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fastfoxengineering
11-12-2014, 22:58
In preparation for my AT thru-hike, I'm working on getting my clothing system dialed in. I have used most of these clothes beforehand, but not in such a broad spectrum of climate variances over a 6-7 month thru hike on the AT. I'm trying to really refine my clothes and have a "if you can't wear it all at once, it's too much" approach with the exception of a socks and an item or two. Being lightweight is going to be critical on this hike for me.

I have been out for a few weeks at a time, but not long enough for seasons to change and the weather to be dramatically different over the span of the trip. So I'm looking for some of your expert advice on the subject.

Here's where I'm at with my clothes.

Trail Runners
Camp shoes - luxury item
2 pairs of Darn Toughs for hiking in
1 pair of Smartwool Trekking socks for camp/sleep
1 pair of sock liners - I use them if I start developing any hot spots with my feet. They remedy the problem.
1 pair of Exofficio's boxer briefs for hiking in
1 pair of running shorts for hiking in
1 pair of long underwear bottoms
1 lightweight t shirt
1 long sleeve 1/4 zip
1 patagonia cap 4 hoody
1 ultralight down hoody
1 marmot mica rain jacket
1 wool beanie
1 pair surplus wool glove liners
1 extra pair of running shorts for camp

I'm thinking about adding a set of wind pants and jacket. But have no experience with either. I would be adding something like a montbell tachyon anorak and dynamo wind pants.

How would you say my approach is so far?

Dogwood
11-13-2014, 00:53
I long distance backpack with these goals: "if I can't wear it all at once, it's too much" and "being lightweight"(UL). However, I would find it too much to ask of myself to stick with the same apparel set-up over a 6-7 month AT NOBO thru-hike duration and still strictly adhere to these goals. I feel these kind of backpacking goals don't need to be written in stone ridgidly adhered to at all times. To me backpacking apparel/kit choices need to be periodically re-examined and re-adjusted. I believe these things to be critically significant for a long distance hike in general even more so with these goals. In other words, successfully manage yourself and your hike through changes and challenges as you experience them. To happily and safely complete a long distance hike this is a requirement, IMHO.

To keep it simple, I largely base my apparel set-up on the likely trail and weather conditions. They will change over a 6-7 month east coast 14 state duration. Therefore, I add/delete/alter apparel set-ups based largely on those two criteria. IMO, there really is no need to strictly adhere to these goals over that long a duration anyhow. I regularly will have gear/apparel shipped to me that I think/know I will need and mail gear/apparel back home that I think I don't need. Always be willing to be flexible, to observe what's working/what isn't, adjust, and evolve - constantly adjust and resolve to be doing it better to be better.

I find it harder to rigidly adhere to these goals especially in wildly changing weather months like March and April. In those months I know I could experience a day with a 10* day time high(definitely possibly even colder temps), snowing with a foot of snow on the ground with a howling wind combined with sleet and rain as the temps potentially rise over a rather short period AND two days later it be 60-70* sunny and clear trail. Therefore, I will give myself some slack during those months of wildly changing weather patterns as far as adhering to my most minimalist UL goals. Attempting to have an apparel set-up that address all those weather conditions while still maintaining my original goals in an inflexible manner isn't going to happen for me based on what I know.

I would break down that 6-7 month period into smaller time periods into general trail and weather ranges altering my aparel set-ups as the changing weather dictates. For example, if I was starting a NOBO in mid March I would have a basic apparel set-up/kit that addressed weather and trail conditions upto about early May. Then, I'd change out to another apparel set-up, making some additions/deletions/alterations/keeping some(much) of what I aready have for summer AT east coast backpacking mode perhaps likely being able to go even lighter wt. If my AT NOBO thru-hike was going into late Sept/mid Pct I might add in a few apparel/kit pieces or slightly alter such.

takethisbread
11-13-2014, 07:06
I'll be short: take it all, you'll lose what you don't need. I used in April in
My pack beyond the shelter and bag and food:
Fleece jacket
Fleece pant
Xtra pair sock (2)
Beanie
Dri duck jacket
Long sleeve base layer

In Virginia
I got rid of the rain jacket
Long sleeve
Fleece pant
Sleeping bag
Beanie

Added in Virginia:
Sleeping bag liner
Tshirt
Pajama bottom for town

In whites/Maine
Back to original set up basically

garlic08
11-13-2014, 10:22
Basically it looks pretty good to me. I wish I had the same stuff--it's much better than what I hiked the AT with. Wanna trade? Six years later, I still have it all.

You'll send the down jacket home in mid-May, and maybe get someone to ship it back later if you're out there five or six months later. Wind/rain pants would be a good idea in the Southern Appalachians and New England, depending on when you're there.

Also think about sun, bug and poison ivy protection. I used long sleeves and long trousers the whole way and it paid off. No sunburn, not a single tick, and I wasn't worried when hiking past and occasionally brushing poison ivy on sections of the trail. Along those lines, a mosquito head net is worth its weight in gold.

I'll echo Dogwood's wise words about being able to wear everything at once as a coordinated layering system. With that in mind, I would not take both a wind jacket and a rain jacket. But if you think it'll work for you, try it out.

Havana
11-13-2014, 13:41
That list is pretty close to what I use for spring and fall section hikes (e.g. I have a lightweight fleece instead of the Cap4 hoody). I think it's a good start -- you'll figure out what really works for you on the trail but you don't have four pair of pants or anything else stupidly obvious. Agree on the points re wind jacket vs rain jacket. If you're going to add rain pants you could ditch the extra shorts as the only thing I think extra shorts might help with are to wear for laundry. But rain pants can be worn during laundry just as easy and can also be work as wind, or even, rain pants.

Also, you might consider a down "sweater" without the hood. I find if I need to keep my head warm, I prefer a beanie and I'm not sure you'll come across any weather on the AT where a good down hood and a beanie are needed. I just find all the hoods hanging between the back of my neck and the pack annoying. YMMV.

I usually hike in a long sleeve, button front synthetic shirt like something from Columbia. I like being able to roll up the sleeves or leave them down depending on conditions. I can also unbutton it for extra ventilation on hot days. But based upon what I see on the trail, most folks hike in tshirts. Again, personal choice there.

One additional item I carry is a Buff in place of one of my bandanas. (I usually carry two). On cold days a Buff around the neck can be a lightweight way of feeling warm.

Just Bill
11-13-2014, 14:15
Yar, you'll want to add/subtract as you go as others say.
For me, it helps me to sort by systems or conditions first, rather than look at a pile of clothes.

Summer/base- 55-80*
Shorts/undies/skirt- whatever you want to use
Top- FWIW, I picked up a Merino 1 tank top during the last sale and like it well enough- but it doesn't matter what you choose.
In all but high summer I bring hat and gloves. I typically carry 3-4 pairs of socks out east as high humidity makes finding a dry pair tricky.

A wind shell set provides bug, sun, wind, and light rain protection- the dynamo is a good choice for a pant.
I highly recommend the Houdini over the Anarook- only because of the full zip. (more later)

A headnet may also be added depending on timing.

High Summer- 80*+ or very humid
In the worst of the heat, I find a sun shirt like Garlic mentioned a better substitute for a base layer a button up in a light color that won't cling too badly but gives you sun protection. Even a cheap dress shirt will do the job. I like the Merino tank in this system as the two together is a good fair weather combo for the odd 50/60 degree evening camp, with the button up shirt also doing a good job of bug protection around camp.
The windshell and hat will stay with me, but the pants and gloves will not unless bugs are bad.
A larger bandana is also added to allow shade and evaporative cooling via soaking it at water crossings.

Shoulders- 30-55*
Wet (spring) the windshell is exchanged for a true WPB jacket, the pants stay the same.
Dry (fall) The Windshell stays.

Extra hat is added, shell mittens too. Depending on sleep system a balaclava or buff may also come along.
Sleep socks (as in only ever for sleep) may go in.
My base layer changes to a Cap 2 or similar.
A Cap 4 insulation layer is added.

Winter- 32 and under
Full WPB rain wear is included.
Full 3 layer hat and glove system is used.
Merino 1 base is used in combo with Cap 2 or even Cap 4 as my "base" layer
A light puffy jacket is added for insulation layer.
Tights or long undies are added.
A spare sleep top is often carried.

Two keys to going with the UL or only what you need theory-
YOU have to know what you need- until you dial it in better- err on the side of caution.

The safety piece/system-
When shoulder seasons transition hypothermia is by far the biggest danger in the woods. You should be prepared for this in some way that best fits your skills, strengths, and conditions. You need to look at your whole system and skillset in making this choice or how deep you want to cut.

Sleep system-
This is an easy safety spot- simply carrying a warmer than expected low bag gives you a margin of error for bad days. Unexpected cold front or danger day on the trail. Stop, make camp, get in your bag and be safe. Don't assume you have "extra clothes" to wear, in a real emergency, you probably don't- so size your bag accordingly. The only problem with going too nuts here- you may need a bigger pack due to bulk.

Safety Piece-
Typically a good insulation piece like a hoodie. This could be the cap 4 hoodie in milder temps, or a full blown puffy.
One rule I follow- If your bag is down, your hoodie is synthetic and Visa-versa. At minimum. If you choose to push each piece a bit- they are both synthetic. An unexpected dunking during a stream crossing is a fairly likely possibility- rather than add ounces of weight in the form of drybags- simply add common sense redundancy in the form of various insulation types. Week long rains will also diminish down performance and force you to zero or stop in town to dry out- a common occurrence amongst spring thru's relying only on down.

Safety Skills-
Can you identify hypothermia, do you have experience with it, how does it affect you. Do you have enough wisdom to stop and correct it, or will you try to push on to the next shelter in hopes of recovering there? Can you build a fire? Is that even realistic?
The more questions you have than answers- the better your sleep system and safety piece should be.

Warmth-
What is your stove, food, and drink situation? Do you have a system and food that can put external heat in your body when you need it quickly? Choosing a jetboil and carrying a spare canister may be the more efficient choice than sizing up your bag or carrying a 5 oz knife and 3 oz of fire starters. This balance in your total system should be considered, occasionally the "easy" stove may be the lighter choice overall.

Even something as simple as choosing a platy or Nalgene rated for hot water as opposed to a sawyer or recycled bottle choice gives you added protection in the form of hot water bottles. An extra 3L platy weighs an ounce or so- but makes a massive and potentially life saving hot water bottle. The rest of the time- it makes a fine pillow. That Smartwater bottle may be 1/4 the weight of a Nalgene, but a Smartwater and a 3L bladder is still lighter than a Nalgene, and a Nalgene makes a very uncomfortable pillow.;)

A systems example-
I'm fairly good buddies with Hypothermia, and feel good about my ability to travel while hypothermic- something not to be taken lightly. As such-
I wear an oversized Houdini. I carry a homemade quilt. The quilt is sized so that I can wear the footbox around my torso, and gather the rest of the insulation over the front of my body in the jacket. My pack provides insulation on my back. I can often wrap my tarp or fly around me to make up for the lack of a WPB jacket. I can put my platy full of hot water in my zip-neck Cap 2 and sip hot fluids. I can walk for 24 hours if needed- or more accurately stated- when unexpected temps come in I can sleep during the day when it is 20-30 degrees warmer and walk through the night when exertion makes me warmest. Allowing my system to function almost an entire season warmer than the gear list may suggest. If a truly bad event settled in- I am either fast enough to walk out, or experienced enough to make a debris hut, fire, emergency camp and drop into survival mode.

That's really kinda dumb for most people though. I only do this for experimental or true speed efforts.

I only point it out to show that there is much more going on when you see some UL systems or gear lists that has absolutely nothing to do with gear. I could post a late shoulder season list that would be light for some folks summer use- but would do little good to anyone but me.

Thankfully- you're about to embark on a long trip and will have lots of times to answer all the questions for yourself. One way to build skill safely- pretend you don't have something. The quilt trick above was one I had heard of, but never tried. But I forgot a puffy jacket and was forced to try it. So experiment a bit pretend something isn't in your pack and force yourself to come up with a solution.

fastfoxengineering
11-13-2014, 18:37
Thank you for the detailed responses. I like to read about how you apply your lightweight systems rather than just give a list of what you bring because what works for you doesn't work for me. Just Bill is always answering my questions and probably knows by now I'm always over analyzing everything before I head out and actually test it in the real world. Which is by far the best method to learn.

I forgot to mention in my list I will also be carrying a bandana and buff. Both versatile pieces of kit.

My thoughts on rain gear. More specifically on the AT is that for most of the trip it is just not needed. Therefore, I would like to have the wind jacket too. I could send my rain coat home when it warms up and use the wind jacket as my outer shell. I rarely if ever NEEDED to use my rain coat (for warmth) on the LT this past August. And it did get cold. Low 50's and piss cold rain up in the northern section. 3 days in a row. I hiked through it and when I got to camp I put on my rain coat to keep some warm in. But I still only wore it over my hiking t-shirt. So I used my rain coat because it was readily available and quick to access. A wind jacket would've probably worked better in the end. However, I would definitely start a thru with my rain coat.

I think I'm gonna pick up some wind gear and test them out. Only way to find out. I do feel like I'll like the jacket.

Dogwood
11-13-2014, 19:13
" I like to read about how you apply your lightweight systems rather than just give a list of what you bring because what works for you doesn't work for me."

This is one of the most insightful UL comments I've read in quite a while. I'm elated. Maybe it's due in part to being an engineer or involved in the sciences. You get it. I've been trying to get that across repeatedly. Gear and gear wt don't exist in and of themselves. Nor is going to increasingly lighter wt kits just about gear. I warn you though what you're seeking usually gets even more complex than gear options and gear wt. You have to see the big picture the large system yet be able to break it down into components. Then. be able to put it all back together again in a workable integrated fashion that is somewhat unique to each individual. This all has to be done while factoring in current abilities, trail dynamics, logistics, etc.

rocketsocks
11-13-2014, 19:17
" I like to read about how you apply your lightweight systems rather than just give a list of what you bring because what works for you doesn't work for me."

This is one of the most insightful UL comments I've read in quite a while. I'm elated. Maybe it's due in part to being an engineer or involved in the sciences. You get it. I've been trying to get that across repeatedly. Gear and gear wt don't exist in and of themselves. Nor is going to increasingly lighter wt kits just about gear. I warn you though what you're seeking usually gets even more complex than gear options and gear wt. You have to see the big picture the large system yet be able to break it down into components. Then. be able to put it all back together again in a workable integrated fashion that is somewhat unique to each individual. This all has to be done while factoring in current abilities, trail dynamics, logistics, etc.
I hear ya!


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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xos2MnVxe-c