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The Technical Aspects of Proper Layering

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The Technical Aspects of Proper Layering

Postby ondafringe » Sun Nov 03, 2013 7:13 pm

A few weeks ago, I was doing some research on layering for winter. Up to that point, I thought I had a fairly good understanding of the subject. However, after finding, reading, rereading, and studying the information contained in the following five articles, I realized I didn't know as much about the subject as I thought.

These articles are written by Andy Kirkpatrick and cover the technical aspects of (and even the science behind) proper layering. Those of you who are climbers may know who Andy is (I didn't) and, since he is a climber, his articles are aimed at other climbers. However, once you understand the information in the articles, you can apply it to whatever winter activity you are involved in.

IMO, these articles contain the best information available on proper layering, and since winter is upon us, thought I'd post the links for those who might also be interested in reading them.

The Art of Not Suffering

The Comfort Game

The Truth About Waterproof, Breathable Fabrics

The Best Softshell in the World

The Belay Jacket
Last edited by ondafringe on Tue Nov 05, 2013 4:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: The Technical Aspects of Proper Layering

Postby Rockchucker » Mon Nov 04, 2013 7:58 am

Great articles! I've read two of them so far but plan on pouring over all of them. Thanks for posting this.
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Re: The Technical Aspects of Proper Layering

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Nov 04, 2013 8:17 am

Very good information on why you get cold and theoretically, what is needed to stay warmer. However, it is aimed at alpine climbing which may present different conditions than typical summer backpacking in the Sierra. I believe the fellow is from England- very wet climate. He also ignores some of the old standards - wool for example, which also works well and fits within his theoretical criteria. I feel he is still a bit of a cheer leader for the very expensive high tech gear. Climbing has some unique features - particularly the climb/belay intervals and a less forgiving environment. And although he cites the umbrella as the "perfect" waterproof-breathable item, but discounts it for mountaineering (da how can you climb and hold an umbrella!) it is worth serious consideration for backpacking. The "do not sweat" rule has been out there for decades. Most experienced climbers and hikers already know this. Unfortunately clothing manufacturers have to compete and make money, and selling an item specifically made for a climber means low volume/high price. Most manufacturers sell out to the more popular "style" demands quickly. Overall, he presents very good information.
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Re: The Technical Aspects of Proper Layering

Postby ondafringe » Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:17 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:Very good information on why you get cold and theoretically, what is needed to stay warmer. However, it is aimed at alpine climbing which may present different conditions than typical summer backpacking in the Sierra. I believe the fellow is from England- very wet climate.


Yes, he is a climber from the UK but his location nor his climbing environment negate the technical information he provides. You simply modify it for your own environment, as I mentioned in my original post.

Wandering Daisy wrote:And although he cites the umbrella as the "perfect" waterproof-breathable item, but discounts it for mountaineering (da how can you climb and hold an umbrella!)


Da... he cites the umbrella only to to make a point. ](*,)
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Re: The Technical Aspects of Proper Layering

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:45 pm

See my last sentence. Perhaps I should have emphasized it more. I am not criticizing information or view on layering. Only pointing out that criteria for climbing clothing (his examples are the Alps) is not exactly the same as backpacking. As for the umbrella - I get his point - it is an often overlooked useful piece of gear for backpacking.

I have some very high tech climbing clothing that I have used for alpine climbing in the Sierra in the past. I still use it when backpacking in the Rockies but have dropped most of it for backpacking in the Sierra in the summer because it really is more suited for colder temperatures. But you are correct, if you plan on winter backpacking (ski touring) in the Sierra, the mountaineering clothing is more applicable.

I am still a die-hard fan of wool. Very old school.
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Re: The Technical Aspects of Proper Layering

Postby oldranger » Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:58 pm

I'm with Daisy--Can't give up my wool sweaters.

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Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: The Technical Aspects of Proper Layering

Postby ondafringe » Tue Nov 05, 2013 11:00 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:See my last sentence. Perhaps I should have emphasized it more. I am not criticizing information or view on layering. Only pointing out that criteria for climbing clothing (his examples are the Alps) is not exactly the same as backpacking. As for the umbrella - I get his point - it is an often overlooked useful piece of gear for backpacking.


Sorry, Daisy. My misunderstanding.

Wandering Daisy wrote:I have some very high tech climbing clothing that I have used for alpine climbing in the Sierra in the past. I still use it when backpacking in the Rockies but have dropped most of it for backpacking in the Sierra in the summer because it really is more suited for colder temperatures. But you are correct, if you plan on winter backpacking (ski touring) in the Sierra, the mountaineering clothing is more applicable.


Appreciate the clarification. I've only recently started backpacking and have only been on two trips, both in the summer. Although I have no interest in backpacking in the dead of winter, spring and fall can still hit you with a sudden cold snap and you need to be prepared.

I recently did a four day road trip in SW Colorado the last days of August, first days of September. Brought my backpacking gear to use while camping, including my layering system, just in case. First major storm of the season came through on the third day and dumped a lot of snow in the higher elevations. Last night of camping, not far from Wolf Creek Pass, temps dropped into the 30s early evening, low 20s by morning, no snow where I was but frost all over everything. Even with my layering system on, I was still really cold while outside, had to keep moving around to stay warm. Had I been on a backpacking trip, I think I would have been in trouble. That's when I knew I didn't have a good grasp on layering.

Soon as I returned to Albuquerque, started digging into layering and found those five articles by Andy. I think I now have a pretty good understanding and have restructured my layering system accordingly. However, I will test it out in cold weather locally before any trip into the backcountry, which won't happen until next spring.
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Re: The Technical Aspects of Proper Layering

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Nov 05, 2013 4:21 pm

Once you understand the physics behind layering, then you have to trial and error to find what works best for YOU. I barely sweat so my needs are quite different from my husband, who sweats profusely. My hands never get cold; my feet never get warm. My husband is the opposite! My husbands preference is to hike in a cotton T-shirt and change into synthetics or wool once in camp. He then puts on the wet T-shirt the next morning. I could never do that! On my last trip in the Sierra staying warm was my least problem (going up Taboose Pass). I soaked my clothing in water every chance I could get to make a cooling system. I have also found that my bicycling clothes work well for backpacking too. Bike upper layers often have windproof front and more breathable back sides. This works well when wearing a pack - less sweat on the back.

And one thing the article pointed out is that we may be too obsessed with staying dry. When I hike on the coast (warm to moderate temperature but very humid), I simply plan on always being damp or wet. What I need is a base layer that wrings out well and an outer layer that is windproof. I keep one set of dry clothing in a dry-sack and only use this at night. My preference for coastal hiking is light weight merino wool for night and micro-fleece for day.

I am sure you will find something that works for you. It takes a while to get it all figured out.
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Re: The Technical Aspects of Proper Layering

Postby Rockchucker » Tue Nov 05, 2013 8:14 pm

I'm just glad we are talking about this.
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Re: The Technical Aspects of Proper Layering

Postby ondafringe » Tue Nov 05, 2013 9:51 pm

Rockchucker wrote:I'm just glad we are talking about this.


Did you get through those five articles? If so, did they help?

I just redid my layering system based on what I learned in those articles and think I may have it figured out now.
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Re: The Technical Aspects of Proper Layering

Postby ondafringe » Tue Nov 05, 2013 10:00 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:Once you understand the physics behind layering, then you have to trial and error to find what works best for YOU.

I am sure you will find something that works for you. It takes a while to get it all figured out.


Yes, I am getting there. In fact, I may already have it figured out for the areas I hike and for the minimum temp range I am willing to endure. And trial-and-error is definitely part of the process, but those "errors" can sure get expensive. Oh, and no wet t-shirts in the morning for me, either!!

Thanks, again, for your insight.
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