For the Love of Layers

It’s that time of year in the great outdoors. It’s both beautiful out, making you want to spend as much time in the mountains as possible, and it is also nearly impossible to gage what to wear each day! When the sun is out, your soaking up the rays until your saturated in sweat. When the clouds take over, you’re chilled to the bone with the dampness in the air. How do you prepare for a backpacking trip when you have no idea how to dress for the weather?! Layers!

In the fashion world, layers are all the rage in Autumn. It doesn’t happen very often, but it turns out that this time the fashionistas are on to something that those of us with more functional desires can grab a hold of. By dressing in and making sure to pack our layers on a trip, it is easy to be comfortable in whatever weather situation may arise. Here is a breakdown of several types of layers and how the work best.228421_11835_XL

Under Garmets: Staying Dry

Thats right, even your undies matter here, at least for comfort. Cotton underwear and bras are comfortable in daily life but they are sure to end up swampy when you begin sweating. Synthetic materials such as Polyester are quick drying. Avoiding cotton is the name of the game. When caught in the rain or working up a hard sweat, cotton is sure to leave you uncomfortable. It clings to you went wet, drys very slowly, and is not able to retain its warming capabilities.thignfdkld

Layer One: Base Layer

Your first actual layer, or base layer, is best when make of Merino wool or a thicker synthetic material. A long sleeve and pant is the next level of a well built and functional outfit for hiking. Some times it is a good idea to wear a t-shirt under your base layer if you wish to be a bit cooler. This base layer cuts the wind and gives you that extra little bit of warmth on a day with a bit of chill in the air. Merino wool is not as quick drying as it’s synthetic pal but it does excellent in retaining warmth when or if it gets wet.

Three example of thin, long sleeve shirts that make excellent base layers.

Layer Two: Light Insulation

This time of year, temps can easy fluctuate between wide ranges once the sun sinks behind the trees. Sometimes having a mid layer is an easy way to tailor your comfort to an even tighter degree. A material like fleece makes a popular mid layer for light insulation. Popping on a fleece over your long sleeve base layer will help retain any body heat radiating off you. Some hikers opt to even carry a light bottom insulation layer as well, though an article of clothing like fleece pants is both bulky and heavy. Simply pulling on your base layer bottoms over shorts or pulling a pair of Nylon hiking pants on over your base layers is the best option. The benefit of a fleece top is much more worth its weight than bottoms are because less body warmth is lost through your legs than your torso. A wool or fleece hat is also an excellent way to retain body heat at this level of chill. mountain-hardwear-microchill-fleece-pullover-jacket-zip-neck-long-sleeve-for-women-in-ocean-blue-p-6902j_17-1500.2

Layer Three: Soft Shell Insulation

Your soft shell insulation layer is where the real warmth comes in play. While hiking, it is best not to even wear this layer. But when you reach camp, this is the heavy duty insulation layer that becomes your best friend and makes hanging out in camp manageable. For most hikers, this layer consists of a down jacket. These guys build up and store all of the body heat you are creating and even second as a great pillow once you crawl into your sleeping bag at night. They are excellent to wear for warmth in any situation where you are not working up a sweat or exposed to rain. 84711_SUMR

Layer Four: Rain Shell

A rain shell is the last layer to finish off the perfect layer hiking outfit. The rain shell will protect your down jacket layer and keep it dry, which is important. No matter which layer you throw your rain jacket on over, it will trap your body heat and also cut wind, making it and excellent emergency warmth layer.

©Earl Harper

Whenever you go out into the elements, there are tons of weather possibilities. Likewise, there are tons of layering possibilities. With knowledge of the different types of layers and how they work together, you can estimate what will be best for you in the area you will be hiking. Remember that to have an extra light layer you don’t use is safer and more enjoyable than being unprepared and facing a bad situation. Yet still, like all gear, consider the weight and packability of your clothing items.

Pickin’ on the Patio with Wyatt Espalin

This past summer we had a little concert here at Mountain Crossings. We gathered on the overlook one evening as the sun was sinking behind the mountain tops and listened to the hauntingly beautiful vocals and guitar of one of our favorite folk singers, Jill Andrews. It was such an incredible evening that we are doing it again!

WyattShow

This time it will be Wyatt Espalin who will be joining us on Sunday, November 1st at 6pm on the overlook. Wyatt is a local in these parts. He is from Hiawassee, Gerogia, which for most hikers is the next resupply town on the trail headed north. Wyatt has been a staple of the music scene in Hiawassee for quite some time and has been pickin’ and jammin’ around those parts since he was a child. Over the years he has been part of several outfits of musicians, the most successful of which being Trees Leave. Wyatt has since struck out on his own and spent this past summer touring with and opening for the Indigo Girls supporting his debut solo album.

Listen to more of Wyatt’s music on his webpage. For tickets for the evening of the 1st are on sale for only $10 on our website. Bring your own snacks, drinks, beer/wine, and chairs if you’d like and join us for an excellent night of music!

The Triple Crown of Long Distance Hiking

In the world of long distance backpacking, the act of triple crowning is seen as the highest achievement in the hiking community. It is often times not the initial intention of most hikers to become a Triple Crowner, but as the bug for thru hiking sets in, it becomes a natural progression for many.

Triple Crown3

A hiker made this image displaying the markers for each trail and also the years they hiked them!

A Triple Crown in reference to long distance backpacking includes a thru hike of all three major National Scenic Trails in America, the Appalachian Trail (2,184 miles) the Pacific Crest Trail (2,654 miles) and the Continental Divide Trail (3,100 miles). Collectively the average mileage for a Triple Crowner is roughly 7,900 miles.
It is no wonder that these unique hikers are far and few between in the hiking community. Walking a rugged stretch of mountains up America is the achievement of a life time for most, but these die hard thru hiking lovers do it three times over and with a revolving door of new terrain and unknown hurdles. They are truly the wizards of thru hiking knowledge!

The idea of Triple Crowning for backpacking first came into being in the early 1970’s. A hiker named Eric Ryback thru hiked the AT in 1969, the PCT in 1970 and the CDT in 1972. In the decades since Rybsck’s completion, just shy of 200 other people have registered as Triple Crowners, though more may have thru hiked all three trails.

Triple-Crown-map

To many folks, the idea of backpacking almost 8,000 miles is unfathomable, but it very possible. Even a hiker as young as 13 has completed a Triple Crown along with her father. Our very own Squarl who has been working at Mountain Crossings for many years is now a Triple Crowner!

 

A Thru Hiker’s Gear: In Photographs

Prospective thru hikers are always asking us what sort of gear we suggest, what we would bring and what we would leave behind. We have a little document sitting on the computer desktop at work which we can print out and it explains a lot of it. But not everyone is able to make it to the shop before their hike and sometimes its just so much more helpful to see an actual, visual example of a piece of gear rather than read about it. So this is intended to be a visual guide to assist you in being able to spy a good piece of gear that will serve you well on your thru hike.

BIG FOUR

Sleeping Bag: Western Mountaineering : 20°
A Western Bag is a big investment but it is one that will last you decades if you take care of it. Some of the lightest, smallest compressing, most accurately rated bags out there.WM ALP-2

Sleeping Pad: Therm-A-Rest NeoAir
The absolute happy medium between comfort and weight. At 2.5 inches thick but only 12 oz. in weight, this is a piece of gear that makes everyone happy.CD-NAXL-2

Tent: Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1
Big Agnes makes some of the most popular tents used on the AT. The Fly Creek UL 1 is the lightest of them all. The footprint, fly and tent body all compress down to the size of a football. It can be pitched in a “fast fly” manner that allows for getting out of the rain quicker when pitching and staying in the sleeping bag longer when breaking down.

Don’t Forget Your Rain FlyFly Creek UL 1 Tent with Fly 2-zm

Backpack: ULA Catalyst
At approximately 70 liters, the Catalyst is on the upper end of desired capacity for a thru hiking pack but it is still incredibly lightweight. With two water bottle pockets, a joey pocket, a shock cord attachment, trekking pole holders, a comfortable hip belt with pockets and load lifters, this pack is very “everything you need and nothing you don’t”.catalyst-300x300

CLOTHING

Rain Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Super Light Plasmic
Lightweight rain shell. All of them will have you sweating in no time but that is favorable over hypothermia, so just find the lightest, most comfortable one you can.OM5957_015_f

Down Jacket: Mont Bell UL Down Parka
Very lightweight and compressible down jacket. Not recommended for wearing while hiking, mostly for wearing around camp. Always wear a rain shell over it in rain or snow. Down jackets second wonderfully as a pillow.z_2301237_rbl

Gloves & Hat: North Face Power Stretch Gloves, Mouse Works Rolled Beanie
Make sure not to go overboard on the thickness of the gloves because you still want dexterity in your hands. Windproof gloves end up being the most worm. For hats, don’t over think it, just get a warm hat.COMBO

Nylon Hiking Pant: Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, MontBell and many others
Lightweight, comfortable, nylon hiking pants are a must in Winter and early Spring unless you carry rain pants. Hiking pants are quick drying, seconding well enough as a rain pant, but can also be converted in to shorts, making them three times over multi-use.B69300_7203_w_lobo_cnvtpnt 0011

Midweight Pullover: Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, Patagonia, and others
Wether it is fleece, wool, or some synthetic material, having a long sleeve pull over as an extra layer is nice when its cold. It also gives you a long sleeve layer to hike in with out fear of sweating though it and damaging the warming qualities like down.B83310_4336_alpinist_hlfzp 0001

Light Weight Base Layer: Patagonia Daily (Capilene 1)
Lightweight, synthetic layer to pull on over shorts to wear under pants. Makes an excellent sleep layer.download

Synthetic Running Shorts: Department stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, Wal-Mart and Target have cheap active wear
Any synthetic, quick drying material will do. Some hikers prefer a built in liner over underwear. Make sure to be conscious of the waist band because it has the most potential to cause problems. Wear them with a fully loaded pack before leaving to truly test out the band.umbro-printed-double-layer-track-workout-shorts-womens-size-large-pink

Quick Drying T-Shirt: Department stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, Wal-Mart and Target have cheap active wear
Any synthetic, quick drying t-shirt will do. You’re just trying to avoid cotton. Lighter colors will become dirtier than you ever expected but you will probably throw it away due to smell long before you need a new shirt.317xg6R+VZL._UX466_

FOOTWEAR

Shoes: Brooks (Cascadia 9 depicted), Montrail, Salomon, all good brands.
Trail Runners have taken the lead over boots as the most popular style of footwear on long distance trails today. They are way lighter weight, they let your foot bend and move in a more fluid, natural way, and they dry more quickly that any boots if they are not waterproof coated.120181_485_a_ZM

Socks: Darn Tough (depicted) and Point 6
Darn Tough Socks are made in Vermont and boast one of the most unbelievable guarantees in the outdoor industry with a product that is so good most people never have to use it. Point6 Socks are made in Chattanooga, TN and hold one of the higher wool counts found in wool socks. Because of this, it takes them longer to begin to smell. Unavoidable on a thru hike, but cool for the rest of us.41lfRcv5jtL._SY355_

Gaiters: Dirty Girl Gaiters
Gaiters are just one extra thing to carry that you can absolutely live with out. If you are going to get some, make them a pair of Dirty Girl’s. They are cheap, they are insanely light and they come in a million awesome patterns.images

COOKING/WATER TREATMENT

Cook Pot: Snow Peak Trek 700ml Titanium Pot
Small, lightweight pot that holds approximately 3 cups of water, an excellent size when cooking many meals that require 2 cups or less. Can store small canister of fuel and small stove inside. Also will double as a cup or a mug when needed.
440Stove: MSR Pocket Rocket
A small lightweight canister stove with varying flame intensities. Connects up with any brand of fuel canister. Along with the canister needed to fuel it, this stove can fit into a pot the size of the Snow Peak mentioned above.msr_pocket_rocket_1 (1)

Canister Fuel: MSR Canister Fuel
Any brand of canister is compatible with a canister stove. The smaller canisters will last approximately an hour but it is good to pay attention to your cooking habits and learn how much fuel you are using so you can estimate when to purchase a new canister. The smaller canisters are also able to fit in a pot the size of the Snow Peak mentioned above along with an MSR Pocket Rocket.imgres

Water Filter: Sawyer Classic Water Filter
The perfect meld between lightest and fastest flowing water filter. Takes more effort and time than larger, heavier pump water filters.images-1Chemical Treatment: AquaMira Chemical Treatment
A lightweight, lazy way to treat water. Two parts, mixed together, 7 drops of each per liter of water. Won’t freeze like a ceramic filter.url

MISCELLANEOUS

Pocket Knife: Voctorynox Classic Swiss Army Knife
A tiny pocket knife that is all you need! Blade will slice cheese and summer sausage. Scissors will open packages. Comes with tweezers built in.url-1
Bandana: Regular ole bandana.
One, maybe two, is all  you need. Serves as a hankie when sweating, a towel when showering, a mop when you track mud and water into your tent.bandana

Data Book: Awol’s AT Guide
The most favored and detailed of all the guide books for thru hikers. Most end up cutting it in half, mailing the second half ahead, and taping the spine so that it does not fall apart. ATG-2013NOBOFront-Cover-MARKETING-ONLY

Pack Cover: Etowah Gear Pack Cover
Very light weight sil nylon pack cover designed to keep the water out of your pack. They come in sizes ranging from XS to L that are made for packs of varying liter capacity.1408653904_110157

Water Bladder: Playpus Big Zip 3L Water Bladder
If you choose to use a bladder over multiple water bottles, a 3 liter is recommended just so that you have the ability to carry large amounts of water, even if you only use it a few times while on trail. These are great because they offer hands free drinking while hiking. If you find you have problems keeping track of how much water you have left, store it in an external side pocket so you can periodically check your supply. Doing this also makes refilling the bladder more simple as it is easier to get to.url-2

Water Bottles: 1L Smart Water Bottle
Super light and inexpensive. Can be found at almost any gas station along the trial.url-3

Couple Lighters: Bic Lighter
One for everyday use and one for back up. Don’t go over board. You can always pickup another at a gas station.url-4

Waterproof Stuff Sacks: Sea to Summit or Granite Gear
Good for organizing your gear based off of colored bags and helps keep everything dry.stuff sack

FIRST AID

Band-Aids: Not too many! Most injuries are tiny scratches and don’t even require a bandaid. 22698611_xl-bandaidsChap Stick: You will regret not having it if you are starting early.url-5

Mole Skin/Blister Treatment: Blisters are pretty common injuries on trail. Best to be prepared!url-6

Body Glide/Anti-Chaffing Product: Some people need it, other don’t. It’s good to have starting off if you’re not sure which your are. url-7

Duct Tape: Just a little, wrapped around a water bottle, trekking pole or lighter.duct-tape

This is a fairly comprehensive gear list for the beginning thru hiker. Some folks want to carry more, some folks want to carry less. We strongly encourage hikers to gather their gear with ample time to go out on practice hikes in order to learn how gear works and what may or may not be of use to you. Nearly all the items you see on this list (or something very comparable) are available at Mountain Crossings.