Outerwear

The Outerwear page describes Field Shirts; Pants, Long Shorts and Knickers;
Insulation Layers; Jackets, Rain Gear and Hats (including a few legacy synthetics).

Use the Layering Index links below to jump to a section.

 

Layering Index
 

 

Introduction

Base Layers: Synthetic and Merino

Field Shirts, Pants, and Outerwear

Legacy Synthetics

Summary and Recommendations

Product Descriptions

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Field Shirts

Moisture-wicking, highly breathable, quick drying, UPF-rated lightweight shirts are the best choice for the field, mountains and trail, and there are thousands of different choices. Other important criteria are a good venting system, a collar which offers good sun protection, a relatively loose fit which will allow you to wear layers beneath the shirt when it is cooler and allow air to circulate when it is warmer, and a surface which is not easily snagged by twigs and brush. As I mentioned, there are numerous selections in well-designed shirts for hiking, backpacking and other outdoor endeavors. I will mention my three favorites below.

North Face Cool Horizon Long Sleeve Shirt

The North Face Cool Horizon shirt is a lightweight 100% ripstop nylon shirt with a highly effective side-opening back vent system and a dynamic finish which feels cool against the skin in warm conditions and slows the spread of moisture to reduce cooling in cooler temperatures. The interior has polyester mesh over the back, and the shirt has a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish which allows it to repel a light rainstorm. The fabric dries quickly when wet, and is highly breathable. The roll-tab sleeves can be buttoned in place above the elbow, and the collar has a flip-up sun flap to protect the upper neck. Large cargo pockets are on the chest, with an additional security pocket on the right side and a sunglass flap on the left. This is the coolest of the three shirts in very hot conditions.

Ex Officio Air Strip Long Sleeve Shirt

The Ex Officio Air Strip shirt is a nylon/polyester blend with a really well-designed 3-position collar with a flip up velcro-locked sun flap and a button under the right side which allows fastening the collar point to make a turtleneck to block a cold breeze. The sides have large vertical vents and the rear has a large cape vent with a velcro center tie-down which can be opened and locked back to increase ventilation. The interior has polyester air-mesh over the back and sides. There are button-secured roll-tab sleeves, a velcro-locked utility tab over the right pocket for sunglasses, etc. and two large cargo pockets with a zipped security pocket inside the right pocket and a slot in the left for a pen or sunglasses. The Air Strip is a close second to the North Face overall, as the North Face is cooler when it is hot, but its innovative collar design makes this a difficult choice.

Mountain Hardwear Canyon Long Sleeve Shirt

The Mountain Hardwear Canyon shirt is a somewhat heavier shirt (but still less than a midweight) whose surface offers more protection against abrasion but which is not as cool as the two above in hot weather. It is quite a bit better in cooler weather, however, usable with nothing but a T-shirt down into the low-60s. It has a flip-up sun flap, mesh side panels for ventilation, and a large cape vent, and the interior has polyester mesh over the back and shoulders. There is a tall vertical velcro-closed map pocket and a horizontal zip pocket, button-secured roll-tab sleeves, and a shorter tail than the other two shirts which is the same length all around... the tail is still long enough to tuck, but the shirt vents better when the tail is left out. The Canyon shirt fits closer than the two above (much closer than the Ex Officio), and looks more like a conventional shirt, if that matters.

Bosque_delApache_DawnFlyout_2232


Bosque del Apache Dawn Flyout 2232

A cloud of Snow Geese fly over a flock placidly swimming on the main pond along with Sandhill Cranes
and ducks, as the first light of sunrise paints the sky on a thinly overcast morning at Bosque del Apache.

Pants and Knickers

Pants... you would think this would be easy. A couple of flexible cylinders, a few joints, some sort of adjustability at the openings for waist and cuff issues of whatever type... and a pocket arrangement that can handle everyday carry items and specific items necessary for a wide range of situations. Pants that offer high-mobility, with a durable, flexible, breathable material which resists abrasion and water and provides comfort across a wide range of temperatures are difficult enough to find. Finding them with the pocket arrangement and fasteners which make sense for you can narrow the field a bit.

What you really have to do is decide to what extent you are willing to go to get the features you may need. What you should also do is decide exactly what is most important to be prepared for, balanced against the acceptable look (if that is relevant). Various materials provide different advantages and limitations. In my opinion it is difficult to find a pant which works in all situations, but it is becoming increasingly possible to find pants which are (or are nearly) perfect for certain common situations, and some which are surprisingly capable.

You have to balance a number of factors to determine what is best for you, within your budget. Of course, you knew that.


Regarding the quest to have one pair of pants to use for all seasons and under a wide variety of conditions: from my experience it is not possible, but after trying a number of options, I have developed a good minimal system for a wide range of conditions that works for me using a combination of wool and synthetic base layers, softshell shorts and pants, and full-zip hardshell pants. Having shot both scenery and wildlife in temperatures ranging from below -10 F. (sometimes significantly below with the windchill) to over 100 F., often encountering a 40 to 60 degree temperature swing during the day, I have found it best to work with multiple light layers rather than heavy pants. Since it is more difficult to remove underlying pant layers than it is to strip off top layers as the day warms, I have found that the best option for me is based around softshell pants, especially in the most commonly encountered temperature ranges from the 30s to the 80s.

Softshell pants breathe quite well, but as expected, they need to be fairly lightweight to be comfortable when the temperature rises. Lightweight softshells, when used alone, can be chilly below a certain threshold (in my case, in the high 40s F.). Insulated softshell pants can be worn to far lower temperatures, but need to be well-vented to be comfortable in higher temperatures. There are of course midweight softshell pants as well, some with extra reinforcing layers on the knees and seat, covering the inner ankle, and occasionally on the inner thighs as well to protect against abrasion and punctures. With the lightweight and midweight softshells, you can add thermal bottoms to extend the range down, but often at the top of the range you will want to change to shorts.

One way to address this is to use two softshell layers. By using the Mountain Hardwear Chockstone Midweight 3/4 pants under the Kuhl Raid (or some similar combination of shorts under long softshell pants), you end up with a very flexible two layer heavyweight that is comfortable by itself, without a base layer, down to freezing when using an over-the-calf sock (or to the high 30s with standard socks), and remains comfortable up to well beyond 70 degrees depending on activity level. Generally in the mid-60s, I strip off the Raid pant (the outer layer) and the OTC socks, revealing the midweight 3/4 pants and short socks, which are comfortable to about 90 F. Both the combination and the individual parts are highly flexible and very comfortable for hiking, approach and climbing. Both are water- and wind-resistant (the combination more so), and the cost of the pair is about the same as a higher-end midweight softshell. While some of the higher-end midweights in this price range have reinforcements which make them more durable, this two-layer combination offers a flexibility of use and a wider usable temperature range for roughly the same cost. It may seem a bit geeky (my wife thinks so), but if what you are after is the most comfortable, flexible, minimal solution to pants for all outdoor purposes, this may a good answer. It works for me.

Adding a midweight base layer takes the combination down into the teens, although I nearly always revert to multiple base layers plus Raid when temperatures drop below freezing (as I use with cotton/nylon blend pants), except in situations where temperature will rise high enough to use shorts (more than one base layer below the 3/4 pants becomes too bulky). In sub-zero temperatures, I add the Marmot Precip full-zip pants, which can be partially unzipped to vent heat as necessary and are also exceptionally good in torrential rain at more mild temperatures. The softshell option is detailed immediately below. A variety of midweight and lightweight pants are also discussed, plus long shorts designed primarily for hiking and everyday outdoor use with light climbing (some more than others).

Materials science is creating materials that address an ever-widening array of issues. You can become addicted to the Search for the Holy Grail... er... pant. The group below are in the roughly $80 to $110 region. Pushing the envelope to achieve the next level of performance generally costs about double.

Pants for outdoor use should be gusseted at the crotch for extended mobility, and it is best if the knees are either articulated or seamed at the back of the knee so the material does not bunch up behind a deeply bent knee. In pants, I find that either a relaxed fit (some manufacturers call it an athletic fit) or getting the pants one size up (or both) allows more room for underlying layers and freedom of movement. In shorts, I prefer long shorts or knickers for the knee protection that they offer.

Kuhl Raid Softshell Pants

The Kuhl Raid pant is a lighter weight, more stretchable version of the Kuhl Destroyr. The Raid were made as an exclusive for REI (also available directly from Kuhl). The Raid have a greater percentage of Spandex than the 6.1 oz/yd Destroyr, and were apparently designed for use in the cool-to-warm temperature range when used without a base layer.

The Raid is made from an 85% Nylon, 15% Spandex abrasion-resistant fabric with four-way stretch which is about the same weight as the body fabric of the Radikl (5.1 oz/yd vs. 5.2 oz/yd, or 174 g/m vs. 176 g/m respectively). The Raid fabric is more stretchy overall than the body fabric of the Radikl, which has most of its stretch in the knit fabric panels. The typical Kuhl articulated knees and gusseted crotch along with the four-way stretch makes for an extremely flexible pant, and the articulation uses two pairs of knee darts well above and below the knee which do not make contact with the kneecap. The interior surface is brushed for comfort, and the smooth exterior surface resists snow and rain and has a DWR finish to allow water to bead up and run off. Like the Radikl and Kontra Air above, the fly welt is extended and fixed with an interior button, and the waistband closure is the typical Kuhl Italian Snap, which does not twist or dig into your waist.

The Raid allows complete freedom of movement... any move you are capable of can be made unencumbered by the fabric of the pants. The Raid pants would be a superb choice for climbing. Another feature which is exceptional for approach and climbing is the elastic blousing drawcord under the cuff, which when tightened draws the cuff in to the ankle to keep out rain and snow, and if used on approach and climbing keeps the cuff out of the way and allows you to easily see your feet. If you pull the cuff up over the calf and blouse the pants over your shin, you have a long 3/4 pant for climbing or hiking in warm temperatures.

Speaking of temperatures, the Raid has a fairly wide range of comfortable use. I went out at 48 degrees on a calm day with just the Raid and a brief on the bottom and a 525 g/m array on top. I was just a bit chilly when starting out (which is generally a good way to start), and comfortable enough as soon as I started generating body heat. As I am sensitive to low temperatures, I would use thermal bottoms starting at about 45 degrees for medium activity levels, and at about 50 degrees on a calm day for low activity levels (a little higher if you are going to be hanging around camp, waiting for the sunrise, etc.). When it is windy, I would raise those temperatures by 5 to 10 degrees. I wore them at 85 degrees in direct sunlight at mid-day and was comfortable as long as I was moving, although when I stopped the black fabric absorbed enough energy from the sun that the pants began to get a little warm. The Raid fabric is quite breathable, and should continue to be comfortable in direct sunlight up to about 90 degrees as long as you are moving (no problem in the shade). On a difficult approach (1200+ ft. elevation gain in about 1/2 mile with 30+ lbs. of gear at 82 degrees F., in mid-day sunlight with a 5-6 mph breeze) the Raid was mildly warm, thus I am confident that use in the mid-80s with medium activity should be no problem for most people.

The Raid has reinforcing rivets at stress points, and all six pockets are fitted with reverse-coil zippers that have zipper garages at the closed end, allowing the zipper pulls to be fixed in position when closed. There are two slash hand pockets, two back pockets, a 3D slash pocket on the right side behind the side seam, and a small drop-in pocket on the left behind the side seam. The zipper made the opening of this drop-in pocket a little smaller than on other Kuhl pants, making it a little tricky to get my wallet (or phone) in and out. The upper part of the pant (waist to hip joint) is the Klassik Kuhl fit, and the legs are the Full fit, making for an interesting silhouette. The extra space in the legs allows for plenty of room for air movement and body movement (a lot like the Rydr), but the more form-fitting upper part is closer to the body (much like the Radikl).

The softshell DWR (durable water resistant) fabric is not completely waterproof, but during a short torrential cloudburst where buckets were falling for a few minutes, the water beaded up and ran off, and while the interior was mildly damp, it was not at all uncomfortable considering the intensity of the rainfall, and the pants dried quite rapidly. The Raid pants will withstand a light rainstorm easily, and in a torrential downpour they will keep you dry enough for a while... long enough to hopefully find shelter. The DWR Raid fabric should be adequate in all but the heaviest rain to keep you from having to use your hardshell pants. After a number of washes, the DWR coating will need to be renewed with one of the spray-in or wash-in products available.

It will obviously take some time to determine the ultimate durability of the material, but based upon my initial impressions and the fact that the Destroyr pant (made from heavier weight but similar material) has a reputation for handling abrasion well, it is likely that these will stand up to a reasonable level of abrasion. I'm sure I'll find out the first time I end up sliding down a scree-covered slope. I will add further information later as the testing progresses.

Neither the Raid or Radikl (or the Krux for that matter) will replace cotton 3/4 climbing pants for chimneys and other situations when you need extra protection from rock abrasion, but as most of the climbing that I (and many of the folks that I know) do could be classified as either scrambling or bouldering, the Raid and Radikl are adequate for most approach and climbing situations, although I will always carry a pair of 3/4 climbing pants. The Raid will get the call if there is even a slight chance of rain, as they allow me to do everything that the Radikl can, they are comfortable across a wider temperature range, and they can withstand significant precipitation, allowing me to avoid use of the hardshell pants in anything less than a long-term torrential downpour. The blousing drawcord is so handy that I think I am going to modify the Radikl pants by adding this feature.

Mountain Hardwear Chockstone Midweight 3/4 Softshell Pant

A 3/4-length double-weave softshell designed for hiking and casual climbing, these pants offer four-way stretch (91% nylon, 9% elastane). The 18" inseam is long enough to completely cover the knees during any kind of movement. The Chockstone 3/4 pant has belt loops, two hand pockets, a small key or coin pocket, two back pockets and a zipper-secured back pocket (no thigh pockets). The softshell material is quite durable and stretchy, and the pant has a regular fit. The waist runs large... a 30 fits normally everywhere but the waist, which is closer to a 32 (the fact that there are belt loops makes this a non-issue). The waist closure is by two buttons. The zipper is a little shorter than normal, and the low-profile waistband rides about 1" lower than normal to fit underneath a harness, both of which work well when layering under a full-length softshell pant.

The Chockstone is a good general-purpose short for outdoor use. They are not quite as good as the cotton Stonemaster 3/4 pants for jamming up cracks or other high-abrasion climbing situations, or as durable as the teflon-coated ripstop nylon Endura Hummvee 3/4 pants for bushwhacking in damp forests. While they breathe quite well and offer a decent pocket complement, they are not as comfortable for hiking in very high temperatures as the vented cotton/nylon Kuhl Krux, which is supplied with a superb pocket complement, but the MH Chockstone 3/4 softshell pants offer significantly more protection against abrasion.

They layer well under a full-length softshell, creating a two-layer breathable heavyweight that is not bulky but allows comfortable use down to freezing temperatures, and when used alone they are comfortable into the high 80s with medium activity, or the low 90s with low activity (higher when out of direct sunlight). The combination of the Chockstone 3/4 pant plus Raid (and OTC socks) is warmer than the Raid plus WoolX midweight bottoms, and is also capable of being worn together to a higher temperature. The MH Chockstone 3/4 pant is seasonally available... another good option in this category is the Outdoor Research Ferrosi 3/4 pant, which is a similar design, but with zippered rear pockets, a zippered thigh pocket and a locking drawcord on the hem.


Below are several lightweight and midweight cotton/nylon blend pants, one heavy cotton jean and a nylon convertible pant.

Kuhl Radikl Pants

The Kuhl Radikl pants are a radical departure from the typical hiking pant, thus the name. The Radikl uses a woven cotton/nylon exoskeleton (68% cotton, 29% nylon, 3% spandex) with knit stretch panels (88% nylon, 12% spandex) in strategic locations to allow for unprecedented mobility. The Radikl offers the appearance, strength and performance of traditional lightweight hiking pants and the flexibility of a stretchy climbing knicker. For those who do not like to climb in shorts or knickers, the Radikl are the climbing pants you have been trying to find for years. They are quite comfortable in hot weather, and the fit is full enough to allow you to wear lightweight and midweight (or single layer heavyweight) thermal bottoms and still have full mobility.

The Radikl pants are a truly innovative design using a lightweight 5.2 oz./yd woven exoskeleton with knit stretch panels down the outside of the legs, under the knees, surrounding the rear patch pockets, and composing the entire gusset down to the articulated knee darts. These stretch panels make the pants extremely flexible. You can make literally any move in these pants that your body is capable of without restriction. All pocket stress points are riveted, and the top of the fly welt extends across the hip to an inside button. Like all Kuhl pants, these use the Italian snap closure (a large circular metal donut with a snap that goes through the donut hole), which unlike a normal jean snap does not twist and dig into the fabric when stress is put on the closure. They have standard-depth hand pockets made of the same knit fabric used in the stretch panels, two rear patch pockets which float on knit stretch fabric, a 3D accessory pocket behind the right thigh, and a welt pocket behind the left thigh (either of which can easily hold a large smart phone or a small wallet), and a deep jean-style coin or key pocket above the right hand pocket.

These are unbelievably stretchable, very comfortable pants for hiking, approach and climbing. For those who prefer long pants for climbing, the Radikl is a superb choice, and it still has the look of a traditional pant. I am still trying to find the limits of these unique and highly innovative pants. The exoskeleton material is quite a bit thinner than the material used for most of the long shorts and knickers I typically climb in (about the same weight as the Krux), and they do not provide a lot of protection (as with the Krux, be careful how you use your knees). The material withstands light abrasion, but sliding on rock will cause damage.

The lightweight Kuhl Radikl pant is far more comfortable at higher temperatures than the nylon midweight North Face, and a little more comfortable at higher temperatures than the Arc’teryx Bastion, but while they are quite breathable they are not as comfortable as the Kuhl Kontra Air for hiking in very hot or humid weather. The pocket complement is nearly as limited as the Bastion (one extra small thigh accessory pocket). Its extreme flexibility greatly offsets the pocket limitations and lack of venting, however. When using the Radikl in cooler weather, you have to put on a thermal layer at about a 10 degree warmer temperature than you do with the Bastion (or the Raid).

The only detraction I have found so far is that the stitching at the point of the outer knee dart falls directly on top of the kneecap when your leg is slightly bent, thus the knee dart rubs on the kneecap every time you take a step. Possible improvements would be to move the knee darts up an inch or two and add an elastic blousing drawcord under the cuff (like that used on the Raid softshell pants). I would also prefer it if they had a security zipper on the 3D pocket (right thigh), as items can fall out when you raise your knee much beyond 90 degrees.

Arc'teryx Bastion Pants

The Arc’teryx Bastion is a durable, breathable midweight cotton/nylon canvas blend with riveted stress points, articulated knees and seat, a deeply gusseted crotch, belt loops and a relaxed fit designed for climbing. I acquired these one size up which allows me to use them with multiple bottom layers and multiple top layers tucked in and still have complete mobility for climbing. The larger size also allows me to forego long underwear and wear long shorts or knickers underneath when doing approach work... yes, I know it seems a bit odd to do it that way, but when I am approaching a climb in cooler weather during which I will wear long shorts or knickers, it seems easier to me to remove the pants and go than to take off the pants and long underwear and put on the knickers. My wife would agree with you... it is a bit geeky, but it works for me.

The jean style pockets and slash thigh pocket are a bit minimal, but at the time I got these, they were the only cotton/nylon blend pants in the Arc’teryx line with belt loops (necessary to carry lenses and other belt-mounted gear), and I wanted to try their pants. Most of the Arc’teryx pants are primarily made of nylon without belt loops, but they now have several cotton/nylon blends with belt loops. Arc’teryx products are consistently more expensive than other similar products.

The Bastion are an excellent midweight hiking and approach pant and are preferred over the North Face below (even though they have a limited pocket arrangement). They are light-midweight pants, lighter than the North Face and far more comfortable at higher temperatures, and the fabric is nearly as tolerant of abrasion as the nylon material in the North Face pants, without the risk of melting due to spark contact. The material does not stretch, and it is not ventilated. I acquired these one size larger (size 32 instead of 30) allowing extra room for mobility while climbing and added ventilation, and to allow multiple layers to be worn below them (or a pair of stretchy climbing knickers during an approach). These are better for bushwhacking than the lightweight Kuhl pants due to the denser, more abrasion-resistant material, and as they are large enough to allow several layers below, are better for cold to mild weather hiking and for approach when wearing climbing shorts beneath.

Kuhl Kontra Air Pants

With its 65% cotton, 35% nylon tropical weight oxford weave, the Kuhl Kontra Air uses a lighter weight fabric (3.6 oz/yd) than that used on the Krux shorts (below), specially designed for hot, humid conditions. The pants have a deeply gusseted crotch and articulated knees for extended mobility, but what makes these pants stand out for use in hot weather are the numerous vents. There is air mesh under most pockets (front hand pockets, back patch pockets, side-entry zippered thigh pockets, and the welt pocket behind the left thigh), as well as behind the knees and under the crotch gusset (both of which have flap vents). The 3D accessory pocket behind the right thigh does not have mesh below. Kuhl calls their Kontra Air the world’s most advanced vented pant, and they most certainly do keep you cool, capturing the slightest vestige of breeze, even that generated by walking.

The pocket complement is excellent (although they are a little small). They are a redesign of the pockets in the Krux long shorts (the hand pockets are shallower so they do not overlap the side-entry thigh pockets, and they added a welt drop-in pocket behind the left side seam which can hold a wallet or a large smart phone). All pocket stress points are riveted, and the top of the fly welt extends across the hip to an inside button. Like all Kuhl pants, these use the Italian snap closure (a large circular metal donut with a snap that goes through the donut hole), which unlike a normal jean snap does not twist and dig into the fabric when stress is put on the closure.

While the side-entry thigh pockets are handy, when the weather is very hot it is best that they are kept empty and unzipped, because the venting to the upper thighs and the ram-scoops on the inner thighs that vent the gusset are extremely effective in keeping air flowing through the pants. Simply walking generates a easily noticeable breeze through the vents, and if there is any wind at all these pants will capture it and keep you cool and comfortable. The Kontra Air pants are so well ventilated that it is possible to wear synthetic underwear (up to 75-80 degrees) without the humidity issues that synthetics cause in hot weather, although Merino is preferred. The Kontra Air are not as comfortable in very hot weather as a lightweight pair of shorts (especially the Kuhl Krux), but they are definitely the coolest and most comfortable long pants I have ever used in hot weather.

They are great for hot weather hiking, light bushwhacking and use in the forest, but the material is quite thin, does not stand up to much abrasion, and it does not stretch. While they are fine for the rock scrambling typical to many approach hikes, I would not use them for climbing. Regarding the material: the Kontra Air oxford weave cotton/nylon blend fabric dries exceptionally fast and is very comfortable in hot, dry weather, but as the humidity rises they begin to feel more like nylon pants than cotton, as they tend to stick to the skin a bit. They are also susceptible to sparks from a fire... not as much as nylon pants, but be careful (the Arc’teryx cotton/nylon blend used in the Bastion dries more slowly, feels more like cotton as the humidity rises, and I have yet to damage them with a spark).

NOTE: The Kontra fabric shrinks. Buy the Kontra Air one size up (wash in cold water and air dry).The first pair I got were actual size (30/30) and after the second wash were essentially slim fit across the hips. I replaced these with 31/30 and they were exactly right to my taste after the 2nd wash (I prefer enough room for ventilation and mobility, and to add an underlying layer if necessary). The length starts about the same as a 32” inseam and shrinks to about 30”, thus the length is fine.

NOTE 2: Definitely beware of sparks from a fire and abrasion from rock. Also, the edge of the cuff rubbing on the top of the boots caused damage, and during subsequent washes the cuff edges deteriorated further.

NOTE 3: There is a heavier version of these using their Enduro fabric (5.2 oz/yd vs. 3.6 oz/yd) called the Konfidant Air. I have not tried these yet, but the fabric is more durable. The weight is the same as the Radikl, but with 9 pockets and 11 vents.

Kuhl Rydr Pants

The Kuhl Rydr pants are a heavyweight combed cotton twill that is primarily used in cold weather or high-abrasion conditions, such as when climbing and rock scrambling are on the menu (up to about 80 degrees). When I carry these into the mountains, I always carry the Marmot Precip Full-Zip pants for rain coverage, because if these get wet they take quite a while to dry. Normally, cotton is a bad idea in the mountains for this reason, but I have burned through synthetic pants sliding down scree and badly damaged pants and skin due to rock abrasion, so I keep these available. Unlike heavy jeans, the material has a good feel against the skin, and when worn in warmer weather without an underlying layer, they are far more comfortable than jeans.

The Kuhl Rydr are relaxed fit, with a deeply gusseted crotch and articulated knees, riveted stress points, and a really soft feel for such a heavy pant, and I acquired these in 32 instead of 30, allowing use with multiple bottom layers and multiple top layers tucked in while still having complete mobility for climbing. The material does not stretch, but the large banana-shaped gusset is cut on the bias and does stretch, increasing the mobility. The Rydr has jean-style pockets and a welt thigh pocket which are a bit minimal, but they have reinforced openings with extra material over the edge which reduces wear and also avoids scratching the back of the hand when reaching into them. These are your basic bulletproof heavy jeans, and normally you would not take them into the mountains, but they have literally protected my butt and legs so many times that when I know I will be in a situation that requires them, they come with me. These are the go-to pants for very cold weather (together with the Precip rain pants).

NOTE: The Rydr is an extremely durable pant, but over time I have decided that their limitations in the fickle mountain weather outweigh their benefits during the inevitable glissade down a scree-covered slope. Now retired to cold weather city use.

North Face Paramount Peak Convertible Pants

The North Face Paramount Peak Convertible Pants are a midweight nylon faille woven pant with a DWR finish which will repel a light rainstorm. These are roughly the same weight as the Arc'teryx pants, but in abrasion-resistant nylon. They do resist rock abrasion, but I wrecked a pair of these sliding down scree, although they didn't burn through. Try to keep them away from sparks from a campfire... I had to retire one pair due to a veritable constellation of spark holes (a downside to 100% nylon pants, and a major reason why I got the Arc’teryx Bastion, and later the Kuhl pants).

These have exceptionally well-designed pockets, with deep hand pockets, velcro-flap closed cargo pockets over the hand pockets, a zippered coin and key pocket, a slash thigh pocket with a velcro-patched tabbed smaller thigh pocket over it, and two velcro-flap closed back pockets. The bottom of the leg zips up to the knee, allowing you to put the leg on without taking your boots off. These have a gusseted crotch, an elasticized waistband with feed-through fixed belt with a low-profile buckle, and belt loops to allow carrying belt-mounted gear (critical for a photographer). I have several pairs of these in actual size, and generally wear them in cool-to-warm conditions with silkweight to midweight thermals, especially when rain or river crossings are likely and cargo pockets are required.

The North Face Paramount Peak, like all unvented 100% nylon pants in my experience, have a narrow range of temperatures in which they are comfortable without an underlying layer. From the mid-50s down the nylon is cold against the skin, and from the 80s up they can get quite hot. The legs are full-cut, allowing you to wear multiple layers underneath comfortably and still maintain mobility, which helps when using these in cool to cold weather. I also often wear these with lightweight bottoms in humid or hot weather, as the nylon sticks to the skin a bit when you are sweating, another reason for using a cotton/nylon blend. The legs can zip off to make 10" shorts, and there are elastic hold-down loops on the side of the waist to carry the rolled legs.

NOTE: The North Face Paramount Pants have been retired from use in the field due to their susceptibility to sparks, the fact that they do not breathe very well, and their tendency to stick to the skin in hot or humid weather.  I have given most of them away, but kept a few as they are still occasionally used as travel pants due to their superb pocket complement.

Bosque_del_Apache_Dawn_Flyout_X8725


Bosque del Apache Dawn Flyout X8725

As approaching Snow Geese reach the pond, geese in the water break into flight.
This image was taken at 1/10 second, giving the geese a surrealistic appearance.

Long Shorts, Knickers and 3/4 Pants

These are shorts with 15” to 20” inseams primarily selected to cover the knees yet allow you to see your feet for climbing and bushwhacking in tall grass, dense brush or use in forests, where the exposed knees of the 10” shorts gained by zipping off the legs of convertible pants can be a source of abrasion injuries and cuts by sharp grass or twigs. I have them in several materials and consider them to be a very practical addition to my kit.

My primary criteria for selection in a short for technical approach, climbing, bushwhacking in tall grass or brush, or through dense forest in mild to hot weather are: protection from the rock and sharp grass, twigs and branches; ventilation gained by either a loose fit and breathable material or a venting system; and range of motion gained by a loose fit or stretchable fabric. I have abraded my knees often enough (most often the sides but occasionally the front as well) that knee coverage is a primary consideration, and maintaining knee coverage and mobility are the primary concerns.

A cotton/nylon blend is in my opinion the optimum material for overall comfort and reasonable drying time, but I find that I rarely will do more than rock scrambling when it is wet, so cotton is less of a problem than it is with pants for use on approaches or when actually on the rock, however, you do occasionally get caught on the rock when it rains, and cotton does dry quite slowly. Densely woven cotton resists rock abrasion damage quite well and it is comfortable in hot weather (unless it gets wet). If you need to be able to do some serious climbing and rain is likely, work with a softshell pant with drawcords on the cuffs, or you may consider a softshell 3/4 pant such as the Mountain Hardwear Chockstone or Outdoor Research Ferrosi 3/4 pants.

Kuhl Krux Long Shorts

In my humble opinion, the Kuhl Krux long shorts are the best hiking shorts ever designed. They are 16" shorts with articulated knees that fall at the upper calf, providing knee protection which is extremely useful when you are on the rock, in dense forest, or bushwhacking through high grass. The lightweight fabric is their “berkuhl” cotton/nylon blend which dries quickly, and although it offers limited protection against rock abrasion, it stands up well in the forest and for bushwhacking. The Krux have a gusseted crotch and a superb pocket design, with two deep hand pockets, two side-entry zippered thigh pockets, two velcro-patch back pockets and a 3D thigh pocket for accessories. The interior is covered with mesh, and the rear, thigh and hand pockets act as a venting system. The Krux are a superb overall design, and are highly recommended as a hot-weather hiking short.

I acquired the Krux one size up both for increased mobility while climbing and to increase air flow. While this is not necessary for most uses, when making extreme leg moves it helps to have the extra room, and the added air space allows the venting system to work well in very high temperatures. The superb pocket design also helps in hotter temperatures. You can move most of the items you would normally place in the hand pockets down into the side-entry zip pockets, leaving the upper hand pockets free, which really allows these shorts to breathe. When the temperature rises above 90 or so, emptying the side-entry thigh pockets and leaving them unzipped creates a flow-through ventilation that has to be experienced to be believed. These are definitely the most comfortable shorts I have ever used in temperatures over 90 degrees, and the only thing which would make them better in my opinion is if they were 2” longer.

Endura Hummvee 3/4 Cycling Baggie

The Endura Hummvee 3/4 pant is a Teflon-treated 100% ripstop nylon cycling baggie. This is an excellent 3/4 pant for hiking and bushwhacking in cool to warm weather, especially if it is wet. They have an excellent pocket complement, including two deep zippered vertical slash hand pockets, a large zippered right thigh pocket, a smaller velcro-flapped left thigh pocket with two metal drain holes, two huge velcro-tabbed rear map pockets, and they come with belt loops.

The articulated knees have vented mesh behind the knees, there are two long zipper-closeable mesh vents on the sides, and the crotch is deeply gusseted. The bottom leg seam has a velcro adjustment tab to close the bottom tightly around the calf. These are 20" 3/4 pants, falling at the bottom of the calf. Great for bushwhacking in grass or forest in wet weather or general wet weather hiking, these can be a bit hot when the weather warms up as is typical for nylon pants, but the zippered side-vents and the venting behind the knees helps quite a bit. They are loosely fit and mobility is good, but they do not stretch and they can be mildly restrictive when climbing.

Climbing-Specific 3/4 Pants
(Cotton-Spandex fabric blend)

Patagonia Venga Rock Knicker

The Patagonia Venga (come on, let’s go) is a 15.5” inseam knicker made from a lightweight, stretchy organic cotton and spandex blend. The length just covers the knees, and behind the knee there is a shock cord and cord lock which can tighten the cuff to prevent it from sliding to uncover the knee during deep compression or high stepping. The knicker has belt loops and Patagonia’s OppoSet adjustable waist, which attaches the waist button through a nylon strap which can be pulled to adjust the fit and hooked behind the belt loop. The angled hand pockets begin 1.5” below the waist for easy hand entry and are darted to lay flat, with reinforcing bartacks at both ends of the pocket which can double as a toothbrush holder. The pocket interiors are breathable mesh. There are two large slightly angled rear patch pockets which reinforce the seat and a unique diamond-shaped patch pocket on the right thigh with an angled entry opening, which can hold small items such as a 5” smart phone or a wallet (this pocket also has reinforcing bartacks which can double as a toothbrush holder).

The knicker is very lightweight and breathable, closely fit yet quite stretchy, and allows full mobility. My wife says that they have a very flattering fit, and they are slim and lightweight enough that they can be worn under the field pants on an approach, like the Stonemaster Herringbone knicker below. The Venga are durable knickers with a gusseted crotch and an articulated pattern with knee darts, and are quite good for climbing and hiking in mild to hot weather. They ventilate better with the shock cord at the cuff only partially tightened, which will still keep the cuff from sliding beyond the kneecap on most leg moves or full compression. It is quite easy to make moves which will expose the lower part of the knee though, thus my only suggestion for improvement would be to make them at least an inch or three longer, although the length that Patagonia selected is the same as long basketball shorts and seems to be preferred by many people. While the length is just slightly short to my taste, the Venga have become my most often-used approach shorts.

The Stonemaster Knicker

Stonemaster clothing was designed by Mike Graham, a renowned master climber who was a pioneer of climbing at Yosemite and who founded Gramicci. The Stonemaster Knicker is made from a high count 8 oz./yd stretchy satin twill (97% cotton, 3% spandex). The inseam is 18.5" as measured (21" as stated on the website), and the cuffs fall at mid-calf. This is a great length, as I have not yet been able to make a move which exposes the knee, thus the knicker maintains protection of the knee regardless of position. Even in a full lunge with my foot at chest height and my legs nearly in splits, the knee is still covered. I am not quite as flexible as I used to be, but this length does do the job of keeping my knees covered no matter what.

The knickers have side-entry hand pockets lined with microfiber and a single rear patch pocket which is protected by the Stonemaster flap (they have limited pocket space). There is an adjustable webbing belt with separating buckle fixed within the waistband, a zipper fly and a metal logo button closure. The rear of the waistband is higher than the front or sides, so they do not slip down in back when bending at the waist. All seams use reinforced stitching. This is a superbly built, very comfortable climbing knicker, and the dense satin twill material both stretches as needed and will withstand abrasion well. Besides being the best of the climbing knickers, these are seriously comfortable shorts. They tend to be the camp pants that get put on at the end of a long day when you want to strip off all the heavy, sweaty stuff and relax. My wife loves the close fit, and although I generally prefer loose shorts and knickers, I also like the way these fit.

The primary detraction is that there are no belt loops, which means that you cannot carry a water bottle, lens cases, or utility bags to protect your camera (or carry a shell or layering elements) unless you carry a pack, use a tactical vest-harness, or sew on your own belt loops. I suggest that you ask Mike to add belt loops when you order if this is an issue for you (as it is for me). If Mike made a Stonemaster Knicker with a cotton/nylon/spandex blend, belt loops, two back pockets for extra seat protection and a pair of low-profile patch thigh pockets for extra thigh protection and the ability to carry a few small items, these would be the perfect approach and climbing shorts, and pretty darned good hiking shorts as well.

Stonemaster Nirvana Knicker

Also designed by Mike Graham, the Nirvana knicker is a stretchy jean-style 17.5” knicker based on the Stonemaster Jean, made of extremely soft 11 oz./yd premium Japanese denim (98% cotton, 2% spandex) with deep slash microfiber-lined hand pockets (which don’t blow out) and a single flap-covered rear pocket on the right, a three metal-button fly and a metal logo button closure, and include belt loops. They are very durable gusseted climbing pants and great shorts, but have limited pocket space. They are marketed in Asia (especially Japan) and are not on the Stonemaster website (contact Mike, he answers email).

Stonemaster Herringbone Knicker

Also designed by Mike Graham, these 8 oz./yd herringbone twill stretchy 17” knickers are made of 97% cotton, 3% spandex with jean-style pockets (two front, two back). The front pockets are lined with microfiber. The crotch is gusseted and they are double needle stitched, with a built-in webbing belt (Mike added belt loops). A great lightweight climbing knicker, these are the ones which I generally wear under the Arc’teryx pants on an approach. The Herringbone knicker is now only in the outlet section of the website. The knickers which are currently built are the Stonemaster Knicker, which is of a similar fabric with side-entry hand pockets, a single rear patch pocket with flap, and a longer 18.5” inseam.

The Patagonia and Stonemaster knickers are purpose-designed for climbing, and while they can be used as
general-purpose shorts, they have limited pocket space and the stretch cotton material dries slowly when wet.

SandhillCrane_DawnTakeoff_3393


Sandhill Crane Dawn Takeoff 3393

Two Sandhill Cranes take off for the farm fields at Bosque del Apache on another thinly overcast day at dawn.

Outerwear

Outerwear includes rain gear, softshell and hardshell jackets, and lofted jackets. Due to the amount of space required to take a lofted jacket and pants along, I have opted to work with softshell and hardshell jackets and provide the required warmth with the layers below the shell. For this reason, in the section below I am going to discuss the insulation layer as well.

Insulation Layers

Depending on the weather and temperature range, you may find that you need one or more insulation layers to wear under your weather shell, atop your base layers. Material options for insulating layers include wool, synthetic fleece and down. Down is very compressible, but must remain dry to retain its insulating properties (water-resistant down is just beginning to enter the market). A heavyweight Merino wool base layer such as the WoolX X704 below can double as an insulation layer, as can wool sweaters, and an advantage to wool is that it still insulates when it is wet. Synthetic sweatshirts and hoodies are also good options.

In a number of locations, photographers (and others) often find themselves standing for fairly long periods after generating body heat in very cold temperatures, and it is necessary to add layers before the body begins to chill to avoid hypothermia. Many photographers tend to carry often-used short and medium lenses (and other small gear) in belt cases, and some use a tactical vest or harness to carry gear as well as a pack. This can make the use of full-zip lofted insulation layers a bit problematic for some people (I am one of them), and therefore one or more half-zip layers which can be tucked in can be a better option.

WoolX X704 Blizzard Heavyweight 400 g/m 1/4-Zip Top

The WoolX X704 is an expedition weight zip-neck top with deeply-gusseted, extra-long raglan sleeves which reach the knuckles and stay in place. It can act as a heavyweight upper base layer under an insulating layer in very cold conditions, an insulating layer in cold conditions, or a top layer in cool to mild conditions without the bulk of a typical insulating layer, and can replace at least three typical synthetics and any changes which would have to be carried to substitute for those retired due to odor. It is also quite useful as a top layer in milder conditions when used with only a Merino T-shirt. When used alone or with a T-shirt, it regulates temperature well up to 65 degrees (it wicks better when worn with a layer underneath). It is roughly as warm as two midweight Merino tops, and in my opinion this is the most versatile top for use in very cold to mild conditions.

This is the top you want to put on when starting out in the morning before generating body heat, or when your body begins to chill as the activity level or temperature drops. The WoolX X704 is about as warm (with better neck protection) as the Under Armour Sherpa fleece hoodie (which was my standard insulation layer) at roughly a third of the bulk, and greatly outperforms heavy sweatshirts and most wool sweaters. It is not as good an insulation layer as a lofted jacket, but it has far more uses and requires less space in the pack. It can be used in such a wide range of conditions that the only reason not to take this top is when the temperature would be above its useful range (about 65 degrees Fahrenheit).

Patagonia Capilene 4 Thermal Weight 1/4-Zip Hoody

The Patagonia Capilene 4 Thermal Weight Hoody is made with an ultralight 129 g/m Polartec Power Dry double-knit fabric (92% polyester, 8% Spandex) that has a grid-patterned brushed fleece interior with wide gaps between the tiny fleece grids. It is a highly breathable and surprisingly warm base layer or light insulating layer with a double-layer hood that traps heat, a smooth face which glides under outer layers, extra-long sleeves with thumb loops, a zippered chest pocket, a long welted center-front zipper which reaches well below the chest, and a drop-tail hem. The collar is quite high, reaching above the upper lip when the hood is closed, and the double-layer hood is anatomically shaped. With the hood down and the neck zipped up and folded over, it makes an exceptionally effective neck gaiter which can be pulled up over the chin if the wind is chilly (although you will probably put the hood up in that case). When the hood is zipped up and over the lip, the top of the zipper welt in the lighter two colors forms a mustache. Someone had a sense of humor. The top packs into a LowePro 1W belt bag (5” cylinder, 6” tall).

This hoody is unusual in many ways. It is extremely lightweight, yet very warm (when covered by a wind-resistant layer). The large gaps between the fleece blocks in the grid allow the material to breathe very well (and let in any trace of breeze). It can be used in mild to warm weather with simply a T-shirt (or alone), and it works synergistically with layers worn below. I have used it alone in 80 degree weather in direct sunlight with a light breeze, and while I was sweating a bit, it was still comfortable as the fabric let in quite a lot of the breeze. I have the chartreuse version (aka the Deck the Halls version because it can be seen from space), and besides the high visibility of this color (it reflects enough sunlight to blind birds and pilots of low-flying aircraft), reflecting sunlight helps to keep you cool. As is usually the case, when used along with a T-shirt it wicks and regulates temperature better and is more comfortable. Based on experience, the character at 80 degrees makes me think that the upper limit is about 90. Normally, I would remove this top before reaching those temperatures, but I had to test it and I may try it at 90 just to find out.

At lower temperatures, when used along with an underlying layer array, the Capilene 4 hoody adds breathable warmth. When covered with a wind-resistant layer it gets even warmer... the Capilene 1 through 4 along with the Torrentshell Pullover makes an extremely flexible array. I use the Capilene 4 Hoody in several layering arrays below the Nike Hyperwarm or the Smartwool MerinoMax, and also use it below a field shirt in milder weather. The Capilene 4 Thermal Weight Hoody would also work quite well along with a DWR-coated windshirt (the Nike Hyperwarm is an excellent windshirt, but it soaks instantly in a rain).

The way that the interior grid is constructed, with small fleece-blocks alternating with equal-sized gaps, creates a lofted series of miniature ripples which alternately heats and breathes. This is a highly technical fabric which works very differently depending on whether it is worn next to the skin or over other layers. When worn as an insulating layer over other layers with another layer or a shell on top it is exceedingly warm. The sleeves are long enough that you can extend your arm over and behind your head with your thumbs in the thumb loops without putting pressure on the web between thumb and forefinger (great for climbing). The extreme flexibility of this hoody as an insulating layer and as a base layer makes it one of the most versatile tops I have used.

Nike Pro Hyperwarm Special Field Fitted 1/4-zip Mock Neck

This Special Field version of the Pro Hyperwarm fitted 1/4-zip mock-neck (~220 g/m, body: 88% polyester, 12% spandex, mesh panels: 92% polyester, 8% spandex) was acquired as an exterior layer for use atop or within both Capilene and Merino arrays, to act as a windshirt and to provide a more durable surface. The exterior surface of the body is a dense, smooth knit, and is essentially a softshell with mesh panels on the back and under the arms for increased ventilation. The bottom hem is extra long, reaching the upper thigh, and there are ergonomically designed flat-lock seams throughout. The interior of the Dri-Fit fabric has a brushed surface, and wicks moisture through to the exterior surface of the fabric quite effectively. It has extra-long sleeves (with thumbholes) like the standard Nike Pro Hyperwarm Fitted 1/4-zip mock but without the heat-transfer markings on the back mesh and the Nike Pro on the nape of the neck, and with an embroidered swoosh logo on the left breast instead of on the left side of the neck.  It was available in multiple field colors plus black, white and obsidian, and the only place that I am aware of where it was available was at tacticalgear.com (it may have been a custom order by the retailer).

While the fabric weight of the Hyperwarm is about the same as the Merino 3 (thus the ~220 g/m estimate), it is a fairly dense and smooth surface, much like a softshell jacket, and regarding warmth, it acts more like a 300 g/m garment. It traps air and blocks wind effectively, while still breathing well enough for comfort, and wicks quite well. It is not at all waterproof, though. The Nike Hyperwarm is a superb windshirt and an effective light insulating layer, but it soaks instantly in a rainstorm. I am going to try applying a DWR coating to it to attempt to reduce this issue.

When used atop a Merino array, the Hyperwarm 1/4-zip provides additional hand protection and wind resistance as well as a more durable, abrasion-resistant surface which is especially useful when bushwhacking or moving through dense forest. When actually climbing on rock I generally replace this with the legacy Nike Dri-Fit 1/4-zip as it is already abraded. When it is used atop the full Patagonia Capilene array it extends the temperature range of the array down into the 30s (see the Summary page).

The Nike Hyperwarm and the Patagonia Capilene 4 Hoody go really well together... while they are only about 450 g/m together, they act more like 575-600 g/m due to the insulating properties of the Polartec grid fleece when covered by a layer which traps air and blocks wind, combined with the additional insulating properties of the Nike Hyperwarm fabric.

Patagonia Merino 3 Midweight Hoody

The Patagonia Merino 3 Hoody is a versatile mid-layer with an anatomically-shaped hood, long sleeves which cover the back of the hand, and elastic thumb loops which are attached inside the sleeve. When the hood is up and fully zipped, it covers the upper lip falling just below the nose. When the hood is down but the neck is fully zipped, it can be folded over to make an exceptionally effective neck gaiter which can be pulled up over the chin if the wind is chilly (although you will probably put the hood up in that case). The zipper pulls down to below the sternum, about 1.5” above the unzipped Merino 2 zip-neck.

The Merino 3 Hoody can be used as a light insulating layer atop a layer array, below the Capilene 4 Hoody as a quite flexible two layer light insulation array, or with the WoolX X704 for a heavy two or three layer insulating array.
 

Legacy Insulation Layers

Under Armour ColdGear Catalyst Crew

The Under Armour Catalyst Crew is an upper midweight or light expedition weight legacy insulating layer made of polyester with a loose fit. The Catalyst Crew has a brushed microfleece surface which traps heat well, and is an effective low-bulk insulating layer when used with high-neck base layers. It is basically a low-bulk sweatshirt on steroids. This was generally only used in very cold conditions when multiple insulating layers were required. It has been recently demoted to standard sweatshirt use.

Under Armour Sherpa Fleece Hoodie

The Under Armour Sherpa Fleece Hoodie is an expedition weight polyester hoodie with a microfleece exterior, a high-loft polyester Sherpa lining and a three-piece hood. This legacy hoodie wicks moisture quite effectively and is an excellent insulation layer when used atop high-neck zip-top base layers. The downsides to this hoodie are the bulk, the tremendous transition in warmth from on to off (when you take this off you need to put on at least an upper midweight), and the gap at the throat when the hood is up. While you can tie the hood tight creating an effective neck gaiter when the hood is down, when it is up it must be worn with high-neck base layers. Regarding the bulk, it requires as much pack space as an entire layer array (such as Array 1 with four synthetic and two Merino layers). There are similar synthetic hoodies in the current line (e.g. Storm Forest).

REI Polartec 100 Teton fleece pants

The REI Polartec 100 Teton fleece pants are an exceptionally toasty lightweight synthetic fleece by Polartec which are generally used to augment thermal bottoms when the temperature is very low. They wick well, dry quickly and make great pajamas too. The current version has ankle zippers and zippered hand pockets (mine have only a zippered back pocket). These were used when the temperature was approaching zero, and I nearly always used the Marmot Precip full-zip pants over them. Polartec makes 200 and 300 series fleece which are warmer versions of this, but I wore these with other thermal layers so I used the 100 series. I used past tense because these were appropriated by my wife when she discovered how warm they were.

SandhillCrane_RunningTakeoff_HS0545


Sandhill Crane Running Takeoff HS0545

A Sandhill Crane runs across the surface of the ice to gather speed for takeoff on a cold January morning.

Jackets and Rain Gear

This section details hardshell and softshell jackets and rain pants. As mentioned, I do not use lofted jackets and pants as I prefer to use layers beneath the outerwear to provide warmth, and I generally use the softshell in milder conditions when I am wearing fewer layers, thus I selected the Marmot, which has smaller-diameter sleeves.

The basic difference between a softshell and hardshell is that most hardshell jackets are waterproof or highly water resistant. A hardshell is generally lighter and more packable than a softshell, with a tightly woven face fabric laminated to a waterproof and breathable membrane such as Gore-Tex or a similar material, or sprayed with a water-resistant breathable microporous coating such as ReviveX (or both). Softshells are made with stretch-woven face fabrics and are generally thicker, block the wind, and are more breathable than hardshell jackets. Some are laminated to a waterproof breathable membrane and have taped seams, which make them waterproof (or nearly), but companies are careful calling them that due to marketing restrictions for labeling.

Patagonia Torrentshell Pullover

The Patagonia Torrentshell Pullover is an H2NO Performance Standard lightweight 2.5 layer nylon ripstop pullover shell which packs into its center front torso pocket (with carabiner loop) for a carry-it-anywhere waterproof breathable jacket. It has a 2-way adjustable hood with a laminated visor which rolls down and stows and a microfleece-lined neck. The front zipper, which has a minimal-welt storm flap, opens down to the bottom of the chest, and the pullover has elasticized cuffs, a drawcord lower hem, and drawcords at the throat and hood opening to allow good sealing. The drop-in center pocket also has a welted storm flap.

This is a truly superb lightweight rain and wind shell that you want to have with you if there is a chance of inclement weather. The sleeves are long enough that they can be pulled to completely cover the hands. The storm flap is exceptionally effective, keeping you quite dry, although there is a small gap alongside your cheeks which can let a little wind and water in when the hood is pulled tight. I generally have on either the Merino hoody or the Capilene hoody (or both) when wearing the shell so this is not a problem. The Torrentshell Pullover can keep you dry in a deluge and will break even the most chilling and blustery of winds. The light shell is also quite useful under the Mountain Hardwear hardshell in really cold weather to aid in trapping air.

While the Torrentshell can pack into its central pocket, I prefer to either pack the shell alone into a 5" x 7" x 3" LowePro bag which conveniently fits on my belt, or pack it along with the Marmot Precip rain pants into a larger Lowepro utility bag which I either carry on my belt behind my back (under the small pack) or attach to the outside of the larger pack. It can also pack into its inside-out central pocket (5” x 8” x 3” — folding it to fit neatly into the inside-out pocket can be tricky). It is quite handy to be able to do this when you do not have a dedicated stuff sack or belt bag or just prefer not using one. I keep a small carabiner attached to the interior zipper pull to allow me to loop it under my belt (or onto the pack) and clip the other end to the dedicated loop.

Marmot Precip Full Zip pants

The Marmot Precip Full Zip pants are a 100% seam-taped full-zip waterproof breathable 2.5 layer rain pants with a back zippered pocket, an elasticized waist and velcro closures over the waist zippers, and snap-closure flaps over the cuff zippers with drawcords. The full zip allows you to rapidly get in these pants even with alpine boots on. My version requires you to partially zip down a side from the top to access your pants pockets. The current version has zippered hand pockets and their new NanoPro microporous coating that has densely packed pores which are 30% smaller for enhanced breathability. These pack small and go on fast, and when heavy rain is a strong possibility I carry the Torrentshell pullover and the Precip pants in a LowePro bag at the back of my belt when carrying the smaller pack or attach the bag outside the larger pack for rapid access.

Marmot ROM hooded Soft Shell Jacket

The Marmot ROM jacket (Range of Motion) is an air permeable soft shell with a wicking fleece interior, an attached adjustable hood with visor and peripheral drawcord, a drawcord in the side hand pockets to tighten the hem, a zippered chest pocket, zippered vents under the arms, and internal pack pockets. The current version has GoreTex Windstopper fabric, venting side panels and an internal zip pocket. It is a windproof, water-resistant soft shell that gets carried in cool to mild conditions when I am not taking a hoodie and am wearing fewer layers, as the sleeves are fairly snug. With the use of more efficient Merino base and insulating layers and the Capilene 4 hoody, the Marmot is more useful in very cold weather as more layers can fit underneath the sleeves. I used to use the Marmot in very cold weather to act as an insulating layer below the hardshell, but have replaced it in this function with light insulating hoodies.

Mountain Hardwear Hard Shell DWR Jacket

I have an earlier model similar to the current Mountain Hardwear Ampato. It is a durable two layer breathable Conduit hardshell (Conduit is Mountain Hardwear’s proprietary version of a waterproof laminate) with a central front dual zipper that will unzip from the bottom when the main zipper is closed, allowing access to belt gear and pockets. The zipper placket has a velcro-closure storm flap with a snap at the bottom, and there is a three piece hood with visor which rolls up into a high collar and has drawcords for hood volume and peripheral adjustment. It has velcro cuff closures, an elasticized internal snow-blocking waist with velcro and snap closures, drawcord adjustment on the hem, and microfleece over the top interior zipper guard on both sides to protect the chin when the high collar is closed. There are two zippered underarm vents, two zippered hand pockets, a zippered chest pocket, a zippered wrist pocket, a zippered interior pocket and an elasticized internal pack pocket.

The DWR coating was refreshed with ReviveX (highly recommended — use the spray rather than the wash-in version).

I select the hardshell in colder weather as there is plenty of room for multiple layers. This is an extremely durable jacket which has served me well for 11 seasons, and does not seem to be anywhere near retirement.

SandhillCrane_MorningFlyout_HS0729


Sandhill Crane Morning Flyout HS0729

A Sandhill Crane is isolated against a background of his defocused fellows as
he flies out to the farm fields at Bosque del Apache on a cold January morning.

Hats

A hat is really important to keep the sun off your head (and eyes) as well as to reduce heat loss and provide wicking ability. As wide-brimmed hats get in the way when using a camera, as do stiff-brimmed ball caps and other stiff-brimmed hats, I have selected soft-brimmed caps (and a brimless beanie) for use in the field. Another positive aspect to these is their packability.

Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Polartec Beanie: The Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Beanie is, as expected, a toasty stretchable beanie made of Polartec Power Stretch, a soft durable material which wicks moisture effectively. This snug-fitting beanie is longer in back giving good neck coverage and keeps you warm in very cold weather. When the weather warms to simply chilly, you can fold the rear off of the ears and neck to turn it into a brimless cap.

Mountain Hardwear Pacer Running Cap: the Pacer is a lightweight running cap with a smaller than normal foam brim which can be put in a pocket. It is highly breathable with mesh side panels. My cap is an earlier version which incorporates some elements of the Canyon Hiking Hat and the Quasar Running Cap as well as the Pacer. My second favorite cap, it is the one I use on very hot days. The Cool.Q headband really feels cool on the forehead, and the cap breathes better than anything else I've tried.

Prana Mojo Camper Cap: a lightweight, breathable, water-resistant cap with a foldable 3" brim and a mesh sweatband. This easily packable, comfortable sueded polyester hat is UPF 50 rated. The Prana is my favorite hat until it gets really cold.

Summary


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Layering


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