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Fleece and Shell Recommendation - longterm investment

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Fleece and Shell Recommendation - longterm investment

Postby theriel » Sat Nov 19, 2011 9:24 pm

Hello all,
First of all - hello everyone. It is nice to have found this amazing community and I hope to be able to stay here longer!

Having done fun-mountain-hiking for years, I decided that it's time to progress and get more serious about this hobby. One reason has been that I got invited for a trip to Kilimanjaro - which I allow myself to treat as "a good start," as opposed to the end of my adventures.

So, I need to slightly "refurbish my wardrobe". I have Merino base layer and some (not windproof) Polartecs for mid layers... However, I need to get:
-> a proper fleece for midlayer; and
-> GoreTex jacket + trousers for shell/outer layer (I'd be embarrased to say what I have been using so far!).

I would be grateful if you could recommend me some models which would be a good investment, especially when I later progress to mountain climbing.

I thought that it would be best to get a high quality outer shell and high quality fleece - as opposed to e.g. insulated shells - as this way I will get more versatility in the future.

So... what would you suggest? From what I have seen reading various articles, Arc'Teryx and Patagonia seem to be most often recommended - but I must admit that I am lost trying to differentiate between Alpha, Beta, Sabre etc... I don't even know what FL, LT, SL, SV, AR etc. abbreviations mean!

Thank you so much for your help!
Best regards,
Theriel
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Re: Fleece and Shell Recommendation - longterm investment

Postby Autoxfil » Sun Nov 20, 2011 1:16 am

Given that you live in the UK, I suggest Rab. They are every bit the equal of Patagonia and Arc'Teryx, and prices should be much more reasonable given that they are made in your country.

You are right to choose a layering system instead of heavier insulated shells. It's much more versatile.

The Rab Latok Alpine is a great all-around shell. It's fully-featured and durable, but reasonably light. They have a matching jacket and pants.

I'm not familiar with their fleece line, although the Patagonia R1 Hoody is currently the gold standard in lightweight insulating layers here in the states. Fleece is, to some extent, just fleece. The fancier models may pack a little smaller or have a nicer fit, but there's nowhere near the performance difference you find in outerwear.
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Re: Fleece and Shell Recommendation - longterm investment

Postby Gafoto » Sun Nov 20, 2011 12:07 pm

I'd say not to go with a fleece at all. For the weight you can get more insulation out of a synthetic puffy or a down puffy.

The Patagonia fleece lineup goes from R1 through R4, lighter to heavier. The R4 is expedition grade, extremely heavy and very warm. You probably wouldn't even want to wear it unless you're standing still. Patagonia makes some nice synthetic puffys that they sell as their Nano Puff lineup. They also have some slightly more expensive lightweight down jackets.

Arc'teryx actually has a naming system on their site which covers all the various labeling. Their Atom LT or SV would be a good choice for an insulating layer. The SV is very warm under a shell and much lighter and more packable than most fleeces.
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Re: Fleece and Shell Recommendation - longterm investment

Postby theriel » Sun Nov 20, 2011 4:06 pm

Thank you so much for your replies!

@Autoxfil - interestingly, I am temporarily (6 months) in NYC, so I can blatantly make use of local prices :).

So, it seems like I need:
1)fleece/softshell/insulating jacket
2)shell

I must say that I have also come across the Atom jacket doing my little research! I am not sure, however, whether LT would be the best option, as opposed to SV (I could, in theory, just stack a few base layers if needed)? Also, do you think this would be enough (assuming having varying base layers) or would I still have to get e.g. Patagonia R1?

Does anybody know any other jackets similar to Atom?

Also, what shells would you recommend? I have come across Marmot Precip and Arc'teryx Alpha SL/SV as being recommended... anything else? Any opinions about these? Is $600 shell really much better than other shells at $200-300?

Thank you once again for your help!

Best regards,
Theriel
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Re: Fleece and Shell Recommendation - longterm investment

Postby JHH60 » Sun Nov 20, 2011 5:21 pm

The right choice of hardshell is going to depend a lot on whether it's your primary outer layer or not. Here in the Western US a lot of people (including me) prefer to use softshells as an outer layer during aerobic activities, since they breathe better than hardshells. The hardshell only comes on when it's raining hard and/or when you're standing around and not sweating much, in which case the added waterproofness of the hardshell offsets the reduced breathability. If it's just raining a little, a softshell will keep you drier, especially if you're working hard and sweating a lot. In that system, people typically carry a light, minimalist hardshell, since they don't plan to wear it much. In line with that thinking I've used both Arcteryx Alpha SL and Marmot Precip; both are very light (12 oz SL, 14 oz Precip), adequately rugged (you can patch minor cuts with duck tape) and keep the rain off when you need it. The Arcteryx SL clearly breathes better but is 3X as expensive as the Precip and for my purposes the price difference isn't worth it. I haven't used the Alpha SV as it's more than 50% heavier than the SL (19 oz), and is 2X as expensive as the SL (6X the Precip!). If you plan to use it on a remote expedition where it's raining all the time and you can't just replace it if it tears, then go for the SV, otherwise I'm not sure why you'd want the extra cost and weight vs. an SL or a Precip.

Of course, if you're in a wetter climate and using the hardshell as your primary outer layer, this system and line of argument may not apply.
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Re: Fleece and Shell Recommendation - longterm investment

Postby sneakyracer » Mon Nov 21, 2011 11:12 am

Hi, This are my choices:

shell: RAB Stretch Neo shell: awesome, very durable, breathable but stormproof. (I have it, love it), no need to spend more.

Fleece: Marmot Powerstretch fleece jacket (I have it) or Patagonia R1 pullover or Jacket, similar options available from other mfgs. I wouldnt go with a fleece much heavier than that.

insulation: Arcteryx Atom LT. I have this and its darng near perfect. Get the SV instead for colder weather and for use as outermost layer.

For really cold weather skip the Atom, you will need a down parka of some sort with more than 250g of high quality down fill. (I have a OR Superplume down parka)

Honestly, In dry weather I hike (with a pack) in my Capilene 3 baselayer top down to about 40F, below that I want a shell over that and near 25F I add the fleece. If I am hiking without a pack I might use the atom lt instead of the shell.

Also, another great piece of clothing to have is an ultralight windshell like a Patagonia Houdini. A lot of times the hard shell is overkill and you just want very breathable wind and very light rain protection.
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Re: Fleece and Shell Recommendation - longterm investment

Postby Steve Larson » Tue Nov 22, 2011 12:39 am

I have the RAB Latok Alpine, Arcteryx Alpha SV, and a Marmot Precip. Both the RAB and Arcteryx products breath well enough to wear even when I'm working hard. The Precip does not. It also isn't very durable. I found that the coating wore off very quickly around the neck and shoulders where pack rubs hardest. The RAB is not designed as a full conditions winter piece, and doesn't have the room inside for much additional layering. So, I use the RAB in the summer, and the SV in the winter. The Marmot hangs in my office as an emergency rain jacket for those days that start sunny and end wet. I've used the SV for 6 years now, and figure I'll be using it another 10 or more. The RAB is newer, but I expect to get many years out of it as well.
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Re: Fleece and Shell Recommendation - longterm investment

Postby Gafoto » Fri Nov 25, 2011 12:53 am

I will say that Arc'teryx stuff is awesome if you can find it on sale or you just have too much money. If you can't, don't spend 600 bucks on a jacket. That's insane.
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Re: Fleece and Shell Recommendation - longterm investment

Postby Bignick » Sat Nov 26, 2011 2:39 am

If it's a long term investment, nothing says quality and fit like Arcteryx. Their shells and bibs are as good as they get. I would actually try to get a Canadian made product vs. the now Chinese made stuff. You'll have to go to Ebay and find a "new" unworn shell a couple of years old like the Alpha SV, Theta or Beta. I've had them all and have kept 2 Beta ARs, a large that fits well with a base layer and light fleece and an XL that will allow a puff syn or down sweater worn under. I perfer the shorter cut of the Beta. The cut on the Arcteryx jackets and bibs are such that they don't interfere with climbing when you stretch and reach. That in itself is worth an awful lot. I have several Patagonia base layers, Caplene, R1, R3, etc. They all are warm and wick well keeping you dry and passing sweat to the outermost layer. Look for the stuff second hand if need be, but get the best stuff money can buy. I can't see spending all the money for transportation, permits, guides, etc. then cheapening out and getting substandard clothing, gear and equipment. Being comfortable and having the best stuff will make the difference a great trip and a miserable one.
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Re: Fleece and Shell Recommendation - longterm investment

Postby theriel » Sun Nov 27, 2011 12:03 am

Thank you all for your help! You comments have been really useful.

Having made a few choices regarding my gear, I have realized that I still need to buy a few more things... I would truly appreciate your opinion.

1)Heavier/insulating layer gloves.
I have light liner/smartwool gloves and I am planning to get a shell mittens. However, I have no clue what middle layer to use... Alas, searching this and other fora hasn't got me much help :(.

2)Shell mitts
What would you recommend? I have only heard of OR Endeavour which seems to be superseded now by OR Mt. Baker (new model). What do you use?

3)Climbing/hiking pants
I have various merino layers. I have very light, Sahara-style long pants, mostly for lower altitudes and lots of sun. I am planning to buy a proper hardshell (see our discussion above). What I am missing is some kind of hiking trousers / soft shell etc. Something breathable which you would wear over your base layers.. I have heard some recommendations for Patagonia Alpine Guide and Arc'Teryx Gamma LT/AR. Do you have any views about these? Anything else worth consideration? What do you use?

4)Gaiters
Am I correct in saying that OR Crocodile are THE gaiters to buy? I would prefer to "buy once and forever" (well, at least to some extent). What would be more versatile - Expedition or normal version?

Thank you very much for help!
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Re: Fleece and Shell Recommendation - longterm investment

Postby Snowslogger » Sun Nov 27, 2011 2:02 am

If you get a shell mitten you can put whatever you want under it - mitt, fleece glove, etc. I have an old OR pair that has served me well. I really love the Patagonia guide pants. OR crocodiles have served me well also. The regular would be more versatile, the main reason you might want the expeditions is to fit over very large double boots if you have big feet. Otherwise I'd stick with the regulars. Hope you got to enjoy this strange overeating holiday we call Thanksgiving! cheers
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Re: Fleece and Shell Recommendation - longterm investment

Postby peninsula » Tue Nov 29, 2011 4:11 am

With temps well below freezing (10-20 F minimum), I'm good with the following:

Base middle layer: 260 Icebreaker merino upper and lower body (I much prefer smelling of livestock over smelling of myself)
Outer middle layer for extra warmth: Patagonia polyester fleece, medium pile, upper body only
Shell: upper hardshell, Arcteryx GTX; pants in a softshell, Arcteyrx 84% nylon and 16% spandex.

Five stars on all the above, more versatile and functional materials as compared to down and down synthetics for my play... perhaps not true for colder climes.

Don't forget the boxers... cheers!
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