View Full Version : To Down Wear or Not...

11-06-2012, 17:12
Looking around at EMS these past few days due to their Upgrade your Gear Sale I was looking at Down Jackets to keep me warm. I was talking to the sales associate and she recommended I stay away from a Down Jacket and get a shell jacket (with which I did purchase while ago, Marmot Precip). She told me to just layer and not look at the Downs.

Anyone have any advice for something to keep me warm? haha
(will be going NoBo in March)

turtle fast
11-06-2012, 17:20
Well a down jacket if wet will not insulate you...so you could wear it under a Marmot Precip. Though you may be better served by combining a synthetic jacket under the Marmot Precip that if it gets wet still holds insulating properties. You may be able to get away with wearing a fleece jacket too under the Marmot Precip if it is not too cold or you are quite active in the cold.

11-06-2012, 17:25
My two cents is All advice I have ever received from an EMS associate has been bad advice due to their general lack of real experience. I like down vests under a rain jacket on the real cold nights. You have a few months before you plan on leaving so experiment with what will work for you. I prefer the cold so i tend to tolerate it better. You need to experiment for yourself and see exactly what you define as warm.

11-06-2012, 17:34
For me, down layers are strictly for camping. Since fleece deals with water so much better, I use fleece as a mid-layer if it's really cold and/or wet (otherwise I sweat too much to make wearing anything that warm worth it). Think about how much time you'll spend not hiking on the average day and whether being comfortable in camp is worth the weight of a down layer to you. The more I've hiked and thought about gear, the less I've cared about bringing anything special to be comfortable in camp. I don't hike any more than I used to, I just don't care about camp clothes as much. In the worst conditions, I just hunker down in my sleeping bag.

That said, if you have a sleeping bag that you're concerned may not be warm enough, it might be very useful to have some down clothing to sleep in on the coldest nights (which could be well south of freezing if you're Noboing in March, but there's no way to know for sure ahead of time).

This is just my opinion. Other people might not be able to conceive hiking in cold weather without down. I just think that it's not versatile enough to be considered essential, even in cold conditions.

Zippy Morocco
11-06-2012, 18:29
I too will be leaving in March nobo. I will be carrying a Feathered Friends Daybreak down jacket. I have hiked carrying this jacket for a while now and only use it in camp or at rest.

For hiking I wear a merino 150g short sleeve T, a Patagonia merino 1 merino/poly blend, a Patagonia cap 4 (the 2012 model that is built like the R1) and a MYOG wind shirt or MYOG Cuben rain jacket. This set up will keep me comfy into single digits in Montana. I imagine it will quickly become overkill on the AT.

With this set up I can reconfigure for my weekly backpacking trips depending on the forecast. Besides the base layer the Down is the last thing I leave home. The weight warmth ratio is amazing.

11-06-2012, 18:37
I will carry a fairly robust down jacket to start my thru. It is a bit of overkill for camp but I hate being cold at camp. I will dual use the jacket as a part of my sleep system as it easily adds 10 degrees of warmth to my bag.

11-06-2012, 18:45
Yeah, gotta watch out for those down jackets, they'll kill you. Heh.

Seriously, plenty of long distance hikers on the AT use down, and we're not all dead yet. Down is for breaks and camp, not hiking, and yes, you need to keep it dry. But down is the warmest insulation for the weight and is my preferred choice for a cold weather layering system.

11-06-2012, 18:55
I don't know how those ducks and geese manage to do it, but they do it.
I find it easier to work with wool and polyester layers, and a single rain or wind shell.

mister krabs
11-06-2012, 21:01
IMO, you need a puffy layer. I like down for it's weight and compressability, others like poly fill like primaloft or climashield. You will wear this layer *with* your shell when it's really cold, so make sure they fit with both of them on.

Down puffy layer examples include everything from the costco 70$ down sweater to the Western Mountaineering flight series. Poly puffys examples are the montbell thermawrap, mountain hardware zonal, patagonia micro puff and eddie bauer first ascent igniter.

Prices are all over the map from cheapo primaloft and down for way less than 100 up to 300+ for WM flash jackets. Make your own decision based on the delta between cheap light and warm. Down vs. synthetic is another argument, but I need a puffy layer.

11-06-2012, 22:54
Reader's Digest version: Hike in synthetics, camp in down (under reliable rain/snow protection). Down is much warmer for the weight, but does not handle a soaking as well as synthetics.

As for wearing down under a rain shell - for a short period of time when not perspiring heavily it is fine, but for extended hiking, the near 100% humidity of the air between your body and the shell will end up reducing (but not necessarily eliminating) the loft, and therefore the insulating value of, your lightweight down jacket.

11-07-2012, 01:16
x2 on down for in camp, hike in a shirt.

11-07-2012, 03:04
+1 Down for camping lunch breaks etc. When your on the move a good fleece or poly pro and your rain gear is fine for most. I (and I think many others) really over thought my cold weather gear on my through. Staying warm is of course essential, but that's mostly all about when you stop moving ( and need to switch into dry warm gear ASAP be it down primaloft whatever you end up likeing). On the go I was warm in shorts, SS compression top, gloves, and a beanie in high 30's temps and deep snow. We generate so much more heat than we realize, till we are doing it constantly.

Three big caveats: 1. The second you stop moving you better have effective dry warm options. 2. Being super warm in little to no insulation in the cold is totally dependent on being dry, plan rain gear accordingly. 3. HYOH YMMV
Three huge

Rain Man
11-07-2012, 13:36
I agree with those who point out that a jacket can help somewhat in your sleeping bag, so don't overlook that multi-function use.

Even on the coldest, windiest days I've been on the trail, I would sweat quickly in a heavy jacket of any sort. At most, and usually not, I might put on a rain jacket to block the wind, but underneath I have a t-shirt or long-sleeve shirt). However, as soon as I stop hiking, I begin to get chilled. That's when I put on my Patagonia Nano Puff (which is not down) under my jacket.

If most of my time will be spent in camp, and it's very cold, I take a Cabela's 750-fill down jacket instead of the Nano Puff. For what it's worth, I got both on great sales.

Don't forget your hands and head! Both an easy way to quickly "layer" and also important for comfort and safety.

Rain Man