By Jörgen Johansson
Two baselayer shirts
I always carry two garments that each can be used as baselayers. Per definition I mean that only the garment worn next to the skin is your baselayer, if you wear another (sold as 'baselayer') shirt outside of that, underneath your shell, it is a middle layer.
I am no fan of the sales rap about 'thick baselayers for cold weather' since my experience of baselayers like that is that they tend to transport moisture less well than the thin baselayers marketed for warmer weather. In my mind the most important thing about a base layer is that it wicks, that is keeps your skin, and especially that on your torso, as free of potentially chilling moisture as possible. In my experience 'jacks of all trades' usually are pretty lousy at any trade. So I am suspicious of baselayers that are claimed to both transport moisture and insulate. However, I have not made any scientific tests, comparing different undergarments in this way. Something for BPL?
Anyway, my prejudices then are such that I feel it is better to add another thin layer on top of the wicking layer if it is warmth I need. It is also cheaper, since I do not need special winter underwear, I just use several layers of summer underwear. But I have covered all this extensively in Smarter Backpacking, so I will not digress further.
To sum it up, somethimes I need two thin garments under my Paramo to stay warm enough while skiing. This usually happens when it is colder than -10 C or maybe less cold but with a lot of wind. I used double layers under the shell on a couple of occassions on Finnmarksvidda. On a couple of others (after my swim) I used my puffy layer BPL Cocoon under the shell, on a couple of others I used the Cocoon on top of the Paramo. While skiing that is, I used the Cocoon over the shell on almost all short and long breaks.
At night I always take the base layer for the day (which is always thin merino, in winter the BPL hoody in the photo) off at night, don my other thin layer and then add the day base layer on top of this. In the morning I make the switch back, and usually put the nightshirt in my pack.
So, two thin under garments are simply more flexible than one thick, and the weight penalty is usally less than you would expect.
Two sleeping 'bags'
However, for winter purposes I find the combination of a down sleeping bag (884 grams) and a synthetic 'over-quilt' (640 grams) very functional. A lot of the moisture from my body freezes in the synthetic layer, but this affects its insulative properties far less than it affects a down layer. For a couple of years I used a down quilt, but as this photo shows, the down gets pretty lumpy an non-insulating after a couple of nights in winter. The frosty flakes of condensation that tend to dribble down on you from the tent walls and ceiling are also less damaging to the loft of a synthetic quilt, I believe.
|This is how lumpy the down looks with the sun shining through it after 3-4 winter nights, when I used a down quilt instead of a synthetic a couple of years ago|
Insulation under you is very important on cold winter nights. I've spent more nights than I wish to remember, trying to keep as little of my body as possible in contact with a cold pad. Double cell foam pads are not uncommon, but I find the use of a good quality foam pad and an inflatable pad, particulary the Neolite, excellent. I prefer the Neolite short since it gives me a soft bed where it counts; hips and shoulders. Its insulative properties are also excellent and I have yet to feel any chill from the ground at all, using this combination.
Two pair of gloves
I have used a pair of really thin gloves in winter since my army days, 35 years ago. They are needed in order to manage all the little things that require dexterity when temperatures are low. Sometimes when it is really cold you risk frostbite, or it is a least extremely uncomfortable touching for instance metal.
|If the mitts are big enough they serve well on the feet also. I wore these at night, since my ordinary pile night socks were frozen solid|
As Joe has written, you tend to wear these gloves all the time. Quite often they do get wet, since you are in snow, doing things with your hands. So drying out quickly is imperative, for that reason I do not like membranes in them. Usually you dry them out while wearing them. If I do not wear them they are in my pants pockets, otherwise they will freeze if damp.
I might also add that I use these same thin gloves in summer, but without the mitts. Sometimes in summer I also bring a pair of homemade silnylon mitts that weigh 10 grams.
Two small water bottles
I also carry a 2 liter Platypus bottle, but the small bottles are essential for two (sic) reasons: They should fit in your pockets and they should fit in your boots. The ones I use are really light; they used to contain drinking yoghurt. Any plastic bottle used for food will be of excellent quality and shopping around you will be able to find almost any size you want. Cheaper and lighter than the ones from the outdoor stores.
I've written about hydration in the chapter from last years Sarek trip, so I will not repeat that here. But I can add that having soft big bottle like the Platypus has its advantages compared to a hard one. On Finnmarksvidda I stupidly broke the cap of one of my small bottles, making it useless. But I could still thaw my boots out with one small bottle and the nicely formative soft Platypus in the morning. A hard 2 liter bottle would have been useless for this.
Two warm jackets; puffies
Using two puffy jackets instead of one is also a cost saver. For many years I had a huge double down jacket for 'expedition use'. However, it weighed 1600 grams. There are lighter jackets today, but I did not want to spend the money necessary for a thick winter down jacket, for the same reasons that I did not want to buy a winter sleeping bag. I use it too seldom.
So, a couple of years ago I decided to test my 410 gram WM Flight in combination with my 320 grams BPL Cocoon. This turned out to be a success. The combination was light and kept me warm enough on -20 C mornings, cooking outside the tent and strolling around in my puffy layer pants, also BPL Cocoon. I am sure these double puffies would be sufficient in even lower temperatures as long as I am reasonably active around camp. When I am not moving about I would simply sit in my sleeping bag instead. I have also considered making a hole in my quilt, turning it into a poncho when needed. This I have done with my down quilt and it works very well. With this combination I would have enough warm garments for any weather.
|Merino hoody head base layer|
This is usually a good bet for winter. Often you need one, less warm, cap for when you are active and it is not that cold. For camp and when sitting around in deep cold you need something really warm. What I wear on the trail is a Paramo cap with a beak, which is really nice in hard wind and also as protection against the sun. It is windproof and reasonably water proof. That is, it leaks after 10 minutes of steady rain, but that is usually no problem in winter. And if so, I just don the waterproof hood of my Paramo smock.
The second cap is the hood of the BPL Merino Baselayer. I use this under the Paramo cap sometimes when skiing, since the Paramo is not really very warm. However, it wicks and breathes very well. On a couple of occasions on Finnmarksvidda I used the merino hoody under the Paramo when skiing, to protect forehead and brow. This was when we skied against the hard wind. At that time I also used the hood of the Paramo smock. Three layers in all, good for basically any weather while active. Sitting still I would add the BPL Cocoon smock with its insulated hood.
|All head layers on; merino, Paramo cap, Paramo hood and Cocoon hood; enough for deep cold|
It can be argued that the rulk (rucksack+pulk) in fact means two possible ways of transporting the gear; pulling it or carrying it. There is no arguing that when the going is good it is very much easier and less energy consuming to pull the gear behind you. But at times, when the pulk going is not so good, it is very handy to just hoist it onto your back. It truly is the best of both worlds.
A problem might be that when you are looking at improving the concept from where it now stands, you tend to move either in the direction of a pulk or a pack. The consequences are that if one gets more functional the other becomes less so. For instance, pulling the rulk with poles attached instead of lines would increase stability, but make it less easy to swing the whole thing onto your back. But I am looking forward to see what can be done in the future with the concept.
We could have put all our gear in one big Paris pulk and taken turns pulling it, but that would have completely ruined the whole rulk concept. It would have been impossible to carry it on our backs. The two rulks could, in an emergency, pretty easily have been turned into one pulk unit in which Joe could have pulled me to the nearest hospital. I have holes drilled near the tops of my skis to make it easier to turn the skis into an emergency sled. Coupled with the pulks this would have been very easy and a stable emergency vehicle.
As for our true emergency gear it only weighs about 100 gram for each of us. So in total there was little to be gained from combining that stuff. It can even be argued that there is safety in both of us having all the gear we needed, should we for some reason, like whiteout, become separated. That can in fact happen, and it almost happened to me years ago, that I lost sight of my team mate in hard wind and swirling snow.
To sum things up; modularity gives greater flexibility and saves money without incurring much of a weight penalty if you use light gear.