Must have item for the PCT…

Earlier today a Facebook user asked what is everyone’s must-have item for the PCT.  I didn’t have to think one moment.  The answer was simple, a wind jacket.  Oddly enough very few people today carry them.   The PCT is just as windy as ever.  What changed?

A few years back Yogi, Eric D, and I were sitting at Grumpy Bear’s catching up.  The bar was packed and we were in a room to the side.  All the current year hikers were 3 deep at the bar getting something to eat and drink.  One of us commented that everyone at the bar was wearing a down jacket.  The three of us sat there in our decade-old Marmot DriClime jackets wondering what these guys wear on the trail when it is windy.

It seems the current trend is hikers use rainwear as a wind barrier.  Not something we would recommend.  The frequency of windy days on the PCT one will want wind protection 50 – 100 days on a thru-hike.   Rainwear isn’t meant to be worn that often without cleaning, washing, and retreating.  The DWR coatings eventually wear off and that is expedited with constant use, sandy shoulder straps, and hip belts.  I’ve found that wearing a rain jacket every day without care will cause it to fail prematurely.  In my experience, it isn’t worth carrying a rain jacket if it won’t keep me dry.

The companies that make rain jackets also make wind jackets.  We recommend hikers carry both.

Thankfully Marmot still makes the DriClime jacket. In fact, Marmot introduced the Ether DriClime Hoody it has a hood and pockets plus Marmot made it much lighter.

These fleece lined wind jackets are incredible and last forever.

It may be a bit heavy for some people or not work with their layering ensemble.  In that case, a lightweight shell may work better.  Black Diamond has a few really impressive light wind shells.

 

 

 

 

 

New to the market is the 48g Deploy Wind Shell it packs down to the size of a golf ball plus it has a DWR treatment.  We just received these recently and haven’t taken them in the field yet.  However, the folks at BD have yet to disappoint us.  The amount of high-quality new apparel they are bringing to market is unreal.

Black Diamond also has the updated Alpine Start Hoody

The Alpine Start Hoody plays right in the middle of a wind shell and a lined wind jacket.  This is a Schoeller stretch-woven fabric jacket that is perfect for the Sierra.  Highly breathable, weather resistant, and lightweight.

Rab offers a really inspiring item the Kinetic Plus Jacket.

Rab positions this as both a soft shell and a rain shell.  This may prove to be a good hybrid everyday wind and rain jacket.  It has a stretch fabric that has the feel of a softshell jacket.  Plus taped seams and a waterproof membrane.  It boasts an exceptional breathability rating and waterproof measure.  The Kinetic Plus features the nicest hood I have ever tried on.  It has a unique stretch panel on the front of the hood.  Truly a nice touch.

I’ve been using Rab rainwear for most of my trips since 2010.  They are a UK based brand so the zipper is reversed.  However, that is a small price to pay for their quality.

All the above jackets are great to wear over a fleece or a t-shirt.  They work well during strenuous activity or sitting on a ridge taking in the views.  We highly recommend a wind jacket of some sort.  Some may last for a decade or more, our Marmot DriClimes have.  We wear our DriClimes every day, and someday I will be buried wearing one.

I’ve included care instructions from the manufacturers for the more popular fabrics below.  The reality is on a long hike one won’t necessarily have access to Nik Wax products for proper care.

Pertex Care Instructions

eVent Fabric Care Instructions

Our new favorite gloves

Cooler temperatures are here.  I love the weather but my fingertips tend to get cold.  Over 40 years ago I became a pet rabbit attack survivor.  The attack left me needing to get a few fingertips stitched up and reattached.  While I no longer harbor animosity towards rabbits my fingers get cold easily.  Additionally, most days I start hiking before sunrise and add a few hours after dark.  Hopefully, some of my insight will help you keep your hands warm.

On any hike, one should carry gloves every month of the year.  The fabric weight and or the number of layers will be what changes.  Remember that a day hike can turn into an overnight hike with a twist of an ankle.  I believe any time I walk into the woods I should be able to spend the night.  Including day hikes.

For over ten years I layered my gloves just like the rest of my body.  Typically using a glove liner in conjunction with a more durable shell and or a rain/wind shell.  When it rained no combination seemed to work well enough at keeping me warm and dry.  Nothing was exactly right.  The wind cut right through liners and wearing a liner and a shell was overkill on most mornings.  When it rained none of the rain shells kept me dry enough.  Unless I went with a Marmot PreCip and they were just too bulky feeling and overkill for most situations.  Complicating matters trekking poles tend to wear out liners really fast around the thumb and palm.  So, if one uses trekking poles the glove they wear should have a reinforced palm.

Last year, we found that CAMP had some great gloves incorporating all the features Yogi and I wanted in one glove.  We wanted something that was not too bulky, shed wind well, kept us warm at reasonable temps for a 3 season hike. We finally saw the CAMP G Comp Wind and CAMP G Comp Warm.  They are light at 3.5 oz and 4.1 oz respectively and are priced at what one would pay for liners and a shell glove.   The stowaway mitten isn’t obtrusive or feel weird at all when stowed.  We live at 6,200′ in the Southern Sierra and love these gloves.  These two gloves will be my go-to gloves going forward for any 3 season hikes, and stretching into winter with the CAMP G Comp Warm.

~Worldwide

 

My take on rain jackets

Fall is in the air.  FB related hiking groups are forming, people are joining, questions and answers are flying.  It happens every year.  Someone posts a gear related question.  They get fifty knee jerk reaction responses on what someone uses, but rarely if ever how they use it.  Time for my knee jerk commentary I guess.  Rain wear can be expensive, it is also necessary.  There is so much variation between the products it can take forever to figure out which one is appropriate for the trip at hand.  It isn’t as simple as, “Does it have pit zips”? or “Is it hook and loop wrist closure”?  What follows is my best initial effort to try to help demystify the purchase of rain jackets.

I find there are three types of rain wear users.  One type of user puts on a rain jacket to find the first flat spot and set up camp.  The second type is the person that will hike towards the daily mileage objective until the weather gets crazy.  The third type of user is the person that is going to push through every bad weather situation they face.  Rarely do these people like the same rain wear.  In addition, all the technical differences between products make it very confusing.

Rain jackets typically fall into three price categories; $99-$149 not so breathable, $150-$250ish lightweight breathable, and the $250+ performance fabric products.  They all have different breathability, water repellent ratings, features, and durability.

If one tends to set up camp at the first drop of rain don’t spend a ton of money.  The $99 – $149 price tier is fine, and all are virtually the same.  They tend to not vent enough under movement.  However, they are very waterproof.  So, if one is standing around camp during a rain storm they are fine.  It is hard to stay dry hiking in these because they trap so much water vapor from perspiration.  Look for features you require; pit zips, adjustable hood, wrist closures.

If one decides to push through their fair share of rain storms they tend to spend a bit more on their rain shell.  The products in this price range are the most popular choice and tend to perform well on the PCT, JMT.  These fit into a $150-$249 price category in the 6-8 ounce weight class.  Make sure that these still have the features and fabric performance desired.  I find that most of the products in this class wet out after a few hours in heavy rain.  Nothing is perfect, but the OR Helium II is as close as I can currently find.  Things may change come January, Black Diamond is shipping us their new rain wear.  It is a little less expensive than the OR Helium II.  The Black Diamond product does have a stretch fabric and great features.  I believe it will prove the best weight (around 8-9 oz), feature, and priced jacket for 2018.  I’m really stoked to get mine.

The most expensive price tier of $250+ is a serious financial commitment, and may not be worth the investment.  Things you find in this category are mostly comprised of Goretex or eVent fabrics. These aren’t necessarily the lightest items either.  I use these more for alpine mountaineering or ice climbing.  I used a Rab Alpine Latok on the CDT in summer and fall, and CT during the fall.  I used it mostly for the CDT because my lightweight jacket was wrecked.  Also, I didn’t feel like buying another jacket when I had a fine but heavier jacket in my gear closet.  We had some massive thunderstorms on the divide and the jacket was great.  Using the Latok Alpine on the CT in September it was perfect.  The Latok shell has worked great in many alpine environments too.

Things I’ve noticed;

  • Breathable fabrics tend to not perform as intended in humid environments.
  • Not using my rain gear as a wind shell extends the life of my jackets.
  • You will eventually get wet wearing a rain jacket in an extended storm.
  • Go up one size from your normal jacket to fit a midweight down jacket underneath.
  • It rains everywhere, even the desert
  • Make sure to follow the care instructions from the manufacturer

Hope this helps,

Matt
Triple Crown Outfitters