Question: What Should I Wear at the Mauna Kea Summit?

We received the following question by email:

My wife and I will be visiting the Big Island in the end of July/early August. We plan on hiking around Volcano a bit and the Mauna Kea summit. I am trying to plan ahead and purchase things a bit at a time. I keep reading that in these places, a “light” rain jacket is needed. For me, a “light” jacket is not lined (generally with fleece). So…if we go to these places, will we need a LINED rain jacket, or un UNLINED rain jacket? Thank you. -Josh R.


Answer: The light rain jacket we refer to on the website refers to an unlined waterproof “shell” such as a gore-tex jacket or other similar rain coat such as the Marmot Precip jacket.  These are all perfect jackets to have when hiking or traveling on the Hilo (eastern) side of the island, including the Volcanoes National Park.  At these locations, rain is almost a daily occurrence and unpredictable.

However, this unlined shell will not be warm enough for you if you visit either the Onizuka Visitor’s Center on Mauna Kea (at 9,300′ elev) and definitely not warm enough for the Mauna Kea summit (14,000′ elev).  At the Visitor’s Center, you can expect the temperature in the mid-30-degree range at night; at the Mauna Kea summit, expect the nighttime temperature to be in the mid-20-degree range (Fahrenheit).

For these locations, I recommend several layers - starting with a good base layer such as the Patagonia Capilene3, then a good down jacket or insulated (lined) and wind-proof shell.  Also, don’t forget gloves and a warm hat as well.

Good luck and enjoy your trip!

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