Monday, October 15, 2012

The Things! (Part 4) Layers

I cannot tell you how much fun it is to go into the REI in SoHo and just go nuts. Granted, my version of "going nuts" is carefully and methodically comparing every possible item for 3 hours and then walking out having purchased only 2 things. SCIENCE!

We've gotten almost all of our gear at this point, which is making it feel even more real that we're going on the trail. One of my favorite new purchases is an inflation bag for my sleeping pad. My sleeping pad (A NeoAir XLite) is super light and really comfortable, but it has to be manually inflated. This means that after a day of hiking for 20 miles, I would have to sit down and squeeze all the air out of my lungs for 5 minutes to create my bed. I wager that at least once a week I would have passed out from lack of oxygen. This was becoming such a worry of mine that I was seriously considering getting a heavier sleeping pad that would self-inflate. But hark! There is a solution!
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Pump Sack

This is a pump sack, making it #1 on the list of things I own with the most inappropriate-sounding names. This 40-liter sack has a valve at the bottom that connects to a valve on air mattress. To use it as a pump, you loft the sack (basically just hold it open and let air float around inside it) roll the top down and then push air into the mattress. It's genius. So instead of having to take 5 minutes to make myself dizzy by blowing up the mattress, I get to take 5 minutes squeeze the dickens out of a fluffy bag like it's my favorite teddy bear. It will keep me from getting light headed and it will also keep the inside of my sleeping pad free from gross moisture from blowing it up with my breath.  This weighs only a few ounces and folds down to the size of a cocktail napkin.

I was going to make this post about clothing, but I got sidetracked talking about my pump sack, and I can't think of a good way to transition into talking about clothes. I guess I could wear this pump sack as a hat. Or perhaps I could inflate two of them and wear them on my hands like terribly ineffective though comically over sized boxing gloves.

Great! Clothing!

I am doing my clothing in layers, because I like to think of myself as an onion. I am going to think of myself as an onion as early on in this process as possible, because by the time I've been on the trail for a month, if I smelled like an onion it would be like smelling like a rose. I reckon there will be no words for how I will smell. Only a series of sounds.

Layers are good mostly because the climate will be changing on a regular basis (maybe even dramatically in one day if we are going up or down a steep mountain), and it will be good to add or remove layers as necessary. Unfortunately there will be a limit to how many layers I can remove even when it becomes beastly hot during the summer - unless I want to be forever known as The Naked Hiker. The threat of chafing is deterrent enough.

Base Layer

 SmartWool Midweight Long Underwear Bottoms
These are Merino Wool, meaning that they're really soft and not itchy. Or at least they're not itchy right now. We'll see how I feel after wearing them for weeks on end. There is also a spec that says that this has a UPF 50+ rating, meaning it protects you from UV rays. I thought clothing did that already, by the simple nature of being fabric that covers up your skin(?) I think I need someone to explain this to me. I have noticed these UPF ratings on all the clothing at REI and other outdoor sports shops. It feels reminiscent of putting a label on a box of spaghetti that says "Rabies-free!" I am glad that my pasta won't have me foaming at the mouth, but doesn't the freedom from deadly disease come complementary with most all spaghetti? Unless Chef Boyardee has some secret agenda. It just feels like an attempt to make the product seem extra awesome without actually changing anything.

SmartWool Midweight Crew Top
This is the same Merino material as my long underwear bottoms. I tried the long underwear pants and this long underwear shirt on at REI at the same time, and I instantly felt like a cartoon ninja. It didn't help that I currently have purple hair. I spent 5 full minutes doing high-kicks in the dressing room and ducking and weaving like Spider Man until I got too hot. That was a satisfactory test for me that this will be a good, toasty base layer.

 Mid Layer

 The North Face Sunrise Convertible Pants
These are made of "4-way stretch nylon" which is rip-resistant and dries very fast. They zip off above the knees to make 6-inch inseam shorts. This was the only pair of these type of pants I could find where the zip-offs actually turn into shorts, and not just capri-pants. They fit me really nicely, and the material is super comfortable. These apparently also have a UPF 50 sun rating, which I will keep in mind if I decide to point my bum directly at the sun.

Mountain Hardwear Monkey Woman Fleece Jacket 
 "Polartec Thermal ProMonkey Phur features a high-pile curl on the outside and smooth velour on the inside. It dries quickly when wet, is highly breathable and resists pilling. Polartec Power Stretch cuffs, wrist panels and waist offer a stretchy, quick-drying seal."

THIS JACKET IS CALLED THE "MONKEY WOMAN" JACKET. OF COURSE I OWN IT NOW. I put this on in the store and felt like I was a rotisserie chicken. That might sound uncomfortable, but I am starting the AT at the top of a mountain in March, so I suspect there will be snow and coldness at the beginning of my journey. If I can get that warm with something so lightweight, then it's good for me. This is not made out of real monkey, but I can't guarantee I won't turn into one while I'm wearing it.

Top Layer

 REI Kimtah Rain Jacket
The last thing to put on is a rain shell, and it needs it be super lightweight and breathable. There's nothing quite so awful as a clammy, clingy rain shell. I did a lot of research and found this rain shell, which weighs next to nothing, and fits perfectly over my fleece. This is made of some fancy kind of nylon called "eVent" fabric that "has a unique membrane structure that allows sweat vapor to quickly escape to the outside of the fabric." Apparently this is so efficient that there aren't even any pit zippers, which means that all the seams are sealed for total waterproofing. It has one of those brimmed hoods that make me feel like I'm looking out through a long tunnel. It's also windproof for up to 60 mph, which means if I am in an environment with 61 mph winds, the jacket will blow off of my body and go flying up into the clouds like Mary Poppins.

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