Gear Review: Layers

When I’m out and about I’m one of those people who prefers to wear clothes. Like most folks I go for a layered approach which is as flexible as the Great British weather and can be changed quickly should the need arise. I take most of this stuff with me every time I’m out but I change a few items depending on the weather.


On One Merino short sleeve base layer
100% merino wool, 181g

This base layer is designed for cyclists so it features a long back which is great for backpacking as it reduces its tendency to ride up as your pack moves about. The flat locked seams minimise irritation and the 190gsm fabric feels hardy and has shown no signs of wear after about a year’s worth of walking. I also have a long sleeve version of the same top for when the weather gets a bit colder. The only down side of this base layer is that it gets a bit hot on a summer’s day, especially when worn with a hiking or wind shirt over the top of it.

Patagonia Houdini
Ripstop nylon, 113g

I replaced my Montane Featherlite Smock with this highly rated windshirt. At full price I probably would have steered clear but I managed to find a great deal at so I thought I’d take a chance. I’ve only used the Houdini on a couple of outing so far, on Coniston Old Man and very briefly, in between downpours on Blencathra so I can’t really review it in too much detail. Needless the say, the benefits of using a wind shirt have been discussed at length on many blogs and websites and I tend to agree with their sentiments, they moderate windchill with very little weight penalty and can even keep a light shower at bay. The Houdini seems to deliver in all of these areas so far.

The North Face 100 Classic Terrace Crew
Polartec Classic Microfleece, 300g

This simple, lightweight fleece jumper is made from polyester so retains its insulating qualities even when damp. It is ideal for backpacking because it’s not so heavy that you’d overheat whilst walking in it and it packs down nice and small. A warm, no nonsense top.

Buffalo Mountain Shirt
Classic Pertex shell with AquaTherm pile lining, 670g

A friend gave me this recently as he’d ‘outgrown’ it. I haven’t taken it out but when I’ve worn it at home it’s quite clear that it provides really great insulation when I’ve got a sweat on in minutes. Buffalo reckon it is most effective when worn against bare skin as many base layers trap a layer of sweat before the body’s heat makes it evaporate. It’ll be an interesting exercise to put on a little striptease when it’s 3 below.

Berghaus Velum jacket
Gore-Tex Active Shell, 340g

I picked up the 2011 version of the Velum from Nevisport just as the Velum II was about to be released. The only alterations are the addition of an internal storm flap behind the main zip and the omission of the EXTREM logo on the left arm so I’m not too disappointed, and I did get it at a significant discount. The fit is quite slim and I managed to squeeze into a medium. The movement in the shoulders and arms is good and the hood has a very nice wired peak and can be adjusted using two pull cords by the chin. This jacket has been out in the rain a grand total of three times so far but only in sustained wet weather once, on a recent trip to Blencathra. I stayed warm, dry and comfortable all day and the DWR coating just kept on beading.


Montane Terra Pants
Cotton-feel TACTEL with cordura reinforcements, 320g

Another bargain. It seems like we have a pattern emerging here. I bought these to replace my Craghoppers Kiwi trousers and my initial impressions are that they are really light, well fitting and have great articulation. They also afford a degree of flexibility over the Kiwis as they have vents and a 1/4 length zip down at the ankle which aids in ventilation and changing footwear.

Berghaus Deluge overtrousers
AQ2, 390g

I bought these just before setting off up Blencathra on a rainy day in September. The fit is reasonable, and the side zips and venting are effective. They do run hot though. I wore them for two days straight on that trip and felt quite warm whenever the vent zips were done up – I’m going to guess that the proprietary AQ2 fabric isn’t too breathable. The main point though is that I stayed protected from the rain throughout which gives the Deluge overtrousers a big tick in my book.


I’m happy with my outdoor clothing. Its yet to be seen whether it stands up to winter conditions but hopefully I’ll get a few opportunities to get out in the cold soon. Future upgrades could come in the shape of some thermal legwear, a nice warm winter hat and a lighter weight base layer for the summer. That being said I could probably get by with the setup I have at the moment in all but the wettest or coldest UK weather. Any suggestions for upgrades would be welcomed.


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