I've been really enjoying your blog on the PCT and have found some great information. I had a question I was hoping you could answer. I've been considering one of the JRB quilts (Sierra Sniveller) for a PCT thru hike but I am not sure if it will be warm enough for me.How did you find the Rocky Mt. sniveller? Was it overkill or was it just right. Could you also comment on the utility of using it as a jacket. I was thinking if I could use that as my main insulating layer when not hiking that I could save some ounces. Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance and happy trails,
Thanks for the message. I'm glad you've found my blog useful.
The Rocky Mt. Sniveller actually turned out to be just right for me. There were 15 to 20 nights where the temperature was between 25 and 32 degrees (I recorded the temp. each day), mostly in the southern and central Sierra. I am thin and sleep slightly cold, and by this time had lost a little bit of weight. Also, stuffing my quilt in a stuff sack each day had somewhat reduced its loft. I would consider the Sierra Sniveller if 1) I had a bigger stuff sack allowing me to not compress it so much each morning, 2) if I didn't sleep on the cold side, or 3) if I were beginning the Sierras June 15 or later, not June 2 like I did in 2009. A lot of guys were fine in quilts like the Golite Ultra 20 with just 12 oz of down, and the Sierra Sniveller is cut a little wider on top, which is nice especially if you're broad shouldered or heavier.
Like most people, I rarely used it as a jacket but appreciated it the few times I did. For instance, I wore it all the time during Kick-off, when most people froze their butts off standing around all the time in sub-50 temps. I was probably the only one there who was warm. It is slightly clumsy to switch to jacket mode with the tape and drawcords, but once you do it is very warm because it wraps around you all the way to the knees. However, I don't know that I like their hood much. If I did the PCT again I would take this hood I modified from the BPL Pro 90 Cocoon Balaclava: http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=26960 (scroll down to pictures). It is a lot more functional as a warm hood for daytime use in addition to the night, and it draws around your face better. It weighs the same or slightly less.
Most thru-hikers find they don't spend much time not hiking and not sleeping. Either they're getting ready for bed, or packing up, or eating while still in their sleeping bag, etc. Only in the Sierras and occasionally in WA did we spend significant time chilling out around fires. I sometimes wore the quilt then.
One thing I would change about my clothes (which were nearly perfect) is taking a Marmot Cocona PowerDry layer instead of a Merino long underwear top and bottom. I have this now, and it is at least twice as warm per weight than Merino. So, I would probably stick with the expensive Merino T-shirt, then have the PowerDry layer (total weight ~ 320 g top and bottom), sending home the bottoms from Truckee, then the wind layer, plus light gloves or mitts, my fleece ear wrap, and the BPL balaclava. Also, I would take Rocky goretex socks (for the narrow-footed) for the Sierras to help deal with cold and wet feet. Most of us had residual toe numbness for months after the 10+ days of daily snow crossings in 2009. Also, I would take this awesome new 25g flashlight of mine instead of the Photon Freedom or a 3-AAA Petzl headlamp: http://www.amazon.com/Fenix-mini-LD01-Lumens-Flashlight/dp/B001K3HJXM The reversible clip allows it to be used as a headlamp if you're wearing a hat or visor.
Finally, instead of a poncho-tarp and bivy combo I would consider a Zpacks Hexamid and a dedicated silnylon poncho for roughly the same total weight. The poncho could be used as an additional layer in the Sierras, even an emergency vapor barrier layer if needed. I got frustrated with clipping and unclipping the poncho tie-offs and trying to avoid tangling. This would give me a lot more room to relax and eat inside my shelter when the mosquitos come out (a major issue).