Hard Shell, Mid Layer, School me

#1
Alot of vendors have either started their winter stock cleansing or will soon. I figure now would be a good time to revamp my winter gear. Right now I'm rocking out a mid-weight Mountain Hardwear jacket, and if its really cold, I'll throw a hoodie underneath it. I'd like to find a decent Fleece Jacket that would work from fall-spring and a Hard-shell to help out in the colder/wetter moments. As far as environment, I live in Northern Illinois so it get cold but I'm seldom out in the cold for hours on end. Think more going from car to store to car vs a week winter backpacking in Maine. So my questions are:

1. What fleece/mid-layer do you suggest? Is fleece still the way to go for a mid-layer I can wear fall through spring or are there better options out there now.

2. What Hardshell would help to keep the rain/snow off? I've looked at Arc'Teryx but I'm not excited by what seems to be a lack of hand warmer pockets on most of their models.

3. Am I better off getting two jackets? a lightweight and a heavy weight? Is layering only for active guys and a waste for someone who would be wearing it on trips to the store or maybe to the range?

4. Is there an outdoor company that makes winter clothing that is a comprise between looking like I stepped out of the pages of Soldier of Fortune, or looking like the human version of a skittles, all decked out in Yellow and Blue and Periwinkle.

Thanks in advance for any help and education you can send my way.
 

Lane C

Rico and the Man
Moderator
#2
Below is an email I sent to a western states LEO that was asking about layering for cold weather. Feel free to use it as a primer to answer your initial questions and then let me know if you have specific questions to be answered.

Email message
here are some things to consider regarding layering and where you work. you are definitely in a challenging area. the land of many mountains, high desert and high winds can make for a challenging way to manage your body heat while working with tacti-cool gear. the critical issue is to maintain a balance of body core temperature and also minimize perspiration which will accelerate dehydration and also can be an issue with evaporative cooling when you don’t want it to happen.

here is what i use, some of it is commercial mountaineering gear and some is military gear. i mix and match because i don’t alway wanna loo like a barrel chested freedom fighter (Kilimanjaro, Africa) and frankly i like lightweight gear for my wilderness operations. it allows me to move faster. as long as the colors are muted, such as drabs, khakis, grays, etc i will use it.

i made a switch away from polypro and capilene about ten years ago. i have favored merino wool due to its lightweight, non-funk smell and it works in hot and cold weather. i have a variety of merino thin bottoms from Patagonia, smartwool, helley Hansen and the like. i prefer thin layers of wool next to my skin because my legs heat up when i am hiking. i have had nights on bivouacs where my legs are still kicking out BTU’s from a rugged climb and i didn’t need thick expedition weight bottoms for them.

on my torso i always wear a merino wool t-shirt. i get the thin layered ones form anywhere i can get. Golite makes nice one and you can find subdued colors form Patagonia. over that i like to wear a thin merino long-sleeve hoody. I/O makes one that is black. it has long sleeves with the thumb holes for improvising extra hand/palm warmth. the hoody i like because at times if i am out hiking in windy conditions the hoody is thin enough to not block sound, but enough thickness to slow down wind drafting down my neck. this is my base.

now when i go mobile in the hills i like to start out with thin layers and be a bit cold. i will heat up quickly and i don’t want to perspire. that is the worst thing that can happen on a long search or potential overnight bivi. the sweat increases your risk of cold exposure and frost injuries. now think of slapping a plate carrier on your torso that has no permeable material to allow heat and moisture to escape and you can start seeing a problem creating. so i typically use a lightweight wind/water resistant shell top and bottom. normally this is the soft-shell or schoeller type material. i prefer a pant that does not have a heavy material with all the side pockets and reinforcements that you see in a lot of the tactical pants. as long as the pockets can be zipped shut so i don’t loose things and the accommodate a 1.5 inch belt i am good. one of my favorite is a pant from beyond tactical.com that i had made. very light yet durable. for the top i like full zip hoodies. hoodies rock especially when wearing a brain bucket. (normally on a wilderness search i don’t wear the helmet unless the NODs are attached and i am working at night) just me. Marmot and Outdoor Research make awesome hooded SS jackets in muted colors. i slip the PC over that gear and i get moving.

so now comes the issue of cold or wet conditions. you don’t want to get wet because the operation will become a major suffer fest. you don’t want to get cold because you can loose cognitive thinking, tactile feeling and even digits. first lets cover wet.

most people wear gore-tex or rain gear clothing at the wrong times, thinking it will keep them warm. think of to this way, gore-tex and rain gear are just giant ziplock bags. they trap moisture on the inside and repel moisture on the outside. some claim they are permeable, but in reality most people sweat inside of them. also waterproof breathable are not an insulating layer to keep you warm. but they will work in sealing or preventing your hot body temperature from escaping into the ambient air and prevent you from evaporative cooling process. so most of the time my WPB top and bottom sit in my backpack. probably 85% of the time. so i view my WPB gear in this light. if i am rarely wearing it, but i need it, want it to be damn light weight cause it will be weighing me down in my backpack. Patagonia and Arcteryx are the kings of lightweight WPB shells that i use.

now cold is getting to your question regarding the Arcteryx Atom SV hoody and the Patagonia Level 3 Alpha Jacket. I own and have used the Atom, sorry can’t speak directly on the Alpha Jacket. here is the critical thing. loft jackets are most efficient when being used in a sedentary activity, such as bivouacking or holding post and not moving your body to create heat. i never hike or climb while wearing a loft jacket. just to damn hot. so when i am sedentary and setting up an observation post i want the MAX ability to trap and retain my body heat. this is where goose down is the cats meow. the more loft or FILL rating the better you will be. the reason that down is better for this is again its weight ratio. the thing will be sitting in my pack adding weight while i am moving. down is much lighter than primaloft, synthetics, etc. i prefer a down jacket with at least 850 FILL for maximum warmth. GoLite and Patagonia make excellent jackets. this year North Face, Golite and Patagonia have released a hydrophilic down that retains its loft even when wet. traditionally down is about as effective a gauze for contraception when it gets wet. hell it turns to useless oatmeal in your jacket when wet. i had a down jacket get soaked after mom nature hurled plunging fire hail and rain at me on a climb up the Grand Teton. i was lucky that i was at a windy mountain pass and was able to stake out my jacket in the wind for 30 minutes and the wind dried out the down so i could press on. the new hydrophilic jackets are also supposed to have a more waterproof nylon cover to prevent the down from soaking. i just store my down jacket in a trash compactor bag (damn tough) and leave it in the bottom of the backpack. so i guess an answer to the Alpha and the Atom is that you will have to carry more weight and have less warmth ratio than if you had down.

i had to teach a carbine class in Moab, UT just before christmas 2013 when that crazy cold arctic air rolled in. we trained in -2 to 12 degree weather for two days. i wore smart wool thin bottoms, soft-shell Golite pants, patagonia wool T-shirt, I/O merino wool hoody, Marmot dry-clime hooded wind shirt, Outdoor Research hooded soft shell jacket, Outdoor research gripper gloves and an arcteryx wool beanie. I was not wearing my plate carrier, which would have increased my warmth, but i did have a Patagonia micro puff vest that i wore in the early morning and then shed it off cause i was getting warm. i never used my down coat during the two days.

i would be happy to go over footwear, socks, hand wear, pack loads, etc at a later time if you are interested.

if you are not a member of promotive.com, dvor.com, govx.com and theclymb.com they give LEO discounts on some of the above equipment.

outdoor research, arcteryx and Golite have pro deals to LEOs also.

next time you are in Reno. Patagonia and Sierra trading POST have outlets with some good prices for gear and clothing.

hope this helps

cheers

Lane
 

Runcible

Runcible Works
Staff member
Moderator
Vendor
#4
It should be mentioned that we must occasionally deal with weather outside of our normal habit: I very recently went from a week in North Africa to spending more then that in northern New England, through several snowstorms, with no space in-between. Unexpected circumstances displaced me with no notice, and what I had on-hand for contingency positively influenced the outcome. Further back, I attended a 2-day class in the West Virginian December with unexpectedly inclement weather sans my softshell shoes, and was carried by contingency items. Layering strategies apply at all times of year.

We must all adjust our layering posture based on our activities and exertion levels, and leave ourselves the ability to scale up and down; vice running all-in-one layers at all times. Day to day, my overall clothing ensemble is oriented around how warm I get while walking with a light pack; which covers me for a broad range of activities. I'd rather handle the deficit when still\inactive with beanies and other accessories then with whole layers. I strip layers when able due to heavy exertion, but equipment realities may make venting the only option, depending on the time of year. I run merino wool undershirts almost all days out of the year.

1. There are some fantastic synth-fill options out there, many of which straddle the abilities of a good mid-layer and softshell. I haven't done anything yet justifying down, and have been able to stick with my preference for synth-fill. That said, I'll go to a light or hybrid fleece first, do to the reduced depth while worn (until the synth-fill stuff becomes sufficiently advantageous) and the "pack it and leave it" advantage over synth-fill options. Given my metabolism and general habits, the Outdoor Research Centrifuge Jacket is my go-to mid-layer before winter hits full swing; I have a mid-weight Patagonia fleece hoody pullover, but the Centrifuge gives me a broader temp range of usage. For clearing driveways and roofs in the middle of blizzards, the Outdoor Research Superlayer Jacket breathed extremely well for how well it allowed me to stay warm. A previous-season Patagonia Nano Puff Hooded Jacket is my snowmageddon\bunker down layer.

2. "Packable" hardshells have come a long ways, but also may cover a broad range of abilities and lackthereof. The Patagonia Torrentshell, while a packable design, is extremely functional and has a broad feature-set for what it costs: handwarmer pockets, pitzips, fullzip, and reasonably thick\durable fabric. It's my go-to hardshell for winter months. The Outdoor Research Furio is my winter-apocalypse hardshell; over a mid-fill synth layer, and with a good lower-ensemble, standing pretty in snow-fall is pretty comfortable. Less applicable to you are the Outdoor Research Helium II and Patagonia Houdini. The former is my with-me-anywhere shell, and is paradoxically comfortable and breathable against bare skin for how small it gets; it's also very good and making long-sleeve base layers or cover-garments more efficient, and is even better with a light midlayer. The latter is a bit of a plastic bag, but has done well for me over long t-shirts during snowy runs; also packs even smaller then the Heliums.

3. I'm unsure in which context you mean to have two jackets or not - I do see advantage to all having at least one good mid-layer, softshell, and hardshell jackets; most probably won't see as much utility for lower-garments of same. If I had to pare everything down to that level, I'd keep the OR Centrifuge Hoody or Superlayer Jacket, the OR Ferrosi Hoody, and the Patagonia Torrentshell (only because of its' increased ability vs the OR Helium II - it's a ridiculously bring-able piece of gear). Layering benefits everyone, and contributes positive nuances any day of the year (even in the hot and humid - ie. compression fit synthetics vs. loose fit naturals). Good accessories can defray the accumulation of layers - dedicated winter utility gloves, a good beanie and possibly neck gaiter, good high-gaiters will upgrade plenty of shoes and pants, and of course good underwear (t-shirts, tights\long-johns, briefs, panties, bras, etc).

4. Many, many granola companies make technical clothing in subdued colors. OR always makes stuff in black, Patagonia has really been pushing greys these last two years, and Arc'teryx has muted options for their main-line pieces.

What else can we offer?
 

Cris_Magpul

MAGPUL
Moderator
#6
1.
Fleece is solid because it will insulate acceptably even if damp. the major downside to it is bulk and weight, and frankly that pretty much takes it off the table for me. I've run the Arcteryx Atom LT and Aphix (discontinued now), and found them both to be excellent mid-layers. They're relatively compact, can be found in a variety of non-tactical yet unobtrusive colors. The newer Atom AR is even warmer than the older Atom SV, if you want to kick it up a notch. Recently, I've looked towards some of the hydrophobic down layers, and settled on the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, but I think that those may be outside the scope of this discussion. Like Lane, I had a not-so-cool encounter with untreated down, and I don't even go near it anymore, except for extreme, dry cold.

2.
I've used a few different waterproof/breathable textiles, and have found that the better they breathe, the shorter their lifespan. eVent didn't hold up for me, DryQ Elite wetted out, and Pertex Quantum wetted out as well. The only textile I prefer now is Gore ProShell. It's not as breathable as some of the other options, but it's the toughest one that still breathes a bit. That being said, every eVent and DryQ pieces I've owned has been incredibly breathable. Like anything, it's give and take. Oh, and regarding the handwarmer pockets, they're not present because of the design philosophy behind most of the alpine inspired pieces on the market. They're made mostly for pursuits that require hands, although most companies also have lifestyle lines that may blend the best of both worlds for your application.

3.
I have a few technical jackets for different applications. First is an Arcteryx Squamish windshell for fast/light packing. It's not waterproof, but will keep me dry while I quickly seek shelter, and blocks the wind completely. Second is my Arcteryx Alpha SV, which I save for very inclement, cold, and wet weather, as well as for low to medium output activities. Third, I have a Mountain Hardwear softshell (the model escapes me) that I use primarily for high output activities in relatively cold dry weather, and lastly a couple "puffy jackets" to layer with or throw on during lulls in activity.

4.
It's hit and miss with each company. Some seasons they have some mellow options, some seasons it looks like a bonobo on meth chose the color palette.
 
#7
Below is an email I sent to a western states LEO that was asking about layering for cold weather. Feel free to use it as a primer to answer your initial questions and then let me know if you have specific questions to be answered.

Email message
here are some things to consider regarding layering and where you work. you are definitely in a challenging area. the land of many mountains, high desert and high winds can make for a challenging way to manage your body heat while working with tacti-cool gear. the critical issue is to maintain a balance of body core temperature and also minimize perspiration which will accelerate dehydration and also can be an issue with evaporative cooling when you don’t want it to happen.

here is what i use, some of it is commercial mountaineering gear and some is military gear. i mix and match because i don’t alway wanna loo like a barrel chested freedom fighter (Kilimanjaro, Africa) and frankly i like lightweight gear for my wilderness operations. it allows me to move faster. as long as the colors are muted, such as drabs, khakis, grays, etc i will use it.

i made a switch away from polypro and capilene about ten years ago. i have favored merino wool due to its lightweight, non-funk smell and it works in hot and cold weather. i have a variety of merino thin bottoms from Patagonia, smartwool, helley Hansen and the like. i prefer thin layers of wool next to my skin because my legs heat up when i am hiking. i have had nights on bivouacs where my legs are still kicking out BTU’s from a rugged climb and i didn’t need thick expedition weight bottoms for them.

on my torso i always wear a merino wool t-shirt. i get the thin layered ones form anywhere i can get. Golite makes nice one and you can find subdued colors form Patagonia. over that i like to wear a thin merino long-sleeve hoody. I/O makes one that is black. it has long sleeves with the thumb holes for improvising extra hand/palm warmth. the hoody i like because at times if i am out hiking in windy conditions the hoody is thin enough to not block sound, but enough thickness to slow down wind drafting down my neck. this is my base.

now when i go mobile in the hills i like to start out with thin layers and be a bit cold. i will heat up quickly and i don’t want to perspire. that is the worst thing that can happen on a long search or potential overnight bivi. the sweat increases your risk of cold exposure and frost injuries. now think of slapping a plate carrier on your torso that has no permeable material to allow heat and moisture to escape and you can start seeing a problem creating. so i typically use a lightweight wind/water resistant shell top and bottom. normally this is the soft-shell or schoeller type material. i prefer a pant that does not have a heavy material with all the side pockets and reinforcements that you see in a lot of the tactical pants. as long as the pockets can be zipped shut so i don’t loose things and the accommodate a 1.5 inch belt i am good. one of my favorite is a pant from beyond tactical.com that i had made. very light yet durable. for the top i like full zip hoodies. hoodies rock especially when wearing a brain bucket. (normally on a wilderness search i don’t wear the helmet unless the NODs are attached and i am working at night) just me. Marmot and Outdoor Research make awesome hooded SS jackets in muted colors. i slip the PC over that gear and i get moving.

so now comes the issue of cold or wet conditions. you don’t want to get wet because the operation will become a major suffer fest. you don’t want to get cold because you can loose cognitive thinking, tactile feeling and even digits. first lets cover wet.

most people wear gore-tex or rain gear clothing at the wrong times, thinking it will keep them warm. think of to this way, gore-tex and rain gear are just giant ziplock bags. they trap moisture on the inside and repel moisture on the outside. some claim they are permeable, but in reality most people sweat inside of them. also waterproof breathable are not an insulating layer to keep you warm. but they will work in sealing or preventing your hot body temperature from escaping into the ambient air and prevent you from evaporative cooling process. so most of the time my WPB top and bottom sit in my backpack. probably 85% of the time. so i view my WPB gear in this light. if i am rarely wearing it, but i need it, want it to be damn light weight cause it will be weighing me down in my backpack. Patagonia and Arcteryx are the kings of lightweight WPB shells that i use.

now cold is getting to your question regarding the Arcteryx Atom SV hoody and the Patagonia Level 3 Alpha Jacket. I own and have used the Atom, sorry can’t speak directly on the Alpha Jacket. here is the critical thing. loft jackets are most efficient when being used in a sedentary activity, such as bivouacking or holding post and not moving your body to create heat. i never hike or climb while wearing a loft jacket. just to damn hot. so when i am sedentary and setting up an observation post i want the MAX ability to trap and retain my body heat. this is where goose down is the cats meow. the more loft or FILL rating the better you will be. the reason that down is better for this is again its weight ratio. the thing will be sitting in my pack adding weight while i am moving. down is much lighter than primaloft, synthetics, etc. i prefer a down jacket with at least 850 FILL for maximum warmth. GoLite and Patagonia make excellent jackets. this year North Face, Golite and Patagonia have released a hydrophilic down that retains its loft even when wet. traditionally down is about as effective a gauze for contraception when it gets wet. hell it turns to useless oatmeal in your jacket when wet. i had a down jacket get soaked after mom nature hurled plunging fire hail and rain at me on a climb up the Grand Teton. i was lucky that i was at a windy mountain pass and was able to stake out my jacket in the wind for 30 minutes and the wind dried out the down so i could press on. the new hydrophilic jackets are also supposed to have a more waterproof nylon cover to prevent the down from soaking. i just store my down jacket in a trash compactor bag (damn tough) and leave it in the bottom of the backpack. so i guess an answer to the Alpha and the Atom is that you will have to carry more weight and have less warmth ratio than if you had down.

i had to teach a carbine class in Moab, UT just before christmas 2013 when that crazy cold arctic air rolled in. we trained in -2 to 12 degree weather for two days. i wore smart wool thin bottoms, soft-shell Golite pants, patagonia wool T-shirt, I/O merino wool hoody, Marmot dry-clime hooded wind shirt, Outdoor Research hooded soft shell jacket, Outdoor research gripper gloves and an arcteryx wool beanie. I was not wearing my plate carrier, which would have increased my warmth, but i did have a Patagonia micro puff vest that i wore in the early morning and then shed it off cause i was getting warm. i never used my down coat during the two days.

i would be happy to go over footwear, socks, hand wear, pack loads, etc at a later time if you are interested.

if you are not a member of promotive.com, dvor.com, govx.com and theclymb.com they give LEO discounts on some of the above equipment.

outdoor research, arcteryx and Golite have pro deals to LEOs also.

next time you are in Reno. Patagonia and Sierra trading POST have outlets with some good prices for gear and clothing.

hope this helps

cheers

Lane
This is awesome info.

Mind if I repost and give you credit here for it?
 
#12
(Whispers) 4 year old thread.
I’d like to point out how awesome it is that P&S has been around long enough to have true Necro posted threads.
Exactly, this information is still relevant and it wouldn’t be the worst thing to have the thread bumped. Gear evolves, materials do too. I’m still learning when it comes to temperature and moisture management but all the contributions we can get here will keep us growing. Please keep contributing.


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