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Core Backpacking Clothing || Stop — Items 8-9: Insulated Jacket & Pants

By Andrew Skurka / March 16, 2015 / 84 Comments

During cool camps, cold nights, and crisp mid-day rest stops, I retain my body heat with a puffy jacket containing down or synthetic insulation. If I expect nighttime temperatures below about 30 degrees, or long camps with temperatures below about 40 degrees, I will add insulated pants to my kit. Down- and synthetic-filled garments are far more thermally efficient…

Core Backpacking Clothing || Go Suit — Item 7: Fleece Top

By Andrew Skurka / March 16, 2015 / 53 Comments

In warmer months, a fleece top may offer adequate insulation for lower overnight temperatures. However, it is less thermally efficient (i.e. less warm for its weight) than down- and synthetic-insulated jackets, which I will discuss later in this series. So I do not consider fleece to be an optimal “stop” piece when backpacking. Applications Instead, I include a…

Core Backpacking Clothing || Go Suit — Item 5-6: Pants & Underwear

By Andrew Skurka / March 15, 2015 / 50 Comments

In temperatures too cool for running shorts (less than about 50 degrees), I wear hiking pants and underwear. Probably more often, however, I wear pants only to protect my legs from brush, sun, and bugs. In these instances, the additional warmth of pants is actually a liability. Pants and underwear are Items 5 & 6 of…

Core Backpacking Clothing || Go Suit — Item 4: Running Shorts

By Andrew Skurka / March 15, 2015 / 31 Comments

So long as I’m not bushwhacking, being pestered by biting insects, or needing to protect my legs from intense sun, in warmer conditions I wear shorts. But I don’t wear “hiking shorts” like the Mountain Hardwear Canyon Short or “convertible pants” like the prAna Stretch Zion Convertible Pant that can be made into shorts. Instead,…

Core Backpacking Clothing || Go Suit — Item 3: Bug Shirt

By Andrew Skurka / March 10, 2015 / 31 Comments

I learned the hard way that mosquitoes and blackflies can bite through my knit polyester and knit merino wool hiking shirts. Another lesson: A rain jacket is effective insect protection, but wearing one in the High Sierra during the middle of the day under a blazing sun is completely unbearable. A better bug strategy is a dedicated…

Core Backpacking Clothing || Go Suit — Items 1-2: Short- & long-sleeve shirt

By Andrew Skurka / March 9, 2015 / 57 Comments

My Go Suit is my backpacking uniform, and I wear these clothing items every day from sunrise to sunset — and, unless they’re wet, at night too. Additional layers from my “Stop” and “Storm” categories are worn over them, while my “Sleep” layers replace them when wet for improved nighttime comfort. Out of the Core 13, a…

Core Backpacking Clothing || Intro: With just 13 items, go anywhere in 3-season conditions

By Andrew Skurka / March 9, 2015 / 10 Comments

To backpack anywhere in 3-seasons conditions, how few articles of clothing are needed to mix-and-match appropriate systems? I say: thirteen — the Core 13, I’ll call the collection. However, a decent argument could be made for 11, and for a narrower range of applications or conditions, even fewer are relevant. For instance, just 9 for the Colorado Rockies and…

My clothing system for backpacking in peak mosquito season

By Andrew Skurka / July 22, 2013 / 61 Comments

Last month I guided two week-long backpacking and packrafting trips in Alaska’s Hayes Range, a sub-range of the Alaska Range located just east of Denali National Park. Were it not for some scheduling constraints, I would have preferred to schedule these trips at another time of year since they coincided precisely with the region’s peak…

Breathability: an explanation of its importance, mechanisms, and limitations

By Andrew Skurka / May 1, 2012 / 36 Comments

Outdoor fabrics are frequently described as being “breathable,” and this is (except in one case) a desirable characteristic. My observation based on clinics and online writings is that the concept of breathability is generally understood, but usually superficially. Further, there is some confusion about how it relates to “ventilation” as well as some unrealistic expectations about…