View Full Version : Insulating layer questions

06-12-2004, 01:51
I'm a little confused. I understand the layering concept. I have my base layer, which is to wick moisture away. I have my waterproof shell.

Now the insulating layer is where I am meeting the problem of "too much info". There seems to be a huge amount of fleece to choose from, some new stuff called "windstopper", etc. I have a large assortment of fleece already, and am wondering if there really is a big difference between what I already have now, and the new stuff.

What are your requirements for your insulating layer? Do I need long sleeves? A hood? What about using a down vest to save weight, and be extra toasty?

Mountain Dew
06-12-2004, 05:26
You know it all depends on what the temp. is in regards to how much to wear. There are just so many variables with this topic. It also depends on if you are hiking at that particular moment. Unless it is in the 30's/low 40's you'll be fine hiking in shorts because hiking will heat up your legs quickly. I always carried with me a long sleeve thermal top and bottom, long hiking pants that the legs would zip off of, a long sleeve top (not cotton), a fleece long sleeved top, and finally my rain pants and jacket. If it is cold and you are hiking you'll be warm , but as soon as you stop change clothes especially if you were sweating. If you already have fleece tops then don't go and buy anything new. Try what you have first. Try to pick something that you think will keep you warm first and then think about its weight. I always carried a light weight rain suit (except for summer) because it would keep me warm while hiking in the freezing rain, it did actually work to keep the rain off of me around the camp, and if need be it can really keep you warmer at night on top of all of the other clothes you'll have. Wearing it in warm weather while it was raining was pointless though. That's when it got sent home.

The Old Fhart
06-12-2004, 06:27
What I've found is that, if there is a breeze, regular fleece provides little protection from the cold, the wind cuts right through it. Windblock fleece significantly reduces this by about a factor of 4. Given a choice, I'd choose windblock, windstop, or whatever the particular company calls their version. I bought windblock fleece gloves and tried them compared to regular fleece by driving on a cold day and sticking my hand out the open window. The windstop fleece winds "hands down".

06-12-2004, 09:50
because it is too heavy and bulky compared to others such as:
Primaloft and Thinsulate are far warmer/oz than fleece.
Fleece does have a small advantage as a bottom layer in a hammock because to a certain extent it wont crush down as much.

Hike clothes should be synthetic or wool but I've found wool to be heavy compared to Primaloft, I still sleep between down because I can keep it dry until sleep time and dry when sleeping, I can't always do that with clothes that are coming off and on and in and out of the pack.

If you want something incredibly warm and extremely lightweight look at this:


In XL it weighs 9oz. Coupled with a Patagonia Puffball Vest and most will be good to below freezing, throw a shell over them both and you have a system that is variable and lighter than most single jackets.

The Thermawrap Jacket I think is currently alone on the market for its weight/oz ratio but the Puffball has a good competitor at half the price:


MEC is a great company---note the prices are Canadian and the exchange rate is good for us now (has been for a while), plus the Northern Lite vest has advantages over the Patagonia vest.

Good luck with your choices.

06-12-2004, 11:19
I agree with MM. For this time of year, you should be good with a 200wt fleece top, if you have this and do not wish to switch to something like primaloft or polarguard. A hat it is better than a hood. Long john bottoms for the legs.
You will need something with sleeves, perhaps on a base layer under a vest.
I use a set of microfleece tops and bottoms (expedition weight longs johns) and the northern lite vest, all from MEC, in the warmer months.
Switch the vest to the Golite Coal in the fall and spring.
Cold winter and I break out a Golite Six month Parka (generally overkill, but nice to have.)
I also work in a pair of 200 wt. fleece bottoms toward the end of fall and into winter.
Got the last two on sale, $59 and $99 respectively. While the advanced synthetics can be expensive, there are deals out there to be had.

06-12-2004, 11:46
Thanks for the info guys.

Mountain Dew, I think I may be overdoing it with my shell. It's a North Face Goretex jacket, that has a zip-out fleece lining. It's heavy, but is extremely effective. I've used it while skiing, and remained toasty and dry with fleece underneath.

MedMan, I was considering the Western Mountaineering down jacket or vest .

Is down not the way to go, even if it's under a shell? I tried one on, and it was comfy, and compressed down to nothing.

Big Oak
06-18-2004, 18:44
At this time of the year a capeline is all you really need, and that's for night. You generate too much heat while backpacking to need much insulation at any time of year, unless you're well below freezing.

06-18-2004, 21:16
Is down not the way to go, even if it's under a shell? I tried one on, and it was comfy, and compressed down to nothing.

No, down is a fine insulator...much MUCH more efficient than fleece (warmth to weight ratio). I sometimes carry a down jacket while backpacking in the coldest months, but they are not great to wear while hiking because a nylon shell blocks the wind and makes you overheat quickly. The WM Flight is a great jacket for colder months, and is really really light to boot...puts my old TNF Nuptse to shame. A lighter-weight alternative is the Montbell UL down inner jacket, which weighs about 8oz but isn't as warm.

Here's what I wear/carry:

All year round:
worn: silkweight capilene longsleeve T, swim trunks, wool socks, running shoes.
insulation carried: expedition weight (100wt fleece) capilene zip-T (8oz) and tights (6oz), and powerstretch (fleece) balaclava (2oz) and gloves (2oz).
waterproof gear carried: Red Ledge Thunderlight Anorak (8oz) and pants (6oz) and OR rain mitts (1oz).

In the cooler months, I add my Moonstone Cirrus pullover (12oz) which is an insulated pullover similar to the patagonia puffball pullover, a 200wt fleece watch cap (1oz) , 200wt fleece socks (2oz) and a warmer sleeping bag.

Carrying the lightweight (both insulation and weight-wise) fleece allows adequate ventilation while hiking and greater adaptability to the conditions. If I need wind protection, I have rain gear as another layer. The insulated pullover serves me well at rest stops and around camp when my body heat no longer is enough to keep me warm. My sleeping bag extends this comfort for when the temps drop during the night.


06-19-2004, 10:50
I do most of my hiking in early-to-mid Fall and have found the following setup to be more than adequate for me down to the mid-30's. Remember that you become acclimated to cooler temperatures once you've been outdoors for a few days.

Hiking T: Duofold Coolmax Alta short-sleeve (5 oz)
Camp T: Long-sleeve Duofold Coolmax Alta (6 oz) or slightly beefier Coolmax 1/2 zip (8 oz)
Pants: Columbia convertible nylon with mesh liner (11 oz)
Hat: OR Windstopper (2 oz)
Gloves: Wool socks (4 oz) or OR Windstopper gloves (3 oz)
Shell: Frogg Toggs wind/waterproof jacket (8 oz) and Frogg Toggs wind/waterproof pants (7 oz) size medium
Insulation: TNF PowerStretch 100wt 1/2 zip (12 oz) that is water-resistant and blocks much of the wind

I concur with Howie that lightweight breathable raingear provides another insulating layer and wind protection, especially around camp.