Gear: Clothing

Introduction

This is a comprehensive list of all of the clothing that I, Amy, take on backpacking trips, including the rationale for choosing each item.

I care a lot about keeping my pack weight as light as possible but I care even more about being comfortable. I first search for models that meet my comfort and function requirements, and then choose the lightest option. If I find an item that is perfect I monitor several websites and when there is a great sale price, I buy multiples for my reserves. I am very disappointed when a perfect item is no longer available.

The total weight of all clothing is 104.7 ounces (6.54 pounds, 2.97 kg). While hiking I always wear shoes, insoles, socks, shorts, shirt, and Tilley hat, so those 51.3 ounces are not included in my base pack weight. The remaining 53.4 ounces is heavier than what ultra-light hikers carry, but is substantially lighter than most novice backpacker’s loads. This selection of clothing has served me well for thousands of miles in a wide variety of 3-season conditions.

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ItemWeight: Oz.Why this model?Compare Prices
Shoes: La Sportiva Ultra Raptor (not GTX model)25.2What matters to me: trail-running shoe; durable enough to last 600-800 miles; not waterproof; blister-free fit; tongue is fully attached to the body so dirt and seeds can't come through the gap; tight weave in the upper fabric so silt doesn't leak through and dry grass seeds and burrs don't penetrate.

My beloved model, the Montrail AT+, is no longer made. I bought 8 pairs in 2009 when they were on clearance, and I only have one pair left, which I'm saving for a special occasion. I have been searching for a replacement, but have not yet found anything I like as much. The La Sportiva Ultra Raptor has the grippiest sole I have ever used and I love that aspect. I walked 630 miles Across Utah with no blisters or sore feet, and they held up very well for that distance. In a second pair I hiked a similar distance through the Italian Alps with no sign of wearing out.

On the downside, the fabric upper is a loose weave so silt comes through and dirt accumulates between my toes. When walking in loose fine sand in Utah I would accumulate nearly a teaspoon of grit in half an hour even though I wear gaiters. Loose weave is very popular in trail running shoes, and it is proving difficult to find non-waterproof shoes with a tight-weave upper. I am experimenting with Altra Superiors, which have a less porous upper but are less comfortable, less grippy, and less durable than the Ultra Raptors.
Amazon,
Backcountry,
CampSaver,
Moosejaw,
REI,
La Sportiva
Insoles: Superfeet Green3.6Shoes are generally sold with a simple cheap foam insert which is not comfortable for long-mileage days. The Superfeet inserts have a heel cup and arch support that work for my feet. Superfeet Green is the go-to model amongst long-distance hikers. As far as I can tell one pair will last forever.Amazon,
Backcountry,
CampSaver,
REI
Superfeet
Gaiters: Dirty Girl2.6I am happy with my colorful lycra Dirty Girl Gaiters. They are effectively held in place with velcro glued to the back of the shoe. Be sure to add the velcro to brand new shoes to ensure that the velcro sticks well.Dirty Girl Gaiters
Socks: Darn Tough 1/4 Sock Light Merino, 3 pairs1.7 * 3 = 5.1Darn Tough merino wool socks are hands-down the most comfortable and durable hiking socks, and they are guaranteed for life. Jim and I both wear 1/4 height, I wear "Light" and Jim wears "Light Cushion". Commonly worn by long-distance hikers, but not well known outside that community since they are not carried by most brick and mortar stores. I carry three pairs.Amazon,
Backcountry,
REI,
Darn Tough
Warm weather hiking shirt: Patagonia Short Sleeve Island Hopper5.9I have been using this model for many years and it is perfect for my needs; I no longer look for other options. It is 60% cotton so it is not clammy like the synthetic shirts. The chest pockets are 6" x 12", with a vertical side opening; the configuration makes it so things don't fall out and it's possible to securely carry an iPhone, passports, airline tickets, sunglasses, etc. I shorten the hem 4-5" so that there's more airflow. I also stitch closed the horizontal opening on the chest pockets (makes sense if you look at the shirt).Backcountry,
Moosejaw,
Patagonia
Wool Hoody: RAB Merino+ Hoody7.6About five years ago I switched from carrying a wool zip-turtleneck to a wool hoody. I love the hoody. In terms of warmth it has the same effect as a zip-turtleneck plus balaclava, but I don't have to worry about losing the hat. This may sound minor, but losing things is a big problem when on a long trip, and hats are prime candidates for getting misplaced.

What matters to me: snug fit in the body and sleeve as that is much warmer than a loose fit; sleeves long enough to extend beyond the wrist, preferably with a thumb loop; hood fits snugly around my face so wind doesn't reach my ears; the neck of the hood is long enough that I can turn my head or look at my toes and the hood isn't displaced; very deep zipper to provide good ventilation; fabric weight in the 160-200 range is ideal, up to 250 is OK.

It's tough to find a perfect model. For years I wore the 250 weight Smartwool Striped Hoody, and it was nearly perfect, but it's no longer made. In 2016 I tried on hoodies from Ridge, RAB, Smartwool, Ibex, and Icebreaker; the RAB Merino 160 Hoody was the best match for my needs.
Amazon,
Backcountry,
Campsaver,
Moosejaw,
RAB
Windshirt: Montane Featherlite 7 Jacket2.2This is the lightest windshirt on the market. Many lightweight hikers carry the Patagonia Houdini Jacket, which weighs more, is less expensive when on sale, and has a hood and pocket. I prefer the minimalist Montane Featherlite because it is lighter and compact enough to stuff in a shorts pocket. The beauty of a windshirt is that it adds so much warmth at so little weight; with Houdini's feature creep the weight goes up and it defeats the purpose.Amazon,
Backcountry,
Campsaver,
Moosejaw,
Montane
Vest: Patagonia Nano-Air7.1This vest has hand pockets, which I like because I store my hat and gloves/mittens there. It is warm for its weight and I like the way the collar fits my neck. I wear my vest during the day when it is cold and rainy so I don't use down vests, which lose their insulation value when wet.Amazon,
Backcountry,
CampSaver,
Moosejaw,
REI,
Patagonia
Warm Evening Coat: Nunatak Skaha Down Sweater9.1This is a fantastic down sweater because it is baffled instead of sewn-through. Outrageously expensive. I bought it used and I take good care of it; I expect it to last my lifetime.Nunatak
Raincoat: Marmot Essence6.7I've been using this minimalist light weight raincoat for many years. The hood fits well and when fully cinched either over or under my Tilley hat it gives me great face protection. The girth at my waist is very wide so I can wear it outside my pack belt and it will drape loosely over the fully loaded belt pockets; this helps with ventilation and reduces condensation. I always buy raincoats in size men's XL even though I generally wear men's small because I want the sleeves to extend beyond my hands.Amazon,
Backcountry,
CampSaver,
Moosejaw,
Marmot
Shorts: Arcteryx Palisade Shorts8.5I much prefer the comfort of shorts so I don't carry long pants. I add long johns if the weather is too cool for shorts. When it's cold I'll put on rainpants for additional warmth. I won't use shorts with velcro closures on the pockets. In addition to zippers on the cargo pockets, this model has zippers on the hand pockets and on the rear pocket, for a total of five secure pockets, all of which I use. The hand pockets have vertical openings, making it very easy to insert and remove a large-size iPhone. The fabric is light, quick-drying and durable. I buy them a full size too big so that in hot weather I can loosen the integrated belt, leaving a big gap so the air can flow freely. They are pricey, but I continue to buy this model because it is important to me live in shorts that meet my needs. Amazon,
CampSaver,
Moosejaw,
Arcteryx
Boxers: Ex Officio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh1.7I wear Ex Officio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh boxers. They are very light weight, dry almost instantly, and available in different lengths in both men's and women's models. Amazon,
Backcountry,
CampSaver,
Moosejaw,
REI,
Ex Officio
Long Johns: RAB Merino+ Pants5.6I consistently find that wool long johns are warmer than synthetic, so I wear wool. I wore Icebreaker brand for years because they fit me so well, however they are 100% wool and therefore not very durable. I'm now wearing RAB and I expect the wool/synthetic blend will be more durable. The RAB long johns come in 160 or 120 weight fabric, and I choose which to take depending on expected conditions.Amazon,
Backcountry,
CampSaver,
Moosejaw,
Rab
Rainpants: Outdoor Research Helium Pants5.3To the best of my knowledge these are the lightest nylon rainpants on the market today. I buy size XL so the fit around my hips is loose enough to easily reach inside to extract large items from my shorts pockets. I remove the elastic from the waistband and replace it with a simple light shock-cord drawstring; I have done this on all models over the decades to reduce both weight and bulk.Amazon,
Backcountry,
CampSaver,
Moosejaw,
REI,
Outdoor Research
Hat: Tilley LTM8 Airflo Mesh3.8After trying many models of lesser hats I finally got a Tilley. I have never looked back. What a hat!Amazon,
CampSaver,
REI,
Tilley
Warm hat: Smartwool NTS 250 Cuffed Beanie1.8I have used this model for many years. It's long enough to pull down over my nose when sleeping. The fit is snug but not tight. The weight and warmth is just right. Our Love Bird Quilt does not have hoods, so I wear my wool hoody and this wool hat and I'm warm enough on frosty nights.Amazon,
Backcountry,
Moosejaw,
REI,
Smartwool
Fingerless sun gloves: Outdoor Research ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Gloves0.7There are several brands of minimalist fingerless sun gloves; these are just fine but I'm not sure they are any better than other brands. I combine these with mittens for a versatile combination of warmth and sun protection while retaining the ability to use my fingers.Amazon,
Moosejaw,
REI,
Outdoor Research,
Mittens: Outdoor Research Hot Pursuit Wrist Warmers1.2Combined with the fingerless sun gloves these provide modest insulation while giving me full use of my fingers at a very light weight. If the trip will include temps below freezing I carry the warmer OR Flurry Mitts instead.Amazon,
CampSaver,
Outdoor Research
Rain mitts: North Face Runners 3 Overmitts0.8These are lightweight waterproof overmitts. The North Face model is no longer made, so when mine wear out I'll switch to the popular Mountain Laurel Designs eVent Rain Mitts.Mountain Laurel Designs
2017-09-29T16:43:45+00:00 Jun 16, 2017|Gear|

10 Comments

  1. Kerem Jun 19, 2017 at 8:17 am - Reply

    Hullo! When do you start wearing waterproof boots? Obviously for the winter, but for summer high mountaineering, you still stick to “trainers”? Isn’t it a problem if there is some snow (say, 5cm)?

    • Amy&James Jun 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm - Reply

      Kerem,

      We don’t do any hiking or skiing in winter conditions. That’s a benefit of living in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we have mild conditions year round. I wear trail runners in three season conditions that include occasional snow. Our deepest snow in the past few years was 40-50 cm. It’s not unusual for my shoes to get saturated during river crossings, hiking through wet grass, or hiking in snow. I don’t worry about hiking in wet feet, it’s just not a problem. The advantage of hiking in non-waterproof shoes is that they dry much faster than waterproof shoes. Nearly all long-distance hikers I’ve met have opted for the same choice.

      That said, James often hikes in light-weight waterproof boots. But his rationale is different; he’s got arthritis in one foot and it is difficult to find any footwear that works for him. He’ll wear any low boot that can accommodate the golf-ball joint in his great toe, be they waterproof or not.

  2. Cristina Delval Jul 10, 2017 at 11:33 am - Reply

    Will be nice if you can share a gear list for women! 🙂

    • Amy&James Jul 11, 2017 at 7:44 am - Reply

      Cristina, the clothing list is for me, and I am a woman. At some point we’ll add more articles about other gear, all of which is shared by a male/female couple.

  3. Jan Nikolajsen Aug 27, 2017 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    Hey! If you need a replacement for that Nunatak down sweater, or other insulated backcountry gear, I would like to extend a discount in exchange for the fabulous trip reports. Great adventures! Jan, owner Nunatak.

    • AmyL Aug 29, 2017 at 8:49 am - Reply

      Thanks Jan, that’s a nice offer.

  4. Karen Oct 24, 2017 at 10:15 pm - Reply

    You carry three pairs of socks in addition to the ones you wear, but only one extra pair of undies? That’s what the photo looks like. Why so many socks and so few underwear?

    • Amy&James Oct 24, 2017 at 10:20 pm - Reply

      Socks take longer to dry. Those ExOfficio undies dry really fast. I can rinse and dry them while stopped for lunch.
      And I sleep in my long johns rather than undies, so they count as a second pair of undies.

    • Amy Oct 24, 2017 at 10:28 pm - Reply

      Karen
      I should clarify that my kit is 3 pairs of socks and one pair boxers total. When I rinse my boxers I’m either in long johns or shorts, but no undies. And while I’m at it, I’ll admit I wear men’s 9″ boxers because they fit better than the women’s model and I like the length. Go figure.

  5. Karen Oct 24, 2017 at 10:47 pm - Reply

    Thanks! I love your website!

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