Gear Guy

Down Sweater     Photo: courtesy, Patagonia

Q:

Which fleece weight—100 or 200—is best for late-summer hiking?

What weight of fleece (for a jacket) would you recommend for late-summer backpacking in the Pacific Northwest? I’m hiking the Wonderland Trail in early September and don’t know if 100 will be warm enough or if 200 will be overkill. Steve Puyallup, Washington

A:I’m half inclined to answer, “neither." By far, my preferred lightweight-but-warm piece these days is a down sweater. It packs up to the size of a softball, weighs next to nothing, and is comfy down to freezing—perfect for early autumn on the Wonderland Trail. And if it rains, well, just throw a shell over it. Patagonia makes a wonderful down sweater called, not surprisingly, the Patagonia Down Sweater for $200. MontBell’s Light Down Jacket ($150) is very similar.

So I’d take that, a shell, and probably a mid-weight long-sleeve T-shirt (Marmot Midweight Crew, $40), and a light short-sleeve tee. That would give you several combinations to wear when hiking or loafing around camp.

If you’re set on fleece, get something 200-weight, as that offers the most versatility. Mountain Hardwear’s Monkey Man Jacket ($140) is an excellent piece—comfortable, warm, and stretchy. On the bargain side, L.L. Bean’s Super Fleece 200 ($60) is plenty of mid-weight jacket.

I hope the hike goes well for you. I know the park lost a lot of trails last winter, but I think the route is in pretty good shape now. Early September is the ideal time of year to do it.

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