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New to winter backpacking-- gear help.
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Paul Hope
(PaulHope) - F
New to winter backpacking-- gear help. on 05/19/2010 23:43:43 MDT Print View

I am new to winter backpacking and need a little guidance on specific gear selection, upgrades and additions.

My winter locations will be the Rocky Mountains and the Front-range of Colorado. Overnight lows I would expect to be in the single digits and below-- I have a -25 FF bag.

My first concern is with clothing layers.

Upper body I have: Capilene 1 LS, Capilene 3 LS, Capilene 4 LS and an R1 Hoody for baselayers. Marmot Ion windshirt and a Montbell UL Down Inner Parka. I also have a Marmot Precip rain jacket, if it would be any use.

Lower Body: Capilene 2, 3 and 4 pants. MH Mesa Pants and Montbell's UL Down Inner pants.

What would you take, leave or add?

My other question is regarding traction devices. I am just not sure what to purchase: snowshoes, crampons, something more minimal like Microspikes or a combination of the above.

Terrain is going to be your typical backcountry rocky mountains, with some moderate to difficult ascents. With a mixture of packed snow/ice and some unbroken trails-- deep snow.

Snowshoes I was looking at NorthernLite's Quicksiler 25 or the MSR Denali range (Evo, Ascent, Evo Ascent) or other recommendation in the same price range.

Crampons would be something like the BD Contact (Abs plate, step in??) or the Kahtoola KTS Steel.

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

David Lutz

Locale: Bay Area
"New to winter backpacking-- gear help." on 05/20/2010 00:04:43 MDT Print View


I'm also new to snow camping with two trips under my belt and I love it! You'll get some detailed responses from some very experienced, qualified folks.

But, one newbie to another, here's what worked for me.

Lower body, daytime:

Soft shell pant

Lower body, in camp:

Cap 1
WM Flash down pant
Soft shell pant

Upper body, daytime:

Cap 1 T
BPL Beartooth Hoody

Upper body, in camp:

Cap 1 T
BPL Beartooth Hoody
Marmot Zeus down jacket
Patagonia rain Shadow jacket
Patagonia R1 Balaclava

This setup got me into single digits.

There is a ton of information on this site and I highly recommend Mike Clelland's winter camping book.

Edited by davidlutz on 05/20/2010 00:07:04 MDT.

Paul Hope
(PaulHope) - F
Re: "New to winter backpacking-- gear help." on 05/20/2010 00:36:59 MDT Print View

David, I really appreciate the feedback.

-What would you say that BPL Beartooth is comparable to: Cap 4 or the R1 or neither?

-I was just looking at soft-shell pants a few minutes before reading your reply to replace the MH Mesa. I was considering either Marmot's Scree or REI's Acme; the latter of which is currently on sale for 49% off.

Any other recommendations for soft-shell pants?

Scott Ireland
(WinterWarlock) - MLife

Locale: Western NY
Some thoughts... on 05/20/2010 09:45:28 MDT Print View

For pants, I bought a pair of Stoic softshells last year when launched the line and sold them cheaply on Really love them, and even in the damp cold Adirondacks had no problems, and needed no other layer besides the pants.

As for traction, I can't say much about Colorado, but for me I have a pair of MSR Lightning Ascents...I like the additional grip they give, and personally HATE the sound the plastic MSR's make on hard-pack....drives me out of my head! YMMV. I also have a pair of MicroSpikes for really hard pack days, and a pair of Grivel G10's for ice. In general I'll only have two out of the three on any given day...I suppose I might take all three on a >3 day backpacking trip since weather changes so much. Again, keep in mind this works for me here in the Northeast, so I don't know if the same applies out there.

There are a few other things I always have in my winter Patagonia down sweater, a pair of ski goggles and face mask, several pairs of gloves and socks, and an extra base layer (because I generally sweat on the ascent, and change at the summit so I don't freeze coming down).

Hope this helps - let me know if I can offer any other insight.


David Lutz

Locale: Bay Area
"New to winter backpacking-- gear help." on 05/20/2010 11:51:33 MDT Print View

Paul -

Here's a list of what I wore & packed on my last snow trip where we experienced high single digit temps. This was more than enough clothing, but I wouldn't cut anything. I would divide it into three uses: walking, camp and sleeping. Of course, the uses/layers overlap.

Keen Summit County Boots
Beartooth Hoody
REI Taku Softshell Pants
MLD Lightsnow Gaiters
Sun hat
North Face Fleece Gloves
Patagonia Glove Liners
Vapor Barrier Gloves (exam gloves)
Smartwool Headband
Poly Shirt
Smartwool Socks (2)
MLD Mitten Shells
Patagonia Rain Shadow
Marmot Zeus Down Jacket
Western Mountaineering Flash Down Pants
Goose Feet Down Socks – Liner
Goose Feet Down Socks – Shell
Patagonia Mid-Weight Half-Zip
Manzella Fleece Gloves
Manzella Glove Liners
Patagonia R1 Balaclava
REI light socks (for in booties/bag)
Patagonia Lightweight Capilene Bottom
Golite LS Dri-Move Baselayer Top

Here's my sleep/shelter system:

RAB Quantum 600 sleeping bag (10 degree)
Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid
Ridgerest Sleeping Pad (1/2", full length)
Neoair Sleeping Pad

Edited by davidlutz on 05/20/2010 11:54:17 MDT.

David Lutz

Locale: Bay Area
"New to winter backpacking-- gear help." on 05/20/2010 11:55:59 MDT Print View

The Beartooth Hoody is lighter than the R1 material for sure, and I think it's lighter than the Cap 4.

I think the consensus is that Cap 4 and R1 materials are too heavy for walking. I'm sure they would be for me.

Scott Ireland
(WinterWarlock) - MLife

Locale: Western NY
R1 for walking on 05/20/2010 11:59:16 MDT Print View

I'd agree - it'd have to be pretty cold, or I'd have to be moving pretty slow or on flat ground for that not to be too hot for most winter conditions.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Re: New to winter backpacking-- gear help. on 05/20/2010 12:41:04 MDT Print View

Here's what I take:

Upper Body - Capilene 1 for hiking, capilene 3 in the morning or if it's well below freezing. I also take a fleece most next year I will switch to a down jacket. I also have a wind jacket that is definitely worth the 3oz.

Lower - I take Capilene 3 for sleeping and will normally leave them on for the first couple hours in the morning and when I stop in evening. My outershell is REI Sahara pants

Traction - Don't know the conditions in the Rockies but in the Sierra during winter you will need snowshoes. I love my Denali evo ascents because the extension tails are need in fresh powder but the base shoes are great in harder icier areas. Also, I have used the tails during glissades.

Gloves - Make sure your gloves have removable liners to allow the liners to dry. Also, liners are generally all I need to hike with above 20 degrees.

Gaiters. i have short trail gaiters and they get me by but I would get mid height gaiters.

Trekking Poles - Put away the GG LT4 and get a sturdier set of poles.

Paul Hope
(PaulHope) - F
Re: Re: New to winter backpacking-- gear help. on 05/21/2010 23:44:14 MDT Print View

Thank you guys for your input and advice.

This is what is my clothing system so far:

Upper Body

- Capilene 1 or 3
- Ibex Hoody or Melanzana Micrgrid Hoody (Purchased them both)

-Capilene 1 or 3
-Ibex Hoody or Melanzana Microgrid Hoody
-Marmot Ion Windshirt
-Montbell UL Inner Down Parka
-Marmot Precip
-Glove liners
-Fleece Gloves
-Fleece balaclava

Lower body

-Soft Shell Pants (not yet bought)-- *Do you need gaitors with soft shell pants?*
-Smartwool socks

-Capilene 1 or 3 bottoms
-Soft shell pants (need to purchase)
-Montbell Down Inner pants
-Smartwool socks
-Nunatak Down Boots

Any suggestions? Not enough? Too much? Thoughts?

Snowshoe question:

I am pretty much decided on MSR's Denali Ascents with 8" tails.

What is the different between MSR's Denali Ascents and MSR's Denali EVO Ascents-- besides $30?

Crampon question:
12 point or 10 points. I am deciding between BD's Contact or C.A.M.P USA Stalker Universal (currently $80 at REI).

What is the difference, anything I should think about?

Edited by PaulHope on 05/21/2010 23:49:56 MDT.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: New to winter backpacking-- gear help. on 05/22/2010 00:28:57 MDT Print View

Paul, I don't think you do not have enough In-camp insulation. The MB-UL inner isn't enough for the temperature you list above. I own one and is is good to about 30* when just sitting around. Adding the hoody will not take you into the teens.
There are a number of threads that discuss jacket warmth- you might want to do some research on it. Here is a good one to start with: A New Paradigm for Understanding Garment Warmth

Paul Hope
(PaulHope) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: New to winter backpacking-- gear help. on 05/22/2010 01:22:00 MDT Print View


Thank you for your comments. I already own the MB-Inner, and while it is adaquate for my three-season needs, I kind of anticipated that the jacket would not be suitable for my winter needs, and thus I am not opposed to purchasing a new down jacket for winter outtings.

My appologies for not reading the entire thread that you linked me to-- I am actually in the middle of leaving for a trip-- but would you say that the Alpine Down Jacket is more suited to the single digits, or would I need to reach for a $350 jacket to do the deed?

Is there something else entirely that you would add to my inslation list?

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: New to winter backpacking-- gear help. on 05/22/2010 01:30:07 MDT Print View

Paul, have fun on your trip-
Yes the alpine down is more suited for single digits but for less money you can do even better on the warm scale:
New Balance Fugu Down Jacket $119.99

Great price for a great jacket. I tried one on while in the store last month and the sleeves are a little short for me- they were all out of the talls, the red is a "good" red.

Also, your legs might need more- you could also use your sleeping bag (I don't)

Edited by bestbuilder on 05/22/2010 01:33:34 MDT.

Chris Gray
(ChrisFol) - F

Locale: Denver, Coloado
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: New to winter backpacking-- gear help. on 05/22/2010 01:58:04 MDT Print View

n/m-- wrong thread.

Edited by ChrisFol on 05/22/2010 02:01:33 MDT.

Paul Hope
(PaulHope) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: New to winter backpacking-- gear help. on 05/22/2010 02:00:47 MDT Print View

What would you suggest that I add to the lower body?