Now that you have seen my three season gear, I figured I would go over my three season clothing with you guys. There is nothing special or unusual about it. It divides into the typical base layer, insulation, and shell components. I’ve been going over different clothing options for a while, and this is what works for me. Just like with my three season gear, my three season clothing is intended to go down to temperatures of 32F (0C). Of course I do not always carry all of the items you will see here. In warmer weather a lot of the insulation gets left at home. However, a combination of all of these elements allows me to use this clothing down the the above mentioned temperatures.
As a base layer, I use very simple components. I use underwear that is 100% synthetic. It’s nothing special, it just wicks moisture well, and most importantly dries fast. It is from the C9 line by Champion. On top, I use a synthetic t-shirt from the same manufacturer. Again, nothing special, it just dries very fast, which is what I find important. You can see the t-shirt in the picture below. I have spared you the underwear shot.
The mid layer provides both insulation and protection. For the legs I use a pair of Mountain Hardware synthetic soft shell pants. They are a nylon spandex mix, which gives them great stretch and flexibility. They also dry very fast and have proven to be very durable. They don’t make this particular model any more, but I simply aimed for the thickest, most durable looking one I could find. That’s it as far as a mid layer for the legs. It’s function is more one of durability and protection than insulation.
For the top half of my body, I have two separate components that serve to provide insulation. The first is a Carhartt mid weight fleece top. It is about the equivalent thickness of 100 weight Polartech fleece. I have had it for many, many years. It is well worn, but still serves me well. I am sure there are more high tech tops out there, but this one is an old friend. It has a half zipper, which helps a lot with ventilation when needed.
On top of that, I currently use a REI Revelcloud jacket. It is a synthetic jacket with 60g of Primaloft One fill. It is virtually identical to the Patagonia Nano Puff, except much cheaper. It compresses into a very small package, while providing good insulation. The Primaloft One insulation deals fairly well with moisture, and the jacket is thin enough to layer well with other clothing. It weighs 12.5 oz, and a lot of the time it stays in my pack. During three season backpacking, I mostly use it when I am sitting around in the evenings. I used to use a 200 weight Polartech fleece for this layer, which worked well, except that it was much harder to pack. The REI Revelcloud compresses to about a third of the size of the fleece jacket, which frees up a lot of room in the pack. I resisted the change for quite some time, but eventually the smaller size won out.
For me the main purpose of the shell layer is rain protection. All of my clothing is fairly wind resistant, so I don’t tend to use it as a wind shirt, although sometimes I would put my shell jacket on for extra insulation.
The primary component of my shell system is the Arcteryx Beta SV jacket. It is made of Gore Tex, and is one of the lightest durable jackets that I have found.
The jacket weighs only 11 oz, and spends most of its time in the pack. I always carry it with, even if I am not expecting rain. Unlike some ultralight jackets that are designed just as emergency rain gear, the Arcterix Beta SV is a tough and robust jacket that that is a good all around component of a layering system. It also packs very small, so it is easy to always have it with me.
Ordinarily, if I am not expecting rain, I will not bring a shell layer for my legs. However, if I know that I am going out into the rain, I will bring a pair of shell pants. My current ones are the Marmot Precip full zip pants. They use Marmot’s own proprietary breathable waterproof membrane. I got them for two reasons. The first is that they are relatively cheap. I use them in winter as well, and shell pants tend to get torn up when using crampons. I didn’t want anything too expensive. The second reason is that they have full side zips, so they open completely. That way I can put them on without having to remove my shoes. The pants weigh 12 oz, but unfortunately, because of the full zippers, they don’t pack as small as I would like.
Before I mention the boots, a word about socks. I use a wool/synthetic blend socks. You can get them from any outdoor store. I know people obsess about socks being pure wool, but there is a reason pure wool socks are almost impossible to find-they suffer from some problems. Wool tends to stretch and become loose. That is countered by adding synthetic materials that will allow the socks to maintain their shape. Wool/synthetic blend socks work great. I carry an extra pair in my pack that I keep dry.
As far as the boots, I use the Solomon Quest 4D. They are a Gore Tex lined full leather boot. They have fairly flexible, but thick soles. I like a full boot instead of ankle length ones or trail shoes because I find they protect my feet better. I don’t worry about ankle support, but I find that when going down hills, the fact that the boots can grab your ankle securely prevents your toes from getting jammed into the boot. I’ve had these boots for a long time and I love them.
I will usually have a pair of gloves with me, especially in spring and fall. Currently I just use a pair of liner gloves from my Outdoor Research (OR) Arete gloves. They are nothing special, just something to make sure the skin is not directly exposed to the elements. They can also be dried out fairly easily using body heat.
My hat is an old merino wool watch cap. I am very picky about the way hats feel, and this is one of the few that I like wearing. It is getting a bit stretched out, and it does take very long time to dry, but it is still the one I carry.
The last component of my system is a Smart Wool neck gaiter. It does a great job at preventing heat from escaping around the neck, and can also be pulled up to cover the face.
And that is all of my three season clothing. I don’t carry extra items. What you see is literally the entirety of my clothing. I try to stay away from gimmicks and claims about magical material properties. I focus on well designed clothing that when used properly can give you the best protection over the largest range of conditions.