Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Testing our goods

Spoiler alert: I froze my a-- off and I hate my pants.

Today V and I went for a hike up the Luberon mountains in southern France and took the opportunity to equip ourselves solely with the gear we are bringing on the trip. The idea was to test our clothes, shoes and day packs at low altitude in the sun at the start of the hike and then later at a higher altitude where it would be much colder.

We both wore multiple layers and brought even more in our day packs (along with our awesome picnic lunch of pasta salad and juice boxes). I wore one of my two t-shirts, one of my two long sleeve shirts, a light weight zip-neck long sleeve shirt, my convertible pants, heavy hiking socks and my heaviest walking shoes, bandanas around my head and neck, and sunglasses (and a bra and undies, but we don't need to go into those details, do we?). In my day pack were a scarf, a micro-fleece and my rain jacket/ wind-breaker. If you are really interested in all of this stuff, go back to this post to see pictures of each item.

As we started up the mountain on our hike, it was sunny and around 55 degrees. About ten minutes into the hike came my first discovery: I hate my pants. My convertible pants for the trip, besides making me look like a total dude, have no stretch in them and are frankly too tight to comfortably hike in. I had tried on a larger pair at the store and they were too baggy, so I went a size down. Seeing how unhappy I was with the pants after only five hours of hiking, I certainly don't want to be stuck with them for a year. I'm now on the look out in the next three weeks for new pants.

So, on up the mountain we went. As we reached the top, a massive wind swept over the summit and clouds rolled in from the other side of the range, covering the sun. The temperature dropped from 50 degrees to probably around 35, maybe lower with the wind chill. This is where I made a huge mistake and my second discovery. To combat the cooler temperature, I added the rest of my layers, except the scarf. Those five layers of technical, carefully chosen tops should have kept me warm in 30 degree weather. The problem was that my sports bra and t-shirt were humid from my sweating (I know, I'm such a lady) during the ascent, so regardless of the extra layers, I was still cold.

At the summit, V and I took shelter from the wind and had our picnic. The combination of my wet base layers and no longer moving pushed my discomfort to another level: I was freeeeezing. I complained enough in between sips from my juice box to make V hurry up so we could get moving again. To my dismay, V kept stopping to take pictures of the view as I danced around and hugged myself like a crazy person, trying to warm up.
Me on the summit, hating everything.
Finally, after walking a bit more and giving my shirt time to dry, I started warming up, but not before learning a seriously valuable lesson: if base layers are humid in cold weather, TAKE THEM OFF. I would have been far, far warmer without my t-shirt under my heavier layers than with it wet. While I suffered a bit today, I'm so glad I figured that out before I find myself at 12,000 feet in Bolivia with a wet t-shirt.

At the end of the day, we had a great hike and are both feeling good about the gear we are bringing on the trip. So I'll leave you with a picture of us, feelin' good:

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