- Nov 13, 2004
- Reaction score
- New hampshire
He doesn't like wool because of the weight and the fact that it partially absorbs water, which also adds weight and makes it dry slower. Relative to his perspective and climbing style I totally get that. Probably not the factor for us here in the Whites that it is for someone like him measuring every precious ounce. I pretty regularly wear synthetic jackets over my hard shell and I agree with Twight that it works well. I think it has a similar effect to what the DriClime/poly base layers do. The temp difference drives the moisture to the outside of the shell and stays liquid so the hardshell doesn't freeze and the insulation doesn't get very wet because it is exposed to the breeze/lower outside temperatures. I haven't really been out in truly cold weather so far this year though so I haven't had a chance to see how it performs in really cold conditions. I'm expecting the increased temperature gradient to make it work even better but maybe the condensation will ice too. Won't know until I try it. Somewhere around -20 deg F (in absolute or wind chill equivalent terms) is my "stay home" temperature so if it works in these conditions too I'd say I'm 100% sold on the concept.
I got an Arc'teryx Nuclei jacket this fall on a 40% off clearance sale that I wear regularly over my hard shell and it works out awesome (the jacket in general is pretty awesome no matter how I use it). It is made with their CoreLoft insulation (whatever the hell that is - it is synthetic), only weighs 10 ounces (it has a hood and two chest pockets) and is impossibly warm and breathable even when it is wet. I can wear just that jacket and a cotton t-shirt on a breezy day in the 20's and sweat taking a nice easy walk in it, which is a hell of an accomplishment for someone who gets as cold as I do. I've been able to use this garment in a variety of configurations to stay warm without wearing so many layers. (It does have a very delicate shell material so I try not to wear it as the outermost layer when I'm in the trees. For that reason I'm still messing with soft shell combinations instead of using it exclusively, which I suspect would be more than enough).
P.S. The synthetic layers do indeed get funky after a long day in the system I described. I only have one thin merino wool base layer which I haven't tried yet. And yes I was using a hard shell originally. When I first started hiking I did get a soft shell and the breathability was horrible. Worse than my hardshell. So I went to the hard shell system. Down the road as I read and learned more about the gear I realized my original softshell was extremely heavy and windstopper as well. I have since acquired several soft shells of various breathability ranges that I now use much more often. Hard shell generally only comes out if it is wet, trees have a lot of snow on them or it is super cold/breezy.
There are 1000's of combination's in regards to layering, but I confess. I've never heard of using a shell "under" fleece layers. I would say safely, that I use my shell less then 30 percent of the time I'm hiking, but when I use it, I need it. I tend to us my shell more to block wind, then to repel moisture in the winter. My system works like this on most days. Short sleeve tee, mid-layer good to 20 degree's. When needed, I add my shell. Above treeline, Ill add my puff jacket or my shell. If it's really windy and cold aka high wind chill value, Ill dump my puff and my shell and put on my parka, which is wind resistant and waterproof. But, hey whatever works for you, is the right way.