Monday, January 19, 2009

Prelimary winter report after two warm weekends

Since purchasing my my R1 Hoody and reading more and more about CLO and ideal hiking clothing, I have gone into the remainder of winter with a simple task - wear as little clothing as possible to keep me warm in all conditions and take the lightest sleeping bag I can.

My winter layering system involves (almost) never taking a later off to add another layer - or take a second layer off to remove a first layer. The layering system on the torso goes like this: Capilene shirt -> R1 Hoody -> hooded windshirt -> softshell jacket -> insulated jacket. At least one or two of these layers could be dropped (probably the Capilene shirt and either windshirt or softshell jacket) and still meet all of your winter needs - lightweight and breathable base layer, wind layer that doubles as a softshell/storm shell and insulated jacket that is highly breathable, compressible and has a highly water resistant or waterproof shell.

My first weekend, Jan 16-18, exertion was minimal for walking - the campsite was not that far. I was wearing the R1, windshirt and my gloves on my torso. The Hoody excelled as a multifunctional piece of clothing. It served as three pieces of clothing in one - balaclava, base layer and wrist warmers/tubes. I also tucked the hoody's low bottom hem into my pants to seal off drafts. While my Ion is not very breathable, it does block wind effectively and has a tight hood. Later in the afternoon when the wind picked up in an open frozen swamp, I threw on the Capilene shirt (underneath the hoody) and softshell jacket, the SD Frenzy. However, I eventually dropped the windshirt because the wrist cuffs were too tight and cutting off superficial blood flow - I felt a ring of cold around each of my wrists, a ring that corresponded with the cuffs. (I since have replaced my Marmot Ion with a GoLite Ether - a big upgrade I will report on later).

Nighttime brought out the BTU jacket over everything else. I did not, however, put the hood up until I went to bed. It snowed lightly throughout the last two hours of the evening before bed and the jacket shrugged off the precip. Snow bounced off the jacket much like it would on a softshell jacket. Temps were about 15 degrees F and it was not warm enough of the surface of the jacket for snow to accumulate and melt.

To bed I went - temps were projected to hit about 10 degrees F and I was carrying my 30 degree down bag, a shortie Ridgerest and was sleeping in my MK1. I needed to wear my insulating clothes to bed and use one of the closed cell foam sit pads for my feet. Off came my softshell pants and on went my Thermawrap pants. The softshell pants were dry, but I did not want to layer over them because they would put excess pressure on the insulation in the pants from the interior. I also removed my softshell jacket and put on my hat and neck gaiter. I put the hood up and closed down the hood of the sleeping bag and slept.

I slept surprisingly well and woke up three times to urinate - once shortly after I sent to sleep, once at about 2:30 a.m. and a third time around 6 a.m. shortly before I needed to get up. I have previously pushed my Hydrogen bag to 10 and 11 degrees, but each time I had more insulation underneath me - a full length Ridgerest and a full length ProLite 3. This time the insulation was obviously less significant. Despite these differences

This was the first wilderness test for the R1 Hoody, Capilene shirt, and the SD pieces - Frezy Jacket and BTU Jacket. I am currently working on finding out the amount of down will in the BTU jacket. This will help me determine how much margin for error I had in my sleeping system.


My second weekend out, Jan 30- Feb 1 was a different story. Temps were projected to hit 35 in the daytime and drop to the high teens at night. Once again, I brought out similar clothing and rarely needed all of it. I brought my Capilene shirt to the indoor basecamp, but did not use it in the field.

It was a good weekend - the high temp ended up being 45 degrees sometime Saturday afternoon, an exceptionally high daytime temperature for late January. The meteorologists around the metro area were all gaga about how we were going to make it through the entire month of January without a thaw. Well, they got it. Woopie.

The temps made the weekend different. It was can be more difficult to manage layers and control perspiration. Mukluks are also lose their appeal in such wet weather. The moosehide soaked up the melting snow and eventually soaked a portion of my wool socks. Thankfully I was not trudging through unpacked snow for a significant portion of the day. Had I been on a serious trek, I would have opted for a different pair of boots. My VB socks also were wet inside and out. Although the temps did not warrant the VB socks, I wore them more to protect my feet from direct moisture and as a test.

Temps dropped over night to a low temp from about 15-20 F. The boots froze up, but started to dry out as I wore them for the few hours the next morning. This of course shows promise for the boots in serious long-term trekking in varying temps.

I slept in my Marmot Hydrogen again, despite temps below the rated temp. I went to bed wearing only base layers and wool socks. A few hours into the night I woke up slightly cold - I trudged out to relieve myself and put Thermawrap pants and SD BTU jacket. I slept through the rest of the night until about 6:15 a.m. when the morning chill woke me up just a few minutes before I had to get up and wake the scouts up. Once again, I used only a single shortie Ridgerest with some old closed-cell foam chunks under my feet. I slept inside my MK1, this time with another staff member. Everyone else who looked at the tent declined to share it with me. After sleeping in there and getting dressed in the morning and I was quite pleased. There was no condensation on the walls and minimal condensation on the poles. The door was closed and the vents were open, as usual. If I was going to do some serious trips with the tent with a partner, I think a vestibule would be in order. This would allow easier pack storage, food storage and cooking.

Once I got home from the weekend, I received a new windshirt in the mail that I bought from a another BPL member. It is a GoLite Ether, men's small and has a full zip. It weighs in at 90 g (3.2 ounces), a full 20 grams below spec. The fabric is very wispy and the hood draws down well. My only issue is that the pocket (for self-stowage) is on the lower right side, almost where a hipbelt would be. At first glance, the pocket does not appear functional - this will be an important part of testing.

I got the windshirt to replace my Marmot Ion, which I am not terribly happy with. I want to start using a poncho-tarp and the windshirt will serve as a water-resistant layer to be worn in misting conditions and to setup and take down the poncho-tarp when it is raining. By taking a rain jacket out of my gear equation, I cut my packweight by about 14 ounces.

Initial testing results of the Ether are great. I have worn it biking 7.5 miles into work, and while running in it. Both times I wore a midweight base layer underneath it and not much else on the rest of my body. Temps for both tests were in the 20s. I was shocked to find that I did not sweat out the windshirt in those conditions - with my Ion I would have been roasting in a sauna. When running, I had a little bit of sweat accumulation on the insides of my elbow. I attribute that to having the fabric clustered up around the angle and air not being able to flow effectively.

Temps this weekend are supposed to be warm. I am taking a similar clothing combination but am leaving the BTU jacket at home - I do not think the temps will warrant it, and I want to test my Thermawrap Parka in light winter conditions.

Finally, I have started running again. I think my ankle is healed up enough now to get some new shoes and put on the miles. I hate taking four weeks off of training, but it is necessary to prevent further injury. More on my training program later.

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