So much depends on getting the basics right and in this context the basics are what you wear next to your skin. On an expedition the same couple of tops will be on for pretty much every day so they need to work.
I have been using Patagonia tops as expedition base layers for several years and with new changes in materials I haven’t noticed that I have climbed harder or faster (or maybe that’s cancelled out by increasing years), but I definitely do smell a lot nicer than the days of smelly hellies!
It doesn’t matter if I am climbing something big in the Himalaya, trekking the high Andes, wandering around the European Alps or closer to home, I have evolved a standard baselayer combination of a Patagonia Capilene Midweight crew layered with a Patagonia Regulator R1 fleece. If it’s a going to be really warm on the trek in, I will have a Capilene Lightweight T shirt or top instead of my second midweight.
This combo works so well as its super flexible. Expeditions whether trekking or climbing throw a lot of different weather conditions at you, and a flexible layering system can adapt to this making the whole experience more enjoyable.
The Capilene midweight is great for trekking and load carrying between camps on big mountains in the sun where its breathability doesn’t leave you feeling soggy, even when its damp outside. The seams are positioned away from the shoulders so don’t chafe. The long arms (now complete with natty little thumb loops) keep your arms from being fried by the sun at high altitudes, and it dries quickly when you stop. The newer power grid material (think little waffled cells) seems to make it dry even quicker than their older versions. However, the best thing is that it doesn’t stink when you pop the R1 fleece over it when the sun sets. Patagonia call that the Polygiene permanent odour control, I call it being kind to tent or hut mates!
If you have time enough for a quick rinse at the tea house or at base camp then the rapid drying time of the Capilene top comes in handy again. On a recent trek in Nepal where it actually rained a lot, my Capilene midweight was drying out significantly faster than other brands swinging on the makeshift drying lines inside the tea house. Whilst not a scientific test, it was noticeably different, and it meant I didn’t have to suffer the cold wet thermal shiver test the following morning.
When it does get noticeably colder, one thing that I have found important in fighting off the high altitude coughs is having your neck / throat warm. Some choose a buff (I do if I am walking and its dry and dusty) but for sitting around in the evening the high neck of the R1 fleece seems to do the trick and I get less of my soup spilt down it!
When high on a mountain the midweight Capilene and R1 fleece work together well, providing plenty of warmth and ease of movement if things have to get dynamic. Like all of Patagonias’ gear both tops are bombproof so they won’t fall apart on day three (or day thirty three for that matter!).
The R1 has a chest pocket which is great for holding phones and other electronic stuff that need to stay warm and the decent gripper on the zip means that gloved or ungloved, you can use the zip to control temperature. Like the Capilene midweight, the R1 dries quickly, doesn’t chafe under a big load and with a smooth outer, layers easily with waterproofs or down jackets as required.
What this all means is that on an expedition, your base layers are two midweight tops (or one lightweight and one midweight) and a R1 fleece for an entire trek or climb. This means a lighter weight on you or your porters back.
Importantly in my opinion (Beyond the Edge are proud holders of the Peak District Environmental Quality mark), Patagonia have an excellent environmental and social responsibility attitudes. If we want to carry on climbing, exploring and having fun in the outdoors into the future, I believe this matters.