I’d say if Patagonia really wants to be “all in” on the animal welfare chain, they’d remove down as an insulation material from their clothing catalog. I eat meat and I understand it’s difficult for companies to be ethically consistent, but honestly I think it’s insane for a company to say, “We trace our down, these are happy geese.”
The other item I’d amend is this, start producing clothing in the US. Fuck it. It will cost more, but let people who buy Patagonia pay more, let them choose. Smug it up. I think this would be a win win. Guarantee American manufactured goods with no animal products used (except for ‘humanely treated’ human labor), hold a light up for the world to see and all that. Again I appreciate that all the things that go into a garment are unlikely to ever be produced in the US of A, but at the very least, it’s worth trying.
I spent a lot of time last year thinking about mountaineering boots and socks. What I’ve decided (as far as socks) is that a mostly wool (say greater than 50%) acrylic blend is warmest for me. This isn’t anything ground breaking. What is funny though is that you can pay a lot or a little and it doesn’t seem to necessarily change how warm a sock will be.
I bought some relatively thin 45% Merino wool blends for about $4 a pair from an Eddie Bauer Outlet. These socks tend to be twice the thickness of a thin synthetic liner sock but offer significantly more warmth for little additional weight. Similarly the standard Smartwool men’s hiking midweight crew is a great value and offers less bulk than a full on winter mountaineering sock, even when layered with a liner.
As far as the Thorlo & Smartwool ‘mountaineering socks’ I found the over calf length a bit too long compared to Patagonia. I think they’re both quite warm, with a slight nod to the Thorlo in terms of warmth, but ultimately they were both too bulky and the fit wasn’t as good as Patagonia’s heavyweight wool mountaineer. YMMV.
As far as liners, I found little variation, but did notice that at higher altitudes I had to make sure there wasn’t any constriction from the top elastic band. Initially I thought tall knee height ski liners were the best option, keeping my legs warmer, but then I realized they tended to squeeze my calves causing painful constrictive brusing, so I stuck with the standard height Patagonia lightweight synthetic hiking liner socks and had no problems. If you do have tall ski boots you’ll obviously need taller socks, just be mindful of swelling especially while sleeping in the cold at night.
This mini review is just my personal take on it. I bought all these socks out of pocket with my own funds and now I own two drawerfuls of socks.
I’ve been without a lightweight rain shell for a while now. I had a zipper fail on a Sierra Designs’ Hurricane rain shell and I sent it back to them for replacement; unfortunately I had the replacement mailed to Z’s office and they sent me a women’s size medium in return; she brought it to Asia with her. In Alaska I wore my EMS Orion, which is warm and keeps me reasonably dry, but it’s much too heavy for Spring and Summer, though it’s proven to be a good cold weather shell.
In my search for a new lightweight shell the Patagonia Specter keeps popping up. As it turns out, Patagonia stopped making the Specter Pullover a couple of years ago. Their current offerings include some new higher price point alpine shells and the lower price point Torrentshell Pullover, but sadly they have yet to replicate the 6oz. Specter. The North Face sells the Triumph Anorak as part of their Summit Series which is quite similar and Marmot sells the Essence jacket, both in the sub 8oz. category. And I do really love the Houdini, but what we are talking about here is a waterproof shell that weighs marginally more than the 4oz. Houdini. The Houdini is an excellent wind shirt, but not a rain jacket, as was proven recently in the Delaware Water Gap during a downpour.
Kelly Cordes has a good in-depth post talking about waterproof breathable materials and shell construction. And a little searching will reveal users’ preferences on the Backpacking Light forums. I’m in no rush to get another jacket and as long as it’s 90 degrees outside I don’t care if I get wet.
Patagonia Specter Pullover with optional kangaroo pocket!
Perhaps subconsciously I mentioned Evan’s likeness to a certain Swedish 70’s tennis pro, who as it happens, 30 years ago yesterday, had has final epic Wimbeldon match with John McEnroe. And now Borg and McEnroe are selling underwear together. So there you go. Capitalism. Everyone. Winning.
I recently bought the Patagonia R1 Hoody and the Houdini windshirt. This past week I tested the Houdini in cold wet, icy and snowy conditions in upstate New York.
I was skeptical of this “piece”. Many reviewers claim ecstatically that it’s the single best windshirt out there. Bold indeed. The Marmot Ion néeTrail Wind Hoody is certainly less expensive and the DriClime Windshirt a bit heavier. Oh, but the cut? Most Patagonia stuff I wear in size small, but sometimes I find small feels constricting or medium feels a bit loose. With the Houdini and R1 Hoody I ordered size small and the fit is athletic but not tight and you can wear a thick baselayer underneath, while the hood fits nicely over a hat or the R1 Hoody.
The first of many runs I took wearing the Houdini was in the rain and melting snow. So far so good, it kept me warm and dry, much unlike my feet. Next up were two hours of snowshoeing. Uphill I was hot, but simply flick off the hood, pull up sleeves, unzip, and go. How about running in a snow storm @ 18°F? Perfect again, the DWR works well and the cut of the shell is really well done for movement. The final test were two bouts of classic Nordic skiing. One afternoon it was almost 32°F out! I was on fire. Nonetheless with the wind I kept the Houdini on, though I did take off the gloves and hat! It was too hot on the snow.
The next morning proved a better test, 10°F on icy XC tracks. I kept the hood on over my hat and wore my goto Black Diamond MidWeight gloves. Once moving I was warm and stayed warm, never getting clammy as I have in other windshirts. My older thin Pearl Izumi cycling jacket I ran in frequently this winter would often become clammy within 30 minutes of running, whereas the Houdini breathes well and keeps the precipitation off.
I certainly haven’t tried every windshirt on the market, but I can tell time was spent getting the Houdini dialed in. At approximately 4oz, folded into its own pocket, it’s a no brainer to bring it traveling or zip it on for a cold early morning run. It’s on my “go list” for Alaska.