Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Swimming back into academia, and other things

As a student, all things non-academia can take a pretty sharp turn toward "irrelevant" pretty quick. Now is one of those times. A few midterms are fast approaching and being out every weekend for the past six has not encouraged my study habits. But never fear, drafts are being compiled and three full-length gear reviews will drop this week.

On a gear note, for some goofy reason a few discount codes came out for 40 percent off anything at Backcountry.com. The crazy sale, or fluke, is over now - speculate as you will - but not before some folks dropped some serious cash on some crazy items. Western Mountaineering bags received the discount, as did other stupendously expensive stuff. My brother scored a Marmot Hydrogen for approximately $190 - a steal.

Myself, I ponied up for two items: Patagonia Capilene 1 bottoms in black, as always, and a Mont-bell U.L. Down Inner Parka. As for the Capilene, my current running top (and 3 season hiking top) is a Capilene 1 long sleeve. Thus far, I have found it to be the best base layer material I have ever used, especially for warding off stench. The Inner Parka is a conscious decision to reduce packweight. After reading about how much warmer the U.L. Down clothing is over the U.L. Thermawrap pieces (a must read for anyone ready to finally ditch fleece), I decided take the plunge and pick the Down Inner.

My other alternative was the Ex Light Down Jacket. I knew I wanted a tight-fitting insulation piece, and originally I thought I needed a men's medium - at the time I was perusing Backcountry's sight, they only had the Down Inner in small and Large. After measuring, I once again realized that I am really a men's small for most purposes. Out went the Ex Light, in with the parka.

Although I read through all of the Ex Light reviews on BackpackGearTest, I really, really like hoods on my insulation pieces. The Ex Light is essentially a down sweater that has a single feature - a full front zip. If I am going to do a mid-layer, I have plenty of lightweight fleece jackets to use in winter. So, I really didn't need it.

The addition will save me at least 5.33 ounces over my Thermawrap if you trust manufacturer specs. That number should be higher because the jacket's list weight is for a men's medium - one size larger than mine. I do not think it will significantly affect the weight. The issue now becomes as to when to use which insulating parka.


Philip said...

I've also gone back and forth on the down vs synthetic vest dilemna. I own the Montbell UL vest and a Cocoon Polarguard vest from BMW. I've found (through testing) that I sweat a lot when I wear the down vest with a pack, so I use to Cocoon to avoid degraging the insulation value when wet. My wife and I wear the Montbells at home, believe it or not, because we keep the heat low in winter.

Is there any way you can change your comments, so that they accept people with non Google or Blogger identities? Thx.

Matt Lutz said...

Comment updated.

I rarely wear puffy insulation with a pack on. The last time I did, It was with the Thermawrap Parka in May 2008 on the SHT. There were a few cold mornings (two of 12) that I needed it for approximately five minutes to warm up to hiking temp.

How do you like puffy vest? I love fleece vests, but haven't jumped on a down/syn vest yet. As a result, I've passed up a few decent sales on Patagonia and Montbell vests.