Mid layer and Insulation layer musings

Reviewing my kit, thoughts and questions

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02/09/2010 at 17:29
I was just reviewing my kit list spreadsheet and having a look at my layers.

I wear a base layer, which varies between different things (bamboo, merino, synthetic, short sleeve, long sleeve) but the weight is all similar, all c200g apart from the heaviest l/s merino top, and I find them all relatively similar on short trips

I have a windproof (Golite Lite Speed, 190g) and a waterproof (Berghaus Paclite, 380g)

I usually carry a mid layer and an insulation layer, but I’m reviewing these as there are various options and I’m wondering what every one takes

Mid layer

For my mid layer I generally take a 100wt fleece top, which is hardy and reliable. I have a berghaus one which is 330g

On my last trip I took a Icebreaker nomad hoody. It is very comfortable to wear and the thumb holes and hood were great, particularly the latter which was a nice close fit on my head. This weighs 549g. It’s a 320 wt merino, I’m not actually sure if its warmer than the fleece


Later in the evening, when it got slightly colder, I threw on some synthetic insulation, a Berghaus Ignite, which is a primaloft filled jacket and weights 343g

I also have a craghoppers down vest (340g) and a PHD mimimus jacket (470g)

Being a kit junkie I like to rotate all my stuff so it gets use, whilst also taking as little weight as possible, whilst also not taking anything I don’t need.

The 100wt fleece is always good, so was the icebreaker hoody, but the latter is over 200g heavier. In moderate weather or more then I can’t walk in a midlayer, I overheat too quickly. When I stop I like to throw something on, which is often just the midlayer unless its really cold when I might throw on my over the top insulation

Does everyone carry a midlayer and outer insulation? I’m wondering whether in the warmer weather a midlayer alone might be OK, and maybe in the cooler weather if outer insulation without the midlayer might be OK, as I might warm up enough when walking that I don’t need the midlayer.

I can’t remember what temps I wear a midlayer in when active, though obviously there’s flat, uphill and downhill walking!

Thinner, lighter layers are more versatile, but I like the idea of being cosy in my down jacket in the evening, and I was loving the Icebreaker hoody, even though it was heavy.

- what do you take with you when?
- What do you wear when?
- Anyone prefer fleece over synthetic insulation?
- Vests or jackets?
- What weight of fleece compares with weights of merino?
02/09/2010 at 19:08

- what do you take with you when?
Depends on weather, time of year & length of trip. Day walk on Monday - took TNF Zephyrus smock and no other insulation. When it gets a bit cooler I'll take a 100 weight fleece as well as a synthetic insulation top. For an overnighter I'll take the 100 weight fleece + a down jacket (Montane Anti-freeze in summer, PHD Yukon smock in winter). Base layer varies according to season. In Autumn / Winter I'll probably be wearing a Paramo top as well, so additional insulation there.

- What do you wear when?
Kind of answered that one above.

- Anyone prefer fleece over synthetic insulation?
Nope - apart from my 100 weight fleece I don't take any fleece garments out, though I have plenty of fleeces for pub / casual wear

- Vests or jackets?
Nearly always jackets, but I'm the Human Iceberg.

- What weight of fleece compares with weights of merino?
Don't wear fleece. Wear microweight and midweight merino; any colder and I'll wear a Powerstretch baselayer.

02/09/2010 at 20:27
From what I can tell normal fleece vs standard merino the fleece wins for warmth/weight. Which of course isn't terribly relevant if you're planning to wear it.

Fleece vs synthetic insulation quite easy really. One is very good for active wear and the other for carried emergency/non active insulation. Don't think they really overlap very much.

Don't think I'd plan to carry a fleece on a day walk now. Actually wouldn't take anything warm right now. In a little bit maybe a synthetic vest, and then when properly cold some thicker synthetic jacket. Obviously more camping

What I've got much the most experience with is mid weight merino base/windshirt /waterproof for warmer months and then Paramo style (or even Buffalo earlier on) with ~powerstretch underneath. But thats really just the same a light base layer/100 weight fleece!

(which now I've got base layers & a 100 weight fleece which fits I'll probably try too )

Although I have played around a bit. Tried a light powerdry top over a t shirt a few times this spring and that worked fine too.  Even went as far as sticking an R2 fleece under my Paramo at one stage. That was a tiny bit insane....

Might well carry a fleece for a multi day thing where you might need a little extra insulation on colder days/ (esp if camping) early starts in the mornings etc. If doing that though you'd want a very simple thing, more like ~200g. Maybe even a vest.

Edited: 02/09/2010 at 20:28
02/09/2010 at 21:30
I've been up the hills 3 days this week - Ben Dorain & Beinn an Dothaidh on Monday, Ben Lui & Beinn a Chleib on Tuesday, and Ben Cruachan it's lovely ridge today in utterly sensational wonderful weather .. all I wore was shorts, a helly t-shirt, shoes and a big grin .. but I still carried a long sleeved helly, a powerstrech fleece and a primaloft top, as well as light waterproofs and windshirt and some leggings. Sure I didn't need any of the extra layers, except a windshirt when lazing on the summits, but it seems to me there is an question of style or ethics to consider as well as weight; my ethic is to carry sufficient kit to be able to survive at any point on my route (or where I might get lost) until I got rescued should an accident happen. If I had hurt myself, and was still up there right now, it would be seriously cold, even with the gear I had. And the mountain rescue guys wouldn't start looking till tomorrow. So be safe people.
Edited: 02/09/2010 at 21:31
02/09/2010 at 21:59


cambia LS, RonHills or shorts, Montane Litespeed and Montane Prism if overnight


cambia LS, Ron Hills or Rab VR trews, Paramo Velez or 100weight fleece/Atomic DTcombo+Montane Antifreeze for the nights  

02/09/2010 at 22:12
ALS speaks sense there
02/09/2010 at 22:18
That's why I had the Zephyrus - and one of those wee Adventure Medical heatsheet emergency bivvies, it never leaves my daysack.
02/09/2010 at 22:34

He does.

Blizzard bag for me when it matters. Perhaps a more efficient bail out than a bunch of top level layers. Certainly packs neatly (until used, which is hopefully never of course!).

Although to be honest a fair few of the places in England where I go it'd be hard to spend terribly long waiting for rescue/very easy to bail in extremis.

(this doesn't apply to high things in Scotland )

02/09/2010 at 23:29

Yep a tent gives you a massive safety margin; and on a busy hill you don't need as much in reserve as on a remote one - I just wouldn't want the mountain rescue to think I was a twerp if they ever had to rescue me and, contrary to the impression given on tv, they don't appear out of the sky 2 minutes after you stub your toe, they often don't start looking till the next day. There's a frost tonight in the glens up here - you'd be very cold in just a survival bag. Unless you are in a marshalled race or the like, it's probably good practice to return from any trip with some clothes unworn and some food uneaten.

By the way, Adidas Swoops are the business.

Edited: 02/09/2010 at 23:36
03/09/2010 at 00:23

They're £30 if you hunt about - really excellent value. Smashing grip and traction - better than any inov-8 I've had except the mudclaws, lovely snug secure fit, nice and low, drain very well. Possibly deeper lugs than the crosslites, and a less scary achilles tab. The midsole on my mudclaws is giving up, and I'm buggered if I'm giving Inov-8 anymore money, even though they replaced some broken Flyrocs with some Roclites (after 5 weeks and 2 phone calls) and agreed that the Flyrocs had a design fault, which is why they're no longer made. "Sorry its taken so long", the Inov-8 guy said, "I've got a big pile of returns here to get though". Then he went on holiday.

03/09/2010 at 10:08
Thanks for all the comments folks. I think I'm probably in overkill mode when I've been taking a synthetic insulation top and a midlayer over the summer, its rare that i've needed both, i guess i'm only wearing them as i've got them with me.

One issue for me is that i rarely walk (in the hills) without an overnight camp as I live in London, my walking is generally dog walking, either locally or slightly further afield, but its generally very light. The main exceptions being when I'm on holiday in that area

Recent summer combos have been base layer, 100wt fleece, windshirt, light primaloft jacket

Over the autumn I might swap up the 100wt fleece for the merino hoody, and in winter might then swap the light primaloft jacket for a warm down jacket.

Are many people actually wearing midlayers when walking? I can't remember the last time I wore one, I'm generally in baselayer and windshirt, or just baselayer. Mind you, I'm generally out and about March to November. Even Dartmoor in February with loads of snow was just windshirt and baselayer when walking

03/09/2010 at 10:22

To be fair the blizzard bags are meant to have a non trivial quantity of insulation in them. (8 togs says their website which is a fair bit.). Wouldn't trust a straight survival bag either.

Think its probably more into Autumn up in Scotland now too! Down here its dropped back to summer weather for a last few days. Not at all cold in the mornings.

03/09/2010 at 11:10


I generally run cool, and the following kit goes out with me most trips.

I wear a base layer, synthetic in summer and merino in the cooler months. I have several weights, and choose which one depending on the expected temperature.

Over that a Rab vapour rise jacket, no mid layer.

Took out a 100 weight fleece last winter as well, cos it was perishing, but otherwise dont use fleece.

I take a Rab generator smock as an extra layer, and a blizzard bag for emergencies.

I suffer from cold hands so always carry a selection of gloves, which I may use in combination, depending on the temp.

03/09/2010 at 11:27

I'd say that anyone wearing Paramo, or vapour rise/powershield for that matter, is basically wearing a mid layer when walking Its just built in. For that matter the same goes for anyone wearing powerstretch as a base layer.

As mentioned I did use a light one when walking this spring, and actually did once (in relatively mild weather) go out in t shirt/100ish weight fleece/thickish stretch woven (1/2 a fleece warmth?). But I was with a group and building in some extra warmth for all the waiting around expected. Took the fleece off on the way back as then smaller group not stopping.

But the moisture transfer of it all did cope very nicely when I was pelting up hill at the start of the day wearing it all. 

(I did have my PL vest around too.).

03/09/2010 at 11:47

By the way, Adidas Swoops are the business.

Happy users I know in my O-club think so, but they're utterly wrong for my particular feet

I like New Balance RX Terrain (in 2E width) though.


03/09/2010 at 11:55
Completely agreed, anything softshell ish is to me essentially the same as a midlayer with a windproof, its just neater wearing one garment rather than two.

I often wear a softshell jacket when I walk the dog when its a bit cool, like the mornings over the last few days. Its an old Berghaus Choktoi (i think) when it at the cold end of cool, and a Montane Event Soft Shell when its at the warmer end of cool.

Although, a bit of effort and I tend to start sweating. Its strange, I generally sleep cool but am pretty warm during the daytime or doing any activity. Makes temperature management a pain.

Sounds like no one uses down unless its cold or they're camping. Even thin/light down tops
03/09/2010 at 12:15

Well you might run very warm but  a bit could be down to the sort of thing you're wearing there too. Both the event soft shell and the Choktoi have membranes built into them. So basically waterproofs with all of breathability issues associated with those.

So really don't replace fleece/windshirt combination sensibly. I agree thats what a 'softshell' should do, and more or less what  the VR stuff, Paramo, powershield etc do do. Not the membrane ones though.

Was slightly amazed to see the TGO soft shell jacket review this month - about 90% of the jackets in there were single layer, stretch wovens. ie soft shell as originall conceived way back (oh and a VR Lite winning it but thats very similar performance/concept wise.). Amazing compared to the very mixed up reviews you get used to seeing! Are we finally starting to make progress here?

03/09/2010 at 12:34

the event soft shell

What the hell was that all about?  Take a waterproof fabric but "forget" to tape the seams so it's not actually waterproof, and is about 1% more breathable and lightweight than a proper eVent waterproof due to the ever so slightly larger area of exposed micrpores and the weight of the tape.

Completely bonkers idea driven by marketing AFAICT.


03/09/2010 at 12:58

I think other people have said this but I am moving to not using my powerstretch top in summer, over my thin merino baselayer, but keeping a synthetic jacket, montbell or heavier depending, for emergencies, stops, evening in camp. The synthetic provides more warmth for the weight. In autumn/ winter/spring the powerstretch is worn nearly all the time over my base layer. And more and more insulation pieces as needed. So apart from powerstretch jacket and tights/trousers I do not use fleeces.

I always have a windshirt, some sort of hat and gloves and event water proof, (Furtech in winter, hats plural, gloves quadruple), and Kamelaieka waterproof trousers, (furtech in deep winter). If not camping but remote, a blizzard jacket.

03/09/2010 at 13:31
agree, no taped seams on the event soft shell does sound a bit crazy, but it doesn't have event under down the side of body so its not a full membrane like on other similar products (like the Choktoi). The material on it is thinner than other jackets i tried on too (like the Choktoi again!)

I must say that I don't really wear it in the hills anymore, just dog walking and the odd cycle


if we're talking about soft shells then wear does a buffalo shirt fit in then? I can only wear mine without overheating in the coolest weather.
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