L.L. Bean Mountain Pile Fleece Jacket
Mountain Pile Fleece Jacket (courtesy, L.L. Bean)
Gear Guy

Can you give me a New England gear makeover?

I just moved to New England from Scotland, where the lack of defined seasons and nearly constant chilly rain make three-season gear essential. Should I shop similarly here or aim for two entire get-ups, one for lightweight summer trekking and one for colder months? Callum Boston, Massachusetts

L.L. Bean Mountain Pile Fleece Jacket

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Well, here in the Pacific Northwest, where I live, one might argue that we lack well-defined seasons and from October through May suffer from near-constant, chilly rain. And yet I have the same outfit for the entire year. I just think in terms of a clothing continuum.

L.L. Bean Mountain Pile Fleece Jacket

L.L. Bean Mountain Pile Fleece Jacket Mountain Pile Fleece Jacket

I should think the same would work for you in New England, where there ARE well-defined seasons (hot and humid summers; nice falls; freaking freezing cold winters, usually; and sweet springs).

Here’s the system. Start with a set of light long underwear such as Patagonia Capilene 1 T and Bottoms ($36 each; www.patagonia.com), and add the Ex-Officio Amphi Short ($46; www.exofficio.com). Then you’ll need a set of midweight long underwear. I like Icebreaker’s merino wool stuff, such as the Skin 200 Mondo Zip T ($69; www.icebreaker.com) and Bodyfit 260 Leggings (also $69). Add a soft shell top such as REI’s One Jacket ($199; www.rei.com) or a fleece piece such as L.L. Bean’s Mountain Pile Fleece Jacket ($69; www.llbean.com). Over it all, use a waterproof-breathable shell set, such as Marmot’s Tamarack Jacket ($200; www.marmot.com) and Light Streak Pants ($225). Add some gloves and a hat, and maybe a super-warm insulating piece such as The North Face Nuptse down jacket ($199; www.thenorthface.com), and there’s nothing you can’t endure.

The beauty of it is, you can start with the light layer and just keeping adding stuff over it from August through February, then start peeling it off. Or mix and match. Capilene 1 and the One Jacket. Icebreaker Mondo Zip and Mountain Pile Jacket. Capilene 1 and Mondo Zip and Pile Jacket and Tamarack Jacket. And so on. You can fine-tune your comfort level in five-degree increments from 90F to minus 20F.

So, that’s the system. Hopefully you already have comparable versions of some or all of the pieces, or this will get kind of expensive. Remember, you don’t need to buy all this stuff at once, and shop around for the best deals.

Check out this year’s more than 400 must-have gear items, including a comprehensive apparel section, in the 2006 Buyer’s Guide.