down and hard shell

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down and hard shell

by sparadis23 » Wed Jan 22, 2014 3:07 am

I'm a summer hiker in the Adirondacks but want to get into winter hiking as well, however, I know next to nothing about it and the gear required.

I have a base layer as well as a wool sweater (need to look for pants too but have been stuck on the upper wear). My thought is to get the Montbell Mirage Parka and the Arcteryx Alpha FL

Would I be correct with my attire that in the coldest conditions I could wear my base layer, wool sweater, Mirage, and Arcteryx and it would be more than enough? (they don't make a down jacket that specifically has a hard shell that goes with it or is it as simple as "wearing two jackets"). If so, I would imagine I would have to order the Arcteryx one size larger than what I would normally wear (Medium).

Under "normal" circumstances I could wear just the base layer, wool, and Mirage OR just base layer and Mirage?

I would also have the intentions of having an extra fleece sweater (and perhaps and extra base layer) in case I need to change.

Do I have the combinations of possibilities correct for winter hiking and would my choice of clothing work for those combinations?

Thanks in advance to those who took the time to read this post and help me.

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Re: down and hard shell

by seb » Wed Jan 22, 2014 8:24 pm

What type of conditins are we looking at in the winter? Also you dont need the alpha fl (made for alpinists and climber not hikers) you summer hardshell would probably be adequate for the conditions also since your on outdoorgearlab check out the winter jacket review if you want a hardshell and down jacket.
Hell ... Compounder even this would suffice.

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Re: down and hard shell

by luzak00 » Thu Jan 23, 2014 2:58 am

I'd want something much warmer than the Mirage for winters in the Northeast.

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Re: down and hard shell

by sparadis23 » Fri Jan 24, 2014 12:26 am

seb wrote:What type of conditins are we looking at in the winter? Also you dont need the alpha fl (made for alpinists and climber not hikers) you summer hardshell would probably be adequate for the conditions also since your on outdoorgearlab check out the winter jacket review if you want a hardshell and down jacket.
Hell ... Compounder even this would suffice.

Well I want to be prepared for the worst conditions (getting caught in a blizzard or getting hurt and having to spend the night, etc). Plus the summits that are open are obviously MUCH colder so I could use this jacket for that purpose too. Perhaps the Mirage is not enough, as luzak00 mentioned, so maybe the Feathered Friends Volant

However, I also want something that is suitable while hiking, if not just my base layer and wool sweater/fleece being sufficient enough. In this case maybe the Ghost Whisperer or Cerium

Then the next question is having a shell to one (or both) of these in case it's too windy or wet. Ugh. I wonder what everyone does.

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Re: down and hard shell

by ty454 » Fri Jan 24, 2014 12:46 am

I have a First Ascent BC Microtherm which is a hard shell and a down jacket in one. It's generally perfect for cold backpacking where there's a chance of precip and winds as well. It's a veteran traveler of many trips to Dolly Sods, WV for winter backpacking trips and is pretty much bombproof. Last year we had four days of backpacking up there where the *highest* temp we saw during the whole trip was 4 DegF.

In those scenarios I wore a heavyweight long underwear shirt, a synthetic hoodie (I have a First Ascent Hangfire hoodie but everyone makes them these days) and then my Microtherm on top of that. The only we were cold is when we stopped to set up camp and cook and the temps went below zero. At that point I usually don my Peak VX parka since it's a proven fact that it's impossible to get cold in that jacket at E. US elevations.

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Re: down and hard shell

by ExcitableBoy » Fri Jan 24, 2014 4:36 am

Some thoughts:

Don't spend more than $100 for a shell. A $400 shell won't keep you 4 times drier, last 4 times longer, or be 4 times lighter. I rarely wear a hardshell, only when it rains and then I go home. Your shell is not sized to go over a down parka, the parka goes on top of everything.

Add a lightly insulated wind shirt to wear over your base layer. I take a Marmot DriClime on every climb. It will shed light precip and heavy breezes and keep you as warm as a fleece that weighs more.

The Montbel down jacket looks fine. I would take either a high lofting fleece or a wool sweater. I don't think you need both.

So, the layering system would look like this:

Base layer (long sleeve, zip tee, either merino wool or poly)
Wind shirt (Marmot DriClime or similar)
Wool sweater or high lofting fleece (Patagonia R2) or 60 gram Primaloft sweater
Light weight shell
Down parka

This is the system I use for very cold weather climbing down to -30 F.

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Re: down and hard shell

by rctoris » Wed Apr 09, 2014 2:20 pm

Are you looking to go to some of the high summits in the winter? I do a lot of climbs in the Whites during the winter and conditions can be pretty brutal. I went with an Alpha SL for my hardshell to keep it light and keep me dry and I love everything about it. I wrote about it briefly here: ... -sl-jacket

As for down jacket, I went a bit overboard since I plan to use it on higher alpine peaks in the future ( ... own-jacket). It's total overkill if you're not going to put it to the test (took it down to -20/-50 windchill on Washington). That said, having a good down jacket with you in Winter mountain conditions could save your life if you get caught overnight.
-- Climb on Rob --

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Re: down and hard shell

by nartreb » Wed Apr 09, 2014 5:04 pm

It's not your gear that's going to keep you safe, it's your knowledge of how to use it. As you'll no doubt notice in the replies to this thread, different folks have different preferences for their gear, even if both heading out into identical weather. You need to find out what works for you, and the only way to do that is to take the gear you have up into the hills. Start with something relatively short where you can't get lost and you're below treeline until the very top - Cascade is perfect. Go on a day with a moderate forecast.

You'll likely find you have no trouble keeping warm on the way up, but once you sit still on the windy summit it's a different story. If you get sweaty, strip. If you get cold, layer up. (Also, layer up *before* you step out of the trees, and every time you plan to stop for longer than a few seconds, like for lunch.) If you run out of layers and you're still cold, get moving to warm up - and head down!

You'll also find that winter hiking entails additional challenges like keeping your water from freezing, and choosing food that's still edible when frozen solid. I'll let you discover more of these, but I will emphasize bringing plenty of food ("feed the furnace") and having at least a small amount of hot water in a Thermos.

Here's my system, which is similar to ExcitableBoy's except I don't have a windshirt:
Warm hat, warm gloves. A balaclava and goggles for above treeline.
Synthetic long-sleeved shirt
A thin light fleece you can wear if it's a little bit cold but you're warm from moving. (Windshirt might replace this)
A warmer fleece you can wear if it's cold (over the other fleece). I like this better than wearing a shell or a down parka - it's lighter and it breathes better and it's less noisy.
A windproof shell - you will only wear it if it's windy or raining but you're otherwise warm, so you want a light one, but anything windproof will be fine. (Don't worry about GoreTex or other fancy "breathable" fabrics, none of them actually breathe very well.)
A down jacket for when nothing else works, or for when you stop moving for any reason.
Windproof layer to pull over your pants.
Maybe a warm layer for your legs too - depends how cold it is. Swapping leg layers is a pain in the snow. I will sometimes bring three or four options to the trailhead and wait 'til the last minute to choose two to carry: minimalist (no-zip) wind shell? (lightest) Side-zip shell? (ventable, easier to put on/off) Snow pants with lining? (warm, partially ventable, heavy) Fleece pants? (warm, but not ventable)

Also, this time of year you'll want to have snowshoes, and possibly some additional traction - snowshoes with good teeth can work, but I prefer MicroSpikes (and I'm paranoid so I carry real crampons too).

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Re: down and hard shell

by ChrisJahn » Thu Apr 10, 2014 2:38 am

It takes a while but you want to find a layering system that allows you to run cool and limit as much as possible perspiration/dehydration. Finding your pace will also help here, and experience alone will help you pick/modify the layering system for the task at hand, but the best place to start is with light quality clothing from the base layer up and find the brand that fits best. I'm long and thin so the Arcteryx cut fits me best and because most of my system is that brand the layers are functional and comfortable.

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Re: down and hard shell

by the_isalani » Fri Apr 11, 2014 5:50 am

Check out this video by Peter Whittaker:

Its about layering on Rainier. Both are expert guides, and both have different approaches to what they're going to bring for the same climb, in the same weather.

It very much is a matter of personal choice, and how your body reacts to the cold.

My most recent trip in Colorado, I got onto the trail head at 25F, wearing the following:
    Smartwool wool briefs
    lightweight baselayer bottoms and top (think Patagonia Cap 1)
    softshell pants
    Smartwool trekking weight socks
    Synthetic ball cap
    Nepal EVO boots

I started off cool, but it took me 10 minutes of hiking, and then I was warm. And I had my softshell pants vented as big as they'd go. It was rather gusty with the wind too. In fact, we had to turn around, because above treeline, the winds were too intense to traverse safely to the summit. By the time we got above treeline though, I had put on my softshell jacket too, although it was not fully zipped.

I, personally, get really hot hiking, and don't like a lot of layers on. When you stop for a snack though, a softshell and/or puffy is vital, as you'll cool very quickly.

So, I can tell you my gear list, but that is what works for me. In may be totally different for you.

What I can say though, is that on top, I'll plan to layer as such:
    midlayer (fleece, usually)

I'll usually have a windstopper hat on, and a Buff (great piece of gear).

In Colorado, and Michigan's UP, I've never found a need for insulated pants. Softshell pants were always sufficient. As long as I keep my core warm, the rest of me is warm too.

Make sure your hardshell can layer on top of your softshell. A lot of times, a summer rain jacket may be too form fitting to fit over the extra cold layers you'll be wearing. What you get when you buy the expensive hardshells though is typically more abrasion resistance, and sometimes (though this seems to be changing), better breathability.


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Re: down and hard shell

by bird » Tue Apr 22, 2014 1:30 pm

In winter, you will mostly wear your down jacket over your hardshell.
My top layering system...
smartwool zip neck
Patagonia R1 hoody (best ever)
Mid weight softshell
This is what I spend most of my time in when on the move. If it gets very windy or colder, I add the hardshell over this.
Then when stopping for breaks or to set up camp I'll add my down (usually over the softshell if a longer break, but for shorter ones, right over the hardshell).
For bottoms.
Light longjohns and medium weight softshell pants. Hard shell pants live in the bottom of the pack. I have Marmot Oracle's which are $100. I think I've used them once...

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