Lightweight and Ultralightweight Backpacking

The View from Here

Panoramic view from a mountain top in Glacier National Park, Montana

The 10 Essentials

10 Essentials: Extra Clothing

There are a number of exemplary clothing choices, representing the principles and features I list here, at Products clothing on this website.

The extra clothing is the clothing items you carry because the weather may change.This may be as simple as one change of warm dry socks or gloves and water-proof or wind proof overmittens.

If you became disoriented, or lost, or engulfed in fog because you are near the seashore or the mountains are at the height of the clouds, you will need extra clothing.

If the wind came up, the rain fell, you need extra clothing.

If it snows, you need extra clothing.

If you do not have practical extra clothing for any likely contingency, you are at risk.

Most hypothermia deaths occur in mild weather: wet and chilled, from failure to stay dry from outside, or from perspiration on the inside clothing, or from failure to get warmed up, than from extreme cold.

While still necessary to dress in layers for outdoor activities, the layers are thinner, more flexible, and less bulky than their counterparts.

New fabrics offered now allow using one reasonably lightweight, or ultralightweight item of clothing to accomplish what needed two, or even three layers not so long ago.

Some of the newest excellent fabrics and the oldest natural fabrics, now modified, based on the principle of dressing in layers, catenary cut clothing with provision for ventilation are not uncomfortable, heavy nor bulky to wear.

It is possible to "walk dry" your clothing, especially nylon supplex pants. I have done it, with no special exertion. It rained, the rain stopped. I kept walking.

This also works with a lightweight inner layer that pushes moisture to a highly evaporative protective outer layer.

If I wear any inner layer at all over underwear, I like to wear a silk or silk blend or silkweight inner layer, to retain some "insensible moisture" on the skin surface, because it has been shown we will continue to pump out moisture to provide that insensible moisture on the skin, and without it, for example wearing a drying inner clothing layer our skin will become dry, chapped and other not good things for skin. Our skin is our first line of protection. I protect it.

Next, I have a protective wind and water repellant, not film fabric. Natural oils and ordinary dirt clog those film coated fabrics, and extra layers of fabric have been added to protect that film, adding more weight to the garments made with this stuff.

Note: waterproof is for inactivity.

Water-shedding properties are more desireable.

I have better success at finding windproof and water repellant qualities desired, with the newest fabric offerings to the public that have a weave or some technology that has been integrated in the fabric weave, or, layers of "one cloth" or in the actual fibers of the fabric.

British ventile cloth is a good example, if expensive. If you avoid french-seams, have a cord inserted at the hemline, or have a leather-finished edge, I had a British ventile mountain parka last over a decade. It can "wet-out" nevertheless the fabric will remain breatheable.

Another excellent example is DWR treated fabric which can "wet-out" in a downpour and remain breateable. In ordinary rainy conditions for backpacking, DWR is highly desireable because the fabric also remains breatheable.

It is possible to re-retreat DWR treated clothing, without any special skills.

This is highly desireable.

I wear DWR treated lightweight and ultralight backpacking clothing and use a DWR treated shelter I can clean and re-treat at home using McNett or Nikwax products.

Here is an example of how to do DWR retreatment.

McNett - How to Wash a Down Sleeping Bag

I keep the DWR items clean by having an inner mock turtleneck half-zip front shirt of warmth selected for reasonable expectation of the weather conditions, and a water-repellant half-zip or full front zip windshirt, and a poncho for adequate ventilation in a downpour.

Most people would not opt for a poncho.

The poncho shelters, I list, and The Packa over-pack jacket are used by experienced backpackers.

Most people will add a jacket on their back, or, in their pack.

If you do, have the most ventilation possible built-in as a feature of that jacket: full zip front, pit-zips, front opening mesh pockets, and wrist closures that will open. One jacket design has open-weave panels down each side for ventilation. I have a specialty mountaineering jacket, with a hood that has chimney-effect ventilation for ventilation for exertion, while wearing the hood.

Many people prefer to carry and use rain chaps.

There is ultralight backpacking, using an ultralight umbrella from GoLite or Mont Bell.

Me? I might combine the ultralight umbrella, with one of the other wind and rain solutions I have mentioned here.

If your regular clothing is all cotton, nothing I can offer here will help much.

Blue jeans, in particular, get wet and stay wet.

The new fabrics are recommended with few exceptions, and some older fabrics are recommmended: including the great fibers of silk, wool, rayon or nylon that are comfortable to wear and are not going to ruin your trip.

If you regularly wear quick drying travel clothing, planned extra clothing is all the more beneficial.

Do not allow the inner layer of clothing to become soaked, from outside moisture like rain, or from sweat. Regulate your activity: slow down. Open up your clothing: open the cuffs, pull out shirttails, open the collar, open some buttons, open the garment altogether, remove outer garments and carry on your arm, not tying around your waist, reducing ventilation more. Wear suspenders. Open up your pants. No one is around. If no suspenders, maybe long shirttails or a long jacket will cover your open pants. It is that important, do not soak your clothing with your own perspiration.

Most warmth comes from inside you. The clothing you wear only holds that warmth, by insulation and/or windproof or water resistant qualities.

In terms of protection, the fingertip length outer coat and fitted hood, and even long half length zip pullover or zip-on rain pants, or loose-fit rain chaps, may be indicated.

MontBell U.L down, or synthetic, inner jackets offer warmth for almost no appreciable weight.

If you have been eating smart, add an outer shell and two or three layers I have recommended will very substantially help nearly any situation, except the most extreme.

I have a poncho tarp, a MontBell jacket liner, and rain chaps.

These pack well, ventilate, and are lightweight.

I accept some people just do not feel protected in wind and rain unless they have a rainsuit jacket and pants. In that case, I recommend lightweight and breathable rainwear.

Many hikers like DriDucks, although their products are not especially durable.

If the temperature plummets, and it has become really cold, I recommend a bivouac.<

It is difficult, if not impossible, to cover ground in "whiteout" of snow or a really wet fog or clouds. Use all your extra clothing. Maybe hold back one pair dry socks. Use shelter discussed at 10 Essentials shelter.

This is as good a time as any to discuss hats. The right hat can make a difference. If you are cold, put on your hat. If you have on your hat and maybe gloves, and you are all bundled up, and you are still cold, put on put on a facemask to preheat all the cold air you inhale.

I like the PolarWrap Warm Air Mask, Full Head Cover or ExChanger II, because these specially prevent having to heat cold air at every in-breath.

The effect is feeling warmer.

Hats should be windproof, or ventilate, and protect from the sun, and have a front visor that could keep rain off your eyes.

There are hats that have a removable wrap to protect your neck from the sun worth considering.

If excessively hot, I wear and use the Original Kool Tie, soaked in water a minute or two for slow evaporative cooling.

I also have a HyperKewl Evaporative Cooling insert for Baseball Cap inside my hat. Driducks also has their Chilli Pad and Chilli Dana.

These work on the same principle: soak, and enjoy extra slow evaporative cooling.

It is helpful to wear a mesh hat or vented hat with these products.

For mosquitos, black flys, no-see-ums and midges, I have a soft no-see-um head net worn over my hat. If you have elastic that secures the bottom of the head net under your arms, this will keep the biting bugs out. I also use elastic short gaiters for the gap between shoes and pant legs. It helps to wear pants that are tight-fitting at the ankles, perhaps with an ankle-zip.

Gloves are important: warm, windproof, water resistent, or waterproof, not too tight to restrict circulation and allowing good dexterity. Fit is important.

Extra socks can make or break a good hike. Many people have ignored their feet, but this is not advised. Feet crippled by blisters are not fun. Wet socks make blisters faster, where dry socks can warm a person all over. I put my dry socks in a plastic bag. This way, dry socks are available.

May I ask? Are you wearing practical adventure travel shoes or boots?

If not, not much here will help. Take care of your feet.

Try on new hiking boots or shoes wearing the socks you will wear, shove your foot all the way to the back, lace up, then stand up on a steep slope and bounce. If not provided by the outfitter, stand at the edge of stair steps. Do you toes hit in front ? In addition, the widest part of the shoe or boot should be located at the widest part of your foot. If the heel isn't sufficiently narrow, or wide, and the forefoot of the boots or shoes are not sufficiently narrow or wide, or if the stitching hits your foot or toes, forget it. Try another brand.

Salomon hiking shoes fit me. What fits you?

Test the fit by looking for roominess for your toes, especially the big toe, and heel fit. The front of the hiking shoe or hiking boot ought to be somewhat straight on the side for the big toe. Your heel should not pull up or slide around. Different model hiking shoes and hiking boots have different heel fit. Lace up both shoes and walk around. If possible, stand on any incline and try to slide your feet foreward inside the hiking shoes or hiking boots. This will simulate hiking downhill, when toes could get smashed foreward inside the hiking shoes or hiking boots.

Wear your new hiking boots or hiking shoes around for a break-in period before you hike. Your feet will thank you.

Have sunglasses, even if you do not like sunglasses. Polarized lenses will help you see into the water for water hazards.

The specialized UVA and UVB sunglasses are essential to protect your eyes.

I have overglasses sunglasses for sailing and for kayaking, covering side entry of extraneous light, as well. If you already wear eyeglasses, rather than having prescription sunglasses made you might consider Vistana OverRx sunglasses with polarized copper lenses, which I find are great for sailing and kayaking.

In any event, Croakies sports eyeglass holders, or equivalent, are recommended to retain your eyeglasses.

The lens color for high mountains is different than that ordinary sunglasses, however, and non UVA and UVB dark sunglasses will only open the pupils of you eyes up to be more easily injured by the intense high altitude light.

If snow field or glacier travel is planned, special color glass and specially made glacier travel sunglasses are a requirement for the extra UV of glacier travel. The sides and edges are closed to light, as well.

I have Bollé, and either the Bollé Altitude Tundra or Bollé Crevasse are very acceptable.

For glaciers, specialized extra clothing and special crevasse rescue technique and equipment are additionally necessary.

If you have no proper mittens or gloves and no jumars on foot loops, you don't know how to use jumars, or equivalent, you are not properly roped up, you don't know self arrest having and using an ice axe, and you can put something across under the rope so the rope does not cut in to the snow or ice at the top of the crevasse, and so, your rescue can not bring the person all the way out, should the snow give way or someone falls into a crevasse, you are an accident death waiting to happen.

It is extra cold in there, so cold you must act decisively and immediately to get out before you lose dexterity of your hands, become uncoordinated, and core temperature drops precipitously right down to death. On a crevasse, use the ice axe shaft end as a probe, for each step. If the hole made is curiously light, not dark, cautiously back away.

An experienced mountaineer lectured about a failed rescue: the climber had fallen into a crevasse. He was brought up almost out of the crevasse, however the rope cut into the top snow and he died only a few feet from the top: no one could get him all the way out of the crevasse.

That unhappy experience happened over 50 years ago. Now, experienced rescuers know to place an ice axe or pack or equivalent under the rope at the edge.

Is everyone with you that knowledgeable?

There is adventure travel, and there is adventure stupid.

Now, there is adventure smart. This is perhaps a more intelligent choice.

10 Essentials: Cooking Fire

copyright © 2017 Connie Dodson. All Rights Reserved.