All content copyright © 2010-2018 Frank Revelo, United States copyright office registration number TX-7931345
Akubra Overlander hat, ordered from David Morgan. Made of rabbit fur felt with sheepskin sweatband inside. Comfortable in all conditions I am likely to encounter: dry heat, moderate humid heat, rain, cold. Cannot be crushed for long periods of time without damaging the felt, and so must be worn, carried or safely stored at all times, though I have never found this to be a problem. Fur felt can tolerate temporary crushing however. Fur felt never smells when dry, no matter how dirty, but has an animal smell when wet. My hats tend to become salt-soaked from perspiration when worn in hot weather. This salt can be washed off with plain water, perhaps mixed with a small amount of shampoo with conditioner. Such washing plus repeated soaking from rain will eventually cause hat to lose shape. However, even when shapeless, hat continues to provide protection from sun, rain and cold. Add chinstrap as follows: 2 strips of 16" long by 1/4" wide nylon boot lace sewn to inside of hat and tied together with single fisherman's knot with 2" tails for pulling. Chinstrap keeps hat in place in strong winds. In milder conditions, I prefer to push chinstrap behind my neck. To prevent hat from being blown off by a strong gust, with or without chinstrap in place, I attach to my shirt with keeper cord: 20" of thin black braided dacron, with loop on one end for attaching to hanging loop on shirt, mitten hook on other end for hooking to chinstrap. Hat comes with a creased crown, but I prefer a rounded crown so as to get more air space over my head. Creases can be removed by soaking hat in water, reshaping, drying with hair dryer. Size 59 somewhat loose with shaved head. Slight looseness preferred, since this allows for shrinkage from sun exposure and for wearing insulated hat under wide-brim hat. Compensate for slight looseness by putting felt pads inside sweatband. 200 grams, including chin strap. [I replaced this hat with a nylon hat. Advantages of nylon versus fur felt: lighter weight, absorbs less water in rain, faster drying, easier to clean, no smell when wet, brim doesn't lose stiffness after repeated wetting, chin strap already provided so no need to add, adjustable sizing to allow wearing thick insulated hat in winter. Disadvantages of nylon versus fur felt: nylon crown fabric very thin hence minimal protection against bumping head against rocks, low ceilings, branches, etc, whereas fur felt offers good protection.]
EuroSchirm Swing Liteflex, silver color, from Campmor. I tried using this for sun protection while desert hiking, but found it to be a nuisance and not much cooler than my normal hiking attire (wide-brim hat, etc), which is specifically designed for hot weather hiking. Allows maximum ventilation, and so nice to have in warm rain without wind. However, wind blown rain can get under umbrella and also runoff from umbrella lands on pack then drains into clothing, and so the umbrella would have to supplemented with rain gear of some sort in cold weather, so the umbrella adds weight. A nuisance to hold, though perhaps one gets used to this with time. The Euroschirm umbrella is durably constructed, with fiberglass rods and doubly-sewn seams, but it still involves moving parts and thus is a point of potential failure, with no easy way to fix in the field. A silnylon poncho seems less likely to fail catastrophically and small rips can be fixed in the field with the SilFix repair kit. 230 grams.
I made a pair of these, with legs wide enough to pull on over my boots, but later concluded that simply adding fishnet bottoms under my taslan trousers, together with my poncho, gives sufficient protection for even freezing rain and is overall a superior solution for not much more weight.
Golite Reed brand (older model). These rain pants are narrow in the leg and lack ankle-zips, so I have to remove my boots to pull the pants on or off, so no more convenient than fishnet bottoms worn under my pants. Though I have not field-tested these rain pants very much, I assume they won't be very durable and would shred quickly if I were to wear them while bushwacking through thorn scrub. 115 grams for size M.
Unlike silnylon rain chaps or waterproof breathable rain pants, silnylon rain pants do not allow any evaporation of moisture, and thus the legs tend to get soaked from perspiration. Not a good idea.
(Optional) Sewing details here. Similar to long pants, except shorter legs and no side seam pockets. Carried while traveling in the United States, in place of spare long pants, so as to save some weight. Short pants somewhat more comfortable for sleeping than long pants, due to lack of side pockets and side seams. 160 grams when made of 4-ply Taslan. [As of 2018, I always carry two long pants, with one as spare in case primary is damaged, versus one long and one short.]
By Brynje of Norway, ordered from Reliable Racing. Made of polypropylene and thus highly resistant to absorbing water. In very cold rain, these bottoms can be worn under the taslan long pants, which would otherwise cling to my legs and chill me. This is normally a better solution than rain pants/chaps for several reasons: (a) lighter weight unless using very lightweight rain pants/chaps, but these latter are flimsy and much more liable to tearing when bushwhacking than taslan; (b) even the most breathable rain pants/chaps will be too warm in most conditions and so it will be necessary to put them on and take them off as the cold or rain starts and stops or I switch from walking uphill to walking downhill or on the flat, whereas fishnet bottoms, because they are so breathable, can be worn comfortably over a very wide range of conditions; (c) rain pants/chaps will get muddy and then transfer that mud into the pack when removed, whereas fishnet bottoms are protected from mud by the taslan over pants; (d) fishnet bottoms are much more comfortable than rain pants/chaps for supplementing the quilt when it is cold at night. In practice, I have only worn these bottoms during the day on a few occasions when I encountered early spring or late fall rain/snowstorms, and mostly I use them to supplement my quilt on very cold nights. Two disadvantages to fishnet bottoms. First, they must be retrieved from deep in my pack and then I must remove my boots and long pants to put them on, which is something of a nuisance. Second, polypropylene has a tendency to stink. In the case of bottoms, urine is the culprit—even a few drops will make the bottoms smell horribly. Fortunately, urine is water soluble and so the smell is easily washed out in the laundry. Also, the smell is seldom noticable to others, given that the bottoms are hidden away under the pants. (For tops, it is perspiration from the underarms and the oils from the upper back which cause smells. These smells can be quite difficult to remove. Also, the smell from a top tends to migrate outwards from the neck opening of the shirt, due to bellows effect, and thus is much more noticeable. This is why I gave up on using polypropylene fishnet tops.) However, even taking these disadvantages into account, polypropylene fishnet is a truly remarkable concept and I am surprised it isn't used more widely. Compared to ordinary thermal underwear, fishnet is much warmer for a given weight, comfortable over a wider range of temperatures, and vastly more effective at avoiding problems with moisture. 130 grams for size large. [As of 2018, haven't carried or worn these for over ten years, which I why I moved to rejected clothing page, but they are still a good idea for those who hike in harsh conditions, for reasons listed above.]
Advantages compared with a poncho: (a) more warmth in cold and windy weather; (b) better manueverability. Disadvantages compared with a poncho: (a) water leaks through the fabric under the shoulder straps due to hydrostatic pressure; (b) less ventilation and hence tendency towards condensation and overheating; (c) less protection for hands; (d) less protection for legs. (e) no protection for pack. Disadvantages (c) and (d) can be mitigated by making the rain jacket longer in the sleeves and torso, so that it partially protects the hands and legs.
Okay in dry climates. If there is any possibility of rain, then a properly used waterproof/breathable jacket or poncho is a better choice, because rain typically varies between heavy rain and light drizzle or perhaps even no rain at all. A breathable shell jacket works okay during the periods of light drizzle or no rain, but not during the periods of heavy rain. Thus, when using a breathable shell jacket, it will be necessary to constantly fiddle with supplementing this jacket with something truly waterproof each time the rain turns hard, which is a nuisance. A "properly used waterproof/breathable jacket or poncho" means with a rain hat, and with the jacket hood tucked down the back, and with a minimum of insulation underneath. With a truly waterproof rain jacket or poncho, instead of something non-waterproof, there is no need to fuss around changing clothes as the drizzle turns into a hard rain, then subsides back into a drizzle, then surges again into a hard rain, and so on. If perspiration continues even with no insulation, then just remove the waterproof/breathable rain jacket or poncho—getting wet from clean warm rain is better than getting wet from perspiration.
Inferior to waterproof/breathable in all respects except price and perhaps weight. Some people misleadingly argue that waterproof non-breathable and waterproof/breathable rain jackets are equivalent, on the grounds that no rain jacket breathes when it is raining, since the film of water on the outer surface of the jacket blocks any movement of water liquid or vapor from inside the jacket. The second part of the preceding sentence is true, but the first part is not. This is because heavy rain is the exception while drizzle or dry weather is the rule. In drizzling rain, the kind which can go on for weeks on end in some areas, water tends to evaporate from at least parts of the rain jacket due to body heat, so that some of the jacket surface is frequently dry, meaning water from perspiration inside the jacket can migrate outwards if the jacket is waterproof/breathable. Thus a waterproof/breathable jacket works better than a waterproof jacket under most situations, and the only time they work equally poorly is when it is raining hard and temperatures are high enough to cause perspiration, and that situation is not that common. Another problem with non-breathable rain jackets is that they are harder to dry than waterproof/breathable rain jackets and thus more prone to mildew. With a waterproof non-breathable jacket, you must first dry the outside, then turn the jacket inside out to dry the inside. With waterproof/breathable jackets, moisture on the inside can evaporate without turning the jacket inside-out.
For many years, I used a Patagonia Micropuff pullover, year 2000 edition, weighing 360 grams for size large. Shell was lightweight nylon, lining was lightweight polyester, insulation was 2.7oz/sqyd Polarguard, quilted sturdily enought to allow wearing pullover under backpack. My primary complaint was that shell was easily torn, so I had to be very careful about brushing against thorns. Other minor complaints: (a) would have preferred a different color: (b) chest pocket added weight; (c) loosely cut in stomach, to accomodate fatties, so warmth lost by bellows effect; (d) insulation same weight in torso and arms, rather than heavier in torso and lighter in arms; (e) pullover allows for less warmth regulation than jacket.
Eventually, this pullover wore out and I couldn't replace it, since Patagonia had long since updated their sewing patterns to be even looser in the stomach (to accomodate the obesity epidemic) and tight in the underarms (to accomodate the declining muscularity of modern men). The underarm tightness was especially problematic because this allows garment to be stained by perspiration, eventually leading to hard-to-remove smells. Also, insulation of recent Patagonia synthetic insulated garments is Primaloft, which provides less warmth for given weight and is slower to dry and less durable than continuous fiber polyester (Polarguard, Climashield, etc). My guess is manufacturers prefer Primaloft because it is cheaper and probably easier to work with in factory settings. High-loft insulated jackets and pullovers from other companies have similar problems, which is why I eventually decided to make my own insulated jacket.
Compared to high-loft polyester: (a) less warmth for a given weight; (b) less wind-resistant; (c) absorbs more water; (d) slower to dry. Only advantage is lower cost and easier to launder by hand.
Western Mountaineering flight jacket, ordered from backcountrygear.com. Shell .9oz/sqyd nylon, filling 4 ounces of 800 fill-power goose down, which gives over an inch of single-layer loft. 370 grams for size large. I used this down jacket for several winter bicycle tours, where conditions were mostly very dry, so no risk of the down getting wet. After a while, the jacket began to stink, due to hair oils seeping into the collar and then going rancid. The only way to get rid of this smell was by machine laundering, but it then took forever to dry (a whole afternoon in a commercial drying machine, with me pulling apart the clumps of down every 10 minutes). I laundered it once, but had no desire to repeat the experience, and so went back to synthetic pullovers. Other disadvantages of down: (a) if used while hiking, down destroyed more easily than Polarguard when subjected to the grinding pressure of backpack shoulder and hip straps; (b) if used in damp conditions, down loses loft and insulating power due to absorbed moisture (rainwater, condensed perspiration) whereas Polarguard retains loft and insulating power; (c) if down gets soaking wet, it can take days before it dries out enough to restore loft and insulating power, whereas with Polarguard, most water can be removed by squeezing, and remaining moisture will cause only a partial loss of insulating power; (d) even a small tear in shell fabric of a down garment can ruin it completely, by allowing down to leak out, whereas with Polarguard, even a large tear can be easily field repaired with no leakage of insulation.
Montbell Ultralight down vest and pants, ordered from Backcountry Gear. Theory was that, during extremely cold conditions, these would be wearable during the day and then supplement the quilt at night. I've since come to the conclusion that going into hibernation is better than trying to remain active in extreme cold, since extreme never lasts long in the areas I hike and bicycle tour. As for night use, simpler and less weight to just make the quilt thicker. Both garments give about .75" single-layer loft. Vest was pullover style with no collar and snap closure at neck opening to reduce weight. 120 grams for size large vest, 205 grams for size large pants.
Heavier and slower to dry than thin balaclavas. Won't fit under wide brim hat.
Not nearly the insulating power or wind and water resistance of my current insulated hat. My last thin balaclava was advertised as 100% silk on the label and ordered from wintersilks.com. The balaclava prior to that was labelled 50% merino wool/50% rayon and purchased at Sierra Trading Post, but is no longer available there. Wiggy's sells what appears to be this same wool/rayon blend balaclava, however I am not sure if it is exactly the same, either in thickness, weight, fabric or shape. The wool/rayon balaclava was very comfortable and warmer than the silk balaclava, but only lasted about 30 days of use before tearing in various places. The silk balaclava showed no signs of wear after over 60 days of use in the field. Both balaclavas are thin enough to wear under a combination of poncho hood and the wide-brim hat, and both give surprising warmth for very little weight. About 40 grams for either the silk or the wool/rayon balaclava.
Both work well against light rain as well as hot sun, and both are good windbreakers, which is often all that is needed against cold. I used the Tilley LT5 water-repellant nylon hat for an entire season and the Drizabone cotton canvas hat for another entire season. However, fur felt is better looking and more comfortable and performs better in cold wet weather (because fur felt, like wool, dries from the inside out whereas nylon and cotton lose almost all insulating power when wet). The primary advantage of nylon and canvas wide-brim hats is that they are crushable, at least to some extent, while fur felt is usually not (though there are some crushable felt hats). However, I have frequently crushed my Akubra fur felt hat by accident, for short periods of time, and never had any trouble popping it back into shape afterward.
Poor man's alternative to fur felt. Warmer but not as nice looking or durable as fur felt. Extra warmth is a liability in the summer.
Hot and heavy compared to fur felt. Extremely durable, but then high-quality fur felt is no slacker where durability is concerned.
No protection against rain or cold. Not crushable, and so must be carried on outside of pack somehow when not in use. Useful for sun protection in hot and humid climates with little rain.
No protection from cold. Might be good option for hot, humid environments which also have frequent rain, such as equatorial jungles.
Less protection from sun and rain than wide-brim hats. Hotter as well, due to lack of airspace between hat and head. Advantage is that they can be crumbled up and stored in a pocket or the backpack.
From Backpacking Light. Water-resistant silnylon shell, leather-like palm, specially designed vapor-barrier fleece interior. Designed for temperatures of 0°F to 20°F (-18°C to -7°C), which I seldom encounter. Cause hands to perspire at temperatures above freezing, which is why I replaced with the polyester pile mittens. 110 grams for size large. (Intended to be worn over liner gloves. If worn alone, size medium might be better for someone with a size large hand.)
From Backpacking Light. Blend of Merino Wool(50%)/Possum Fur(40%)/Nylon(10%). Little protection from wind and water and not very durable (started tearing after just a week of use). 45 grams/pair for size L.
A nice idea, since the gloves have no fingertips, which means dexterity is excellent. However, as with ordinary gloves or mittens, these have to be removed before handling wet items. Afterwards, they are then much more of a nuisance to put back on, at least in my experience, than plain mittens or gloves. They also weigh more and dry slower due to the extra fabric. Pile mittens weigh less and work better overall.
Nearly impossible to put on over mittens and a real nuisance to put on over gloves. Insufficient dexterity for many tasks, so must be removed. What if these tasks requiring dexterity also require handling objects that are wet? Then both mittens and liner gloves must be removed. More nuisance. Not really needed if hands can be protected by poncho or long sleeves on rain jacket.