layering strategy for legs

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layering strategy for legs

Post by quetzal » Oct 01 2017 5:04 pm


I'm planning a section hike of the AZT early April 2018, in the Sky Islands portion. Probably starting near Mt Lemmon and proceeding to the Mexico border.

Context: I've done a fair amount of camping and hiking - but largely car camping. So, a two week section hike is new to me. But...I know AZ pretty well having lived their for 7 years.

I'm in early-stage research on the gear I'll need, and find a lot of good resources *except* for legs. I know in early April in the sky islands, I should expect some 20's and 30's at night/early morning.

Question 1: What is the best general strategy for legs? My assumption: light weight legging base layer for cool days; warm base layer for cold nights, running shorts to put over leggings for days; and those running shorts can be used on warm days by themselves. Am I on track? Is this too much?

Question 2: What are your recommendations for products (brand/model) for the base layers?

I think question 2 is maybe more important, because I want comfort for the long haul.


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Re: layering strategy for legs

Post by big_load » Oct 01 2017 6:09 pm

What you suggest would work pretty well for me. Sometimes I bring something heavier to wear in camp if I expect temps below 20, but usually I can get away with a light or mid-weight baselayer under hiking pants with a rain shell if it's really cold.

There are a lot of good baselayers out there. Patagonia Capilene are my favorite synthetics. I have various weights of wool from Patagonia, Smartwool, Ibex and Icebreaker (yes, I do a lot of cold-weather backpacking). I haven't found one I don't like.

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Re: layering strategy for legs

Post by flagscott » Oct 02 2017 7:24 am

As an ultralighter,I don't think you need any extra layers for your legs for those temperatures. I've done plenty of hikes with mornings in the 20s and 30s in just thin nylon hiking pants. Basically, if you're cold, you should either be walking to generate heat or in your sleeping bag. That way, you wouldn't need any extra layers during the day--just whatever you sleep in (and a lot of long-distance hikers just sleep in their hiking clothes, though I prefer thin tights just to keep my quilt clean). If you're expecting a bunch of rain, you could bring rain pants, and you can wear those as an extra layer if you're really cold. But I wouldn't bother unless the forecast was calling for a lot of rain. Rain pants aren't very comfortable to hike in, and if they are waterproof enough to keep the rain out, they will keep sweat in, even the breathable ones.

Also, zip-off hiking pants will be more versatile and lighter than shorts + tights.

That said, clothing is very individual, and it's hard to know how warm/cold someone else will feel in the same conditions and clothes that I wear. So you may just have to do some trial and error here to figure this out.

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Re: layering strategy for legs

Post by te_wa » Oct 02 2017 4:48 pm

i have down pants by montbell. i wear them around camp, after hiking long days, and find the 6oz is worth dragging along in temps below freezing. western mountaineering also makes a version. and i'm an ultralighter with a 3 season base weight around 8lbs.
winter, its' about 10, due to larger tarp, a little extra layers, and hat(s).

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Re: layering strategy for legs

Post by rcorfman » Oct 04 2017 2:09 pm

Here's my kit for my lower half except my feet. It's what I used thru-hiking the Colorado Trail this year and it's what I would bring for your proposed hike. Cheap pair of 7" Hind running shorts with front pockets & liner (5.6oz). Pair of Patagonia Capilene Thermal weight leggings (5oz) (thermal weight is actually lighter than the mid weight). Pair of Montbell Tachyon wind pants (1.8oz). The wind pants are incredibly warm for their weight, especially layered over the capilene leggings. I normally don't sit around at camp so I'm either walking, busy doing something, or laying down under my quilt. If I'm worried about rain, I'll also carry a ZPacks Cuben Fiber Rain Kilt (1.9oz).

On my CT hike, I only used the leggings on colder nights. I only walked in the shorts, even during a couple hour hail/rain storm above tree line along the divide. I used the wind pants twice, once in the evening during a long dinner conversation with another hiker and once lazily breaking camp on a below freezing morning when I just had a short day into town for resupply.
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