The ultralight clothing7 mn de lecture

Come on, let’s talk rags.

Once we’ve had some fun considering the improbable stuff we’d planned to pack – a week’s worth of briefs, two pairs of trousers, two pairs of shorts, a jumper, a fleece, a bunch of T-shirts, a field operating theatre, you name it… – Here we are, ready to reconsider the package with an ultralight clothing eye. It’s about time…

Of course, you will object that several days of hiking, in the mountains for example, do not imply the same choices as a robinsonnade in the Indian Ocean. But the principle remains the same.

First, track down any duplicates or triplicates, quadruplicates, etc.

For example: why two or three pairs of trousers when one is enough? Is it dirty? So what! Wash them and wait, with a towel around your back. The choice of ultra fast-drying trousers will facilitate the social reappearance – the Aigle brand does very well in this area. That said, I don’t take trousers to the mountains, but we’ll get to that.

Underwear? Two sets are enough. The daytime ones, which you wash in the evening while you put on the others after the shower and so on. The same goes for the t-shirt, whose twin brother allows you to avoid being shirtless while the other one dries. Unless you like being shirtless – depending on the genre, it can be fun for the viewer. I know. Childish. Anyway.

As I wrote on the « walking-light » page, all this is also evolutionary. As experience is gained, we adapt, replace, and make different choices.

So, here is what I wore since 2016 for two to three weeks in the middle mountains, in summer, sleeping in a tent and doing the laundry at the campsite or, more rarely, in a stream – but without soap, even biodegradable.

I kept the shorts, the shoes, the tee-shirt and the cap: light, very light, made of polyamide. Indispensable when the sun is beating down or the wind is blowing me around. 60 grams.

But I have replaced the jacket, the down jacket, the Saharan scarf, the underwear and the sweater. Here is the 2020 outfit:

Now, from top to bottom, we find :

A waterproof, windproof and breathable jacket: 115 grams compared to the 366 of the previous Simond. The new jacket is from Cimalp; it is the Ultra skin 3H model, size M. Packed, it takes up very little space. Let’s thank the banana scale in passing.

It performs well – the jacket, not the banana – especially as a windbreaker, and also offers a very good complement of warmth for a ridiculous weight. The downside is that it’s not designed for heavy storms, but that said, apart from an oilskin from Guy Cotten, no jacket can withstand a downpour – better to take shelter and wait.

I also replaced the old Uniqlo down jacket with the same model, but sleeveless and a size smaller than the previous one: 155 grams in S compared to the 238, in M, of the previous one. It’s as warm as a fleece, or even warmer, very compressible, ultra light and still serves as a pillow at the bivouac with the Cimalp jacket and the spare tee-shirt.

I substituted a « buff », i.e. a polyamide neckband in the form of a tube, for my Saharan scarf in light cotton.

It’s not as practical as a towel, but it saves a lot of weight: 70 grams. It keeps my neck warm if I need it, and even my ears and forehead if it’s really cold – although my neck is protected by the high collar of the down jacket. Finally, it makes an ideal and soft pillowcase when I slip on a down jacket, windbreaker and a change of T-shirt in the evening.

Let’s continue

I haven’t changed the Outdoor Research t-shirt, which is light and fluid and dries really quickly, but I have changed the sweaters. Instead of taking two – my old synthetic Duofold which stinks horribly of sweat after a day, plus a warm, clean merino sweater for the evening – I only take the merino. Lifa Ice Crew, brand Helly Hansen, 230 grams: its wool is much more resistant to odours and I can therefore use it during the day – mainly at dawn and in the evening – as well as at night if it is really cold.

Also gone are the Decathlon briefs. The fit was really bad. Trivial, of course, but it counts. For ten grams more, I preferred a pair of pants of the same brand, made of the same material and still cheap. 52 grams. Still dries as quickly as ever and is also used as a swimming costume in the lakes when there are people around. If no one is around: naked swimming, of course.

Next in the review: a pair of X socks.

Finally, the shoes. Chosen one size bigger than the usual one, 42 instead of 41, which hold the foot perfectly, are waterproof and not too warm, rigid enough for the middle mountains and of a reasonable weight for high uppers. Salomon Quest GTX. Already 3000 miles on the clock.

A remark: some ultralight hikers prefer low stems, Trail type. Lighter. Let’s face it: I ruined my feet in the past with this kind of shoe, doing a day run that usually takes two. So I’m sticking to high tops in the Alps for now.

Well, now you know what I wear. In fact, when the weather is good, the down jacket is often in the bag, as well as the waterproof jacket.

About the shorts

They are silly Millet shorts with reinforced bottoms, cut in a light and resistant fabric. 177 grams. I’ve had them for ten years.

In the mountains, I don’t take trousers with me. I don’t like trousers with loose leggings because I find that the zip always irritates my thighs in the long run. I don’t like the feeling of the fabric pulling on my kneecaps when I’m climbing. So I’m always barefoot. If it’s cold, or if it rains, I use a waterproof and breathable overtrouser that you’ll find below, in the accessories section.

Changing

A clean pair of pants to replace the one that dries out, another T-shirt – same brand as the other one and same quality – to replace the one that dries out with the pants, and a pair of socks to replace the one that dries out etc. We get it. In short, this is what it looks like:

When the evening comes

Here too, for mountain hiking, I have evolved. So, before, I used to carry these three elements:

Today, this is all I have:

I removed the warm tights – useless in the summer with a three-season duvet – and I only take my magical shoes with me when I sleep on the ground. At the bivouac, I prefer these flip-flops – disposable but reusable – from Jet Tong, bought for 2 euros and which weigh 43 grams a pair. When camping in the valleys, it avoids going to the showers barefoot on the rocks and grimacing – I know, I’ve done it…

Accessories.

Here again, I’ve reviewed the pack.

The fleece headband has disappeared, as the buff mentioned earlier replaces it. I didn’t use the gloves either: walking always warms the hands and they were therefore useless. Before leaving to do the GR54 again in July 2020, caught in a doubt – the fear of being cold, the fear, always, that loads the bag – I took them with me: they were of no use to me, even on the snowy Aup Martin.

The Raidlight overtrousers, waterproof and breathable, weighing 100 grams, did not stay either. Like the windbreaker, its waterproofness is relative but it has the advantage of providing a layer of warmth on the legs if it is really cold. But it doesn’t replace light trousers for the evening – at the refuge, in the restaurant or to enter an unlikely nightclub that would refuse entry to a hiker in shorts for example.

On the other hand, I kept my inevitable stop-all gaiters, which prevent me from stopping every two hundred metres to empty my shoes of the gravel that inevitably slips into them because I’m walking in shorts. 80 grams, always on me, never in the bag.

And that’s it.

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