Hi, I’m Phil Ershler, one of the owners of International Mountain Guides. From the top of Mount Rainier to the top of Mount Everest, we take people on guided trips throughout the world.
I’m here today to talk to you a little bit about clothing and about layering. Let’s start at the bottom. I’m kind of a simple guy, and I like to keep things easy. We don’t usually have a gear list with us when we’re packing, and it’s nice if we can stay organized, so to do that, I start at the bottom.
I think in terms of a base layer for my legs, I think in terms of something like a long john. Synthetic, wool, or a blend of the two works well. It’s a fabric that will allow the moisture to wick away from my body a bit and, at the same time, provide a reasonable amount of insulation, even when it’s wet. So, one of the first things that goes into that pack for the legs, the long john bottoms.
Then, I need a good climbing pant. I like a pant that’s going to provide a little warmth, a little wind resistance, a little resistance to precipitation with a nice, durable hard finish. A pant like this, a light soft shell pant, works great and it serves that purpose really well. Into the pack.
Then the next thing that kind of finishes off my legs for me is a nice hard shell pant. Gortex works well, good wind protection, good water resistance, and Gortex is a great choice. One of the features I look for in a hard shell pant is a full length leg zipper because I want to be able to put this pant on when it’s 2:00 in the morning and I’m on that alpine start, and the wind’s blowing like crazy, and it’s snowing, and it’s cold, and I need a little more protection on my legs.
Now, at this point, I’ve already got those spikes on. So, think in terms of that full length leg zipper. Here’s the tech tip for the day. Where do you have those zippers when you put on your pants? I like both of the zippers brought to the peak of my hip, to that apex of that hip. If I do that, that allows me to stick a crampon boot right through that hole at the hip.
If this is the way I need the pant when I put them on, by golly, this is the way I pack the pant in my pack. So, both of those zippers together, up at the point of the hip, and that’s the way it goes on when I need it, and that’s the way it goes in my pack…
On the upper body, boy, you know, it’s basically the same thing. I’m thinking in terms of a wicking base layer, and I’m a big fan of zip turtlenecks. You know, you think about it, gets a little bit too warm for you, boom, the zipper comes down. It’s a little too warm still, all the
sudden that long sleeve zip turtle neck becomes a short sleeve zip turtleneck. This is one of those places where I like two. It allows me. . . I can layer both of them, and also, if I get really wet with one during the day, and I’m a little bit too cold to wear it dry, I’ll just slip on the other. So, two of those are going into my pack.
Now, I’m looking for a little bit more insulation on the upper body. I’m a big fan of a nice soft shell jacket. We’re also, particularly as guides, real fans of hoods. I need a hood that will go on over my hard hat. A soft shell, like this, is going to provide a nice bit of insulation in addition to the long johns that I’m already wearing, and it’s going to provide a lot of wind protection, and water protection also. So that soft shell jacket goes in as my next layer.
Now, I try real hard not to be redundant on any of my clothing items, but a nice light wind shirt is a piece that I really enjoy in addition to my hard shell jacket. So, you’ll often see me with a wind shirt in my pack also.
Now we talked about that hard shell. Hey, especially for those of us in the Northwest, know that when it’s blowing hard and it’s pretty cold and it’s snowing, we want a nice Gortex jacket. Again, we’re looking for a hood that’s going to go over that hard hat easily. We don’t need a lot of weight. We need a nice, light, functional piece.
Let’s top it off with a puffy jacket. You know when it’s really cold outside, I like another piece that I can layer on top of my long johns, my soft shell, my Gortex. That’s my puffy jacket. For a lot of climbs in the Northwest, a synthetic jacket like this works very well. It provides that warmth that’s needed in addition to those other pieces when I’m standing around, or at a belay station, or just on a really cold climb…
The important thing now is to just get out there and go for it. If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact Outdoor Research at OutdoorResearch.com, or give us a shout, InternationalMountainGuides at MountainGuides.com