Thursday, January 28, 2010

Preparing for the weather....

The weather. How to plan your gear for some of the wildest swings of weather on the planet? We start out in an area that can be warm and humid (Nepal is latitude equivalent of Tampa Bay, FL) and end up in a place that can have 50+ mph winds and storms to drop the temperature below zero. Yup, at base camp, on average once during the april/may trekking window, a storm hits and the temp dips to -15F. Who knows if you roll the dice on your trip and come up snake eyes? Oh, did I mention that everything you take including all gear and snacks should be under 35 pounds? Luckily the yaks will take the bulk of the weight but you still need to bring changes of clothing for the days hiking. Sign me up and roll the bones.

The hill workouts have been good for other things too. Checking out gear performance. I did one of the hikes in 35 degrees and strong rain. Came to the conclusion that my waterproof gear is top drawer and I’m not going to have any major problems there because I was warm and comfy. Next workout was about the same temp, but dry so I tested a different combo and found that what I thought was a good windbreaker wasn’t breathing and my shirt and fleece tops were soaked. Not good if the temp suddenly drops into the teens on the trail.

Today, the choices in gear is intimidating and daunting. There are all sorts of things to learn about in the new hiking gear. Used to be, you picked up your hiking boots (Vibram soles defined whether they were hiking) put on jeans and went hiking. Now there are base layers (poly shirts, pants and underwear) that are used for wicking moisture so you stay dry and warm, mid – layers (poly fleece often) and then outer layers. This is where I learned a lot. The base layers get a rating of 1-3 depending on how thick or insulating they are. A ‘hard’ shell seems to be a waterproof shell and defines nothing about how heavy the fabric is. A soft shell is a water “resistant” but highly breathable layer that has insulation (think lined pants). It seems to be categorized in levels 1, 2 or 3. 3 is for warmer weather and 1 is down to freezing. So my testing identified that I had a failure in my M1 softshell. Off to the internet I go. Now how do you know if you need a $100 M1 softshell or a $350 M1 softshell? I read the reviews and guessed. Hopefully the gear store will take returns if I am a moron and misjudge.

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