we just hop into the sleeping bags.
I had it snow in July but I don't remember it being in the minus temps in August

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#146795 - 02/21/11 09:02 PM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: BrianLe]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3967
Loc: Bend, Oregon
BrianLe,
I have been thinking about the influence of altitude lately on such things as sleeping bag efficiency/ratings and other factors, but somehow the SAME temperature at HIGHER altitude is "COLDER". I live at 4,000 feet and camping in my backyard the other night at 18 degrees, I never even zipped up my sleeping bag. I can remember winter storms in the Sierras with temperaturs in the teens around 8,000 feet and it was already bitterly cold and we wore down suits in camp similar to 8,000 meter suits and I definitely zipper and up and closed down my sleeping bag.
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#146799 - 02/21/11 10:34 PM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: Jimshaw]
Barefoot Friar Offline
member

Registered: 01/23/09
Posts: 176
Loc: Houston, Alabama
Hmmmm. I wonder how much of that is physiological, and how much might be psychological?
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#146807 - 02/22/11 01:00 AM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: Jimshaw]
BrianLe Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Washington State, King County
Three factors come to mind, for me at least.

(1) The temperature literally does change. I've seen different figures for how much; this site says about 4 degrees F per 1000' of elevation.

(2) At higher elevations for me in the Sierras, there was snow, or snow melt and associated runoff streams. Sleeping below that level avoided issues with sleeping on snow or wet ground, and in particular, perhaps needing more ground insulation.

(3) Higher elevations can also be windy; more of a factor for me in my single-walled tent than someone with a beefier tent, but nevertheless potentially a factor. Of course higher doesn't have to be windier, but overall I think site selection to favor warmth can be easier lower down.

In terms of your comment about the same elevation seeming colder --- perhaps humidity has been a factor? A lot of folks (myself included) feel that the same temperature and wind conditions feel colder when it's damp (foggy, mist, whatever).

Of course there are other factors that could impact how you felt literally in your own backyard vs. in a place that you hiked to with all of your gear on your back ...

I'm certainly not saying you're wrong here (!), just musing out loud I guess.
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#146814 - 02/22/11 09:23 AM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: BrianLe]
ringtail Offline
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Registered: 08/22/02
Posts: 2296
Loc: Colorado Rockies
It seems that people are worried more about insulation than the "furnace". The energy used to climb high can not be used to fuel the furnace. If you spend a lot of time in camp then the time between eating your evening meal and using your sleeping insulation is longer - this can NOT be good. Don't forget to keep a Snickers bar in your sleeping bag. A hot beverage warms you from the inside.
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#146818 - 02/22/11 09:49 AM Re: Staying Warm in the High Sierras [Re: ringtail]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By ringtail
Don't forget to keep a Snickers bar in your sleeping bag.


Unless you have to keep it in the bear canister.

Or you may have a bear warming you up by climbing in with you.

I can't really do that... and wouldn't recommend that anyone doing the JMT try it. The bears are too busy with your canisters to think they wouldn't just come into the tent. And then there's the story of the gal doing trail work who got the care package from home, and hid her chocolate bar under her pillow so no one else would take it, and woke to a black bear licking her cheek...
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