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  1. #1
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    Pacific Northwesterners: Gear related

    I'm making the change from Colorado to Washington and I need some help picking out some outerwear. Currently I ski with a down jacket and a base layer but the jacket isn't too waterproof, which wasn't a problem here in Colorado but I'll be soaked in the Cascades.

    I was thinking layering is the best way to go with a hardshell for the outer a softshell for mid and a wool base layer. I have yet to find an outerwear company that I really liked but I haven't tried many. I think I want to give Helly Hansen a go. What do you guys think?

  2. #2
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    Feb 2009
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    I'm a little south of there in Tahoe, but many of the same weather conditions exist. If I was you, I'd definately invest in a high quality gore-tex shell. Wind / water protection is key as you said. Then layer up depending on temps... i like capelene for a first layer and a heavier wool for a midlayer depending on how cold it is. For me though, the quality of the shell is the real key to being comfortable (dry).

    In terms of brands, I like Arc'teryx... but as long as its a real sturdy waterproof set up, shouldn't matter. I have a Theta AR shell (Gore-Tex XCR material) and it's absolutely bomber. Helly Hansen makes good sailing foulies, but I haven't used their stuff in winter conditions, so can't comment there.

  3. #3
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    https://www.tetongravity.com/forums/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=3982&dateline=1279375  363

  4. #4
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    Feb 2007
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    Squamish BC.
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    You are on the right track with the layering idea. The weather on the "wet coast" changes frequently and is generally milder, but can be surprising cold on occasion and often wet. Usually the wet is more an issue at lower elevations getting to and from the goods up higher which are generally, though not always, above the freezing level.

    I live in Vancouver and ski both Whistler as well as Vancouver's North Shore mountains, which are in the same climate zone as Baker, and many coastal backcountry ski locations. For the resort, I have an outer layer of Mountain Hardware Gortex Softshell, which is just as weather proof as a hard shell but more comfortable to wear and has a thin fleece insulating layer on the inside. Many brands have these style of jackets and pants, including North Face & Arteryx, and they are great for all around ski use. For backcountry trips I prefer hard shell outers because they are easier to pack into a backpack and are a little lighter overall, but I have done tours, especially resort back country tours in the heavier soft shells outer layers and they seem to work pretty well too, but take up more room in the pack if you have to stow them.

    For both the resort and backcountry, under the jacket, as a mid layer, I wear a light weight insulating and weather proof soft shell, the Mountain Hardware Synchro Jacket, which can be worn as an outer layer if the temps are warmer or if I am skinning or hiking. It will shed moisture and stop wind. Again, many companies are making this style of jacket.

    For under layers, I wear various thicknesses of Icebreaker Merino wool, which I have found is best for insulation and wicking perspiration. I usually find that a 200 weight is fine top and bottom and if I need more, I carry a 260 top to put over the 200 weight. If it is really cold then I go to 260 weight all around and carry a 320 in my pack which I seldom need unless I am in the interior where it is colder, or camping and stationary for long periods. In the spring I like the 150 weight. The beauty of Merino is that It can be worn in various combinations of weights to suite the conditions and can be stashed in a back pack taking up little room as an extra layer and is surprisingly warm for its thickness and weight.

    Finally, if I am in the backcountry I always pack a down or fiber fill jacket for insulation when stopping for breaks or camping or in case of emergencies likes injuries or storms etc.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
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    Alpental
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    Arcteryx is definately VERY popular up here in washington, although you would also be fine with a Sessions jacket, or some other waterproof (+10k) insulated jacket. And you cant go wrong with goretex either. I would recommend you pick up an extra pair of gloves or two as you will need them for some of the wetter days. Also for the really reallly realllly wet days, a plastic bag is sometimes the only thing that can get the job done. I would still hold on the the down jacket, because at leat at Alpental, we do sometimes have some dry cold days... Sometimes.

    Layering is cool, and if you like that then go for it!
    If you still are in doubt after this thread sinks into the void of old TGR threads, just talk to the guys in the Chair 2 line at Alpy and they'll be nice enought to help ya out

  6. #6
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    Jul 2008
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    You don't specify lift-served or backcountry, so I'll assume both.

    The right strategy really depends largely on your sweating profile. If you tend to sweat heavily, then you'll definitely sweat heavily in the moderate temperatures of the Cascades. In this case I recommend using all synthetic layers. Your mileage may vary, but I don't find that wool ( even if high quality ) dries nearly as well as synthetics.

    More importantly, rather than a simple base + mid + outer configuration, you'll want to have a selection of thin layers available so you can adjust up and down very easily and get the amount of insulation just right.

    I typically skin while wearing a thin polypro underwear, thin pants, and a thin synthetic baselayer. I also carry an additional lightweight upper body baselayer, a synthetic pullover, a softshell ( which spends most of its time in the pack ) and sometimes a vests to keep the core insulated while allowing heat to escape from my limbs. Most of the skiers here don't tend to overdress.

    So I guess a good strategy involves using more layers, thinner layers, etc. The typical simple layering used in cold weather will certainly leave you either too hot or too cold. I have found that using vests is a great way to manage heat shedding while avoiding the shivers. At least one fairly waterproof item is a necessity. Soft shells are very good, but they do take on water eventually, and my both my softshells are heavy when wet. You can buy an inexpensive, highly compressible water proof zip up rather than relying on an overly technical and heavy shell. It's bad practice to get your shell wet anyway, as it's a critical piece of emergency insulation.

    Welcome to Washington.

  7. #7
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    Sep 2008
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    Ellensburg
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    Lift served Pow days: I wear a shell top, shell bottom, boxers, t-shirt. Really just trying not to sweat at all costs. For non-pow days Ill maybe wear a sweater or something underneath, but I rarely get cold (I also ski low-elevation Alpental though, Im sure crystal and whistler are different ballgames) For BC obviously more strategic layering is involved, completely situation based. For brands I'd also check out Moonstone, Cloudveil, and Patagonia, all three make similarly high quality gear for (sometimes) a touch cheaper than Arcteryx.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by CookieMonster View Post
    You don't specify lift-served or backcountry, so I'll assume both.

    The right strategy really depends largely on your sweating profile. If you tend to sweat heavily, then you'll definitely sweat heavily in the moderate temperatures of the Cascades.
    A little bit of both, yes. I will be skiing Mt. baker all next year. Baker lifts + sidecountry touring. And I am one of those heavy sweaters, I already have quite the stockpile of synthetic base layers so I should be set there I think.

  9. #9
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    Oct 2006
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    Seattle WA
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    gore tex, gore tex and a little more gore tex but fuck expensive gloves just rock the kincos arcteryx is the best stuff by far but frankly anything thats fully water proof and seem sealed will do the job

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    261
    Foggy goggles can be a problem. On a wet "pow" day, not a bad idea to stash a spare pair in your pack.

    A helmet with vents you can open or close is not a bad idea, given that temps often hover around 32F.

    Gore-tex (or equivalent membrane) everything as stated above. Base layers of varying weights for optimal layering, as noted above. Staying dry and at a comfortable temperature can be a challenge in our relatively warm, humid weather.

  11. #11
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    Mar 2008
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    northern BC
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    I find a marine influence makes not so cold temps seem damn cold ,I moved 400kms west closer to the water and into the coast mtns from the cold dry interior of BC

    I love the arcteryx beta shell I used to wear at the hill with layers BUT for most of the winter it gets left at home in favor of a warmer (but not as nice ) MEC gortex liteloft full parka with lotsa pockets and

    and I see lots of people up here wearing puffyies ... of course I am another 800-1000kms north of washington
    Last edited by XXX-er; 05-26-2009 at 12:51 PM.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
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    115
    2 pairs of Kincos
    2 pairs of goggles
    top and bottom shells(arcteryx,patagonia) whatever fits better
    silk base
    and a down for cold daze and nights

  13. #13
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    I wear softshell 100% of the time these days as I am a warm, sweaty person. My comfort level in bounds and in the backcountry has made such a jump since going to softshell that my hardshells just stay in the bag or even at home. I tend to avoid skiing in the rain but I have hiked in the rain with that combo and been comfortable. I'm usually more comfortable being wet from rain that wet from sweat however I would bring hardshell for a multiday rainy adventure.

    The deal with softshell is that you have to be more diligent in maintaining the DWR. I wear an old Arc'teryx Javelin which I actually don't like much because it is a hardshell/softshell hybrid. The seams between the materials leak like a sieve in heavy rain but it is fine in the snow and light rain. My next jacket will be 100% softshell. I wear Patagonia Alpine guide pants and love them (even with the crampon holes in the insteps).

    When it gets colder I throw a synthetic belay jacket over top. I think synthetic is better than down for a puffy layer in the PNW unless you spend the $$$ on an eVent shelled down jacket. The wind can be another issue with softshell but adding layers underneath helps with that and the belay jacket takes care of it altogether. I'll probably get a synthetic mid layer at some point since it packs better than fleece.

    For layering I add the following as the temperature drops:
    -mid weight base layer top and boxer briefs (always)
    -mid weight base layer long johns and mid weight fleece
    -balaclava
    -belay jacket

    I've noticed that one key to my comfort is hydration. If I'm getting dehydrated my body does not deal with temperature variations as well although by that point its a little late.

  14. #14
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    Oct 2008
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    bellingham, wa
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    hey so i ride baker a lot, and what you want is the best waterproof stuff you can find. we get snow, lots of snow and yeah it can be wet, and yeah we have super slow lifts, so get ready to sit there on the chair and get wet. Sometimes riding in good old rain gear works well. basically anything that is super rocking in the waterproof areas. i believe a light hardshell, with softshell waterproof underneath, then depending on temp, teeshirt or longsleeve, wicking shirt. for pants, get bibs, and can wear softshell underneath, think mountain hardware is pretty good. its all about layes here, sometimes we get 0 degree days sometimes nice 36 and half slush rain, either way you can ride in it. oh yeah bring lots of gloves to change out of, good three pairs a day is nice.

  15. #15
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    I don't understand the logic behind wearing softshell under hardshell. The hardshell will do all of the wind and water protection necessary. Presumably you'll want the pit zips and other vents do get rid of excess moisture and heat as efficiently as possible so why would you wear a layer that limits that movement? If it's warm enough that you'll be getting wet then why wear such a warm mid layer?

    If you frequently remove the hardshell I could see this but if the hardshell is the primary shield from the elements then I think that fleece or primaloft will serve you better as a mid layer.

  16. #16
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    Oct 2004
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    Seattle
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    I have a heavy duty lift access shell jacket and pants, and light breathable set for BC, and a good set of base layers I use for both. Then I have like 5 or 7 different mid layers depending on the weather. I haven't done much backcountry, and all have been shorter yo-yo run type tours. For the lift access I use cheeper SAC/Tramdock stuff, it gets abused and I spend more time in the rain and wet snow, but I dont sweat as much. I have nicer, more breathable stuff with big ass vents for skinning where I sweat buckets.

  17. #17
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    Feb 2007
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    Squamish BC.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hafilax View Post
    I don't understand the logic behind wearing softshell under hardshell. The hardshell will do all of the wind and water protection necessary. Presumably you'll want the pit zips and other vents do get rid of excess moisture and heat as efficiently as possible so why would you wear a layer that limits that movement? If it's warm enough that you'll be getting wet then why wear such a warm mid layer?

    If you frequently remove the hardshell I could see this but if the hardshell is the primary shield from the elements then I think that fleece or primaloft will serve you better as a mid layer.
    The reason most people use a soft shell underneath, is that it provides a mid layer for insulation, and an extra moisture barrier, but also allows the wearer to remove the hardshell on warmer days or when skinning and generating a lot of heat, and still retain some weather proofness. It is not always raining in the PNW.

  18. #18
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    Oct 2003
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wetdog View Post
    The reason most people use a soft shell underneath, is that it provides a mid layer for insulation, and an extra moisture barrier, but also allows the wearer to remove the hardshell on warmer days or when skinning and generating a lot of heat, and still retain some weather proofness. It is not always raining in the PNW.
    Dude!

    extra moisture barrier=even more sweat.
    with that combo you are bound to be overheating,sweatty,clammy and eventually cold..
    And if it is not raining and you are skinning,then even a softshell is waayy too much unless it is windy as fuck. When it might be better to skin just with a shell+polypro.

    The floggings will continue until morale improves.

  19. #19
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    Jan 2006
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    San Juan Islands, WA.
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    827
    You won't have much use for that down jacket around here, I think I wear one only once or twice a year.
    A Gore Tex XCR hard shell (Arc'teryx or MH), a 100 weight fleece, and a light wool base layer work for me 90% of the time, if it's real cold I'll wear a warmer fleece and/or a warmer base layer. Sitting on Bakers lifts is a great test for gear, you can get quite a bit of wet snow sitting on you on one ride. Arc'teryx (Gore Tex) bibs or pants with a light or mid range base layer keep me dry all day without overheating (look for good venting when choosing gear). In the spring I'll break out the Softshells but only if there's no chance of any precipitation, I don't like to chance getting wet.
    I've never had a problem with wet gloves if I'm wearing my Marmot Ultimate ski gloves but they're pretty warm if it gets over 30*, I think they may have changed the design and they may not be as durable as the older models. Waterproof/waxed leather gloves stay dryer for me than those with just a Gore Tex membrane.

  20. #20
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    Feb 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by Meathelmet View Post
    Dude!

    extra moisture barrier=even more sweat.
    with that combo you are bound to be overheating,sweatty,clammy and eventually cold..
    And if it is not raining and you are skinning,then even a softshell is waayy too much unless it is windy as fuck. When it might be better to skin just with a shell+polypro.
    That's funny because it has worked well for me for 3 years in the PNW. That is how breathable layers work. They breathe, so you don't get all sweaty, clammy and eventually cold. My soft shell is a thin "breathable" jacket with a little light wielded fleece on the inside worn over a light merino wool shirt so it can function as an outer wind and moisture resistant layer on warmer days, but also as a mid layer on colder days. It is not like I am all bulked up in heavy non breathable layers. I wouldn't have suggested it unless it worked well for me over a number of season at the resort and in the back country.
    Last edited by Wetdog; 06-02-2009 at 12:56 PM.

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
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    Wetdog, keep doing what you are doing. After 23 years of experimentation with clothing for PNW mountaineering and backcountry ski conditions, I've concluded that vapor barriers and semi-VB's are the best, warmest and lightest gear for heavy sweaters (like me) in wet cold conditions and for everyone in very cold dry conditions. But VB's are "thinking man's equipment," require technique and monitoring, and run counter to the purported "waterpoof breatheable" industrial complex, and so I gave up long ago on trying to persuade people about VB's, other than a few buddies who have seen the light. If anyone is interested in commercially available VB clothing, check out RBH. I make my own VB and semi-VB stuff or use off the shelf clothing in layers such that it operates as a VB. Also note that the MH Synchro jacket works quite well when worn next to bare skin as a semi-VB (MH Conduit stuff does not breathe very well, and thus acts as a semi-VB; a thin layer underneath can get soaked with sweat, hence the recommendation to wear the Synchro against bare skin).

    Note that my GF and a few other buddies are very light sweaters, and so the alleged "waterproof breatheable" clothing work for them in most conditions.

    Quote Originally Posted by refried View Post
    Sitting on Bakers lifts is a great test for gear. . .
    . . . for lift skiing, but not a very good test for aerobic activities such as mid-winter skinning trips. Dressing for lift skiing is simple. Dressing for long aerobic activities with lots of ups and downs is not so simple.
    Last edited by Big Steve; 06-02-2009 at 02:15 PM.

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