I thought I was happy with this big dump but it was nothing compared to how thrilled the folks at the Arizona Snowbowl were to receive 18 inches of beautiful new snow this last weekend because they were hurting. in fact, their base was so thin that they were just about to close for the season but this storm gave them new life and they were absolutely giddy about it. I can’t blame them.
I was there to climb the mountain and test a few items but because it was coming down so hard and I was solo I didn’t make it past 11000 feet. that is ok, I set up a nice little bivy and accomplished everything I wanted too. snowshoes and both hiking sticks came in handy for the trip down.
here is what I was wearing
- danner knee high x-static socks (I have a lot of these in many styles and they are all outstanding socks)
- under armour 9 inch boxer briefs (longer is better when wearing pants)
- under armour ls crew neck tactical t-shirt
- arbor wear ascender pants (best fricking pants ever)
- yates uniform instructors belt
- Patagonia nano-air jacket
- kuiu nx rain jacket and pants
- wool jeep cap aka radar o’riley cap
- hanz nomex gloves
now I had my pack with me of course so I was prepared for whatever weather and a night out but the idea was to see how far I could take this Patagonia and kuiu combination. these pieces are touted as highly breathable and I wanted to push them hard before I had to switch to a heavier insulation piece for the night. the temp was relatively moderate, it didn’t dip below 20 degrees.
the light was growing dim, the trail was getting hard to follow and the powder was piling up so I stopped climbing, cleared a spot and put down my thermarest. within 30 minutes of sitting down I was shivering so it was time to switch to my Patagonia das parka insulation jacket. I did some exercises to warm up again and ended sleeping ok for an hour or so at a time until the sun came up. bivys are rarely comfortable but they can be managed and made tolerable. I actually like it.
why the das parka and not the loftier Sitka gear kelvin down hoody that is also in my system? come on now, you should know the answer to that question by now. the weather reports were saying that this was a relatively warm storm and even adjusting for the altitude I couldn’t be sure that I would be able to keep the down dry so I went with the synthetic. heavier, bulkier, and not as warm but that is my rule and it works.
kuiu chugach nx rain jacket and pant set – this stuff has been water and wind tight so far and, drum roll please, it breathes better than any other wpb shell layer I have ever used. yes, better than all of my Gore-Tex versions and better than my event pieces. i can’t quantify it with numbers but the toray dermizax nx fabric vents significantly better. I mean, I controlled my exertion level but I kept my cap and liner gloves on, wore the hood and kept the main zipper up all the way because it was snowing and blowing so hard and I didn’t even consider opening the pit zips. I didn’t need to. I did not over heat. that is saying something.
the lack of elasticity in the sleeve cuffs still irritates me, a hip length jacket should have double front zippers and the hood is a little too shallow for full storm condition protection but this jacket is pretty damned good. oh and the hood adjustment cords need keepers so when they are pulled tight the wind can’t use the extra length to whip you in the face.
the pants have an austere design as they should. they have cuff protection, full length side zips for donning/doffing without taking your boots off, a waist belt and fly zipper but no pockets. Good, I don’t need them. however, I would loose the fly zipper. it isn’t long or deep enough into the crotch anyway so I have to pull them down to drain the main vein. the belt is flat which is good but it could just as easily be a heavy duty elastic tie cord as far as I am concerned. I like the diamond gusset crotch and stretchability for full extension movement. these are easy to move up hill in even for a guy built like me.
my only concern about this set now is durability and that will simply be a matter of time in the field. the good thing abut the kuiu customer direct no middle man pricing is that if they don’t hold up or you trash them they are still half the price of anything from Sitka gear/Gore-Tex.
Patagonia nano air jacket with fullrange (toray 3defx) synthetic insulation – the concept of highly breathable insulation is counter intuitive to me and against everything I have been taught but so far this thing seems to be performing as advertised. I wore everything listed above from the time I left the trailhead until I stopped at 11,000 feet after dark without making any adjustments. I was comfortable the whole time. yea you save some time and effort not fiddling around with adding/subtracting layers but the real benefit I found in these storm conditions was that I didn’t expose anything under my shell layer to a bunch of snow flakes while changing clothes. snowflakes melt and it doesn’t take but a couple of exposures to notice the moisture in your insulation and base layers. the only other way I know of to avoid that is to have your partner hold an umbrella for you but that doesn’t work if you are solo or the snow/rain is blowing hard and swirling.
the nano air presents one problem for me though. I don’t know where it goes in my system. does it replace my synthetic insulation/bivy/belay jacket? no, it is not heavy/thick ie warm enough. does it replace my half zip heavy base/sweatshirt? I don’t think it is durable or multipurpose enough and it might be too thick since I do use that half zip as a 3+ layer or a cold weather base. The nano air might be a new tweener insulation piece for big and fast ups. don’t know for sure yet but it deserves more time.