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Thread: Down "Sweaters"

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    Registered User 300winmag's Avatar
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    Default Down "Sweaters"

    For spring, fall and higher altitude hiking light down jackets ("sweaters") seem to be the answer to light, warm insulation. I recently had a wake-up experience on the southern PCT near Olancha Peak.


    On two mornings in a high valley (8,000 ft) we had temps of 28 F. and 24 F. All I had was a 200 weight fleece vest under my PacLite rain parka, which was barely enough. On the last day out from that camp if got down to 16 F. !! and THAT experience promped me to buy an Eddie Bauer down sweater this summer. Got it on sale for $87.!!

    To me a down sweater is becoming as basic a part of lightweight backpacking equipment as a good down bag. Treating them with a good DWR like Revivex or Techtron is important in keeping them dry, as is a light roll-top waterproof stuff sack.

    Eric

  2. #2

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    I got one a couple of years ago but it's too warm to do serious hiking in. However, it is so light and warm that I have not worn any other winter jacket around town since I got it. Anything else seems so heavy and restricting and it's so soft and light, like wearing a down pillow.

    Patagonia has a limited-edition version now made of 900-fill down and lighter material--it looks see-through but I have only seen it online.

    http://www.patagonia.com/us/product/...0-085&pcc=1128

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    I think a light wool sweater with an ultralight wind shell would be just as warm and light and more versatile, and much more durable, and less expensive. These "down sweaters" beside being terribly named, do not hold up to scrutiny.

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    I went with the synthetic "sweater". for just a few ounces more I got the added benefits of a non-down piece of warm-weather gear. You know, down and damp = not great.

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    So why not a real sweater, if that thin and so not for extreme cold?

    Personally I still like wool in extreme cold, because I would still need it for wet and cold on the same trip, because I hike in more northern woods stuff than true alpine or arctic, but for the temperature these thin "sweaters" are for, synthetic or down they don't make sense. You still need a wind or rain shell, so for the same weight, 10 or 12 oz or whatever, why not a 16oz sweater and be really comfortable all of the time, and then add your windshell or rainshell and be even warmer? Rain, freezing rain, whatever, bring it on.

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    Here is something that has me wondering about sleeping bags and clothing lately.

    In theory, for sleeping in -10F with an average skin temp of 80F, you should be able to get by with only 1" of insulation, a metric r-value of 1, and english r-value of 5.75 .

    100 watts / ( 2 square meters x 50 degK ) = 1.0 watts/m2K = R 1.0

    So what's going on. If down and all these synthetic batts are so great, why do you need 2" or 3" of loft to get an R-value of 5.75 or a clo value of about 6.0 ???

    The only thing I can figure out is maybe 3 things going on...
    1. There is alot of air flow into and out of the insulation through the shell.
    2. There is alot of air flow into and out of the bag around the shell and insulation.
    3. There is alot of convection or radiation going on between the shells through the insulation.

    In the case of #1, we could fix that with more airtight shells, but that might be too clammy, but if some air is going through, is down or synthetic still the best material.

    In the case of #2, we would need to do what we need to to reduce leakage, and presumably we do that, or at least should do that, rather than worry too much about instrinsic clo values and such things that apparently are not realized in practice, or clothing and sleeping bags would be thinner.

    In the case of #3, we would need to question the common assumption made than all loft is created equal.

    Perhaps a wool sweater with a wind shell does not need to be as thick as a down sweater or synthetic batt sweater to be just as warm. Perhaps it is still heavier, but how much? If 3 times as heavy as often claimed on the basis of same thickness, perhaps no contest. If wool or fleece only needs to be 1.2 to 1.5 times heavier, for equal performance in dry conditions when combined with a separate wind or rain shell, which is needed regardless, then maybe they more than make up for that with their versatility and durability, especially when your total clothing system is considered, for all conditions you are likely to encounter on a hiking trip.

    Anyhow, I think down does work very well for sleeping bags, and for thicker parkas in extreme dry-cold conditions, but they just don't make sense when they are so thin. The shells and not the down are doing all the work, and wool or fleece and one shell can do that just as well and be more comfortable and durable and versatile as part of your total system.

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    :banana

    Sorry, my daughter just told me to have less serious funner posts, adding bananas and smiley faces that say welcome.

    She says hi.


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    I thought the number you looked for on isulation was CLO, not an R value. And that some insulations had a higher CLO, despite being thinner. I saw a link to a really technical article somewhere on BPL, but it made me remember college math too much, so I never read it all.
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    http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-...hread_id=18950

    Don't shoot the messenger. That may not be it. Search for posts by Richard Nisley.
    Last edited by skinewmexico; 09-12-2010 at 20:07.
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    Yeah, I think I saw that paper, about european sleeping bag ratings. It was a good one. It lead me to wonder why loft can't be thinner, unless of course not all loft is created equal after all, not that I accept the thinsulate or polartec fleece claims either.

    I don't like the premise either that you can just add up clothing clo willy nilly, without concern about which or how evenly body parts are covered. Details, like cuffs and the neck and face area are important, but its a no brainer that you can't just run around with 10 pairs of underwear and a down vest.


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    Quote Originally Posted by JAK View Post
    Sorry, my daughter just told me to have less serious funner posts, adding bananas and smiley faces that say welcome.

    She says hi.

    Sounds like a winner.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

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    Thanks Bill. She gets her social skills from here mother, clearly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JAK View Post
    Sorry, my daughter just told me to have less serious funner posts, adding bananas and smiley faces that say welcome.

    She says hi.


    Yer whipped.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Del Q View Post
    I went with the synthetic "sweater". for just a few ounces more I got the added benefits of a non-down piece of warm-weather gear. You know, down and damp = not great.
    I picked up the older pull-over half-zip version of the Patagonia Nano Puff on sale for $60 recently (they redesigned it with a full zip this year, which is nicer but $170 or so). Very light, water resistant, synthetic piece for "sweater" weather hiking. Pretty ugly piece of clothing, but when you're in the woods it's about function, not form or fashion.

  15. #15

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    I have both a light(ish) 19 oz. down jacket with hood and a heavier (2 lbs.) without hood, and take one or the other when the weather gets cold (for camp use only). Unfortunately, that means that I usually still carry my 18 oz. fleece jacket for use on the trail when it gets very cold.
    Winter's coming when ultralight takes a back seat to survival.
    As I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn back from his way and live. Ezekiel 33:11

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    I'm thinking about one of those down hoods for the head and neck area, for a sleeping bag boost as well as a clothing boost for when I am wearing all layers for an extreme low or windy cold or cold but just sitting around situation.

  17. #17

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    JAK (above)
    Anyhow, I think down does work very well for sleeping bags, and for thicker parkas in extreme dry-cold conditions, but they just don't make sense when they are so thin. The shells and not the down are doing all the work, and wool or fleece and one shell can do that just as well and be more comfortable and durable and versatile as part of your total system.

    So true, JAK. One of the things I noticed is how many stitched through seams there are on those down "sweaters". The reason for that is that down flows very well, that is, it's not very stable. The thinner the down is, the more stitching required to stabilize it. The more the stitching, and the closer the seams, the more the already thin down insulating layer gets compressed. Makes very little sense to me, too.
    In addition to my down jackets, I also have a Polarguard insulated light jacket made by Golite (hoodless) which has no stitched through seams and should, theoretically, be warmer than a down garment which is just as thick at its thickest point (between the stitches), because the thickness of the Plarguard is constant throughout the garment. It also should retain more heat than a similarly warm down garment if both got drenching wet (down has a remarkable ability to absorb a small amount of dampness and dry quickly, something downplayed by the synthetic insulation manufacturers).
    The more I learn, the less, it seems, I know.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAK View Post
    I'm thinking about one of those down hoods for the head and neck area, for a sleeping bag boost as well as a clothing boost for when I am wearing all layers for an extreme low or windy cold or cold but just sitting around situation.
    Like this one? http://www.jacksrbetter.com/Hood.htm

    I use hoodless sleeping bags and usually wear a hooded jacket or warm hat inside them, which allows me to roll over in the bag without taking the whole bag with me, a necessity since my bag is usually wrapped around a hammock.
    Imo, Big Agnes should offer a separate hood to be used in their bags because if you're a side sleeper the hood leaves half of your head exposed when you lie on your side, with your face buried in the side of the hood.
    Stephenson Warmlite (www.warmlite.com ) makes a down bag with a down air mat and a unique hood which can be used for side sleepers. Unfortunately the bag isn't that "lite".
    As I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn back from his way and live. Ezekiel 33:11

  19. #19

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    I normally carry my Montbell Ex.Light Down Jacket (5oz) for backpacking. I often layer it under my 3oz windshirt in camp when packing up in the morning. It also makes for a nice pillow at night. However, even when I hiked while it was snowing in early Oct. last year when I was finishing the PCT, I found it too hot to hike very long in and usually took it off after the 1st 30minutes. The only time I was able to hike in it for any length of time was during my training hikes in late 2008 when I was in 20F temps wtih 35-50mph wind gusts giving a strong wind chill. As it was snowing, I had my rain jacket over it and was toasty warm.

  20. #20

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    Have you ever considered something like a MontBell down Inner Half Sleeve jacket layered over a light-med wt thermal top or UL wind shirt like Miner does? Combine something like this set-up with some UL Manzanella Windstopper Gloves and a wool beanie and I can hike comfortably in shorts in high 20's up to mid 50's as long as I'm not being blasted by strong wind.

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