Saturday, November 15, 2008

A fault exists in my SHT winter layering system

First, credit to Steven Evans in this thread. He's also doing a lengthly (8 day) winter trip and about one third of the way down the first page, posted a picture of him wearing all of his gear. It is something I have done, for the most part, except in relation to my insulating pants.

I found a fault - a simple one, yet obvious. It simply is this: I need to remove my mukluks to get my insulated pants on. The reason is also simple - the pants are meant to fit snugly, as in over a base layer or base layer and softshell pants. However, they also go to my ankles, and the gaiters on my mukluks stop about 1.5 inches below my kneecap. This means that the bottom snap at my ankle is not long enough to go around the outside of my mukluks without getting stretched too far. Also, because of the length of the pants and the size of my calves, I need must pull the bottom of the pants down as far as they go (i.e. to my ankle) in order to wear the pants and zip them completely shut on the bottom.

What does this all mean? I need to wear the pants correctly or not at all. To do this, I need to briefly pull off my muluks, slide the bottom of the pants to my ankles, and shove my mukluk back on.

Is this a huge deal? Yes and No. Yes because I will need to take off my boots when it is really cold or I'm going to be stopped for a prolonged period of time. No because I really only expect to do this when I get to camp, and maybe not ever. We'll see. In the past I have worn hardshell pants over 100-weight microfleece pants and a thin base layer with Sorel boots that were not as warm as my mukluks. Even when it was -20 and the wind was blowing at upwards of 15, 20 and 30 mph, I was fine on my lower half. That said, I am not leaving home without some form of insulating pants, and puffy insulation provides better a warmth-to-weight ratio than any fleece (even PowerStretch, one of the loftiest and lightest PolarTec fabrics) can offer. In the end, it probably does not matter. Even if I was taking hiking boots, full length gaiters and insulated over boots ( a la 40 Below), I would still need to at least pull down the gaiter to fully protect the insulation in the pants.

On a side note, I learned a few days ago that Mont-bell is posting the insulation weights of their garments. For example, the UL Thermawrap parka uses 80 g/m^2 Exceloft, whereas the UL Thermawrap jacket, pants and vest use 50 g/m^2. (Exceloft is Mont-bell's proprietary synthetic insulation.) Posting this information allows better comparisons between clothing, much like posting fill weight and fill power for down garments and bags.

Also, one of these days I'm going to have to replace my Nupste Jacket with something of a higher quality i.e. 800+ fill down and baffled construction or some serious synthetic insulation, like 5 or 6 oz/m^2 Primaloft Sport of Climashield. I'm working on a building a spreadsheet, like always, in order to compare these garments. More on that later, including requirements.

Finally, BPL is releasing their new line of clothing soon - first out are some merino wool shorts and a merino wool hoody. Me thinks that because of the popularity of the Patagonia R1 Hoody at BPL that Ryan Jordan and company are trying to tap into that market and put something out there in comparison. By the numbers, the BPL hoody is 8.2 oz for a medium with an 11" zipper. The hood looks to fit balaclava-tight and it has thumbholes. Retail is $108.99 for non-members and $98.99 for members. In contrast, the R1 is 10.9 oz, does not list a zipper length and also has a tight-fitting balaclava. It retails for $125, and you're hard-pressed to get that at anything less.

The idea behind the garments is simple: Build a piece of clothing that can act as your sole base layer, hat and gloves (and maybe insulating later in mild conditions). It would be something you never need to take off, and is highly versatile. The BPL hoody went on sale yesterday, and it hits the public on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008.

BPL should be releasing new garments and other gear later, including new insulating clothing and quilts (Post 3, by Ryan Jordan). I'm very, very curious what they're doing to boost the CLO ratings above PS, CS and PG.

Sad note: Western Nonwovens, Inc., makers of Climashield, have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (from Reuters). The news is old but it is news to me.

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