What layers should I buy first?

Hello everyone.

I am looking to start buying some clothes for upcoming planned hikes in late winter and spring. Will be hiking mainly in the Drakensberg and Magaliesberg. I already have a down jacket and fleece jacket(although not the best quality fleece). I definitely need to buy an outer layer for rain protection, will a rain jacket be more beneficial or a poncho? I would then like to buy another mid-layer item. Either a better quality fleece or a soft shell jacket. I like the idea of a soft shell jacket for its versatility and that I could wear it at home in milder cold/wet conditions, but then I don’t know how practical a down jacket and a soft shell jacket as mid-layers would be. What would you recommend to be essential parts of your clothing layers? Also I am looking at more affordable options at preferably sub R1500 per item(can maybe stretch to R2000 if the quality is significantly better). Any advice would be appreciated!

Happy hiking :slight_smile:

If you’re on a budget, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more affordable rain-shell than this: https://www.decathlon.co.za/ponchos-hiking-trek/5387-19115-hiking-rain-poncho-arpenaz-40-l-size-sslashm-green.html

The Highlander rain jackets from Camp 'n Climb are also an excellent, affordable option: Highlander Stow and Go Jacket Navy Blue - Camp And Climb Outdoor

Remember, best to use synthetic down jacket if you’re doing hiking/ outdoors. Not sure what you have.

@Arno this thing makes you look like a Dementor

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:rofl: :ok_hand:

Ponchos are useful items, I use one in places like Wolkberg (summer rain), also doubles as a tarp to sit on, and covers pack etc. But not good for Berg where wind will turn it into a flapping sail. They’re noisy too. Swishy. And clumsy to operate in. Good for hot wet climates. Jungles. Cooler to wear than a jacket, temp cooler, not your image…ponchos are for axe murderers and baby stealers. Coyotes wear ponchos.

Good baselayer. That’s where it all starts, on your skin, because that’s your reference? Am I wet? Am I cold? Am I comfy? I cannot recommend Merino enough. Just amazing. Look at one Icebreaker for example. Makes big diffs for temperature management and feeling just damn luxurious.

Not very. Both intended as outers for diff applications. Though I must say it’s not clear what you mean by mid-layer, as in “when will you be using it as a mid”…Whilst active, aerobic? Hanging at camp? For the latter puffy should be fine, also if it’s good quality and thick enough unless it’s raining it needs no outer. But if you’re hiking the puffy will overheat.
Softshells intended more for snowy cold dry conditions. High aerobic output, little to no rain.

Ok midweight fleece will be fine as mid. If you want to splash out a bit look at First Ascent K2 Powerstretch Fleece. Best weight for performance with Polartec Powerstretch, it’ll stretch your budget but maybe save a bit longer. Other wise just try score a fleece with a 1/4 zip for venting and a hoody is a bonus too.

For shells all I have is complaints. Unless you can afford 3ply just buy cheap coz it’ll fail within 3-5yrs anyway. The membrane (usually white coating on the inside) will rub off, especially under your shoulder straps. I’ve gone through several jackets all top brands, (always bought on sale as I refuse to be duped by their mythology) and can tell you don’t get your hopes too high in this dept. 3ply will last longer, though the DWR won’t. Jackets need maintenance.

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My order of priority for gear:

  1. A good sleeping bag - if things get really bad, this will likely be the deciding factor in how bad it gets.
  2. Raincoat - I find ponchos are largely useless, especially in strong winds. While 30 minutes of rain and strong wind gets through the best raincoat out there, being slightly drier can be huge when things are going wrong.
  3. A good fleece. K-Way/First ascent entry level ones are perfect, no need for something too fancy. I own about 6 of these personally - I am wearing one at work right now.
  4. Thermal base layers
  5. Quick drying shirts and pants (Mr Price Sport has really good ones at very reasonable prices)
  6. Warm socks, gloves, beanies etc. You’d be surprised how much you can do without these - I have done 3 different Drakensberg Grand Traverses without gloves or beanies.
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Agreed. Once you’re taking a beating from the weather this is the item you’re going to need the most. Kept dry. Must keep it dry. Then you’re saved and toasty. And shelter is crucial. Whatever it may be…tent, cave, hut, etc.

So to Ghaz’s other points you can save on high wear items like fleece and other plastics, then spend on a good sleeping system.

I have bought mostly on sale here and there over the years to keep costs down for they can soar oh so quickly. Point being take your time…

On this one try to get something with a high UPF rating, 30 or more. Though in fact 25 is just enough. I picked up some of those Columbia numbers, saves me from sun, I rate them highly. Also, with sunshirts the darker the colour the better tte UPF.

Thank you all for the great answers and advice. I will definitely stay away from softshell jackets. Will be investing in a good base layer and then getting a fleece jacket(I may be able to stretch the budget far enough for the Powerstretch one). I will then also go for a rain jacket instead of a poncho. I actually went and looked at the Capestorm rain jacket in person, and it is quite nice for the price. If long periods of rain gets through even the best raincoats then I would rather hold off on spending to much on one for now. Will probably invest in a better one once I get soaked wearing the cheaper one. I then have my down jacket for being at camp.

You don’t want to know how many rain coats I have destroyed in the mountains! Sneeuberg in the Cederberg killed my latest Mountain Hardwear jacket - a corner got caught on a rock and tore it as I was coming off the summit, although it was 4 years old. My raincoats often don’t even last two years before they become ineffective. Although, in the jackets defense - 2 years might be over 2000km of hiking for me.

When people look at the costs of hiking, they consider park fees, petrol, food etc. What people often forget is the cost of replacing equipment. A sleeping bag and backpack may last years - but shoes are an especially bad culprit for wearing out quickly. Most I’ve ever got out of a pair of trail shoes in the Drakensberg is my old Hi-Tec Flash Force shoes, which did 753km in the Drakensberg, including two Drakensberg Grand Traverses, before I had to throw them away. Incidentally that was in the space of something like 62 days - by far the most distance I’ve ever done in such a short duration - even including the time I did two DGTs in 16 days a year later.

753km in 62 days is a crazy distance! This made me look forward to my first Drakensberg hike even more. Have never even done one hike in the Berg but definitely know a DGT is on my bucket list.

The DGT is really worth doing, but make sure you know what you are getting yourself into first - and ideally go with someone who has done it before, or at least someone who knows the Drakensberg really well. It looks reasonably tame on paper - then suddenly you find yourself between Cleft Peak and Ndumeni Dome, having just slogged over two very steep ridges in quick succession and with a third one in front of you, your shoes are wet, its cold and windy - and you see Organ Pipes Pass to your left, knowing its a fairly easy way off the mountain and that there’s a nice hot meal at the hotel if you take it! At lot of it is a mind game more than anything else, but its a really rewarding hike to do. I’ve completed it 6 times.

Do NOT buy a poncho. It is not good for rain. It looks like a good idea, but if you have some wind with the rain, you will get wet! Rather buy agood rain jacket and waterproof pants.

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For what it worth, not was asked but it is part of the clothing concept to get to the outer. https://coremerino.com/

Merino clothing from a thin top short or long to a soft shell, is fantastic for day wear, running, hiking etc. It is a bit pricy but last many years.
As you get warmer you get rid of layers. It is breathable, no wet back. It is also oder less, that helps if the pools are to cold and showers not in reach.

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Thanks for asking this question Marco, I’m in pretty much same situation. Waiting on dates to do Mafadi late winter and also need to decide how to spend the hard earned rands after paying my Kilimanjaro deposit for Feb nxt year. Need to be smart and apply the cash the wisest way. Above replies are very helpful.

Just as an FYI, I found incredible hiking trousers at Decathlon which are super comfortable with great stretch yet strong and did a great job to wick the sweat on recent Mont Rochelle hike plus quite light. I’ve just bought a second pair; https://www.decathlon.co.za/women-mountain-hiking-t-shirts-pants/192393-17694-mh500-women-s-hiking-trousers-black.html#/6886-demodelsize-967uk8_eu38_l31/9549-demodelcolor-8493683

Not sure if they have mens, but at R600 its half to third the price of similar big brand pants and after fitting all, I can confirm it’s also way more comfortable.

Nice! I’ve stood on top of Mafadi 9 times - and while the peak itself is rather uninspiring and only relevant because of an arbitrary imaginary line that some politicians agreed on, the area around it is really beautiful. I’m guessing you are doing the standard up Judge Pass down Leslies Pass loop? I see a lot of groups just go up and down Judge Pass these days, which is sad - that ridge from Lithabolong to Leslies Pass is one of the most spectacular sections of escarpment edge in my opinion - I took some members of my running club up Around the Corner Pass down Leslies Pass on the 1 May long weekend, that section never disappoints!

Kili is an interesting hike, although much easier than Mafadi (well, depending on the route). I did Machame Route in 2015, here are some tips I put together at the time, if you want to read up on it:

I actually went back to that region in January this year to climb Meru (4566m, 10th highest mountain in Africa, by the 7% definition). Meru isn’t as high, but is a lot more dramatic, less crowded and was generally a more interesting hike. If you have time, I highly recommend doing Meru while you are there. Here’s my writeup from that:

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That looks like awesome hiking trousers. Looks like they do have for men. Thank you for the recommendation, will definitely look into getting some in the future.

So I bought a first ascent fleece this week and I cannot stop wearing it. It’s so comfortable. Can’t wait to take it on a hike a bit later. I think I will also be looking to get a nice base layer. The merino wool looks very nice. Will then just get a rain jacket before I go on my next hike. Thank you all for the tips and inputs, I will now have a semi-decent layering system.

@Marco I see you’re in Centurion. One weekend go over to Woodmead, there’s a Cape Onion outlet there with a Trappers right next to it. You may be able to pick up some kit there at a sweet price. 6 out-of 10 times I’ve been there (i pop in if driving by say once every few months) it’s just crappy gear but have seen ridiculous bargains and scored some Salomon Sense Ride for like R800 (usually R2500). Trappers has a few more deals and International items, Columbia, Mac-in-a-Sac etc. Tents too. These places often keep odd items that were once an idea for them to retail but never did well, so they try move them here. Might be worth a gander?