There's a little song I like to sing when we're backpacking. Or rather I like to sing it when we stop for breaks and especially when we get to camp. The lyrics are the title of this post. The tune is harder to explain and I'll leave that to your imagination.
But I will happily explain what I mean by a pouffie and why I love mine.
Three and a half years ago I went backpacking for the first time. I had never been backpacking before that. Damien had done some backpacking as a young man but never in our married life. However, he had set his sights on our family enjoying this activity together and to that end he has been researching and scheming for years how to do this. Somewhere along the line he discovered lightweight backpacking and realized this was the ticket to making this dream possible for a family of five.
That's my preamble to explain why we use the techniques and strategies we do when backpacking. We are continually tweaking our gear to save weight.
A huge part of lightweight backpacking is comfortable and safe clothing. What do I mean by comfortable and safe?
- Comfortable - means just that. You're warm (though not always dry, except at night - which is a must) and have ease of movement in what you're wearing.
- Safe - Your clothes need to provide protection from the elements so that basically you don't freeze to death or get frostbite. On the other end of the spectrum, but less of a concern during this season, your clothes must protect you from sun exposure.
There's more to it than this of course but I'm not a technical gear writer - I leave that to the folks at Backpacking Light (of which Damien is a regular contributor). If you like reading technical, outdoorsy articles you can score a Backpacking Light discount code here. For my part, I leave that research to Damien.
(An editorial aside: Damien disagrees with my spelling of pouffie. He says puffy and he criticized my use of this incorrect word. However, like I said, I am not a technical writer. I actually say pouffie as in poof e, but poofie looks even worse in print than pouffie. Pouffie or puffy. Take your pick. I'm sticking with pouffie. And I'm still singing my song.)
Here's what I do know - Damien and I have been tweaking strategies for a couple years now to keep me warm in the outdoors. Because being warm is really important to me. Not only is this a safety issue, it's a comfort issue. I know that you can be (relatively) safe and still feel chilly. Some people (I haven't met them but I know they must exist) are fine being a little cold while in the outdoors. They figure it's just part of the getting back to nature experience. Not me.
I want to feel comfortable in the outdoors, especially since we like to spend a lot of time there (i.e.: I'm not just going on a flash-in-the-pan weekend trip with my hubby, we're doing this often and for longer stretches of time). I want to feel happy and secure in our clothing and gear. All while carrying a lighter load. This is a tall order. (Of course one way to carry a lighter load is to have Damien carry mine for me!)
This is why I love my pouffie - so much so that I sing it songs of affection and gratitude. My pouffie is light weight, my pouffie is warm. My pouffie makes me happy.
My pouffie is actually two pouffies. A pair of synthetic insulated overpants and a synthetic insulated jacket. These are key clothing pieces to keeping me happy in the outdoors.
How do they work?
When we are hiking (either day hiking or backpacking) we wear only the clothing needed to keep us comfortable at a walking pace.
- A quick-dry base layer that wicks moisture away from our bodies.
- A minimal amount of insulation (lightweight fleece, only if necessary).
- A light weight wind barrier. If it's raining we use rain jackets instead.
The rest of our clothes we carry in our packs. What we want to avoid is dressing too warmly and sweating profusely which makes your clothes more damp than necessary (this excess sweat trapped in your clothing can lead to unwanted chill). We've found that each of us needs a different amount of insulation while hiking. Generally, Celine and I need more, Damien and the younger two kids need less.
With this system, as soon as we stop for a break on the trail or stop to make camp for the night, the layers we're wearing don't keep us warm enough because we're not generating the same body heat we were while hiking. This is when we put on the pouffies.
During the fall when we're just stopping for a break on the trail we don't necessarily add a pouffie layer. Unless we really need to. Most often, a vest or even rain jacket (not as breathable as the wind breakers we usually wear) will do the trick for a fifteen minute stop. In winter however, we always add extra layers during any stops. And then take them off when we start moving again.
Although it's not always necessary during hiking stops, the first thing we tell the kids when we stop to camp is, "get on your pouffies". You don't have to tell me twice. This might be my favorite part of the whole day. That, and crawling into my extra pouffie sleeping bag at night.
Adding this layer of insulation, with windstopper fabric (vs. fleece which is all insulation but no wind stopper) is key for keeping us warm and traveling light.
Pouffies go right over your other clothes, except your rain gear. We buy them big for this purpose - these are not styling, tight fitting down jackets. These are warm workhorses. However, as we slowly upgrade our gear Damien tries to find pieces that are both fashionable and functional. He's done good with the jackets, I love my blue Rab jacket - which is an upgrade from the black pouffie you see in the first photos. Especially wonderful, and much needed, is the hood.
My black pouffie pants leave a little to be desired in the fashion department. That's ok, we're not out there to make a fashion statement. A wonderful feature of my Mont Bell pants is the zippers down the outside of each leg so I can easily put them on while still wearing shoes. How clever.
As Celine grows into adult sizes she's upgrading to similar gear. Our younger two use fleece pants as extra insulation for their legs. They wear these under, not over, their windstopper hiking pants. This isn't quite as good as a synthetic down outer layer pouffie - in part because they have to take off a layer, losing heat while doing so, to put on the fleece. Outdoor companies don't make high tech gear for kids (usually) but luckily our youngest two have warmer internal thermostats and don't need as much insulation. Or maybe they're just more active around camp and generating more heat. It's probably a bit of both.
I'm not a gear head and gear reviews aren't my thing. But writing about my pouffie is like writing about a good friend. A friend who keeps me warm in the wilderness.
Damien has really dialed it in for year-round clothing lists for family hiking and lightweight backpacking. He is in the process of writing an e-book on this very subject. We hope to publish that next spring.
In the meantime, do you have any questions about pouffies? I love to talk about mine.