The California Set Up

I talked Austin Robbs, former TNF Breck employee and current Product Manager for TNF corporate, and asked him to fill me in on his go-to winter TNF products. Here’s the list:

To start, I prefer our merino wool Stretch Softwool baselayers. Wool holds moisture slightly longer than synthetic, but it also retains more warmth and naturally fights odors. With these baselayers I can head straight to the lodge bar or basecamp hut without the always unpopular “Eau De Polypro.” I go with the crew over the zip neck because my neck is already covered by my other layers and I would rather have less bulk than more ventilation.

Whether I am hiking up or riding down the mountain, I am working my legs pretty hard so I rarely wear more than a shell pant over my baselayers.  For that job I am a bibs man.  They move comfortably since there is no waistband, they look like normal pants
when you have a jacket on, and they completely prevent the dreaded
“snow down the pants” scenario.  They also offer ideal coverage and ventilation for all the other activities you find yourself doing like
shoveling snow or chopping wood.  Most days I wear the Skullhorn Bib from the Freeride collection. I like that the Skullhorn has a lot of pockets, heavy duty nylon, and a steezy (read: baggy) fit.  For the backcountry days when weight is of more importance, I have a little Gore-Tex Pro Shell hybrid number, but you will have to wait a year to get your hands on this style. Working in the corporate office has its advantages!

The Super Zephyrus Hoodie is my go to midlayer.  I rarely leave
the house without this Swiss Army knife of a jacket.  The majority of the jacket is insulated with Primaloft (the top of the line shredded polyester insulation), with a nylon ripstop shell.  The nylon is virtually windproof and highly water resistant. The areas where breathability is of utmost importance: under the arms, along the sides of the body, the middle of the back, and through the hood, are built with Polartec four-way stretch fleece for venting and mobility. The piece works with the body’s sweat zones to help maintain core temperature during a variety of activity levels.  The Super Zephyrus has the DNA of a midlayer jacket- a low profile and effective
insulation panels- but I often skin or hike up with this as my
outerlayer. The wind and water resistance combined with incredible breathability makes it ideal for high aerobic activities. I tend to climb, bike to work, get groceries, sit at my desk, drive, hike, watch movies and go to the bathroom in this jacket. It doesn’t layer well under my wetsuit, or I would surf in it too.  The fit of the hood is unlike anything I have ever used before. It is close fitting to go under an alpine helmet but still moves with me as I look around. And the color blocking makes you look like a super hero, which is nice.

I have two outer shells I depend on in the backcountry.  My primary
piece is the Kishtwar Jacket.  The Kishtwar, made with Polartec Power Shield Pro, is a super light softshell that provides insane breathability and is virtually waterproof. Sustained rains will wet out the jacket, but snow and ice stand no chance. The hood is helmet compatible and the length provides ample coverage.  I do a lot of riding in Tahoe, which means wet heavy snow and occasional rains are part of the deal, so when absolutely waterproof is necessary I reach for my Freethinker jacket. The feature set on this jacket reads like a novel and it has the durability and reliability of Gore-Tex Pro Shell three layer construction.

To round out the pieces I reach for the most, I have Hoback work gloves or Nuptse Mitts on my hands,  Reversible North Point on my head and I have the Ninja Balaclava in a pocket in case the weather gets weird. I also don’t venture into the backcountry without the Catalyst Down Jacket in my Patrol 24 pack. I like carrying the jacket for emergencies or when I crush the rest of the team on the uphill and have to wait for them at the top.

I think that about covers my kit…good thing I did this exercise
sitting in my home in Oakland where its NOT snowing and I CAN’T run outside and make some turns.

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Breck Special

Snow all day and all night.

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How to Layer: Warmth for Men

When the wind starts blowing on the Imperial chair, even the warmest of us needs a little extra under that jacket. For the guys in our shop, that means the Diez jacket.

The Diez, with a 10-denier Pertex nylon and 900 quality fill down, is warm, but ultra light. Under a shell the Diez will disappear, but will provide the warmth of a much thicker down jacket. Bonus: wear the jacket around town for apres ski.

Did we not cover something you are interested in? Leave a comment. Want more clarification on a piece we chose? Comment!

Find the rest of our series here.



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How to Layer: The Everyday Mid

For guys we recommend a shell pant and jacket. Shells are more versatile than insulated jackets because they can be used in a broad range of temperatures, including as a rain jacket in the summer. The Enzo jacket and pant use some of the lightest 3 layer Gore Tex Pro Shell fabric in The North Face line, while still remaining strong. During the winter, a rain coat could in theory work as a shell, but the fabric is so light that you risk ripping the jacket on ski edges or tree branches. Instead, a high end shell that is made for winter conditions will hold up through all of the abuse winter throws at it, while still packing down small enough to comfortably stow in a pack. Both the pant and jacket could be worn for backpacking in the summer or bootpacking to the summit in the winter.

For a typical twenty degree day, the Jakson jacket, with 133 grams of Primaloft in the body, both front and back, and Polartec Powerstretch Pro for the arms keeps your core toasty while allowing for breathability in the arms. Get a little warm? Open the pit zips and feel the cool air in the most important places.

Made specifically as an outerwear piece for backcountry ski excursions, the Jakson has daisy chains down the left front to thread your beacon strap through. The breathability keeps you from sweating out your jacket on the ascent, so you can comfortably throw on your shell for the descent. Wear it for cross country skiing or snowshoeing also. Versatility may be the ultimate determining factor for our gear choices.

Tomorrow: cold days on the hill

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How to Layer: For the Guys

Guys are notoriously warmer than women. With that in mind, we decided to do another series about how to layer specifically for the gentlemen.

No matter who is asking, we always start with the same baselayer system. Wool regulates your body temperature better than any product out there. It naturally keeps you warmer when you are cold, but also cooler when you warm up. Pair that with the natural anti-microbial factor and the guys can wear them more than one day without being that guy. You know the one…

Tomorrow: Midlayers revisited

Missed the rest of the series? Find it here.

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How to Layer: Under 10 degrees

 Now that we’ve covered a normal day, what do you do on the frigid days? Our pick: the Crimptastic.

Made specifically to layer, this 800 fill down jacket has Polartec Powerstretch fleece under the arms and at the elbows to reduce bulk under your jacket. With a ton of down in the jacket, this thing is toasty. Bonus: wear this hiking or cross country skiing on the crazy cold days and the underarm breathability will allow you to stay toasty without overheating.

Missed the rest of the layers? Check them out here, here, and here.

Next week: For the males.

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How to Layer: The Real Warmth

So it’s close to 20 degrees outside and you have your wool baselayer and your midweight jacket. What do you wear in between?

Our favorite? The Zephyrus pullover.

With 40 grams of Primaloft (the warmest, softest, driest, and most compressible insulation on the market), the Zephyrus weighs in at 8.82 oz, which is less than two Clif bars. The warmth? It’s way warmer than that heavyweight fleece you’ve been wearing under your jacket all of these years (average weight: 20.4 oz, average bulk: think overstuffed couch). Pull on a Zephyrus, forget you’re wearing it, and be warm and comfortable on the mountain. No more pulling at armpits to adjust layers, no more arranging cuffs in the correct order. Lose a zipper or two and breathe a little easier.

Tomorrow: Mid layer for the 10 degrees or less days.

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How to Layer: Starting from the Base

Starting with a good baselayer is a necessity. A bad baselayer means moisture is stuck against your skin, which is the last place you want it. Wet skin means cold body. For this reason, we recommend merino wool. Wool is a natural fiber made to keep sheep warm in the winter, so why wouldn’t it do the same for you? Merino wool is the softest, smoothest wool available, meaning it’s the most comfortable to wear against your skin. Forget the itchiness of your grandmother’s layers, this is soft and warm.

Wool is naturally anti-micorbial, which means you’ll have to work pretty freaking hard to make it smell. While wool holds onto moisture longer than polyester, polyester stinks and its warmth retaining characteristics leave much to be desired. Combine them and you get the best of both worlds with a little added stretch and shape retention.

Lastly, make sure your baselayers fit snug, though not so tight they are restrictive. Keeping the material against your skin will ensure the moisture moves away from your body as quickly as possible, which is the goal of the entire layering system.

The North Face Stretch Softwool tee and tight are a lightweight merino/nylon blend that is  comfortable on both warm and cold days.

Tomorrow: The middle.

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How to Layer: The Basics

Layering has to be one of the most challenging parts of skiing. Seriously, what do you wear when it’s 20 degrees outside and snowing? There are so many factors to take into account: you’re moving downhill with wind in your face and then sitting on a lift for at least 5 minutes. Sun, wind, snow and maybe all three? What do you wear?

Keeping in mind that men and women handle cold much differently, we’ll be offering two “How to Layer” tutorials. We’ll run through an entire layering system for women and then do the same for men, starting both with the basic outerwear. From there we’ll work from the skin to the midlayer. We’ll address a typical Breckenridge day (about 20 degrees Fahrenheit) as well as cold Breck days (around 10 degrees).

We want to start with the outerwear because that is the least likely to change. How many of us really have five different jackets and three different pairs of ski pants? We need a basic outfit that will take us from warm spring days to the coldest winter days by simply changing our layering system. These are some of our favorite fabrics and combinations of fabrics. You may have never seen anything like these layers, and that’s why we like them so much.

Today: women’s jacket and pants.

We started with the Special Effects jacket. This jacket has 80 grams of Heatseeker insulation, which is The North Face’s in-house shredded polyester insulation. For women, we love a shredded poly insulation. It’s warmer than fleece and way less bulky. Often, women cannot layer enough under an uninsulated shell to get warm enough in the coldest temperatures, so a dedicated insulation is a great starting point. Dedicated insulation offers less bulk and more warmth than either  a shell or a removable insulation, but is less versatile. We still perfer it. 80 grams is enough to create warmth, but light enough to wear on a warm spring day.

The high collar and hood on the jacket are great to zip up against wind, while the second zipper gives a little breathing room when you have a neck gaiter on. The offset zip reduces zipper stack and all but eliminates that annoying chin chafe.

The pants are the women’s Riderarchy pant, which have 60 grams of Heatseeker insulation. Our legs often do not need as much warmth as our upper body. The pants have vents on the inside of the legs, which are great for cooling down on the lift. The relaxed style and gold accents are functional and beautiful. The exact combination I want in a ski pant.

Tomorrow: down to the skin.

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How To Layer

The most frequent question we get in the store after, “Do you have that North Face jacket?” is how to layer correctly for our windy, cold winters. Coming from climates where the temperatures are in the 50s and 60s, 20 degrees and often below after wind chill, seems frigid. Even seasoned pros from the Front Range wonder how they could pare down their layers while increasing the warmth. Starting Monday we will be posting our favorite layers from the baselayer to the outerwear and the technology behind the performance of each piece. Come read and learn. You might find a new favorite layering piece.

We love answering questions about the layers you are currently wearing and how they can be improved. Leave comments on the blog and we’ll answer quickly!

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