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Thinking about layered clothing for ultralight hiking

February 11, 2021 — BarryK

Continuing the rethink of gear for ultralight hiking. Previous post:

Analysing the gear, aiming to reduce weight (and volume) to the lowest possible, without sacrificing comfort or convenience. Today I was reading a thread in a hiking group on Facebook, discussing how much weight to carry on multi-day hikes.

...that is a private group, so you have to join to read it. But, the essence is that they are recommending carrying 12 -15kg on the back. A guideline given is 20% of body weight -- so if you weight 70kg, that is 14kg. I have met people carrying even more, like 20 - 25kg.

To me, anything over about 7 - 9kg is unnecessary, and I am astounded when I come across hikers carrying those huge loads.

Like me, many hikers examine how to reduce weight, and there are many posts on YouTube, such as this lass:


These can be entertaining to watch, and a source of ideas, about what to add, change, or leave out. Kate might seem to have gone a bit overboard with the medications and first-aid, but you have to take what is right for you. In my case, first-aid bag has only a few antiseptic sachets (or a partly-used tube), one or two bandages and a small roll of fix-o-mull tape -- the latter you can buy at any pharmacy, good to apply to feet before blisters get started.

For clothing, the way to go is light-weight layers. It gets cold, put on a puff-jacket, colder still, put on a wind-cheater, and/or a beany.

Which is what I intend to pack. Wear a t-shirt and shirt, with beany, puff-jacket and wind-breaker in the waist pack.

However, the legs are a problem. I do have polypro long johns, from Kathmandu, however, never found them to be effective. Besides, they are not suitable for the layering method. For the lower half of the body, I will wear underpants and long pants with zips at the knee, so they can be turned into shorts.

Not the same as mine, but this is the style of pant:

However, if it turns cold, the layering method requires something to be put on over the pants...

A few years ago, I put some lateral-thinking into this, and bought light-weight chaps. Yes, chaps, like cowboys wear. I bought them from Mountain Laurel Designs in the USA -- and I just now checked their website, they no longer sell chaps.

They only weigh 73g, waterproof material, but very loose, so there will be ventilation and sweat on the legs will evaporate. Or so I reasoned.

Here is another manufacturer:

The idea of having the crotch open is that it allows air flow, as well as the chaps being very loose.

They serve more than one purpose: keep the legs warmer, reduce wind-chill, and protect from rain.

Some discussion on chaps and rain pants here:

Here are some rain pants:

...but twice the weight of my chaps, and there would be, I think a serious breathability issue.

So, aiming for super-ultralight hiking in spring/summer/autumn here in the South West of Australia, mild to hot weather, but there can be cold snaps at night. And in the extreme South West there can be sudden rain and cold wind. I can take care of the top half with the puff-jacket, wind-cheater and beany. For the bottom half, will throw in the chaps.

My puffer jacket is cheap down without sleeves, 193g, from MacPac. Bought many years ago and it has had a lot of use. They still seem to have something very similar, though I recall mine was much cheaper:

My wind-cheater is super-ultralight, only 95g. It is classified as "rain resistant" rather than rain-proof, and has a hood. It is made by Helly Hansen, and packs into its own pocket. Looked on their website, this is another item no longer available.

The beany is wool, 67g.

Finally, here are guides to choosing layered clothing and what fabrics are best:

And, the conundrum of applying layering principles to the bottom half of the body is something that has puzzled other people, for example: 

Tags: light