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  1. #1
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    Down jacket or shetland sweater for travel midlayer?

    Living in the southern US, I have little experience with needing to dress with layers. However, in preparing for future travel, I'd like to have a mid-layer, and a jacket of some sort seems to be the norm. How would a down jacket compare to a shetland sweater? When I visited Europe last year, I typically wore a heavy sweater over a long-sleeved shirt, and it kept me warm enough, except in torrential downpours in Scotland, and obviously an insulated jacket wouldn't work well in that scenario, either. Which option do y'all prefer? Keep in mind, however, that my current question regards no particular destination; mostly urban travel but maybe some light camping/hiking...I mostly just want to be prepared.
    Last edited by ThomGault; 07-13-2018 at 06:08 AM.

  2. #2
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    Depending on the temperatures I will encounter, I prefer to take 1-3 items:
    * 150 weight 1/4 zip merino sweater (fairly thin)
    * packable down jacket
    * lightweight rain shell

    My down jackets are not DWR/dridown treated, so they can get wet. This necessitates a rain shell in cool, rainy weather to maintain warmth. If it's warmer, I'll take the 1/4 zip and rain jacket. If it's cooler, the down and rain jacket. Super cold - all three. I have prioritized items that are fairly light, but durable. I do not like to exceed ~6-7kg (14-15 pounds) when I pack.

    I have three down items that I typically select from: a down cardigan, a hoodless down jacket, and a hooded down jacket. I rarely take the hooded jacket. The cardigan is my most common carry - it's also great to throw on when I'm on a too-cold flight. All three fit well under my rain shell, but still maintain loft. My rain shell is a Marmot item with a fairly trim cut, but there's still room.

    Simplicity is key for me - I want something that does its job, without having lots of pockets, extra zippers, etc. I find that this set of combinations allows me adequate protection beyond pants and a tshirt or button down in the vast majority of weather conditions.

    Edited for detail about down items.
    Last edited by squaredot; 07-13-2018 at 10:29 AM.

  3. #3
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    Optionality is key. Down is much lighter than wool and can compress significantly for packing, so that would be the best bet. I would look for a vest, preferably treated down that doesn't absorb water like a sponge, and a goretex shell. On colder days, you can layer a thin sweater under the down vest. On not so cold days, you can just wear the vest and shell. On cool days, you can just wear the vest. If you had a thick wool sweater, you're basically stuck wearing a heavy sweater. Also, I bet a down vest, thin sweater, and shell will take up less luggage space than a thick wool outdoor-type sweater.
    Last edited by NClens; 07-13-2018 at 09:55 AM.

  4. #4
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    Down jacket or shetland sweater for travel midlayer?

    For general use a 3-in-1 jacket might be useful to you. This is typically a fleece or down inner jacket that zips into a waterproof jacket. You can use either layer separately or zip them together for a warm and waterproof jacket. They aren't always the most packable but if you were, say, traveling to the U.K. anytime between September and May, you would get use out of one or both layers most days.

    If you want maximum packability you might prefer a packable down jacket and a packable rain jacket. LL Bean make ones that pack into a pocket, as do many other manufacturers. If you want to be able to wear layers together it might be easier to go to an outdoors shop and try a bunch of stuff on so you get a good idea of how big the rainproof layer needs to be to accommodate the inner warming layer comfortably. If you are buying separately you might want to get the inner layer first so you know how to size the outer layer.

  5. #5
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    Agree with the opinions above..go for light weight packable versatility... the sweater is probably best only if you're going somewhere for a long period of time and you'll wear it a lot and want to look snuggly snazzy in it or something, otherwise it would be very bulky for travel.

    Consider some merino wool base layers as well - they would pair well with the down vest mentioned above. Or thicker merino midlayer if you run cold.
    A lot depends on how hot/cold you tend to run.
    I'm usually warm so I travel with merino long sleeve light weight t-shirts, a thin fleece vest, a thin fleece zip, and a lightweight water/windproof shell. And I only wear them simultaneously when it's below zero... usually I'm fine with the merino and a fleece and the waterproof only goes on if it's rainy/windy.

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    Down's many advantages have been covered, so I'll speak up for wool, which is my favorite mid-layer. I like wool's breathability. You don't look like you're wearing a coat when you wear it indoors. It's tough on a hiking trail. Wool isn't slippery and it's quiet, particularly under a shell. In fact, I don't travel with wool without a shell. The shell blocks wind and keeps me dry. And if it gets warm, I'll wear just the shell.

    But it doesn't sound like you have/carry a shell. If you want to carry one layer only, skip the sweater and look at a thin down jacket with a water-resistant coating.

  7. #7
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    Down jacket or shetland sweater for travel midlayer?

    Id love brand advice from folks above. This forum addicted me to merino wool, and I miss the Ibex brand that closed last winter.

    Id love a recommendation for how to decide on a down vest or light jacket. Splurge for an expensive Arcteryx? Try Uniqllo that opened near us recently?

    And I need to start replacing merino shirts. My cat snagged one T-shirt, and I wear them so much that others are aging. Outlier shirts are so expensive, but they have great colors. Are they worth it? I love Wool & Prince shirts, but the colors tend dark and muddy.

    Also I recommend wool socks when youre thinking about staying warm. Smart wool and other socks come in wool from thick hiking socks to thin formal ones. Theyve kept me comfortable even if I get surprised by cooler weather. Three pairs in my Western Flyer when I went to New York this week even in July.
    Last edited by Fulton; 07-13-2018 at 08:11 PM. Reason: I forgot about socks.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fulton View Post
    I’d love brand advice from folks above. This forum addicted me to merino wool, and I miss the Ibex brand that closed last winter.
    For merino wool, I prefer the blends which are more durable... as long as the merino content is pretty high, you get most of the non-stinky, wet warmth, etc. performance but the nylon or whatever synthetic they blend it with improves the durability.
    I also have some nice larger lingerie bags and put them inside to wash on cold/gentle in the washing machine and I hang them over a drying rack to dry.
    That prevents damage from snagging and tangling.

    I have some long sleeve light weight wool shirts from Icebreaker. I don't like the super skinny formfitting ones, so I have a couple of these 'Aria' ones that they designed in collaboration with a Japanese designer... I think they're mostly gone from the website, but Amazon has some left
    https://www.amazon.com/Icebreaker-Me...r+merino+women

    looks like they're now doing another Japanese collaboration that looks promising to me, called Tabi
    https://www.icebreaker.com/en/womens-tabi

    I also have a few REI Taereen t-shirts that are now discontinued....grrrr...
    https://www.rei.com/product/117300/r...t-shirt-womens

    For socks, my most recent SmartWool ones have seemed to be thinner than they used to be and wear out much much sooner, so I've mostly switched over to the Darn Tough brand

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by G42 View Post

    I have some long sleeve light weight wool shirts from Icebreaker. I don't like the super skinny formfitting ones, so I have a couple of these 'Aria' ones that they designed in collaboration with a Japanese designer... I think they're mostly gone from the website, but Amazon has some left
    https://www.amazon.com/Icebreaker-Me...r+merino+women

    looks like they're now doing another Japanese collaboration that looks promising to me, called Tabi
    https://www.icebreaker.com/en/womens-tabi
    Thanks. I like those icebreaker shirts. I think I will check those out.

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    I appreciate all the suggestions so far. Like Twosandalz, my main response in defense of a wool sweater (as everyone seems to suggest a more technical option) is presentation which can be worn inside. E.g., going to a restaurant or a church or someone's house, when I want to look more presentable, a sweater gives a nice appearance than a down jacket or wool mid-layer. I guess I'll consider taking two mid-layers :/

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThomGault View Post
    I appreciate all the suggestions so far. Like Twosandalz, my main response in defense of a wool sweater (as everyone seems to suggest a more technical option) is presentation which can be worn inside. E.g., going to a restaurant or a church or someone's house, when I want to look more presentable, a sweater gives a nice appearance than a down jacket or wool mid-layer. I guess I'll consider taking two mid-layers :/
    Keep your eyes open for a nice merino wool sweater (not a technical layer) vs a heavier Shetland style... that way you can wear it as a layer with a water/windproof shell outside and still look snazzy indoors. Depending on the style and size, you can wear it over a traditional collared button down shirt.
    Regular high end department stores and men's shops often carry merino or merino/cashmere blends.
    https://www.josbank.com/merino-wool-sweaters

    I know that I was responding the idea of the bulk/weight of a Shetland style sweater... but there's merino that isn't performance wear styling
    Last edited by G42; 07-14-2018 at 03:47 PM.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by NClens View Post
    On colder days, you can layer a thin sweater under the down vest. If you had a thick wool sweater, you're basically stuck wearing a heavy sweater. Also, I bet a down vest, thin sweater, and shell will take up less luggage space than a thick wool outdoor-type sweater.
    Quote Originally Posted by twosandalz View Post
    Down's many advantages have been covered, so I'll speak up for wool, which is my favorite mid-layer. I like wool's breathability. You don't look like you're wearing a coat when you wear it indoors. It's tough on a hiking trail. Wool isn't slippery and it's quiet, particularly under a shell. In fact, I don't travel with wool without a shell. The shell blocks wind and keeps me dry. And if it gets warm, I'll wear just the shell.
    Quote Originally Posted by G42 View Post
    Keep your eyes open for a nice merino wool sweater (not a technical layer) vs a heavier Shetland style... that way you can wear it as a layer with a water/windproof shell outside and still look snazzy indoors. Depending on the style and size, you can wear it over a traditional collared button down shirt.
    Regular high end department stores and men's shops often carry merino or merino/cashmere blends.
    https://www.josbank.com/merino-wool-sweaters
    Thank you very much for the suggestions! I'm leaning toward a thin/medium merino wool sweater as a mid-layer, to be combined with a rain/wind-proof shell.

    Any ideas on prime suppliers? I really try to avoid Chinese made products (and Jos. A Bank) as much as possible. O'Connell's or Brooks Brothers would avoid the technical design, but then I also worry that the sweater might be too fussy. :\

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThomGault View Post
    Any ideas on prime suppliers?
    Search for "Irish made sweater". Or try Armor Lux or Saint James. You can also often find sweaters by those two brands on eBay.

    P.S. I sometimes pack a heavy, good quality sweater. I like how a sweater is cozy and comfortable and, as you pointed out, can be a dressier clothing choice. I don't find the additional weight burdensome, but I may pack less of other clothing items depending on how bulky the sweater is/how much room it takes up. That's mostly worked out fine for me.
    Have a question? @Darcy (to make sure I see it)

    Current carry: testing new potential materials in the form of Original Large Shop Bags.

  14. #14
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    Any ideas on prime suppliers? I really try to avoid Chinese made products
    My father has worn simple merino pullovers from Lands End and LL Bean to the office, skiing, and cycling for years. My hiking/camping sweater was the cheapest wool crew neck LL Bean had. I wouldn't worry about a non-technical sweater being too fussy, if that's they styling you prefer.

    You might not find a style you like right now but look again in September or October. Also, both companies manufacture around the world, so do check each item's details.

  15. #15
    Forum Member haraya's Avatar
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    Another vote for the layered approach.

    Any ideas on prime suppliers?
    For the shell - I recently found the Kuhl Jetstream trench. (ETA: My links are to women's styles, but most of the brands carry a men's equivalent of each jacket/sweater, for anyone else following this thread. Smilie ) It was on sale at the time, but I see some places like Zappos have it for less, or you might like the jacket instead of the trench for a shorter style. I like the trench because it's more street-smart, less technical-looking than my Patagonia Torrentshell which used to be my travel jacket. The company looks to be based in Utah. And one of the founders lives/manages production in China, so I hope that means they keep a closer eye on the conditions under which their products are made. Smilie

    Kuhl Men's Jetstream


    Id love a recommendation for how to decide on a down vest or light jacket. Splurge for an expensive Arcteryx? Try Uniqllo that opened near us recently?
    In general - I would start out with independent layers. Easier to mix and match them as conditions change. Later if you find you consistently wear a shell+mid-layer all the time (e.g. you're always by the water with a breeze, or you always go skiing), then I'd buy the jacket that works best for that situation. Splurge vs. basic: I'd say the splurge will get you better water-repellency, or lighter weight for a given warmth rating. I hate feeling wet and clammy, so I personally would get a waterproof/breathable shell first, then merino base layers (I think you said you already have some of those).

    For colder weather - this jacket (Patagonia Fiona) is more of an investment but it packs down extremely small - about the size of a rolled-up newspaper. Specs on this edition say 600-fill though I seem to recall the model I have was 800-fill. I use mine as my everyday winter outer layer as well as for travel, because if I take it off it's super-light and small enough to jam into my (Tom Bihn Smilie) pack. If you're moving towards a more minimalist travel style I totally think saving up for a higher fill-power down jacket is worth it, because it's so much more packable without sacrificing warmth. (Don't know where in the southern US you are but if you would never wear a long coat in winter, you might prefer an 800-fill vest or jacket for more versatility beyond a travel piece.) Patagonia Men's Ultralight down hoody

    I also have an Athleta ultralight shell - it's more water-repellent than waterproof but it's tiny and light enough to stuff in my purse for just in case. I don't see that style on their site any more but Uniqlo usually has a similar packable/"pocketable" jacket. Might be a nice alternative if you're not expecting a lot of rain. Uniqlo men's packable jacket


    For base or mid-layers: I have a Smartwool zip-up cardi which I think moves well between technical and social activities. Mine is from a while back but here's a different style (Palisades Trail) which looks similar to the Icebreaker Bliss cardi that was such a hit with Bihnions Smilie. Or this hooded sweater looks smart: (Smartwool Crestone). Any could be nice as an outer layer when you're not on the road.

    Men's: Smartwool 150 polo Smartwool Ski Ninja half-zip Smartwool Echo Lake half-zip
    Last edited by haraya; 07-18-2018 at 12:04 PM.

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