Sunday, December 2, 2007

First snow

We got about 4-6" of snow. It came down in mist, it came down in huge flakes, but most importantly, it came down. And I had to test some gear. New to my gear arsenal are OR Celestial Gaiters, SmartWool Trekking socks (heavy cushion), MH Power Stretch Gloves, Marmot Precip Pants (ankle zip), REI Alpine Lakes pants (full zip) and REI Ridgeline Mitts. And before anyone jumps, I did not pay full price for any of them. Not even close.

Anywho, I put on the gaiters over my old hiking boots. I was wearing the wool socks. The old boots will accommodate the wools, where my summer shoes will not. I put the Alpine lakes pants on over that. I hiked up the pants to tuck in my fleece, an old Denali TNF jacket. I put my Precip jacket on over that. I wore both pairs of mitts and a 300 weight polartech fleece windstopper hat. My hood was up the whole time. My girlfriend wore the Precip bottoms. The temp was about 15 def F. There was a moderate wind, no more than 5-8 mph.

I was pleased with the gear, except either I was overheating or my precip jacket is dying. I'd like to believe the latter.

I bought the gaiters to accompany my rain pants because last May, I wore my rain pants and the water drained into my boot. Major suck. The gaiters kept snow out of my boot and they were easy to put on and off. They had no moisture inside of them when I removed them an hour os so later.

The Alpine lakes pants were also a success. I slid down a small hill multiple times to test waterproofness with pressure and I was pleased. Although they have a lining in them (1/3 mesh, 2/3 breathable nylon), I felt no moisture in them at the end of the night. My jeans stayed dry.

The mitts plus the gloves were probably overkill. I could have gone without the power stretch gloves. However, the mitts kept my hands warm and dry. When I first purchased them, I went home, I put them under running water to test their water proofness. I also submerged them and looked for bubbles. The mitts passed both these tests. This is unlike my previous shell gloves, REI Minimalists (bought in '07, made in '06 or '07). I learned that they were not waterproof the hard way, when I stuck them in a moving river and watched for a brief second water bubbles come out of the palm.

My precip jacket had moisture inside. Bummer, I hope it is just from overheating. The precip pants, however, had no moisture inside them. This is similar to a previous test, where I used the pants during a multi-inch downpour and then wore them while the sun came out, scared away the clouds and shot the temp up 20 degrees. And I was sitting in a canoe and could not take them off. Ninety minutes later, I took them off and they had no moisture in them.

I will be winter camping this weekend, and I'll be testing most of the above gear over a 24-hour period. I will also be wearing a thin Balaclava and Sorel Boots.

The odd thing about this weekend is that I really dislike trying to find how much clothes to bring, in particular, warmth layers for my top. I have three good fleece tops, a good fleece vest, a wool vest and a down jacket. I never like to bring too much, but I can't risk bringing too little. In the past, I have used at most (-20 F), a lower-quality fleece vest, the wool sweater and a columbia jacket with the insulated (non-fleece) liner. I'm inclined to bring the vest, a thin fleece (~100 wgt generic fleece from Eddie Bauer, I got it for $5 at savers), my windshirt, the down coat and my precip shell. I should be able to deal with anything this weekend can throw at me with that on. If it gets crazy, I'll bring the wool sweater. I don't think I will bring any of the thicker fleeces because they will not fit under my windshirt, which is a tight-cut size small.

I'm also going to be taking fleece pants with me winter camping for the first time. Previously, I used wool army surplus pants that worked OK. They didn't block wind all that well, and they collected snow and ice. My shell pants will block wind (to 60 mph, I believe the tag said) they will not collect snow. And I'll be warmer.

More when I return.

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