If you’re like us and spend a lot of time on the water, arguably the most critical pieces of ‘gear’ to take into consideration are the clothes on your back.
Proper layering is key to staying safe and comfortable amongst the elements and perhaps no other place on Earth is this more true than in Bush, Alaska. It’s not uncommon during our summer seasons for the temperatures to swing upwards to thirty degrees or more in a single day. Thus, its extremely important to dress smart.
Recently, while hoisting on waders in the guide quarters of Alaska West we came to the realization that one of the most common layers worn nearly everyday by many of our guides is a lightweight synthetic (primaloft gold 60-g) puffy vest. It’s become a staple amongst our crew for staying comfortable on the water day in and day out, so we thought we’d tell you why we think you should consider picking one up for yourself.
- They’re warm, but not too warm. We very rarely ever find it necessary to take the puffy vest off over the course of the day. During really cold days, extra layers can easily be worn over the vest without any noticeable bulk, yet during warm days we find the vest to be just cool enough when worn over a lightweight fleece hoody. For that reason alone, we find it to be the most versatile layer we use.
- Range of motion. More heat is lost through your core than through your arms. Therefore, multiple layers on top of your arms often serves as unnecessary (and uncomfortable) insulation over the course of a day. A puffy vest on the other hand does a great job at regulating your core temperature while keeping your arms free to do things like, you know, catch fish.
- Less hoods. Hoods are critical to an Alaskan guide. They keep your head warm on cold days, keep your hat on while on step, help keep the bugs and sun off your ears, and even protect your head from the inevitable errant cast. That being said, you probably don’t need more than one or two which is something we see a lot of. Instead, a puffy vest adds insulation where it matters most, but helps free up area around your neck unlike multiple hooded jackets.
- They dry really fast. Primaloft, the synthetic insulation used in most premium ‘puffy-style’ vests and jackets dries extremely fast. In fact, we’ve seen it fully submerged in the river only to dry out a few hours later while laid out in the sun on the boat. Long story short, if you take a spill in the river or get caught in a drizzle, it’ll be dry in no time, and that’s a good thing.
- Lightweight. Most of the time puffy vests (in the 60-g insulation range) are so lightweight they’re hard to tell you even have them on. That not only makes them extremely comfortable but super easy to pack along as well.
If a trip to Alaska is in your future this summer and you’re still scratching your head at how to pack/dress, we highly recommend adding a puffy vest to your lineup. When worn over a lightweight baselayer (either synthetic or merin0) and a lightweight grided fleece, you have what we consider to be the most versatile layering system to build off of.