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|| News Item: Posted 2001-12-19

Road Warrior: Learning to Layer for Salt Lake City
Ice Age - your guide to survival at the Winter Olympics

By Mongo

Photo by
(Part 4 in a series of 5)

Oh my god! (Do Mormons say that?)

Less than 45 days to go!


Sometimes referred to as thermal underwear, long johns, or jammies. Worn next to your skin, its primary purpose is to create a microclimate that extends about _ inch from your body.

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This layer will ultimately determine your comfort level for any given activity level, so chose wisely.

Long gone are the days of cotton waffle or fishnet underwear. (Though I did know a French Canadian gal who looked great in fishnet) Cotton is DEATH, cotton absorbs moisture, and cotton takes forever to dry. (Remember conductive heat loss is up to 25 times quicker when your insulation is wet.)

Synthetics rule the land! Polyesters and Polypropylene are hydrophobic and will not absorb moisture. Depending on how the fabric is processed (spun or chemically treated) it will wick moisture away from your skin and dissipate it through your middle layer.

With brand names like Patagonia Capilene, REI MTS, Duofold COOLMAX, and DuPont THERMASAT, it's hard to go wrong. All you need to do is pick the right weight (thickness) for the conditions you'll be working under.

LIGHTWEIGHT (thin & crispy crust)

Designed for aerobic sports, this weight of material moves moisture the fastest, so if you sweat like a pig, this type of underwear keeps you from getting all clammy. Think of it like wearing a T-shirt under a dress shirt. If you tend to run hot, this is a good choice.

* Cheapskates choice:

Duofold COOLMAX ALTA Lightweight $19.99 at

* Money to burn:

Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Crew $30.00 at fine outdoor retailers everywhere

MIDWEIGHT (traditional style)

An all around, all-purpose base layer for low to moderate activity. Versatile enough to go from the rockin' and rollin' half pipe competition in Park City, to the near death experience of curling in Ogden. For maximum temperature control, opt for the Zip-T neck style instead of the crew
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* I work for a Singleton paper:

REI Midweight MTS Zip-T $34.00 at

*I work for USATODAY:

Patagonia R.5 minimalist top $65.00 at specialty mountaineering stores

EXPEDITION WEIGHT (thick and chewy crust)

For stop and go activity in really cold conditions (or if you're just a wuss like Wally from the LA Times!) you'll appreciate the extra thickness and warmth provided by expedition or polar weight fabrics. Were you stupid enough to volunteer to shoot the upper section of the Downhill course at Snowbasin? Well at least you'll be warm and fuzzy clinging to the ice wall on the first face.

* You can't spell cheap without AP:

Photo by Mongo

Photo by Mongo
Duofold Expedition weight top $26.99, bottom $19.99 at Warning! This only comes in khaki cause it was designed for the U.S. military's ECWC system. If it's sunny out, you could have a good giggle striping off your outer layers, it'll look like you're naked next to the race course.

* Find the fur coat (expense account):

Patagonia Expedition weight fleece Zip-t top$68.50, bottoms $53.00 at fine outdoor retailers everywhere

* MONGO's choice:

Sequel TITAN top $84.00, bottoms $69.00 at specialty mountaineering stores. Hard to find but worth it! Or check out Made from Powerstrech 100 a tricomponent knit fabric that has the strength of nylon on the outside and the soft wicking action of polyester on the inside, with the stretch of LYCRA. This stuff is so warm and comfortable that I can skip the middle layer and just wear a shell on fair weather days.

Photo by

Synthetics are a breeze to clean, just toss it in the washer, any setting or you can just put it in a sink with a dash of shampoo, rise well and hang to dry. DO NOT USE A DRYER! It can melt the material or cause the fabric to pill. Because the Polyester and Polypropylene don't absorb water, the drying process goes quite quickly.

Next month - hats, gloves, and other stuff you'll need.

(Mongo Johnson writes on travel and related topics has worked as the transportation coordinator on such memorable films as "Fast Times At Ridgemont High," "Fritz The Cat,"and "Eat My Dust." He currently is working as a fly fishing guide outside of New Iberia, LA.)

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