I get a lot of questions about layering and clothing for touring. I have a standard set-up that serves me well in a pretty wide range of temps/conditions. For me, everything revolves around a good breathable set-up while climbing and an easy way to stay warm when stopped. I dress as minimalist as possible for the uphill. On my legs I use a highly breathable softshell pant and a very lightweight base layer. Looking at the upper body, I normally use a simple, lightweight base layer with a light fleece layer like a Patagonia R1over it (if the temps warrant) and a superlight, breathable softshell on top. Staying well vented and relatively sweat free while climbing is key to all day comfort. A key element to my layering system is a warm synthetic puffy jacket that I can easily put on over everything when I stopped.
I never leave for a tour without a synthetic puffy. It is essential for staying warm during transitions, snack breaks, and in the event of a problem. Typically, my layering is just enough to keep me warm when working uphill and I do not have to adjust these layers. However, anytime I stop for any lenght of time I throw my puffy on over everything I already have on. This makes for a good simple system, and you never have to take off your shell or change layers below it. This minimizes transition times and reduces overall clothing management. The last thing I do before skiing down is pull off my puffy jacket and stuff it in my pack. When it is cold, I often find myself skiing down in my my puffy, and just pack it for the uptrack.
For me, it is key that a good puffy be light, compressible, hooded, and sized to fit over all of my layers. I choose synthetic insulation because I am hard on this piece of gear. It gets packed and repacked all day long, often damp with snow. The synthetic insulation stands up to this abuse very well, maintains its warmth well, and drys quickly at the end of the day without any special attention.
A variety of companies make jackets that fit the bill for this piece. Two of my favorites are the Outdoor Research Chaos jacket and the Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody. The Chaos jacket offers a bit more insulative value than the Micro Puff Hoody and it actually uses a waterproof Gore paclite shell fabric. It still packs well, and it stays dryer than my Micro Puff in marginal weather. The Micro Puff Hoody packs smaller, is a little lighter weight, and has endured several years of abuse without any undue wear. The OR Chaos has become my go-to jacket for mid winter cold, while the Micro Puff Hoody is my choice for more moderate Northwest temps.
I will look at more key items that I think are well suited to touring later this month.
I think the Enclosure jacket by Cloudveil should be included in this category. Pretty nice!
an oversize puff layer is the way to go. I actually use a Das Parka but it tends to be clod up here in AK.