Choosing Durable Lightweight Layers for Hiking 14ers

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Scrambling up the rocky summit of any Colorado 14er is not the time to be distracted by the looming weight of your daypack. When you’re ascending a prized peak or just enjoying a long day hike, shaving a few pounds off your loud can make your experience all the more comfortable. Better yet, reducing the weight of your pack without compromising the quality of your gear.

Jeremy Hendricks of GoLite Boulder enjoying a Front Range trail run on Bear Peak.

Jeremy Hendricks of GoLite Boulder enjoying a Front Range trail run on Bear Peak.

“The elements can change your experience,” said Jeremy Hendricks of GoLite Boulder. “If you don’t have the right gear, it’s going to make for a very long day.”

From the enthusiasm in his voice, to the pep in his step, Jeremy is a through-and-through trailrunner. With more than 16 years in the outdoor retail industry, Jeremy know’s more about moisture wicking fabrics than most of us know about our cars. Two years ago Jeremy moved to Boulder, Colorado for upgrade in topography and to join the team at the local GoLite.

“Space is at a premium when you’re carrying daypacks,” Jeremy explained. “You want pieces that are compressible and packable, that you can pull out easily when you need them, but don’t take up a lot of space.”

Packing gear that is both durable and protective in the elements, but also lightweight and packable can decrease the weight of an average daypack by 50 to 70 percent. For participants of The Colorado 54, this could mean saving just enough energy to do a handstand during their summit photo, or giving a hiking partner that encouraging hand up.

On behalf of GoLite Boulder and The Colorado 54, Jeremy pulled aside the perfect fleet of lightweight layers for hiking Colorado 14ers.

Layering For Colorado 14ers Starts at the Base

Your base layer is exactly what it says it is, it’s the primary layer against your skin. “This is going to be your primary defense against hypothermia—from a moisture wicking standpoint, and also a great insulator,” Jeremy said. Every well read hiker has heard the lecture a million times about cotton, but did you know that there is a soft and synthetic affordable substitute?

This GoLite baselayer series is comprised of a synthetic material made from recycled plastic bottles. It’s soft to the touch and far more affordable than other synthetic base layer equivalents.

“This particular fabrication is one of the most sustainable materials that you can get in the outdoor industry,” Jeremy said. “The hand of a textile is critical to how it’s going to lay on the skin and they way it’s going to feel if you’re moving in the piece for hours and hours. The softer the hand, the better the performance of the piece, so that’s always a critical thing to check when you’re looking at a base layer garment.”

Lightweight Options for Lusciously Warm Layers

Safely hiking a Colorado 14er means hitting the trailhead in the brisk early morning hours and facing teeth chattering winds on the way up. A common mistake many hikers make, Jeremy explains, is choosing to bring an extremely heavy layer for warmth, while a lightweight equivalent could do that same job.

“People think it’s more important to carry one critical heavy piece, when really it comes down to a system of layering,” Jeremy said. “Hiking is a fairly aerobic activity, so it’s easy to warm up quickly if you’re layering correctly.”

Taking home the trophies for lightweight and packability, GoLite has a series of goose down jackets that each weigh in under a pound. Insulate yourself in 800 fill goose down, while adding less than 8 ounces to your pack while the garment is not in use. For simplicity, most GoLite jackets can be compressed into one of their own hand pockets, leaving a hiker with a sandwich bag sized puff for your pack.

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Choosing the Right Defenses Against Wind and Rain

Weather is the most unpredictable aspect of hiking Colorado 14ers. Being prepared for anything, while not weighing yourself down, is the key to success.

“Your rain layer is the most important piece in your fleet for anything you’re doing here in Colorado, period,” Jeremey said. “As you know, the weather swings so quickly that before you know it, you’re going to experience some moisture.”

To be a true Colorado rain shell, it must be waterproof—and not just water resistant—to protect you in a heavy or extended downpour. It is also important that the garment be breathable, which—Jeremy said—is every inquisitive hiker’s most common concern.

In addition to arm vents, the way a rain shell lays on your skin dramatically affects the breathability. The way the laminate detail is done on GoLite’s rainshell products keeps the primary laminate material off your skin and allows air to flow while you’re powering through a trying trail.

Packing Right for The Colorado 54

GoLite Contest ImageWhile preparing for yourself and your teammates for your hike to bring clean water solutions to Nicaraguan families on August 2nd, consider your layers wisely for both functionality and packability. It is the goal of everyone affiliated with The Colorado 54 that every participant will make smart and safe decisions to help themselves create positive memories and a positive global impact.

For updates, information, and more outdoor industry interviews, follow The Colorado 54 on Facebook and Twitter all summer as we gear up for ascent day.