Friday, March 29, 2013

Gloves for Backcountry Skiing

For years I searched for the perfect glove. I get cold hands easily but I hoped to find one glove waterproof enough to handle snow, breathable  enough to skin in and yet warm enough to ski down in. I had no luck and my pack swelled with spare pairs of high tech gloves.

Upon moving to the Northern Rockies I was forced to realize that such a glove does not exist. The only real option for an extended tour that starts in mild weather at a low elevation trailhead and ends at a storm blown summit thousand of feet above is a system of gloves: a few pairs of low bulk fleece liners, a shell and a warm mitten.

Jen wearing thin fleece gloves booting up a sunny trail on a cold spring morning.

Liner Gloves

Liner gloves are the backbone of this system. They are worn by themselves while hiking or skinning and under a shell or puffy glove when more protection is needed. They don't weigh much and take up little space so I usually bringing 2-3 pairs for when one pair inevitably gets wet from sweat or snow. I generally bring 2 thin pairs and a thicker pair.

They are available in different fabrics of varying thicknesses and warmths. Some of the notable fabrics include:

  • Wool and Wool Blends - Though it doesn't dry as fast as fleece the texture of wool handles moisture well. The texture of the fibers keeps air against your skin making them feel drier than they are.
  • Polartech Powerstretch - A thin very breethable fleece with a fuzzy inside and harder outside offering some weather protection. Several manufactures now have viable copies of this fabric as well.
  • Polartech Windpro - Like powerstretch with an even tighter outer weave offering better weather protection but a little less breathability.
  • Gore Windstopper - This fabric uses an actual membrane laminated into the fleece offering amazing wind resistance but greatly hurting breathability.

 Some of our favorite glove liners in order of increasing warmth are:
  • Ibex Knity Gritty - A light and relatively cheap wool liner glove that is great in humid warmer conditions.
  • Outdoor Research PL 100 - One of my workhorse gloves.  At the moment this glove works well skinning in conditions warmer then 20F or used with a shell below that. The "radiant" fabric is similar to Powerstretch.
  • Outdoor Research Backstop - Similar to the PL 100 but with the back panel made from Windstopper to provides some protection without hurting the breathability too much. This seems like a really good idea but in practice I've found it difficult to tell the difference between these and the PL 100.
  • Rab Phantom Grip Glove - Jen's workhorse and one of my favorites as well.  These are made with Windpro fleece to add weather resistance while maintaining breathability.  The "Phantom" grip pattern on these is also the best in the industry and is available on a lighter Powerstretch glove as well.
  • Outdoor Research Windstopper Gripper - These are durable and weather resistant gloves made from Windstopper. My hands sweat too much to use them while skinning but I know people who can wear them happily all day.
  • Outdoor Research Flurry Gloves - These are made with a wool nylon blend that breaths and handels moisture well over a poly liner. I don't have a pair but Jen has worn hers all day during a snow storm.  The glove material is fleece on the inside and wool on the outside - this fabric is excellent at wicking moisture from the inside to the outside of the gloves.
  • Outdoor Research PL 400 - A super warm but breathable glove made from two layers of fleece. We usually bring these to keep in reserve for use in the coldest part of the day or if we get stuck out longer then expected. 

My Lightest, Most Versatile Glove System

For longer tours where weight and bulk matters I use a system designed to give me maximum versatility with minimal weight. From left to right in the photo above:
  • Uninsulated Outer Shell from Black Diamond Mercury Mitts. I generally uses these directly over my liners when I need a bit of extra warmth or protection from wind and wet.
  • Insulated Liner from Black Diamond Mercury Mitts. I also generally use these by themselves to add warmth at stops, though I like to know that I could use them with the outers in extreme cold/nasty conditions like an unplanned night out in a storm. 
  • 2-3 pairs of liner gloves. Usually OR PL 100, Rab Phantom Grip and a pair of OR PL 400's buried in the pack somewhere. 
Uninsulated mitten shells like the outer from the Mercury Mitt are perfect to add over liner gloves while skiing. 
Warm but light mittens like the Mercury liners are essential at rest stops on cold days.
While skinning I can regulate temperature to prevent sweating out my liners by taking shells on and off  placing them on my ski poles or inside my jacket. 

More Dexterity

I generally find that I can do most things I need to using either liner gloves or liner gloves under my mitt shells but there are times where I need a better combination of warmth and dexterity  These include operating a camera in nasty weather, scrambling etc. For this reason I sometimes supplement or replace the Mercury Mitt shells with the shells from some Black Diamond Guide Gloves as shown above. I rarely use the guides with their included liner but it is difficult to find a plain uninsulated glove shell.

Other (Cheaper) Options that are Awesome

The two gloves systems above have been used on most of my tours this winter but I also have some other less expensive gloves that I like and use for skiing close to the road, in area or in warmer conditions. These are especially great if you don't want to ruin your good gloves doing rough work like cutting wood for a fire or grabbing a rope tow. Some of the stand outs are:
  • OR insulted mittens - I got these in the REI bargin basement and am not sure on the exact model. They aren't as warm as the Mercury Mitts but they are less bulky and I often throw them in warmer conditions instead of the Mercury Mitt liners when I bring the Guide shells.
  • Kinco 901 Ski Gloves - This is a burly, cheap and warm full leather glove preferred by many ski lift operators and ski patrollers  Waterproofed with Sno Seal it is my favorite glove for in area skiing or working outside on very cold days.  I would bring them on backcountry ski trips, but they are a bit on the heavier side. 
  • Kinco Lined Work Gloves - A lighter soft shelled Kinco glove this glove is still too warm to skin in but great for skiing on sunny days and general winter wear.
  • Buck Skin Gloves + Liner - In a gear list he posted on Dave Chenault suggested using a plain buckskin work glove with a liner glove.
  • Sno Seal - This stuff is basically beeswax and is essential for waterproofing leather. To apply you should warm up your gloves (in the oven, by the fire, or in direct sun) to open the pores in the leather. Then put the gloves on and apply the Sno Seal all over as if you were rubbing lotion into your hands and put them back in the warm place to let the Sno Seal soak in. One light coat may be sufficient for dry climates and won't ruin the breathability but for the wet Cascades 3-4 coats is better. 
Skiing in Kinco Work Gloves at Lolo Pass.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Deep up Bass Creek Without a Skin

After a local we met in the climbing gym regaled us with tales of epic days up Bass creek we set an early alarm Saturday and headed for the North facing slopes around Lappi lake. We found stellar untracked powder in a fantastic remote setting worth returning to. It also proved to be our longest and most challenging day of the season so far and included route finding, trail breaking, stream crossing and related shenanigans.

A few miles up the trail as the sun rose above the canyon walls we  started to get glimpses of what lay above.

The Bass creek area is worth the length and challenge of the approach (we logged 14.5 miles round trip). We were worked at the end of the day, but I suspect that better route beta would have helped with the exhaustion.  On the approach we tried to keep to the summer trail on the North side of the creek as shown on USGS maps and marked with "trail" signs.

On the way out we followed some snowshoe tracks and found a significantly easier route on a skiable old road that crosses to the South side of the creek, avoiding sections of switchbacks and downed trees. This is a much nicer winter route; we were able to ski, kick and glide to within a half mile of the car on the way out.

On the way up we should have crossed the creek here. Instead I just took a picture of the intriguing boulder and followed an existing skin track along the summer trail until we lost it in some blow downs. 
Trail conditions were spring like in places but mostly skin-able.
Clouds blew in and out all day but the views were fantastic when we could see them.
The first proper view of our destination, the ridge above Lappi lake seen at center.
Tracks of a wolf or large cat.

Crossing Bass Creek to start the climb to Lappi lake. We left the main trail a bit late and contoured around under cliffs back to the low angle ascent route. I suspect that a more direct ascent would be better for future trips.
Sun breaks revealed views of the many south facing couloirs and chutes of the St. Joe ridgeline.
We took advantage of a sun break at the lake to eat some lunch before pushing upwards to the ridge.
We reached the ridge at 7700'. Tired legs and a wind sculpted ridge line convinced us to forgo the 8500' summit and head down as the clouds started to close in again.

The ski back down to the creek was good.

Really good. 

Really good and enjoyably long.
In the creek bottom Jen discovered she was missing a skin (She'd lashed them on the outside of her pack since it doesn't have a dedicated "wet room" pocket). She started improvising with two Voile Straps, some cord and the spare skin clip from our repair kit.

While Jen was improvising I stuffed some essentials in the front of my coat and started skinning back up hill. Fortunately I found her skin in a brushy spot a few hundred yards above us so we didn't need to put her fix to the test for five miles back to the trailhead. 

The river crossing to stay on the old road is worth it...we were able to ski all the way to the lower crossing in tour mode with our skins on. Next time we will take our skins off just after the upper crossing.
It really started to dump as we scooted and hiked the last few miles to the car. Powder season in the Bitterroots may have some epic days left...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lightweight Luxuries for Backcountry Skiers

Backcountry skiing is hard work with a big pay off: gorgeous snow, unbeatable views, unending possibilities for exploration, the list goes on.

It also involves sweat, sweat and more sweat.  Freezing sweat.  Cold fingers.  It involves putting up with a variety of discomforts in pursuit of your goal.

It is absolutely worth it.  AND there are things you can do to pamper yourself and boost your comfort while getting hard core.

My top ten list of lightweight luxuries

  1. A steamy, warm beverage.  I fill my water bottles with warm/hot water in the morning to keep my water at an enjoyable temperature longer and avoid water so cold it makes my teeth ring.  If you don't mind a  little extra weight, you can also throw a lightweight thermos full of tea or your beverage of choice in your pack.
  2. A full change of clothes for the car.  By the time I return to the car, nothing feels better than slipping into cozy, dry clothes and socks.  It makes for a happier, less stinky, ride home.  A bag of chips to crunch on the ride doesn't hurt either.
  3. A second pair of glove liners, gloves and/or puffy mittens.  Keeping your hands dry and warm will drastically increase your comfort.  I always bring an extra pair of glove liners so that I can change half way through the day.  My hands get sweaty while skinning uphill, making them freeze even more quickly during a lunch stop or when the wind picks up.  On really cold days, I throw in a pair of super puffy, primaloft-filled mits to put on during breaks.  It is much easier to keep your hands warm than to warm them up again after they freeze.
  4. Handwarmers.  Oh yeah!  Keep a couple handwarmers in the top of your pack for when you need a little extra warmth.  I especially like to tuck a couple around the waist of my pants to warm up my core.  They also work well taped (or otherwise attached) to wrists to keep the blood flowing into your fingers warm.
  5. Pay attention to your body and rhythms.  This is a luxury that you must give yourself.  You'll be able to go farther, push harder and have more fun if you listen to your body.  Hungry?  Eat.  Thirsty?  Drink.  Full bladder?  Pee.  Tired?  I mean really tired?  Take a break.  Full of energy?  Break trail to help keep the rest of your party moving fast.  This sounds simple, but I find it can be difficult to take the time to listen to yourself, and to speak up for what you need when you're in a group.
  6. Bring a delicious lunch & snacks that you'll look forward to eating.  Whether or not I actually get more usable energy from food I like, I feel much more energetic when I look forward to lunch and much more satisfied after a yummy treat than, say, a cliff bar (no offense to cliff bar lovers, they definitely have their time and place).  One of my personal favorite lunches is smoked salmon & cream cheese on a bagel.  Ryan and I enjoy trying different energy cookie recipes to replace the standard energy bars.
  7. Bring a spare baselayer top if you're in a wet/humid environment.  Skiing in the Cascades was much more pleasant when I changed my baselayer at lunch.  If I didn't, I stayed damp and clammy all day and became chilled much more quickly.  I often did not want to bring anything else in my pack and would leave the top at home, but I was happier when I brought it.  I find that there are ways to dry my baselayer out during the day here in the much drier Northern Rockies.
  8. Sit on your pack or bring a sit pad.  Keep those hard-working glutes warm!  Sit on your backpack during breaks, or if you're feeling really luxurious, bring a sit pad.  My sit pad is a 10 inch chunk cut from an old foam sleeping pad.  Very light, very nice to sit on.  
  9. Add an electrolyte powder or tablet to some of your water.  Adding an electrolyte to my water on long, hard days keeps me feeling better all day long.  You don't need to gulp liters and liters of the stuff, but one liter makes a difference.  My favorite electrolyte drink right now is lemon-lime flavored Nuun.  Nuun is an electrolyte tablet without corn syrup or sugar, and comes in a handy plastic tube.  I also use Gatorade on occasion or Emergen-C.
  10. Bring a map to help you identify peaks and couloirs!  You should always bring a map for safety, but I am also enjoy getting to know the surrounding topography.  Plus you just may identify your next great trip.  You can print topo maps for free at
Keeping my fingers toasty warm

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Power of a Second Go: Scouting and hillmap

Our second trip summiting Diamond Head, this route was much more fun
I've had some awesome, successful ventures on the first go 'round....but even more on my second try.  When I know what I'm getting into I am better prepared, more efficient and am personally familiar with the route finding.

Nothing beats boots on the ground for learning an area.

I often like to call my first attempt "scouting".  Scouting is a great word that transforms a day that falls short of my goal and could otherwise feel like failure into a day that prepares me to reach my goal on another day or helps me discover a more interesting goal.

Scouting in the Chiwawa River Basin
Hillmap's mapping and path analysis tools does some of my scouting for me.  I am successful on the first try more often after studying my route in detail....but not always.  Tools like the slope analysis, satellite view and snowpack data build upon information I've culled from route descriptions and trip reports to give me a more detailed picture of my trip.

Ryan and I attempted to ski Mill Point this weekend, but did not reach our objective.  Yep, I felt bummed.  But I will return!  You can hold me to it.

What went wrong?  I was unprepared for the trail conditions in combination with the weather.  I looked at the satellite photos, but couldn't tell the miles of blow downs from a passable trail.  Now I know what acres of blown down trees look like on the satellite image.

I  now dub this trip a scouting trip!

While up on the ridge we saw a potentially better trail on the next ridge South....looks like we could skin up a forest service road that will meet up with our original line.

If you look closely you can see a road on the far ridge

Here's the hillmap of the ridge in question.  Looks like the road is semi-visible on the satellite image, although not present on the topo map.

I'll report back when we've skied Mill Point, but I will wait until the snow conditions favor the ascent.  Might be next season.

Success on the second go: North Early Winter Spire, Washington Pass

Monday, March 18, 2013

'shwack Down on Mill Point

Few things slow a skier down more then the combination of snow too deep to boot and logs to frequent to ski.

Encouraged by the great day we had on Ward and John Lehrman's description we decided to take advantage of Sunday's return to cold weather and fresh snow to ski Mill Point via Tag Alder Lake. We started up from the Mill Creek trailhead planing to follow the south rim of the canyon up to Tag Alder Lake. This proved to be the wrong decision.

The North Rim crags were looking a bit chilly. 
There were a few inches of fluffy powder on dirt at the trail head. The snow got deeper and a crusty base appeared as we ascended, but 1800 feet later we were unable to put our skis on due to the density of downed trees in the old burn. Looking south we could see the remnants of an old fire road two ridgelines over taunting us with our poor route finding.

The final straw was the wind at higher elevations had turned the light snow into a styrofoam-like wind crust. We pulled the plug and post holed our way back down to the valley floor. I'm sure powder turns could have been had in sheltered spots with easier access.

The upper reaches of Mill point are intriguing and the lower slopes might hold good skiing in a higher snow year or if a path through the blowdowns could be found. Perhaps Hillmap needs a better source of Aerial/Satellite photos...

This boulder might hold some promise if it was more accesible. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Scouting Blodget for Dry Rock

The warm weather the past few days has me thinking about long routes on sunny granite. It also shut down our ski plans for today so we ran up Blodget canyon to see how much snow had melted off the spires. They looked to still have some snow and wet on them but should be pretty pleasant to climb on if we get some more warm weather soon.

A beaver pond seems to have appeared just below the spires where I don't remember seeing one before:

The trail still had a lot of snow on it and we got to use our Sierra Trading Post Yak Traks for the first time in the real mountains. They slide around a bit on our feet, especially when they get loose snow under them or get caught on roots and things on the bare dirt sections and mine slid off my toe once after a couple of miles of running. Still, they added enough traction to confidently run on the snow and will probably see more use in the next couple of months.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Layering for Backcountry Ski Touring

Me wearing a thin wool T-shirt and vented softshell pants on a very warm spring day.

Staying comfortable in variable conditions

Backcountry skiing requires clothing that works as a system to keep you comfortable in a wide variety of conditions. A long ski tour might start in warm, sunny conditions at a low elevation trailhead and take you thousands of feet higher into a full-on winter storm. You may find yourself overheating while skiing up a steep slope with sun reflecting off the snow at you from all angles and minutes later huddling in the lee of a small rock to escape from freezing winds while you eat enough to keep you going.

No two trips are alike and weather forecasts are frequently wrong. Here are a few examples of clothing systems we bring on different trips, and why they work for us. These systems are all based on idea of a minimal "action suit" that you wear for protection from the elements while skiing and booster layers that you add on top of it at stops or when it gets really cold.

Soft shell from head to toe in winter. 

The Basic Ingredients

  1. Wicking base layers that absorb sweat to keep it from evaporating directly off your skin. Merino wool is our favorite choice in this catagory as it doesn't feel as clammy or smell bad as quickly as synthetic fibers. 
  2. Moisture moving mid layers. Thin fleece that is smooth and dense on the outside and has a grid pattern on the inside works best for this. Air on the inside is kept warmer and can flow through the grid, picking up moisture which will be deposited on the outside of the dense fleece where the air is forced to cool off.
  3. Shell layers that seal out the weather and seal in the heat yet let moisture escape. Because ski touring involves working hard and sweating, we prefer highly breathable thin soft shells over fully waterproof coats.  These layers also create a micro climate that helps your inner layers move moisture. These  can be divided into hardshells that are fully waterproof and softshells that are only water resistant but offer better breathability. 
  4. Booster insulation layers that are added on top of the above when additional warmth is needed. These layers should ideally keep you warm enough at rest stops to dry your inner layers and be versatile enough to use while moving in the coldest conditions you will encounter. It used to be common to add fleece layers inside your shell but modern down and synthetic puffy layers offer enough weather resistance to be added on top of your shell as needed.
The action suit idea was popularized by Mark Twight's "Extreme Alpinism" which is a great, if opinionated and somewhat outdated read for anyone going into the mountains.

Top Layers for Winter Conditions

Top Layers For Cold Midwinter Conditions

The photo above shows top layers I've used for a tour where I expected temperatures below 20F with wind and little sun. From left to right they are:
  1. A warm cat who will wait for you at home.
  2. Sun hat and sunglasses. Mountain sun is bright and snow makes it brighter even on cloudy days. Don't rely on ski goggles alone as they are too warm for use on long uphills. I carry dark sunglasses and amber goggles which gives some options.
  3. Stoic Merino Bliss 150 Shirt. This is a thin merino wool top. Lots of companies make tops like this but I am fond of this one because it has a chest zipper for venting, thumb loops for adding warmth to gloves and a chest pocket that is useful for keeping things warm inside your clothes (like a blood test meter or energy bar).
  4. Patagonia R1 Hoody. This is the canonical piece of griddy fleece insulation. It moves moisture exceptionally well and has thumbloops and a hood that is perfect for wearing under a helmet and can be used zipped up to keep your neck warm or loose to keep your ears and head sheltered without overheating your core. It is a bit warm for spring and summer use so Patagonia has released a thinner griddy fleece Capaline 4 Hoody. Other companies including North West Alpine and MEC have similar hoodies but the r1 was the first and remains the standard.
  5. Patagonia Ascentionist Softshell. This is a thin, uninsulated but weather resistant and extremely breathable softshell. It was discontinued because the welded seams did not hold up to the high heat of a dryer well, but remains one of our favorites. It breaths well enough that I frequently wear it  while skiing uphill to accelerate the rate at which moisture passes through my inner layers, yet provides enough water resistance to allow us to leave the hard shells at home even in typical Cascade conditions (we occasionally refresh the water resistance with a spray: Granger's or Mcnett's, not Nicwax). Patagonia, Rab and Black Diamond have some new models that look similar. Key to the Ascentionists versatility is the use of a non membrane softshell for maximum breathability and the lack of any sort of insulation.
  6. Warm hat. I like a hat that entirely covers my ears and is thin enough to fit under a helmet. The one in the photo is a Mountain Hardware hat I cut the tassel off of. Sometimes I supplement it with a head band or folded neck gator that will keep my ears out of the wind without keeping me too warm.
  7. Patagonia Nano Puff Pullover. This is a thin (60 gsm Primaloft One) light synthetic booster I use when the above isn't enough to keep me warm while moving...i.e. along ridge lines or after dark. It is weather resistant enough that it functions well as an outermost layer. I also put it on at rest stops to protect my down coat from the moisture in my inner layers. 
  8. Eddie Bauer First Ascent Peak XV Jacket. This is a big, warm coat that will keep you warm at stops. You can skimp on this layer if you are near the car or a ski area but for more remote tours you need something that will keep you warm in an emergency.
  9. Ski helmet with ear flaps.

Jen descending through a winter storm with a Nano Puff over a soft shell.

Bottom Layers

Bottom Layers for a Cold Trip.
  1. Wool or synthetic boxer briefs. Lots of brands work, the extra warmth of boxer briefs around the upper thigh where blood flows close to the surface is nice.
  2. Thin Merino Wool ski socks. These are made by Darn Tough but there are a few nice brands out there. Most of the warmth comes from your ski boot liners so these are largely to prevent blisters. 
  3. Patagonia R1 Bottoms (Military Surplus Version). Gridy fleece like the r1 bottoms work really well here. I used a thin wool bottom a lot in warmer Cascade conditions but since moving to the Rockies I switched to the R1 and have discovered that is has a much greater comfort range...I've used them and been happy with temps from the single digits to the 30's Fahrenheit.  Jen has the Capaline 4 bottoms which are a bit thinner and apear to be even more versatile for spring and fall use. REI and others also make garments out of the same Polartech Power Dry High Efficiency Fabric.
  4. Rab Exodus shoftshell pants. These are non membrane, uninsulated softshell pants. They are on the thick end for pants but have thigh zips that release hot air and catch any cool breeze really well. On some spring trips I use these without a base layer and they are almost as cool as shorts with the vents open. A simpler, thinner softshell pant like the Patagonia Guide pants Jen uses is also a good option and saves some weight.
  5. Sherpa Adventure Gear Vajra Panr's. I only bring these on overnight trips or when an extra warm layer is need to increase the safety margin. They are a super simple and light synthetic insulated pant that can be put on without removing my skis.

Warmer Conditions

Lighter top layers for warmer conditions
In warmer conditions like those that might be found on a sunny day, it is important to choose layers that will offer adequate protection against sun and wind without overheating you. This can mean choosing your lightest base layers and bringing a light "wind shell" instead of an insulating mid layer like the r1. It is tempting to skimp booster layers but it is important to have enough of a safety margin in your warm layers if you plan to travel far from the car or ski area. In the photo above I've selected from left to right:

  1. Sun hat and glasses. A sun hat that will protect your ears is better, I sometimes use a bandanna or the hood on my windshirt for this.
  2. Thin wool baselayer. I like the venting and sun protection offered by this one but bring a t-shirt on the warmest days as in the opening photo. In warm or wet conditions I will sometimes bring two baselayers which lets you swap out the wet/sweaty one. This is especially nice in humid Cascade conditions. 
  3. Patagonia Houdini Wind Shirt. This layer is breathable enough for the ascent, yet offers great protection from sun, wind and light precipitation.  I sometimes use it as my only shell and also wear it on some climbs to protect from wind. Another option in this category is the Patagonia Sun Hoody which is even more breathable and offers better protection from sun and wind and a nice big pocket for stuffing gloves or hats into but doesn't have a zipper for venting.
  4. Smartwool "The Lid". This is a very thin wool hat perfect for adding under a helmet when you just need a bit of warmth and ear protection.
  5. Patagonia Ascentionist Softshell. This piece is redundant with the houdini but offers additional warmth and wind protection and better durability for tree skiing. Depending on the forecast and route I might leave it and bring a light hardshell (that will stay in the pack unless it rains) or an extra warm piece like the Nano Puff instead.
  6. Black Diamond Tracer Climbing Helmet. A foam climbing helmet like this offers better ventilation and lighter weight then a ski helmet and is well suited to spring trips and ski mountaineering.
  7. Patagonia Hooded Micro Puff Jacket. This is a synthetic coat that will be used at rest stops or in emergencies. Depending on conditions a thicker synthetic coat (i.e. the Das Parka) or a down coat might also be appropriate. Synthetic is better if rain is a possibility and a warm down coat is nice on a dry sunny day that might get very cold after the sun sets. 
Bottom layers for a cold trip will be similar to those for a warm trip though I might not use a baselayer or use a thinner baselayer and choose thinner, lighter colored pants. I also have friends who use a thin nylon pant and add zip sided rain pants when they need more warmth.

Skiing sunny powder in a Houdini, Merino Top, R1 Bottoms and Exodus Pants with Nano Puff and Peak XV in the pack.

What About Hardshells?

The lists above mostly lacks "hardshell" garments that use a membrane like Gortex or eVent to ensure complete waterproofness. I haven't tried the latest generation of membranes (i.e. NeoShell) that claim to offer increased breathability but I have found that the increased amount of moisture inside a hardshell makes them worthless for uphill use in all but constant rain. Even in the typically wet Cascades I usually prefer a softshell with a recently refreshed DWR (McNett's or Grangers work better then Nikwax). It will keep you dry through 30-60 minutes of full on driving rain storm (measured through daily bike commuting use in Seattle) or a day of occasional rain/wet snow squalls and is much better at using your body heat to move moisture from the inner layers out.

Membrane Hardshells do offer excellent wind protection and I have a light one that I sometimes bring to put on at the summit over my Houdini.

What Else?

This post is already quite long so I will cover glove systems and lunch/emergency shelters like Bothy Bags in separate posts. It is also nice to keep a dry cotton t-shirt and sweatshirt in the car for the drive home.