Tag Archives | Core 13 Backpacking Clothing

In the Core 13 Clothing series, I present thirteen articles of clothing that can be mixed-and-matched to create an appropriate backpacking clothing system for the full range of 3-season conditions:

  • Normal daytime temps 50-90 degrees F, with extremes 10 degrees F colder and hotter
  • Normal nighttime temps 30-70 degrees F, with extremes 10 degrees F colder and hotter
  • Sunny or thick overcast, and everything in between
  • Downpour, rain, mist, and dry
  • Low, moderate, and high humidity
  • Thick forest canopies, open woodlands, or big skies with relentless sun
  • Intense bug pressure, mild pressure, or none
  • On-trail, cross-country, and bushwhacks

If your backpacking trips are concentrated in a particular region or season, you need even fewer than thirteen items. For example, take 9 in the Colorado Rockies, and 7 for a summertime thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

I wrote this series to make easier the task of selecting clothing for a backpacking trip. It’s an intimidating and confusing process — there are thousands of clothing SKU’s available from hundreds of brands, with tremendous marketing hype surrounding each product. The series has been hugely popular, and has helped many readers refine their systems. I hope that it will benefit you similarly.

To read Core 13 Clothing from the beginning, start with the Introduction. If you simply want to be told what to pack, consult the capstone post, which details specific clothing systems for multiple locations in North America.


Recommended clothing systems: Backpacking in the Mountain West

What clothing is necessary for backpacking in the Mountain West in 3-season conditions? Let’s discuss. I define the Mountain West as the semi-arid ranges of the Sierra Nevada, Intermountain West, and Rockies. Examples: Pacific Crest Trail in California and southern Oregon High Sierra, including the John Muir Trail and multiple high routes, e.g. Sierra High […]

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And here, too? I think it is.

Core Backpacking Clothing || Check lists & systems for 3-season conditions

With just a 13-item collection of hiking and backpacking clothing, is it possible to be comfortable here? And with that very same kit, also here? And here, too? I think it is. Earlier this month I introduced the Core 13, a tight collection of hiking and backpacking clothing that can be mixed-and-matched to create appropriate systems for every […]

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Field-drying clothing and gear is like pushing the "reset button" -- it allows you to endure the next storm nearly as well as you did the last one. However, without reliable sunshine, low humidity, or mild temperatures, field-drying is a challenge.

Core Backpacking Clothing || Sleep — Items 12 & 13: Sleeping clothes

In climates with regular and long-lasting rain events, high humidity, and/or weak sunlight (due to shade, cloud-cover, or low sun angle), getting damp, wet, or even soaked seems to be an inherent part of the backpacking experience. If you wish to dry out completely during a backpacking trip in the eastern woodlands, Pacific Northwest, or Alaska, I’d recommend you find a […]

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Left: An old 22-oz GoLite baffled parka that is overkill for anything short of winter backpacking. Right: the 13-oz Sierra Designs DriDown Parka, which with a hood and 125 g of 800-fill insulation is about perfect for many of my 3-season backpacking trips

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

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 […]

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Flyin' Brian Robinson atop Yosemite's Mt Whorl (12,033 ft) in late-September, wearing a 100-weight Patagonia R1 fleece top

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

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 […]

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If shorts are a reasonable option, I'll wear them, and nothing matches the performance of running shorts.

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

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, […]

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Peak mosquito season in the Yukon Arctic. The ExOfficio Halo Shirt, which is permethrin-treated and made of tightly woven nylon, kept bites to a minimum.

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

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 […]

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Overlooking the South Fork of the Kings River from Tablelands, wearing Sierra Designs L/S Pack Polos.

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

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 […]

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