The Product Descriptions page lists the products in the Layering Guide, along with
descriptions of materials and some usage remarks, especially on legacy synthetics.
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Sport and Legacy Synthetics
Nike Dri-Fit Hyperwarm Crew: a close-fitting top with a mock neck intended as a cold weather running top. The current version has a higher neck than the version I have, and a 3D interior texture which wicks moisture more quickly. The interior surface feels good against the skin, and I used it as the first base layer. This top warms up quite rapidly as activity increases, but loses body heat rapidly once the level of activity drops, and is always used with one or more additional layers.
Nike Dri-Fit Performance 1/4-Zip Top: a mid-neck top with a slightly looser fit intended as a golf shirt. The version I have has a 3D textured interior surface and wicks quite effectively. The outer layer has narrow mesh vents under the arms and down the sides. It is always used atop one or more layers as the upper base layer to pull moisture out of the underlying layers and act as a lightweight windbreak.
The Nike synthetics are typically used along with other synthetic base layers and insulation layers, depending upon temperature conditions and activity levels. See the Legacy section for more information.
Under Armour HeatGear Compression T-shirt: a short sleeve lightweight T-shirt with mild compression which wicks quite effectively. When used under one or more layers, the skin-tight fit helps to trap heat. This T-shirt is often used under the Patagonia Capilene 2 legacy 1/4-zip top (as is the Nike Dri-Fit Crew) to isolate the skin from the textured surface. It is also used in hot weather under a field shirt to wick moisture away from the skin where it can be evaporated by the field shirt.
Under Armour ColdGear Catalyst Crew: an upper midweight or light expedition weight insulating layer made of recycled polyester with a slightly loose fit, the Catalyst Crew has a brushed microfleece surface which traps heat well. It is an effective low bulk insulating layer when used atop high-neck base layers, and is basically a sweatshirt on steroids.
Under Armour Sherpa Fleece Hoodie: an expedition weight polyester hoodie with a microfleece exterior, a high-loft polyester Sherpa lining and a three-piece hood, the UA Sherpa Hoodie wicks moisture quite effectively and is an excellent insulation layer when used atop high-neck zip-top base layers. I was caught in a downpour with this hoodie under my Parka atop three synthetic layers while carrying significant weight, and picked up the pace. 30 minutes later when I reached shelter, and stripped off most of my layers to reduce body heat, I was amazed that all three inner layers were dry. The lining had pulled all of the sweat out of the layers below. The only downsides to this hoodie are the bulk 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.
North Face 1/4-Zip Warm Mock Neck: the fabric of this lightweight base layer with thumb holes has a smooth and soft texture similar to that of the Nike Hyperwarm Crew. While it is generally used with the Nike Hyperwarm or the Under Armour HeatGear T-shirt underneath, when both of my Hyperwarm Crews, the REI Crew and the UA HeatGear T-shirt have been retired due to odor buildup, the North Face becomes the core base layer. It is generally used as a mid-layer under the Nike Dri-Fit zip-top or the Patagonia Capilene 2 legacy top (below). The North Face 1/4-Zip is an exceptionally durable top which has served me for 12 seasons. The current zip-neck is an expedition-weight (heavier) top without thumb holes.
Patagonia Capilene 3 high-neck 1/4-Zip Top (legacy): An impressive statement to the monumental endurance of Patagonia synthetics, this Capilene 3 top has served me well for 14 seasons as a midweight central base layer. The textured surfaces (both interior and exterior) wick as if they were connected to a vacuum. This is generally used with the UA HeatGear T-shirt, a Nike Hyperwarm Crew, or the North Face 1/4-Zip underneath as the surface texture is not comfortable next to the skin. If it is not covered with an insulating layer, I use the Nike Dri-Fit zip-top over it to continue the wicking unless the temperature rises high enough to strip off outer layers. See the usage section for more information.
Patagonia Capilene 1 silkweight bottoms (legacy): an ultralight polyester bottom, I acquired these to replace my Thermasilk bottoms when the Thermasilk died at the end of their second season, and they have lasted over 10 years and are still going. These are used either alone in mild temperatures or under one or more heavier sets of thermal bottoms in colder temperatures. The only downside is that the legs are a little short and the cuffs are only 1/2”. They slide up when you squat or lift your leg.
Terramar TXO 2 midweight bottoms: a midweight polyester bottom with activated carbon embedded within the yarn (which does not wash out). I acquired the Terramar 2 bottoms at the same time as the Capilene 1 and they are still going strong. Another testament to the durability of well-built synthetics, these when used along with the Capilene 1 are good into the 20s under lightweight pants or into the low teens under heavyweight pants as long as you are active. At lower temperatures or when sedentary at the low end of their range, you need to add another layer.
REI Polartec 100 Teton fleece pants: an exceptionally toasty lightweight synthetic fleece by Polartec, these 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 are only used when the temperature is approaching zero, and I nearly always put the Marmot Precip full-zip pants over them.
REI midweight polyester Crew Top: this is actually what anyone else would call a lightweight Crew. It has a lightly textured outer layer and a smooth inner layer, and was acquired to add a spare change for use on longer trips when both of the Nike Hyperwarm Crews had to be retired due to odor buildup. It is a good top which wicks well, but it is not as warm as the Nike.
Ex Officio Give-N-Go synthetic mesh Boxer and Boxer Brief: quick-drying synthetic diamond-weave mesh with the Aegis antimicrobial treatment, these were acquired for their ability to quickly dry after a rinse, and while they are somewhat breathable and are very practical underwear for travel and field use, they are best used in cool or cold weather as they are hotter and less comfortable than Merino underwear.
Yosemite Valley Dawn Mist X0333
Mist blankets Yosemite Valley at dawn in this scene taken in spring from Discovery View,
also called Tunnel View as it is the first view of the Valley after exiting the Wawona Tunnel.
Outdoor Synthetics and Merino Wool (current models)
Patagonia Capilene 1 Silkweight Graphic T: a 156 g/m² 94% polyester, 6% Spandex Jersey blend allows air to flow through the weave, and when worn with another layer this shirt wicks moisture and adds warmth. Quick-drying, with Polygiene odor control, offset shoulder seams to avoid pack straps, and side seams which roll forward for comfort under outer layers, this shirt has a superb feel next to the skin, breathes extremely well, and can be worn to very high temperatures. It works synergistically with the other Capilene tops, improving performance in the areas of moisture transfer, thermal efficiency, and temperature regulation.
Patagonia Capilene 1 Silkweight Boxer Briefs: a 156 g/m² 94% polyester, 6% Spandex Jersey blend allows air to flow through the weave, and the tagless brushed elastic waistband is comfortable next to the skin. The Polygiene odor control combats microbial growth. These are the best synthetic underwear I have ever used, and I have tried quite a number of them, but like all synthetic underwear in my experience these are best used in mild to cold temperatures... in higher temperatures they create a somewhat humid environment.
Patagonia Capilene 2 Lightweight Zip-Neck: a 122 g/m² Polartec Power Dry 100% polyester double-knit lightweight zip-neck with Polygiene odor control, a 13” extra-long welted zipper to keep metal away from skin, offset shoulder seams to avoid pack straps, side seams which roll forward for comfort under outer layers, and long sleeves with thumb loops. The open knit interior surface increases wicking effectiveness, and the smooth outer surface slides under upper layers. It can be used as a core layer, but it really works better when used along with the superb Capilene 1 T-shirt.
Patagonia Capilene 2 Lightweight Bottoms: made of 122 g/m² Polartec Power Dry 100% polyester double-knit fabric with Polygiene odor control, these have an open knit interior surface to increase wicking effectiveness, a smooth outer surface to slide easily under outer layers, a functional fly, a gusseted crotch for added mobility, and a brushed elastic waistband for comfort next to skin. The material wicks and breathes well and dries exceptionally quickly. These are useful in cool to mild conditions when used alone, or as part of an array in colder weather.
Patagonia Capilene 3 Midweight Zip-Neck: a 183 g/m² Polartec Power Dry 100% polyester double-knit midweight high zip neck with Polygiene odor control, an 11” long welted zipper to keep metal away from skin, offset shoulder seams to avoid pack straps, side seams which roll forward for comfort under outer layers, and long sleeves with thumb loops. The interior surface is a staggered interlocking grid which is brushed for warmth and softness, and the smooth outer surface slides under outer layers. The interior of the Capilene 3 has been vastly improved over the legacy top, and it can be worn against the skin although it works better in all respects if you are wearing the Capilene 1 shirt below it.
The Capilene 1, 2, and 3 work extremely well together in an array. The zippers are staggered as are the neck heights, and the combination wicks very effectively, transporting moisture like nothing else I have had experience with. The thermal regulation is good, and they can be used together from chilly to warm conditions or along with other layers in an extended array.
Patagonia Capilene 4 Thermal weight 1/4-Zip Hoody: this expedition weight hoody is made with an ultralight 129 g/m² Polartec Power Dry 92% polyester, 8% Spandex double-knit fabric, a grid-patterned brushed fleece interior with wide gaps between the tiny fleece grids, and Polygiene odor control. 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 chin when the hood is closed, and the double-layer hood is anatomically shaped.
This hoody is unusual in many ways for an expedition weight garment. It is extremely lightweight, yet very warm. 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 slightly warm weather with simply a T-shirt (or alone), and it works synergistically with layers worn below. The way that the grid is constructed, with small fleece-blocks alternating with equal-sized gaps, creates a lofted series of miniature ripples which alternatively 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. 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 Polygiene antimicrobial odor control is designed to combat the "synthetic stench" of legacy synthetics.
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/m², 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/m² estimate), it is a fairly dense and smooth surface, much like a softshell jacket, and regarding warmth, it acts more like a 300 g/m² 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.
Monument Valley Dawn Mittens and Merrick Butte X9916
Dawn breaks over the Mittens and Merrick Butte on a cold December morning in Monument Valley.
This is one of the most recognizable silhouettes in the Southwest.
Merino Wool: Unlike polyester, Merino can move moisture in its vapor state as well as mechanically in the liquid state as polyester does. Wool fibers have a natural crimp which create dead air space, which is a superb insulator. They can move moisture even when saturated and can absorb up to 30% of their dry weight before feeling wet (most synthetics feel wet after absorbing about 7% of their dry weight). Merino wool stores moisture in the core of the fiber and as your body heats up the stored moisture begins to evaporate, cooling the air between the skin and fabric. Merino naturally resists odor, and the small fiber size eliminates the itch of traditional wool, increases the elasticity of the fabric, and reduces drying time. Merino regulates temperature better than synthetics (although it does not wick quite as efficiently), and should fit closely for optimal effectiveness. Merino regulates temperature more effectively when worn next to the skin.
WoolX X303 X-Lite 160 g/m² Daily Boxer Briefs: lightweight 100% Merino jersey-knit boxer briefs with a 5" inseam falling to mid-thigh, a double-panel gusset and a double panel fly, flat-lock seams, and a contoured back rise that provides extended coverage regardless of your movement or position and does not slip down, which along with the gusset allows for a wide range of movement. The 160 g/m² Merino is lighter than that of the T-shirt (slightly), and is not quite as soft until after the second wash (turn inside-out or use a lingerie net). The fit is superb... and they are great for climbing and for use in a very wide range of temperatures. These superb briefs came in a close second of the four Merino briefs.
Merino underwear is the most comfortable in both cold and hot weather in my experience, with excellent wicking and temperature regulation properties, and they resist odor for days. The WoolX Boxer Briefs use 17.5 micron yarn.
WoolX X302 Outback Lightweight 170 g/m² T-Shirt: a lightweight short-sleeved 100% Merino core base layer which is the softest and most comfortable T-shirt next to the skin. I have worn this shirt under a light-colored field shirt in direct sunlight at over 90 degrees and still remained comfortable. It is even cooler when worn alone at high temperatures (out of direct sunlight) due to rapid evaporation from the surface, but as the material is rather densely woven it does not let much air through the weave and it is best used in cool to mild weather. The shirt wicks well and even after multiple sweaty days it does not retain odor. I did an experiment where I wore this shirt on five consecutive 85 to 90 degree days with no odor buildup until the fifth day. My wife was shocked when she checked it after the third day. The WoolX T-shirt has a superb non-pilling surface finish, flat-lock seams, and uses a 17.5 micron Merino yarn. The go-to core layer in cold weather.
WoolX X304 Base Camp Lightweight 160 g/m² Long-Sleeve T-shirt: a lightweight 160 g/m² Merino long-sleeve crew T-shirt with deep underarm gussets which reach to the waist and nearly to the wrist, flat-lock seams, sleeves which reach to the base of the hand, and like the X305 hoodie below the X304 is made from a less-densely woven material than the X302 T-shirt above which lets more air through the weave. The X304 LS T-shirt is useful alone in mild-to-warm or buggy weather, as a lightweight core layer under the X305 hoodie in cooler weather, or as a mid-layer with the X302 T-shirt and X305 hoodie on chilly mornings or evenings. The newer X304 and X305 Base Camp Lightweights are less-densely woven than the X302 Outback T-shirt and let more air through the weave.
WoolX X305 Base Camp Lightweight 160 g/m² Hoodie: a lightweight 160 g/m² Merino 1/4-zip hoodie with deep underarm gussets which reach to the waist and nearly to the wrist, an 11” zipper with a welted interior to keep the zipper away from skin and hair, flat-lock seams, extra-long sleeves with thumbholes reinforced with double-stitched cross-over contrasting Merino, and a traditional three-panel hood which drops straight down between the ear and cheekbone (the hood opening is also reinforced with double-stitched contrasting Merino). This is the softest of the Merino hoodies and is the most comfortable next to the skin. The Base Camp hoodie is superb for use alone, as a core layer, or along with one or more underlying layers, and is the go-to hoodie for use in mild to warm weather.
WoolX X507 Explorer Midweight 260 g/m² 1/4-Zip Top: a midweight 100% Merino zip-neck with underarm gussets, an 11" unwelted zipper, flat-lock seams, and a superb non-pilling surface finish, this top is an excellent mid-layer in cold temperatures which can act as a top layer in mild temperatures. The Merino does not retain odors even after several days of use, and wicks moisture very rapidly. It can take the place of two typical synthetics and any changes which would have to be carried to replace those retired due to odor. The X507 midweight and the X302 T-shirt together do an excellent job of temperature regulation. See the Base Layers section for more information. The unwelted zipper is exposed, so this should be worn over another layer such as the T-shirt. The X507 uses 18.5 micron Merino yarn. The next generation of X507 will shift to a slightly lower-density 230 g/m² material with a welted zipper.
The WoolX X507 has the softest finish of all of the Merino in this dissertation, and is only beaten in performance by the superb combination of the Patagonia Merino 2 and Merino 3 together at double the price.
WoolX X704 Blizzard Heavyweight 400 g/m² 1/4-Zip Top: an expedition weight 100% Merino zip-neck with deeply gusseted raglan sleeves, a 12" zipper with a zipper garage at the bottom, contrasting flat-lock seams, and a superb non-pilling surface finish. The extra long cuffs on the sleeves reach to the knuckles and stay in place. This top 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 replace those retired due to odor. You should not only think of this as a heavyweight top to be used along with multiple other layers — this is very useful in mild conditions as a top layer with only a Merino T-shirt. This is the top you want to put on when your body begins to chill as the activity level or temperature drops. It is roughly as warm as two midweight Merino tops and regulates temperature quite well up to about 65 degrees. The X704 uses 18.5 micron Merino yarn.
WoolX X509 Explorer Midweight 230 g/m² Bottoms: a midweight 100% Merino bottom with flat-lock seams, a double-panel gusset and a double-panel front seamed fly, a high contoured back rise, and extra long cuffs which do not ride up the leg. These bottoms are quite warm by themselves, warmer than silkweight and midweight synthetics together and they wick at least as well, and are roughly comparable in warmth to Polartec. They are very soft and comfortable next to the skin, although I wear a Merino boxer brief with them as I can otherwise feel the flat-lock seams on the rear gusset and fly panels. This is the go-to bottom for use in cool to cold conditions, or as the base layer in an array for colder conditions. The X509 uses 18.5 micron Merino yarn.
Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Funnel Zip T: a raglan-sleeved 250 g/m² 100% Merino midweight zip-neck with a 15.5" welted zipper, a high-back neck and long tail, a zippered vertical chest pocket on the right side, flat-lock seams, and non-gusseted sleeves which reach to the knuckles. It is an excellent mid layer which can replace two midweight synthetic layers. I acquired this one size up to go between two synthetic layers or as a lightweight top layer over another Merino top, and it both wicks and insulates more effectively when atop another layer. See Base Layers section for more information.
Smartwool MerinoMax Heavy-Midweight Half-Zip: a relaxed fit, densely woven 280 g/m² Ponte knit top (97% Merino, 3% Elastane) with extra-long sleeves and low-profile in-seam thumbholes above the wide cuffs that disappear when not in use. The zippered chest pocket has a grommeted hole in the polyester mesh pocket interior lining allowing a headphone cord to pass through to the inside of the top (the pocket is on the left side so it does not stack on top of the Funnel Zip pocket, which is on the right side). It has a long 13" zipper with storm welt, a high neck that is loose enough to allow two high-neck tops below, and the wide cuffs of the extra-long sleeves protect the back of the hands (especially when using the thumbholes). All seams are flatlock stitched to eliminate chafing if worn next to the skin.
Smartwool NTS Light 195 Boxer Brief: a form-fitting boxer brief made of a 195 g/m² jersey and rib-knit Merino with flat-lock seams, an elastic waistband with wool terry loop next to the skin, and legs that reach to mid-thigh. These are the best briefs. They have the best finish, surface feel, and fit of all four of the Merino briefs.
Smartwool NTS Micro 150 Boxer Brief: a form-fitting boxer brief made of a lighter 150 g/m² jersey-knit Merino with flat-lock seams, an elastic waistband with wool terry loop next to the skin, and legs that reach to mid-thigh. The top of the seam on the waistband frayed after the 10th washing and may need to be reinforced.
Both of the Smartwool boxer briefs wick very effectively, resist odor, and are extremely comfortable, far more comfortable than any cotton or synthetic I have used.
Icebreaker GT200 Sprint Long Sleeve Crew: The Icebreaker GT200 Sprint is a crew-necked lightweight (200 g/m²) T-shirt with extra-long sleeves and thumbholes, made from 96% Merino and 4% Elastane (Lycra). This legacy top is part of their technical series, and has an athletic fit, with slightly looser-than-normal arms, gusseted raglan sleeves and flatlock seams. It is available at a discount from various distributors. The top has a very smooth surface character and is quite comfortable next to the skin. The GT200 was originally acquired to act as a core layer under the somewhat scratchy Patagonia Merino specifically because of its comfort next to the skin and because the extra-long sleeves and thumbholes add hand protection, but it has become a go-to core layer when I am not wearing the WoolX array or in several truncated arrays (as have the Mountain Hardwear Integral Pro and Uniqlo Merino sweater described below).
Mountain Hardwear Integral Pro Long Sleeve Crew: The Mountain Hardwear Integral Pro is an unusual top, blended from 60% Merino and 40% Polypropylene. Its surface is quite a bit smoother than the somewhat scratchy Patagonia Merino/Capilene blend, and I acquired two of these to act as more comfortable core layers under the Patagonia Merino. The top is between silkweight and lightweight (about 140 g/m²), and it has become a go-to lightweight long-sleeved layer for use alone in mild-to-warm conditions (especially climbing) as well as for its original intended purpose and as a light interstitial layer in some arrays. They are available at a discount from various retailers.
Uniqlo Extra-Fine Merino Crew-neck Sweater: The Uniqlo sweater is not a technical top, but is rather a standard clothing item from Uniqlo.com, a Japanese clothing manufacturer which happens to make a few items that are interesting for outdoor use. This is a midweight (roughly 220 g/m²) traditional-style sweater that happens to be made of very fine-threaded merino which feels extremely good next to the skin. I use this in one or more arrays below the Patagonia Merino (with or without the Mountain Hardwear top). The sweater can be bought for $29.95 (!) and makes a very comfortable core layer. Their Dry V and Airism lines also make very inexpensive alternatives to synthetic technical tops, and their Supima cotton boxer briefs are excellent for hot weather use.
Monument Valley Totem Pole Dawn X1318
Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei at Dawn.
I arrived well before first light to shoot the dawn over Totem Pole from Thunderbird Mesa in Monument Valley.
Waiting for dawn to break in the brutal cold (-10 degrees F.) made me appreciate the scene when it arrived.
Patagonia Merino/Capilene blend: Patagonia uses a Merino/Capilene blend for increased durability, to increase the wicking ability, and to reduce drying time over 100% Merino while maintaining odor resistance. They use different blends depending on the weight and application. Patagonia Merino is an 18.9 micron yarn.
Patagonia Merino 1 Silkweight T-Shirt: an ultralight 120 g/m² jersey-knit Merino/Capilene blend (65% Merino, 35% Capilene polyester) T-shirt with shoulder seams and side seams offset forward to avoid pack straps. This ultralight Merino T-shirt adds just a little warmth to an array, but it is very effective at increasing the efficiency of moisture transport and thermal regulation, and it is very useful at higher temperatures when you remove the upper layers, either alone or under a field shirt.
Patagonia Merino 1 Silkweight Boxer Briefs: an ultralight 120 g/m² jersey-knit Merino/Capilene blend (65% Merino, 35% Capilene polyester) with a tagless brushed waistband for added comfort. The legs fall to the upper thigh. These are excellent for use in higher temperatures, but the shorter legs can ride up a bit when making high leg moves..
Patagonia Merino 2 Lightweight Zip-Neck: a lightweight 165 g/m² jersey-knit Merino/Capilene blend (80% Merino, 20% Capilene polyester) with shoulder seams and side seams offset forward to avoid pack straps. The long zipper allows you to vent body heat and is welted to protect the skin. Long sleeves with thumb loops cover the back of the hands. This functions well as both a core layer and as a lightweight layer in an array, especially with either the Merino 3 Hoody or the WoolX X704. It is also useful when used between two close-fitting synthetic tops to extend the temperature range and improve thermal regulation.
Patagonia Merino 2 Lightweight Bottoms: a lightweight (some might consider these a midweight) 215 g/m² stretchy jersey-knit Merino/Capilene/Spandex blend (77% Merino, 18% Capilene polyester, 5% Spandex) with a brushed elastic waistband for added comfort, a functional fly and offset seams. Superb alone in cool weather, it works very well in a two-layer array in cold weather or as the top layer in a three-layer array in very cold weather.
Patagonia Merino 3 Midweight Zip-Neck: a midweight 220 g/m² jersey-knit Merino/Capilene blend (80% Merino, 20% Capilene polyester) with shoulder and underarm panels offset forward to avoid pack straps. The long zipper allows you to vent body heat and is welted to protect the skin. Long sleeves with thumb loops cover the back of the hands. This top is a light midweight which can be used to widen the effective range of a light array by placing it between layers; as the top layer in chilly to mild conditions, or as a light insulating layer. This top when used between layers is an especially effective way of improving a legacy array.
Patagonia Merino 3 Midweight Hoody: a midweight 220 g/m² jersey-knit Merino/Capilene blend (80% Merino, 20% Capilene polyester) with shoulder and underarm panels offset forward to avoid pack straps. The long zipper allows you to vent body heat and is welted to protect the skin. Long sleeves with thumb loops cover the back of the hands. The collar is quite high reaching above the chin when the hood is closed, and the hood is anatomically shaped. A superb midweight base layer that can double as a lightweight insulation layer, it works especially well when used along with the Capilene 4 Hoody.
Monument Valley Cly Butte Artist's Point Sunrise X1767
Sunrise overlooking Artist’s Point from just behind Spearhead Mesa in Monument Valley.
Field Shirts and Pants
North Face Cool Horizon Long Sleeve Shirt: a lightweight 168 g/m² nylon ripstop long-sleeved button-down field shirt with button secured roll-tab sleeves, a highly effective side-opening back vent system with polyester mesh over the entire back, a long tail front and rear, a durable water repellent (DWR) finish, and a special finish which feels cool against the skin in warm conditions and slows the spread of moisture to reduce the cooling in cooler temperatures. The earlier version which I own has three velcro flap chest pockets (one narrow sunglass pocket above on the left). The current version has two larger velcro flap chest pockets with a low-profile zippered pocket over the right chest pocket and a flip-up collar sun-flap like the Ex Officio and Mountain Hardwear. These are the coolest shirts I own for hot weather use.
Mountain Hardwear Canyon Long Sleeve Shirt: a light midweight 70% nylon 30% polyester long-sleeved button-down field shirt with a flip-up collar sun flap, mesh side ventilation panels and back cape vent with polyester mesh over the shoulders and upper back, a tall vertical velcro map pocket and a horizontal zip pocket, button secured roll-tab sleeves, and a shorter tail which is the same length all around. This shirt is really well-designed, but it is not as cool in hot weather as the North Face or Ex Officio.
Ex Officio Air Strip Long Sleeve Shirt: a lightweight 73% nylon 27% polyester long-sleeved button-down field shirt with a flip-up collar sun flap, a button under the right side of the sun flap which allows fastening the collar point to make a turtleneck and block a cold breeze, two large velcro-closed chest cargo pockets (slightly smaller in the current version) with a zipped security pocket inside the right pocket and a sunglass or pen slot in the left pocket flap, side vents and a large back cape vent with a velcro center tie-down which can be opened and locked back to increase ventilation, a narrow velcro-locked utility tab above the left pocket for sunglasses, etc., and button-secured roll-tab sleeves. This is an exceptionally comfortable quick-drying field shirt that takes a close second to the North Face in hot weather, but the collar design makes it a difficult choice.
All three of these field shirts are excellent choices, and are the best of the shirts that I have.
Arc'teryx Bastion Pants: a durable, breathable midweight 6.5 oz./yd² cotton/nylon blend with jean-style coin, front and rear pockets, a slash pocket on the right thigh which can hold a smart phone or other accessories, 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, and when hot weather climbing is planned, I can forego long underwear and wear knickers underneath. These are used primarily in cool to hot weather conditions, and are excellent long pants for hot weather and approach.
North Face Paramount Peak Convertible Pants: a 168 g/m² nylon faille woven pant with a durable water repellent (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. Watch out for sparks from a campfire. These have very well-designed pockets, with deep hand pockets, velcro-flap closed cargo pockets over the hand pockets, a large zippered coin and key pocket, a slash thigh pocket for accessories 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. The current version has a slightly different pocket design with larger pocket space. These have a gusseted crotch, an elasticized waistband with feed-through fixed belt with a low-profile buckle, and belt loops to allow use of a regular belt to carry belt-mounted bags for accessories (critical for a photographer). The legs can also zip off to make a 10" short, and there are elastic hold-down loops on the side of the waist to carry the rolled legs.
Kuhl Rydr Pants: a heavyweight 10.8 oz./yd² combed cotton twill that is primarily used in cold weather or in high-abrasion conditions, such as when climbing and rock scrambling are on the menu (up to a maximum of 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. They are relaxed fit with a deeply gusseted crotch and articulated knees, riveted stress points, five jean-style pockets with extra material wrapped over the edge for reinforcement (and to reduce scratching when reaching in the pocket), a thigh welt pocket on the right side for a smart phone or other accessories, and a really soft feel for such a heavy pant.
The yoke conforms to the shape of the body, and the rear of the waistband rises in back so they do not slip down when you bend at the waist. They have a large banana-shaped gusset which is cut on the bias so the gusset stretches. 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. 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.
Kuhl Kontra Air Pants: a 65% cotton, 35% nylon tropical weight oxford weave, the Kontra Air is a lighter weight fabric 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 really makes these pants stand out for use in hot weather are the mesh 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 superb, 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 pocket behind the left thigh 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.
Kuhl Radikl Pants: the Radikl are an innovative design using a lightweight 5.2 oz./yd² woven exoskeleton (68% cotton, 29% nylon, 3% spandex) with knit stretch panels (88% nylon, 12% spandex) 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, stretchy 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 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. 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 you have to be careful how you use your knees when climbing. The material will withstand light abrasion.
Kuhl Raid Softshell Pants: a lighter, more stretchable version of the Kuhl Destroyr, the Raid is an 85% Nylon, 15% Spandex abrasion-resistant fabric with four-way stretch, and is more stretchy overall than the Radikl above. The Raid have the typical Kuhl articulated knees and gusseted crotch, an interior surface that is brushed for comfort, and a smooth exterior surface that repels snow and rain, with a DWR finish that allows water to bead and run off the surface. The fly welt is extended to an interior button, and they use the typical Kuhl Italian Snap waistband closure. There are reinforcing rivets at stress points, and there are six pockets 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 Raid allows complete freedom of movement... any move you are capable of can be made unencumbered by the fabric of the pants. There is a locking 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. The Raid has an fairly wide temperature range for comfortable use... they can be used without a base layer from the high 40s (calm) or 50s (windy) to over 85-90 F., and they can be used with thermal bottoms at lower temperatures.
Long Shorts, Knickers and 3/4 Pants
Kuhl Krux Long Shorts: In my humble opinion, these are the best hiking shorts ever designed. These 16" shorts have articulated knees and 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 durable lightweight 5.1 oz./yd² fabric is a 74% cotton 26% nylon blend that dries quickly. They have a gusseted crotch for extreme mobility 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 smart phone or accessories. The interior is covered with mesh, and the rear, thigh and hand pockets act as a venting system. 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. If you like shorts, you will absolutely love the Krux.
Patagonia Venga Rock Knicker: The Venga (come on, let’s go) is a 15.5” knicker made from a lightweight, stretchy 5.4 oz/yd² organic cotton and spandex blend (98% cotton, 2% spandex). The length just covers the knee, and behind the knee there is a shock cord with a 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 the OppoSet adjustable waist, which attaches the button closure through a nylon strap which can be pulled to tighten 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 diamond-shaped patch pocket on the right thigh with angled entry which can hold small accessories (such as a 5” smart phone), also with reinforcing bartacks which can double as a toothbrush holder. The knickers are very lightweight and breathable, and are closely fit yet quite stretchy, allowing full mobility.
Stonemaster Knicker: designed by Mike Graham, a well-known master climber who was a pioneer of climbing at Yosemite and founded Gramicci, the Stonemaster Knicker is made from a high count 8 oz./yd² stretchy satin twill (97% cotton, 3% spandex). The inseam is 18.5" as measured (the inseam is 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. They have side-entry hand pockets lined with microfiber and a single rear patch pocket which is protected by the signature Stonemaster flap. There is an adjustable webbing belt with separating buckle fixed within the waistband, a zipper fly and a metal logo button closure (no belt loops... special order). The rear of the waistband is higher than the front or sides, so the waistband does not slip down in back when bending at the waist. All seams use reinforced stitching. This is a superb, very comfortable climbing knicker, and the material both stretches as needed and will withstand abrasion well.
Stonemaster Nirvana Knicker: also designed by Mike Graham, these are stretchy jean-style 17.5” inseam knickers based on the Stonemaster Jean, made of extremely soft 11 oz./yd² premium Japanese denim (98% cotton, 2% spandex) with deep slash microfiber-lined hand pockets and a single flap-covered rear pocket on the right, a three metal-button fly and a metal logo button front closure, and belt loops. These are very durable gusseted climbing pants and great shorts, but with limited pocket space. They are marketed in Asia (esp. Japan) and are not on the Stonemaster website (contact Mike, he answers email).
Stonemaster Herringbone Knicker: also designed by Mike Graham, these are 8 oz./yd² pigment-dyed herringbone twill stretchy 17” inseam knickers which 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). This is a great lightweight climbing knicker which is not on the website now (the currently available Stonemaster Knicker above is similar, but made of satin twill with one rear patch pocket and a longer inseam).
Endura Hummvee 3/4 Cycling Baggie: The Endura Hummvee 3/4 pant is a Teflon-treated ripstop nylon cycling baggie. This durable 3/4 pant includes a clickfast mesh cycling liner (which unsnaps for removal) and a nylon webbing belt and belt loops. It has 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, and two huge velcro-tabbed rear map pockets. 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 wet weather.
Convict Lake 5636
Convict Lake, with Mount Morrison on the left and Mount Laurel on the right, is an alpine lake in
the eastern Sierra Nevada at 7,850 feet altitude, off Highway 395 not far from Mammoth Mountain.
From the Potpourri page in the Assorted Scenic section.
Outerwear and Rain Gear
Patagonia Torrentshell Pullover: an H2NO Performance Standard lightweight 2.5 layer nylon ripstop pullover shell which packs into its center front torso pocket (with a 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.
Marmot ROM hooded Soft Shell Jacket: the ROM jacket (Range of Motion) is an air permeable M2 softshell 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. A windproof, water-resistant soft-shell.
Marmot Precip Full Zip pants: a 100% seam-taped full-zip waterproof breathable 2.5 layer rain pant 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.
Mountain Hardwear Hard Shell DWR Jacket (earlier model similar to current Ampato, with ReviveX DWR spray coating):
I have an earlier model similar to the current Ampato. It is a durable 2 layer breathable Conduit hardshell jacket with a central front zipper and a velcro-closure storm flap with a snap at the bottom, a three piece hood with visor which rolls up into a high collar and has drawcords for hood volume and peripheral adjustment, velcro adjustments on the cuffs, an elasticized internal snow-blocking waist with velcro and snap closures, drawcord adjustment on the hem, and microfleece over the top interior zipperguard on both sides to protect the chin when the high collar is closed. There are two zippered hand pockets, a zippered chest pocket, a zippered wrist pocket, a zippered interior pocket and an elasticized internal pack pocket. The jacket has had its DWR coating refreshed with ReviveX (highly recommended — use the spray rather than the wash-in version).
Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Polartec Beanie: 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, very comfortable sueded polyester hat is UPF 50 rated and is my favorite hat until it gets really cold.
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