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Ultralight Winter Gear
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Thomas Conly
(conly) - F

Locale: Lots of canoeing and snow
Ultralight Winter Gear on 10/17/2007 09:11:09 MDT Print View

I’ve finished putting together my kit for winter backpacking. I’ve been slowly accumulating the stuff over the last few years. I’ve always tried to keep my stuff light but I was really encouraged to keep it light after seeing Andrew Skurka's winter gear list. I’d love to know what you guys think. I haven’t done a lot of winter camping so I’m sure there will be things I’ve overlooked. Positive or constructive comments welcome.

To give you an idea of where I’m using this, I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. It’s really, really cold here.

1. There’s lots of snow as early as October (but usually the middle November) but we rarely get a lot of snow all at once. So, I’m not too concerned with a tent that can handle massive snow loads. The good thing though is that I can rely on having snow to anchor my tent in.

2. Because it’s so cold, you rarely have to worry about wet snow. It’s always powder dry.

3. Condensation is a big problem when it’s so cold. My tent can easily accumulate four pounds of frost on the inside per night. Breathable fabrics make virtually no difference.

4. Limited experience has showed me that double wall tents make no noticeable difference in temperature when it’s really cold out.

5. I need to be ready to handle -45C (-50F). There are always one or two cold snaps a season. They can happen all of a sudden and the temperature will consistently be at -40C (-40F) overnight. The snow all begins to sublimate (a solid evaporating) and in the morning the whole world will be foggy.

MEC is a Canadian company called Mountain Equipment Co-Op which is similar to REI.

I’ve posted my gear list under my profile.

Jon Rhoderick
(hotrhoddudeguy) - F - M

Locale: New England
Re: Ultralight Winter Gear on 10/17/2007 11:27:41 MDT Print View

I recently read an article on physchovertical where he said that pant insulation is really underated, Maybe you could sub out the fleece for warmer and lighter montbell thermawrap or BPL cocoon. Maybe the minima vest with lots of fill could get rid of your PL1 jacket and fleece vest, so that you have something like the iceclimbing settup where you have clothing for moving, that is breathable and warm, and then bomber static insulation. A good forum to look at is also Jonathan Ryan's article about his winter mountaineering in North Eastern winter (He expects temperatures down to I think -30* with heavy heavy winds up to 80 mph). If its really powder dry, then why do you have VB clothing and also waterproof breathable stuff? Those things would make you lose like 4 oz, but maybe a new sleeping bag idea would be really work to chomp off weight, Skurka uses 2 down products, you could look into an over/underbag, and a quilt. Some people say that you can get away with a down inner and a synthetic outer and not get too much down loss, but that a down outer and synthetic inner would not work as well.

What info could you give about those 3D mitts, they seem very cool, and what about your actual boot? you never bring it up on the gear list

The link to that forum is

Those guys obviously know alot more about this than I would, and also has alot about reliable warmth in these situations.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Ultralight Winter Gear on 10/17/2007 12:48:45 MDT Print View

Not sure if you need those Denalis for something more then flotation, but if you replaced them with Northern lites, you'd save a few pounds off your feet - and what a conkiedink - someone is trying to put a group order together in the G-spot forum :)

Thomas Conly
(conly) - F

Locale: Lots of canoeing and snow
Re: Re: Ultralight Winter Gear on 10/17/2007 13:40:27 MDT Print View

I completely agree about the pant insulation. I just haven't had the money/time to replace the fleece pants. That's on my christmas list. I plan on making them from materials at On that point, any comments on primaloft sport vs. Climashield XP for insulation?

As for the fleece vest, I've considered swaping it for something else, but I've been skiing with it for 10 years and it's never let me down. The trouble is if I'm moving and it's above -25C (-13F) my hands get too hot if I wear insulated sleeves. I have actually made a minima vest for summer but I suspect it will actually be too warm if I'm moving and doesn't fit under everything else as well.

To save weight I may make a 1.8oz primaloft jacket when it's in the budget.

As for waterproof breathable stuff and VB, yah I could save weight. Maybe someday, but it would cost a lot to save only a few ounces. Although, I hate the windpants. I want to get rid of those. Lots of stuff on the list (like the Marmot jacket) are being used because I already owned the item and I really don't need to replace them.

I thought it was interesting you brought up the sleeping bag. I bought that last year when I was working at an outdoors store. I got it through TNF for 65% off. There are lighter things out there but I couldn't beat the price. Also, I doubt Andrew's sleeping system would have been as warm.

My 3D mitts were loosely based on the pattern for fleece mitts at I had to make a couple prototypes because the nylon and 3D don't stretch like fleece. They have 1 layer of .75inch on the palms and 2 layers on the back. There's also some elastic at the wrist. I made them from scraps leftover from a Ray-Way quilt. If I can find my girlfriend's camera I'll post pictures.

As for the boots, they're just synthetic booties like you would wear around camp. They were my grampa's and I have no idea where they came from. They have no tags or labels at all. They have a bit of foam in the sole and I added another layer of blue foam and felt insoles. They give no ankle support but they're really comfy. They're a bit like modern mukuluks.

I would love Northern lites but my denali's were half the price.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Ultralight Winter Gear on 10/17/2007 15:02:08 MDT Print View

I did note that your use of a WPB shell is because you already own a shell but I'll still give my two cents. I ran into trouble last winter at around -12 deg F with my WPB shell. The temps were so cold that the dew point had moved from outside the jacket to the inside the causing the fabric to freeze killing its ability to breathe. If you have vapor barrier on you shouldn't need a breathable outer.

Jon Rhoderick
(hotrhoddudeguy) - F - M

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: Ultralight Winter Gear on 10/17/2007 20:24:06 MDT Print View

Climashield is alot warmer for the weight and better in 90% of situations from various sources. someone made a pair of liberty ridge insulated pants and took pictures on a forum, thats worth looking into. I think with winter ultralight there comes a point when you ask, do I really mind the weight of my backpack? you already have to consider the fact that you won't move as fast as in the summer anyway.

Jon Rhoderick
(hotrhoddudeguy) - F - M

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: Re: Ultralight Winter Gear on 10/18/2007 15:17:51 MDT Print View

Looking back a day later What is the list of everything you'd wear on a -50 night?

Thomas Conly
(conly) - F

Locale: Lots of canoeing and snow
Re: Ultralight Winter Gear on 10/18/2007 15:37:51 MDT Print View

I would pretty much wear everything except one pair of wool socks and I wouldn't wear gloves and mitts at the same time. I'm pretty confident that it will keep me warm. Last year I sat in a tent reading a book and melting water at -35C (-31F) in the same clothes you see on the list but without the vapor barrier clothing or the down jacket and I had worse mitts. I was warm enough. I figure with the extra stuff I sewed over the summer I should be plenty warm.

Also, I can fit everything but the down jacket in my sleeping bag without compressing the insulation. On that same night I slept in the bag (which is rated to -20F) and I was toasty. With the vapor barrier I should be really warm.

Keep in mind I don't expect -50F weather so I may not be completely comfortable, but I certainly won't be in danger. I'm also a pretty warm person. On the -31F night I was so hot from the effort of setting up my tent I had to strip down to my long underwear top, fleece vest and liner gloves (legs remained the same). I couldn't even wear a hat.

Paul Tree
(Paul_Tree) - F

Locale: Wowwww
shovel? on 10/21/2007 13:18:01 MDT Print View

depends on your style and local conditions - but a 16 oz BCA snow shovel can replace a tent, cords, and stakes, some insulation, and dig more effectively in avy debris - unlike that horrible snow claw. A candle stub is nice to quickly get your snow cave up to heat, but watch out for CO buildup.

Windshield reflector 1.7 oz? Cool! I'll have to check into it.
post a pic if you can..

Not sure about what is your pot lid - tinfoil is light.
Stove - I keep meaning to do my own actual comparisons of white gas vs canister.

Edited by Paul_Tree on 10/21/2007 14:05:06 MDT.

Thomas Conly
(conly) - F

Locale: Lots of canoeing and snow
Re: shovel? on 10/21/2007 17:13:35 MDT Print View

I've thought about making a quinsy to sleep in but there are a few problems. One, there really isn't as much snow as you might expect so you can end up having to shovel snow in from a big radius to get enough snow. Second, there usually isn't anywhere appropriate to make a snow cave. There aren't the hard packed drifts you might find elsewhere. Lastly, there's only 8 hours of sunlight for much of the winter. I’ve made quinsy’s before and they take about 2 hours to make by the time you pile up all the snow, let it settle for a while and carve it out. That only leaves 6 hours at most of travel time. Also, when it’s a really cold night a candle does nothing to heat up a quinsy. I’ve tried it. Although, I’m thinking I wouldn’t mind carrying one for light.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Multiple Windbarrier approach for extreme winter cold and wind on 10/31/2007 06:19:34 MDT Print View

Has anyone here ever tried a multiple wind barrier/windshirt approach to high winds in severe cold. Last winter I found that a softshell with a windshirt over it works pretty well for moderately high winds, but it is still not the best option in 100 mph gusts. I myself have found issues where my hardshell froze leaving a layer of ice in the inside. I am thinking this winter using a few superlight layers of Ibex merino, a hoodless Rab Quantum windshirt, a Smartwool Shadow hoody, with my Icefall softshell over that. Once above treeline I would break out the Houdini hooded pullover for the crazy stuff. In theory it seems like a good idea, but we will see how it works.

Edited by Jkrew81 on 10/31/2007 07:16:26 MDT.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Multiple Windbarrier approach for extreme winter cold and wind on 10/31/2007 07:34:26 MDT Print View

A group of us summited Wheeler Peak (not technical) in February with wind gusts over 50 mph and wind chills probably in the teens. On my torso I wore...

Silkweight powerdry baselayer
Cloudveil prospector pullover
MEC synthetic insulation vest
Montane featherlite smock

and was comfy, of course with gloves, hat and ski goggles.

Jeremy Cleaveland
(jeremy11) - F

Locale: Exploring San Juan talus
windshirt under another shell on 10/31/2007 19:43:52 MDT Print View

I'm beginning to experiment with using a windcoat over my baselayer with other stuff on top. Mark Twight posed the theory in Extreme Alpinism, and a breathable windcoat over a thin base layer works as a semi-permeable vapor barrier to make a warmer microclimate by slowing evaporative cooling - the base layers and breathable shells wick so well that it can cool you off really fast, especially when you stop and take off the pack. It would also be a second windproof layer, and if it gets to hot, just take off the outer shell and you still have a windcoat on.
I've used this a few times with my Paramo Aspira jacket on (heavy but amazingly waterproof and very very breathable), my homemade Liberty Ridge windcoat, then a thin long sleeve base layer. It kept me warm, but not too warm, while hiking at 14,000ft on an exposed ridge in practically a blizzard this October. Not the -50 temps the op was talking about, but the system seems promising.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: windshirt under another shell on 11/01/2007 06:10:50 MDT Print View

Yea, I myself study the Mark Twight book. Lots of very valuble info. So here is what I am thinking for my non-technical mountaineering kit this winter (not including hats, gloves and footwear)

Ibex Woolies T
Smartwool Shadow Hoody
Rab Quantum Wind Top
Ibex Icefall softshell
Patagonia Micropuff vest (worn only in extreme cold)
Pata Houdini wind top

Ibex Long Johns (midweight wool)
Pata Houdini wind pants (worn only above treeline)
Pata Cold Track Light pants

Of course these items would go on at different points within the climb, but should keep me comfortable, not warm. To be dumby proof I would also carry a Das Parka and Wild Things EP pants. Two years ago I climbed Washington with a system similar to this only much heavier and a hardshell instead of the top windshirt and it worked great down to -25 at the summit. When the snow decides to fly I will give it a try on some lesser peaks to see how it works.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Ultralight Winter Gear- "Action Suit" on 11/01/2007 08:20:34 MDT Print View

I am also reading Twight's book in preparation for this winters climbing season. I am going to adopt his "Action Suit" concept; essentially a soft shell layer. The insulation goes OVER it, not under your shell. This would work in a climate without liquid precipitation.
I chose the DAS parka and micro-puff pants.
Im considering which softshell pants to buy; I think Schoeller Dynamic material is the way to go but I would appreciate any experienced opinions.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: windshirt under another shell on 11/01/2007 08:46:24 MDT Print View


For climbing I would be a bit concerned about the houdini's wind pants durability. Is there a reason not to use your Wild Things EP pants? I would think the EP would have been pretty good. If I was climbing in harsh conditions (can't climb anymore :-( )I would be tempted to go with pile/shell pants with side zippers for ventilation because they are pretty durable and can be adjusted to cover a wide range of conditions without having to struggle with boots or harness.

In the more moderate conditions of the sierras I use a vest... but if I was north of here I would most likely swap the vest + houdini with a classic belay jacket (something with a hood and a slightly more durable shell). I most likely would not bring the second windshirt.

You have a lot of layers with the tee, base, windshirt, softshell, etc. I wonder if that could be collapsed to maybe your mid+windshirt when you know that you will only have moderate conditions (like down here) and use just a tee+softshell or mid+softshell up your way. When I was in the rockies a few years ago I found a mid base + dryskin softshell + belay jacket worked really well.

Brett... as to using dynamic pants... I would give a "maybe". I have found that dynamic is very durable which is important when climbing. Something like Inertia from Cloudvail would could completely trashed. The problem with dynamic is that I found it's comfortable range smaller than a number of other materials. I would take a good look at pants made from dryskin.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Ultralight Winter Gear on 11/01/2007 09:12:43 MDT Print View

Thanks Mark, I will.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Re: Re: windshirt under another shell on 11/01/2007 10:42:25 MDT Print View

Hey Mark,
I agree that the Houdini pants are def not worthy of mountaineering, but I like to use them under my softshell pants when things get cold and windy. I find that a softshell by itself is not enough for the extreme wind that the Presidentials receive. Adding the windpants under the softshells give me a warm, light, highly wind resistant layer that breaths very well. The EP pants that I have are the primaloft insulated ones so they are more for stopping or emergency bivy type situations. While it does seem like I have many layers, they each play a pretty important role for each section of the climb. More often than not it is too cold to start out in just a simple baselayer. The added wind resistance of a windshirt is def needed (this is where my Rab Quantum top comes into play). When climbing higher and the temps drop and the wind increases, the softshell comes into play. It adds a signifigant amount of warmth and protection. Once above treeline full coverage is needed. Traditionally I would take a hardshell, but the sweat gathered inside quickly turns to frost. Instead I am planning on using my Houdini windshirt. I figure it is safe to assume that 3 wind barriers could equal one hardshell. I take the synthetic fill vest along for those really cold days where you actually need that much warmth while on the move. When I make stops I pull on the DAS parka. As mentioned in Mark Twights book, I like to either add or remove a layer from the top. I do not want to mess around with rearranging clothing in the middle of the freezing woods. It is just a good way to lose stored up warmth your body has worked hard to generate.
Having only been out west a few times, I have seen that the cold up here in New England is def a different beast than what you guys seem to get out there. I am not sure which area gets the colder temps, but I think the high humidity up here adds to the feeling of being colder. On the coldest days this many layers is actually pretty sparse in comparison to alot of the climbers you see up here. I agree though, on lesser peaks up here where tree's provide more protection and the winds are not as bad, sometimes a wool long sleeve and a softshell is all that is needed. As the saying up here goes, "if you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes"

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: windshirt under another shell. Re: Paramo clothing on 11/01/2007 11:00:45 MDT Print View


I've been hearing great praise for Paramo clothing lately which has peaked my interest but, it seems to be available only in Gr. Britain.

If you don't mind my asking, are you in the States? If so how did you aquire your Paramo?

Jeroen Wesselman
(jeroenman) - F

Locale: Europe
Re: Ultralight Winter Gear- "Action Suit" on 11/02/2007 07:37:10 MDT Print View

Hi Brett,

like Mark said; definitly go with the Dryskin. I consider Dynamic more a three season material and not windproof enough for serious winter use.
I like hiking with a (old) Mammut Chamonix softshell pants with a pair of wool bottoms underneath. For most winter applications this is enough.
For serious cold with windy conditions i still prefer my (also old) Patagonia Drop Seat Pants for full on protection.
These are ski/mountaineering pants with internal gaiters, a pair of wool bottoms as insulation is enough for severe winter weather.

For breaks or emergency bivy i can put Patagonia Micropuff pants over my hiking pants.

I always try to get away with the softshell pants combo.
They are not cheap but they will last a life time (mine are over 10 years old) and they take a lot of abuse...very much worth the investment.