How do you layer?

by Stephanie Daniels Friday, February 8th 2019

Layering your clothing is a useful technique that is designed to help you get the most out of your outdoor experience. By giving you flexibility in your wardrobe to accommodate inevitable weather changes, layering will keep you comfortable in temperatures that may otherwise send you back indoors. There are three key components to a proper laying system: Base layer, mid layer and outer layers. These layers often come in various “weights” and are generally classified using the terms light, medium or heavy. The weight of the layer correlates to warmth, so the weight you choose should match the activity and energy you are exuding.

  1. Base Layer – Moisture Control
    The base layer is the first layer in a proper layering system that sits closest to the skin. The main purpose of the base layer is to wick away moisture, dispersing sweat throughout the rest of the garment so it can evaporate quickly. Base layers can be manufactured in many fabrics, the most popular being merino wool, polyester/synthetic and silk. Merino wool is known for having a soft hand, quick-drying fibers, and natural odor-resistant properties. Synthetic fiber base layers are often more affordable and easier to care for, but they can retain body odors over time. Silk is often the lightest weight option and most appropriate for light physical activity. With all the fabric options out there, it is important to remember that cotton is not your friend when layering. It will hold on to moisture, often making garments heavier, and cotton garments will take longer to dry.
  2. Icebreaker 200 Oasis Long Sleeve

    Patagonia Capilene Daily Long Sleeve

    Kuhl Kondor Krew

  3. Mid Layer – Insulation
    The mid layer is all about insulation, allowing you to retain body heat and stay warm. As with base layers, mid layers are produced in many fabrics. Fleece, down, or synthetic filled pieces are all popular mid layers. Fleece is a great option for additional moisture management and breathability. Traditional down provides the most warmth-to-weight ratio and it keeps its lofting capabilities when compressed; however, it loses its warmth properties when wet. Hydrophobic down has been treated with a water-repellent chemical that allows the down to stay lofted when wet; it is not as widely used at this time, but many consider this technology a game changer. Synthetic fiber is durable and will often dry faster than down. It also holds onto its warmth properties more successfully than down when wet, although synthetic can be bulkier compared to its down counterpart.
  4. Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket

    Columbia Mountain Crest Fleece Full Zip Jacket

    Mountain Hardwear Stretch Down DS Hoody

  5. Outer Layer – Water & Wind
    The outer layer is arguably the most important in the layering system. It is designed to keep all other layers dry and needed to keep the wind out, which allows every layer to perform their roles most efficiently – thus keeping you warm. For most activities, the perfect outer layer should be waterproof, windproof, and breathable. Almost all will have some sort of DWR (durable water repellent) treatment, which allows water to bead up and roll off the surface of the garment, preventing it from soaking through the top layer. When trying on an outer layer, it is recommended that you wear all of your intended layers underneath, ensuring you have enough room for movement. It is not uncommon to size up in an outer layer to prevent the feeling of constriction.
  6. Outdoor Research Foray Jacket

    The North Face Apex Risor

    Black Diamond StormLine Stretch Rain Shell

One final component to consider for your outdoor clothing arsenal is the “accessories.” By having a hat, gloves, and socks on hand, you can increase your warmth and protect your extremities from the elements.

For more information on how to layer and to get personal recommendations, come visit the Summit Hut!

Gear | News

3 Steps to Finding the Perfect Backpack

by Alec Meyer Tuesday, February 5th 2019

Consider the Options

With so many options available, start by determining overall capacity required, which is measured in liters or cubic inches. Day hikes and overnight trips usually require fewer than 45 liters for most individuals. Longer excursions often require more capacity from 60 liters and up. Volume requirements vary from one person to the next and also change depending on where the backpack will be used and the conditions of the area.

Osprey packs

It is also important to consider the construction of the bag. Certain backpacks feature ultralight material (Levity 60 above), which brings overall weight down, but compromise on durability. Some bags have plenty of pockets, which are a tremendous help when it comes to organization and being able to find gear or equipment easily.

Measure & Adjust

Torso length is the distance from hips (iliac crest ) to shoulders (C7 vertebrae ). This measurement is crucial in determining which pack size is optimal for an individual. Dialing in torso length of a backpack ensures that both the hip belt and shoulder straps can adjust to be comfortable and effective. A soft tape measure or pack sizer (picture below) can be used to determine torso length.

Osprey measure

Once the correct size is determined, the overall torso length of the pack will need to be either shortened or lengthened in most cases. The backpack should be adjusted so that the hip belt sits on the top of the hip bones, while the shoulder straps should rest on the top of shoulder comfortably. Ideally, the shoulder straps should conform to the back without any additional space between the wearer’s back and the pack. Torso length does not require adjustment once the proper fit is achieved.

There are four additional points of adjustment on most backpacks including the hip belt, shoulder straps, load lifters, and sternum strap. These adjustments can be changed from one use to the next. It is important to place the middle of the hip belt on the top of the hip (iliac crest) first, and then tighten both shoulder straps. The load lifters, just behind the shoulders, should be pulled until the body of the back is parallel with the wearer’s torso. Finally, the sternum strap should be tightened until there is no slack left and the shoulder straps rest in a comfortable place. This strap does not need to be overly tight.

Try Multiple Backpacks

It is important to explore and try on multiple models and designs to see what they have to offer. Backpacks have different suspensions systems that carry differently from one model to the next. Trying on more than one is crucial to finding the perfect pack. This process is just like trying on multiple pairs of shoes in order to find which is most complimentary to an individual’s body.

Find the pack that’s right for you by shopping Summit Hut’s huge selection of backpacks and gear.

Gear | News

Buying Boots: The Importance of the Right Fit

by Stephanie Daniels Tuesday, January 29th 2019

The fit of a shoe can be a major factor in your enjoyment of time spent outside. The last thing you want to have to think about is sore feet. A recent study by the American Podiatric Medical Association found that more than 77% of Americans experience foot pain. Most even think foot pain is normal and don’t seek help to identify or alleviate their issues. Bunions, hammer toes, blisters, black toenails, heel spurs, and plantar fasciitis can be extremely painful and keep you from enjoying outdoor activities. The problem isn’t just our feet, it’s our footwear choices. Are you in the right shoe?

As we celebrate Summit Hut’s 50th year, we are featuring a different Heritage Partner each month. In January, we are featuring Vasque footwear. As a Vasque FitShop Certified Retailer, Summit Hut uses elements of the Vasque FitShop in fitting every shoe and boot we sell. We measure your feet, assess your needs, and provide you with options so you can feel confident on your next hike, trail run, or walk about town.

The ultimate goal with any piece of footwear is to stabilize the foot. It all starts with your foot measurement using the Brannock device. While standing up, we record your heel-to-toe measurement, heel-to-ball (or arch length) measurement, width measurement, and we assess foot volume.

Shoes are designed to flex at the ball of the foot. By determining your arch length, we can better match the bend point of your foot with the flex point of the shoe. If we can match up those two points, we can get a better fit. We ensure the foot is bending where the shoe bends, which allows for extra room for the toes in the front of the shoe. Typically, we look for a finger’s width from the end of the toe to the end of the shoe so that we can be certain your toes have enough wiggle room and will not hit the end of the shoe, which is especially important when hiking downhill.

A supportive insole, such as Superfeet, will cup your heel, support your arch, take up volume inside the shoe, and give your foot the stability it needs. We offer a wide variety of Superfeet to provide the best fit depending on your arch height, foot volume, heel size, and overall comfort needs.

Socks are often the most overlooked item when determining footwear choices. Selecting a sock that will add cushion and provide moisture management is an important piece in any fit package. The soles of your feet have 3,300 sweat pores per square inch. For most people each foot will perspire one-quarter cup per day and as much as one full cup during activity. Feet perspire more than any other part of our body, except for our head and hands. Selecting a sock with moisture wicking properties, such as Darn Tough, Smartwool, Thorlo, or Wigwam, will help keep your feet dry and prevent blisters. Investing in a good pair of hiking socks will help keep you on the trail.

A boot fit isn’t over until we’ve determined the lacing technique that is right for you. The proper lacing technique will push the foot back into the heel cup, preventing forward slipping and excessive friction, which leads to hot spots and blisters. We recommend the sherpa knot (heel lock), surgeon’s knot, or window lacing techniques, depending on your needs.

Once we find the right fit package, it is time to fine tune. If we need to modify a boot to make room for a bunion, provide more width, or stretch out a tight spot, we are able to do so in-store. Our trained boot modifiers are ready to help you with your customized needs.

Our boot fitting philosophy is “it’s all about the fit.” We don’t want to just sell you shoes, we want to help you find the best option for your feet by taking the time to sit with you and find your perfect fit.

Kathy Simko's Arizona Trail Trek - Entry 7 - The Last Leg

by Kathy Tuesday, July 26th 2016

The last leg of my AZT adventure - Flagstaff to Utah- was both eventful and spectacular.  

On the morning of May 13th (Day 53), my two travelling companions and I, met up at the corner of Ponderosa Pkwy and Route 66 in Flagstaff and headed northward, stocked to the gills as our provisions needed to get us to Tusayan, AZ.  

May 13th is a somber day for me.  My father passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on this date twenty years earlier and he was at the forefront of my mind as we hiked towards Buffalo Park.  We visited the gorgeous memorial bench for Dale Shewalter, the Father of the Arizona Trail.  It was the perfect thing to do.  The plaque describes how Dale's father turned him on to the magnificent natural beauty of Arizona.  My father, a stellar man of great integrity, did the same for me.  Reading this on this day was truly touching and appropriate, and really helped me on an emotionally tough day.

The view of Mt. Humphrey from my campsite

The stretch north of Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon is extremely dry.  There are no running creeks or streams; the best you can hope for is an occasional cattle tank.  Therefore, I had made arrangements with Flagstaff Kell to drop water for us at four designated locations: Aspen Corner, Cedar Ranch Junction, Moqui Station and Grandview Lookout.  There's about twenty miles between these points, so having water at them is of paramount importance.  Everything went smoothly except for the Cedar Ranch Junction drop - a mountain biker riding from Flag to the Grand Canyon took half my water (They left a note and a Cliff Bar)!  By the time I got there, I was already out of water and slightly dehydrated...I really needed that gallon, not only for the present situation, but for that evening (cooking) and the next day to get to the next water drop.  I was livid!  It took a while, but once I got hydrated and calmed down, I found a decent cattle tank about 1/3 of a mile off trail and filtered enough water to get me through.  I was still upset though - what if that cattle tank wasn't there, or, I was unable to find it?  But it was and I did.

Grandview fire lookout

Gary and Dinny were hell-bent for getting a hotel room in Tusayan, AZ, about eight miles from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, so we had been pushing the daily mileage a bit to make it happen (20 - 21 miles).  We arrived midday, they haggled on the price, got a good deal and we went to have pizza and beer while we waited for the room to be cleaned.  Everything was going well that evening, but at about 9pm, I got a splitting headache.  By 1am, I was vomiting violently and my head was still killing me.  In the morning, Dave Baker, Dave Boyd and his son, Austin, were there for our scheduled resupply and I still had a raging migraine headache.  It was clear I could not hike this day.  Gary and Dinny were anxious about their backcountry Grand Canyon permit situation and were antsy to go and get things sorted out.  They talked with Dave & Dave and the four of them put together a new resupply plan for themselves.  They said goodbye to me and set out for the Grand Canyon.  That was the last time I saw them "on the trail."  Once again, I was a solo thru-hiker...just like the way I started the AZT.

And once again, I was struggling and Dave & Dave were there to help me.  They brought me ginger ale, Saltine crackers and Excedrin for my stubborn headache.  Dave Boyd paid for another night in the hotel room.  I slept all day and by early evening was feeling a little better and could hold down Saltines and ginger ale.  Dave, Dave and Austin were in northern Arizona to resupply me AND partake in a hiking trip of their own, so they had a sweet base camp set up a couple of miles out of Tusayan.  That evening, Dave Baker picked me up at the hotel and took me to their camp where they cooked a gourmet vegan supper.  I ate, it was delicious and it stayed down...I was on the mend.  Dave dropped me off at the hotel and I slept like a log.  In the morning, I was feeling better, but still not able to backpack into the Grand Canyon, so they moved me to their base camp to rest one more day and get organized for the next leg of my journey while the three of them were off tackling an arduous day hike in the Grand Canyon.

The next morning, we were up at 5am to send me on my way.  Dave Boyd and Austin drove me to the trailhead and Dave treated everybody to a hearty and nutritious breakfast along the way.  I was back on the trail and heading to the Grand Canyon, about eight miles away.  The first thing I did was hustle to Mather Campground to find out if I, being an AZT thru-hiker, could secure a spot there if I were unable to get a backcountry permit at either Bright Angel or Cottonwood Campgrounds.  The answer was "Yes."  I then immediately hopped on the free shuttle to the Backcountry Information Center to try to procure a backcountry permit on short notice - I had a trick up my sleeve that I learned from Rob Jones...

Rob "Wild Vagabond" Jones is a great dude who Gary, Dinny and I met in the Superstition Mountains earlier.  Rob was hiking a 200-mile section with his buddy, "Salty Sue."  He was super cool, super knowledgeable about the natural history of Arizona and super helpful in terms of getting backcountry permits in the Grand Canyon.  Rob told us about the "stock site" at Bright Angel Campground - it's an extra campsite near the mule barn that the Park Service uses as an overflow campsite at Bright Angel Campground.  When I initially spoke with the Ranger at the Backcountry Information Center, she told me it would be a minimum of three days to get a site at Bright Angel Campground and I'd need to show up at 8:00am each morning to check.  There were no guarantees, even though I was an AZT thru-hiker.  So I played the Stock Site Card; she got on the phone to the Ranger at Bright Angel Campground and checked if the stock site was available.  It was that night.  I said, "I'll take it."  I paid my $18.00 fee, jumped back on the shuttle to the AZT Trailhead and began the steep descent on the South Kaibab Trail into the inner gorge of the Grand Canyon at 2pm.  I was thrilled!

Even though I've hiked in the Grand Canyon many times, it still took my breath away and I was fascinated by its enormous geology.  My hike down to the Colorado River was blissful due to the scenery and the fact that my body was holding up well after being sick.  Along the way, I came across a few hikers who were struggling badly on the ascent and one young man in particular was in serious trouble.  In fact, two women hiking together passed him, helped him all they could and then asked me if I could help him some more.  I told them I would do all I could for him.  When I reached "Logan" a very short time later, he was lying in the trail moaning and yelling for help.  He was long out of water and complained of leg cramps. I knew he was dehydrated and I acted quickly and assertively.  Although I was low on water, I gave him a liter of mine.  I told him to drink half of it immediately and take a salt capsule I gave him - he complied.  Then I gave him a Payday candy bar and four more salt capsules and told him to take one every hour on the hour.  That's all I could do for him.  He was attempting a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim run, but was grossly unprepared and kept making excuses about why things turned out this way.  I didn't say much - I just did what I could for him and sent him on his way.  It was getting late by now, and I wanted to get to my campsite at Bright Angel.

Ribbon Falls

I rolled into camp at about 7pm after a very busy day, and I was tired and hungry.  I immediately ate dinner and got organized for an early start in the morning; it was a gorgeous night so I bypassed the tent and slept well under the stars.  I was one of the first ones up and out in the morning headed up the North Kaibab Trail along the roaring Bright Angel Creek...simply spectacular.  As the day progressed, things got even better - I took the side trip to Ribbon Falls.  From the main trail, you can see a nice ribbon-like waterfall; however, that's only a small component of this majestic place.  When you hike all the way in, you enter a different world: The Emerald Rock Paradise!  I simply cannot verbalize what's going on here - look at my photos, or better yet, go there!

I steadily chugged up the trail, taking a lunch break directly across from Roaring Spring, which gushes out from the canyon wall - also amazing!  I topped out on the North Rim at 4pm, refilled all my water vessels and kept on hiking north.  I hiked until sunset and camped somewhere in the deserted forest, but still in Grand Canyon National Park, at mile 724.5.  The next day, en route to Crystal Spring, I hit the highest point on the Arizona Trail: ~9,200 ft.  I camped at Crystal Spring, which was truly crystal clear and situated in a magnificent meadow.  The only glitch in this day was that I got sick again during the night - apparently my stomach virus migrated down into my intestines...and I'll leave it at that.

Roaring Spring - North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon

Despite having a rough night, I got up early and covered considerable ground, making it about one mile past Telephone Hill Trailhead.  It was incessantly windy and the temperature dropped quickly when the sun went down - I awoke in an ice-encrusted tent!  I let the sun rise and thaw the tent out; then, I let the sun dry the tent.  I met Dave Boyd at the Orderville Trailhead that afternoon for my last resupply.  Dave was extremely well-prepared and extremely helpful... as usual!  We said goodbye and I hiked another 1.4 miles before making camp in a beautiful forest I had all to myself.  When I woke up, I was fully aware that this was going to be my last full day on the trail, and quite frankly, I got the blues.  I didn't think that this ending part would affect me so much, but it did.  I just put my head down and hiked hard through the red sand and sage, covering 19.2 miles.  I made camp early because I wanted to relax and take in everything on this last night on the trail.  As I went to bed, I was acutely aware and pensive about what was happening.  All I could do was embrace it and be grateful.  Tomorrow, my AZT solo northbound thru-hike would come to a natural end. 

And that's exactly what happened.  I only had six miles to go.  When I popped over the last ridge I could see the end.  I took several deep breaths, started down the switchbacks and strolled into State Line Park at 10:15am on May 27th.  Gary and Dinny had finished the night before and they were hanging out with Dave Boyd at a picnic table - I snuck up on them because they weren't expecting me until noon.  We had a snack and then... went for a hike in Buckskin Gulch! 

Finishing the AZT

Sixty-seven total days; seven "0" days; and I could not have done it without the gracious help from Dave Baker and Dave Boyd.  You two are men of integrity and you taught me more than you know.  Thank you!

Activities | Trails | Trips

The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!