I'm going on a trip to Alaska in September, including a guided camping/trekking trip in Denali. In the packing list I received from the company, they recommend having an "expedition-weight" top and pants as "extra layers". What, exactly, does this mean?

I've seen "expedition-weight" as a descriptor for fleece tops, but I've never been clear on whether there's a standard definition of the term. Does it only apply to polar fleece, or to other materials as well? Does it refer to a certain thickness/density of fibers, or just to a degree rating?

For what it's worth, this is what the list says under the "extra layers" category (separate from the regular layers of t-shirts, mid-weight synthetic tops and bottoms, synthetic hiking pants, and rain gear):

  • Expedition-weight synthetic top
  • Expedition-weight or fleece synthetic bottoms
  • Fleece or synthetic/down fill jacket
  • 2
    Expedition-weight is a marketing term IMHO, you won't find an official definition
    – Ryley
    May 14, 2013 at 15:41
  • @Ryley I'm inclined to agree.
    – Laura
    May 15, 2013 at 16:03

1 Answer 1


Expedition weight relates to the temperature rating and level of activity. It usually means cold and low activity.

According to REI expert-advice section.

For cool conditions, thermal underwear is available in light-, mid- and expedition-weights. Choose the weight that best matches your activity and the temperature. [...] Like thermal underwear, fleece tops are available in 3 weights:

  • Lightweight for aerobic activity or mild climates.
  • Midweight for moderate activity or climates.
  • Expedition-weight for low activity or cold climates.

According to TrailSpace user trouthunter:

[Relating] to the street clothing you are used to, maybe think of it like this:

  • sweater - lightweight
  • coat - midweight
  • parka - expedition weight

Above freezing your going to be in the lightweight and midweight category, below freezing your going to be in the midweight to expedition weight catagory.

  • Thanks for your answer. This seems to confirm, though, that there isn't really a standard definition, and it might be the case that the only way I know it's "expedition-weight" is if the brand claims it as such. (If both long underwear and coats can be "expedition-weight", there isn't really a clear way to tell if a particular article of clothing qualifies for that description.)
    – Laura
    May 15, 2013 at 16:02
  • 2
    Yay for buzzwords :-) If you are suggested to buy "expedition-weight" gear items I would not limit myself to buying items that are described as such. Consider that you will likely be colder when you (or the expedition) stops.
    – ppl
    May 15, 2013 at 16:18

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