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WInter Clothing System
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Jeff Powell
(powellua) - F
WInter Clothing System on 09/24/2010 04:19:39 MDT Print View

Hoping to get specific recommendations on a layering system that would accomodate single digit temperature (F) at night and 20-40F during the day. Biggest concern is staying warm at night and when I am not active. Last years trip on the AT in these conditions, my current hiking gear did not hold up well.

What kind of down jacket?
Preferred mid layer?
Is a rain jacket needed for such conditions?
What kind of pants?
Recommended base layers? Maybe something that might address sweat buildup on the back?
Your favorite gloves?

My current setup is generic snow ski pants, smart wool liner/hiking socks, patagonia base layers, columbia jacket/fleece combo (Heavy), and EMS waterproof gloves. Hoping to lighten the load and find more effective apparel.


Brian Latta

Locale: SW Michigan
Re: WInter Clothing System on 09/24/2010 07:52:21 MDT Print View

For those temperatures I use the following.

Wool hoody 9oz
Fleece vest 6oz
Montbell Alpine Light down parka 14oz
Hooded windshirt 4oz

Fleece tights 7oz
Marmot Precip full side zip pants 12oz
Western Mountaineering Flash down pants 8oz

Lightweight fleece gloves 2oz
BPL Vapor mitts 4oz
MLD Event mitts 1oz

Brendan West

Locale: Northeast Pennsylvania
Down on 09/25/2010 18:53:42 MDT Print View

The answer is down or synthetic insulation.

My extreme-cold clothing (for Northeast Pennsylvania this means 20 and below) is as follows:

Worn hiking:
Smartwool light hiker socks
Smartwool long Johns
Mountain Hardwear Talus pants
M.E.C. Expedition Stretch Hoody

Worn in camp:
(All of the above and...)
Feathered Friends down booties
Western Moutnaineering Flash pants
Dri Ducks Ultralite rain paints (They're light and keep the embers off my expensive down pants)
Montane Aero Windshirt
Montbell Alpine Light jacket
BPL "big dumb mitts"
Merino-wool Buff
Possumdown beanie hat

For one trip last year that temperatures were in the 10s all day and fell below zero overnight, I added a giant, HEAVY North Face Denali fleece and Gore Windstopper hat to the above list. In the future, I'll probably bring along my just-ordered BPL Cocoon hoody instead of the Denali.


As far as fabrics that would address sweat, merino wool is a good option as it won't wick the heat from your body like cotton, and it breathes better (in my opinion) than synthetics like capilene. It also handles odor better.

My preferred gloves are Possumdown knit gloves and then the Backpacking Light Vapor Mittens for extremely cold conditions.

If you're looking to get a down jacket, the Montbell Alpine Light Parka is high-quality (800 fill power) down for not a lot of money. But get the parka, which has a hood, instead of the jacket like mine.

I don't usually bring rain gear with me, but if I did, I'd wear it in camp to add to the layers, I suppose.

Edited by bderw on 09/27/2010 23:41:16 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
belay parka on 09/25/2010 21:27:58 MDT Print View

my little trick is to carry what we climbers call a belay parka

its just an oversized parka (down or syn) that you put on all your layers when u stop

the difference is that unlike normal layering, you dont take off your shell to put on another layer ... every time you do this you lose heat

just carry the parka at the top of yr pack ... and put it on top of everything when you stop ... vigorous hiking in winter doesnt require many layers ... overheating and sweating in winter is very bad ,,, the sweat freezes

with winter hiking i can usually get away with a base, fleece and light shell even down to -20 C ... until i stop

Jeff Powell
(powellua) - F
Re: on 09/26/2010 07:56:44 MDT Print View

Thanks for the help. Any recommendations on a mid layer? Some of the MB UL gear looks like it work good. I am trying to replace a heavy fleece jacket. I had both a merino wool layer and a cold weather under armour layer last year. The UA felt like it dried and kept me warm better. May need to do some additional research in that area.

Still trying to zero in on some winter pants. Water issues were mostly from deep snow and kneeling or sitting on the snow. I have came across some pants that have waterproof coverage in these areas (rather than a full rain paints), but cannot seem to find them now. Know of any such pants and/or with built in gaiters?

The down pants look nice as I have only used heavy fleece at camp. Would the down pants provide a significant difference? The down parka jacket is probably my most needed item for warmth and weight savings. The MB Alpine jacket looks worthwhile. I've also considered RAB Infinity Jacket (when I win the lottery), Patagonia down sweater hoody, and the MH sub zero parka.

Im starting to lean more towards not having any full rain gear in the mentioned weather conditions as my other gear should provide adequate coverage. Any recommendations on a good heavy sock for camp instead of bootys?

Edited by powellua on 09/26/2010 07:57:46 MDT.

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: WInter Clothing System on 09/26/2010 08:07:01 MDT Print View

That sounds like a pretty typical mild Minnesota winter temps. Here's what I use:

Down Jacket: you're right, you'll need something. I have an SD Parka - heavy, but warm.

Baselayer/Midlayer: This is really a question of what baselayer you use, and what you want or need out of a midlayer. I use an R1 hoody as my baselayer (or as a mid /w a Cap 1 S/S or L/S/ in colder conditions) /w a windshirt over it. Puffy vest and/or moderate puffy jacket (Patagonia Micropuff or MB Thermawrap, e.g.) over that, then hardshell, then puffy. Sounds like with your Patgonia baselayers, you're set.

Many folks here like wool base/midlayers, and that's really the best way to go. They are costly.

Pants: Unless you're dealing with slush, softshell is the way to go. I use Marmot's Scree pants. Use Cap 1s under this. When it gets colder int the daytime, I switch to R1s, too.

Rain Jacket: I like having a hardshell that fits over evertything except my big puffy (the shell of the big puffy should have a solid DWR on it)

Gloves: Gloves should be a two or three piece system. At the minimum, I like a next-to-skin (BD Powerstretch) and a puffy (REI Ridgecrest) that is wp/b and insulated. In contrast, the winter camp I work at uses a poly pro base layer, double-lined fleece mitts and a wp/b overmitt (non-insulated). This latter system is nice b/c you can remove the fleece mitts to dry them out or swap them out.

Edited by citystuckhiker on 09/26/2010 08:08:10 MDT.

Jeff Powell
(powellua) - F
Re: on 09/26/2010 08:31:31 MDT Print View

Matt, in the Down Parka world, what is considered heavy?

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
winter clothing on 09/26/2010 09:06:56 MDT Print View

Those conditions (nights to 0F, days to 40) are typical late fall weather here in Montana. This is what I'd bring for such a trip.

Patagonia Wool 2 t-shirt
Patagonia R 1/2 hoody
Patagonia Houdini
Arc'teryx Alpha SL pullover (G-tex hardshell)
Patagonia DAS parka

Knicker length capilene 2 long johns
Lightweight soft shell pants
Montane Featherlight pants

Smartwool cuffed beanie
2 pairs OR Omni gloves
OR Endeavor mitts

In the heart of winter I leave the hardshell jacket at home, but when there's a possibility of 40 degree rain you gotta have it.

Footwear is a whole nother issue.

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: on 09/26/2010 15:47:00 MDT Print View

Other folks will chime in, but this is really a warmth v. weight question. For example, Patagonia's Das Parka weighs 28 oz, but it is a well-spent 28 oz. It has 170g Primaloft One (113g in hood/sleeves). It would be much warmer than my TNF Nupste, which I have worn in -20F temps, that weights in at just under 26 oz.

Mine is an overbuilt 23.5 oz and there is a lot of places to cut weight that could take place in the design/construction area - could be pretty easy to get it below 20 oz.

I think once you get into the 25 oz range, especially on non-top end gear, you're starting to get heavy (read: not necessarily inefficient in warmth v. weight). Right now, my go-to puffy setup is a Patagonia Micropuff vest and a MB UL Thermawrap Parka. Combined, they weigh in at 22.75 oz and have kept me warm into the single digits when other pieces of clothing are used(F). For the warmth, synth insulation and modular system they provide, I think they're pretty efficient.

Another example: Feathered Friends's Frontpoint Parka weighs in at 30 oz /w 13 oz of down - 43.3% of the garment's weight is insulation.

Will recently did a great series on lightweight insulated garments. You should check this out and draw your own conclusions.

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Winter Clothing System on 09/26/2010 17:56:01 MDT Print View

I’m no expert, but a recent poster in these forums had a specific experience in the mountains, which beats theory any day, IMHO. I edited it slightly, so I am just paraphrasing:
I went to fleece exclusively after topping out on Shoestring in -10º F (before wind chill) temps, with 30-40 mph gusts. We were working hard and sweating heavily while moving, and my Capilene 3 and R2 fleece let it out. My partner was wearing a Micropuff inside his shell, and it was a frozen mess, stuck to his shell and not warm at all any more. It breathes, but not nearly as well as the R2 fleece.
[NOTE: “R2 fleece” claims to be the most breathable fleece on the market, similar to the R1 hoody material. I have no connection to Patagucci, but they say “We've worked with Polartec® to further refine this exclusive Thermal Pro® polyester fabric, now significantly lighter, more compressible and breathable, a touch warmer, and with better stretch and a softer feel.”]
[OP continues:] When climbing you go super-hard for a while, then sit around belaying, or messing with gear, and then go again. These cycles of activity wreak havoc on any clothing system, and when you are covered with slings, ropes, and a harness you can't add/shed layers easily. So, we need maximum flexibility. Fleece breathes really well, so when used under a shell you can zip the shell up and down (as far as the harness allows), and the air movement cools you down fast. Then zip it up and get warm again. The R1 Hoody is even more alpine specific - the cuffs stay in place under ice axe leashes and big vertical reaches, and the flat, non-zip lower Cap 4 section fits flat and tight under a harness. My NanoPuff Hoody weighs the same as my R1 Hoody, offers much more warmth, and blocks wind and some rain. If you can take it on and off, it's great. But, if I put it under my shell like my R1 Hoody - I'd overheat while moving hard, as it doesn't vent or breathe very well.

Michael Febbo
(febbom) - F
pants and midlayer on 09/26/2010 18:34:52 MDT Print View


The Patagonia Backcountry Guide pants and Rab's Fusion pants integrate waterproof knee and seat sections into the main softshell body. The Patagonia offering is warmer and more robust. Rock and Snow in NY carried both last winter. Cloudveil used to make a Rayzar pant that was similar, but who knows what is going on with them.
I think these kinds of pants are ideal for winter.

I too use fleece in winter as an active layer, with a down or primaloft belay jacket for rests/camp.

Moisture in winter is dangerous... my best solution for Northeast climbing (high levels of exertion with periods of standing about) includes a very thin baselayer (I use wool for the stink factor) topped with a Marmot driclime windshirt, topped with any stretchy synthetic shirt that presses the windshirt tightly against me like a second skin. This completely eliminates "flash-off". I top it with an ultra-breathable softshell or windshirt if it is snowing. I have yet to find any other setup that handles internal moisture so well. My back never feels wet or chilled.

Bring at least two pair- dry one out in your bag or against your body while moving, wear the other.
I use powerstretch liners and ice climbing gloves as they are warm enough, shed snow, and allow enough dexterity to use zippers, tighten straps, etc. I also bring a "belay mitt"- a thick, warm pair of insulated mittens that are oversized to fit over my other gloves in case my fingers start to go numb. I go with synthetic here as my gloves are often damp (even though they are softshell, not waterproof).

Edited by febbom on 09/26/2010 18:36:13 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
weight on 09/26/2010 18:55:08 MDT Print View

about the weight ... obviously the lighter the better ... but not at the expense of performance

some people (myself included) use a synthetic parka as you can dry it out, fleece or softshells arent exactly light but i use them because they dry quick ...

your parka needs to be able to survive whatever activities you put them through ... if yr just hiking on level ground no big deal ... if you have crampons, ice axes and ice screws ... then a bit more durability for weight might be needed

unless you really know what yr doing, dont worry about a few extra grams, you can always cut the weight on latter trips

last thing you want is to find out that yr systems isn't working in the middle of a week long trip ... thats a miserable and hopefully not deadly result

try yr equipment on quick overnighter first

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Winter Clothing: New High Loft Patagonia R3 on 09/26/2010 20:44:39 MDT Print View

No experience with this, but remembered seeing it the other day:

Michael Febbo
(febbom) - F
Too warm and too cold on 09/26/2010 21:21:33 MDT Print View

Speaking for myself, a jacket as thick as that Patagonia fleece would be entirely too warm for any winter activity- and would not be warm enough for any winter inactivity.

Also, bulky fleeces tend to restrict arm movement too much- (my Monkey Man did). I prefer an R2 vest coupled with Powerstretch midlayers if I need serious insulation while moving (ex. if it is zero degrees and I am hiking/climbing). As mentioned, the R2 breathes very well.

Jeff Powell
(powellua) - F
Wow on 09/27/2010 20:14:34 MDT Print View

Finding out a preferring layering system is quite the challenge without spending lots of money. Ive struggled from the start when considering fleece, synthetic, vs down. Weather and sweat are obviously big factors in this analysis. My primary want for now is to reduce weight and minimize the space needed for packing. The variables are so many that is hard to get an apples to apples comparison.

Thanks for the pants suggestions. I could not remember those for some reason. The research continues.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
not THAT hard on 09/27/2010 20:36:13 MDT Print View

you actually just need to ask yourself 2 questions
- how much do you expect to get wet from the weather
- how much will you be sweating ... ie. heavy winter activities especially elevation gains

if neither is a real issue take all down

if the weather is an issue ... dont take down clothes

if the sweating is an issue but not the weather ... take a down parka, but not down midlayers ... fleece mids help and they are hella cheap

thats my simple rule ...

Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Northern Colorado
Re: Winter Clothing System on 09/27/2010 22:19:38 MDT Print View

It greatly depends on your activity and level of exertion when finding what layering system best fits your needs. Are you hiking, snowshoeing, downhill skiing?

I would first recommend some lightweight wool or synthetic bottoms and a softshell pant for moderate activity during the day. It's what I typically wear while skiing. You already have some Patagonia baselayers (which ones?), which is a good start. I would recommend a lighter 100wt fleece such as a The North Face's TKA100 which is a great midlayer for strenuous activity under a light windshell. While active this would likely keep you plenty warm while drying quickly. Lightly insulated gloves with a windstopper barrier are essential for not sapping your digits of heat.

When you stop is where the larger concern is at. I would recommend a down jacket for resting/evening use. The Montbell UL Parka would be a good solution when the wind isn't a huge concern. I definitely suggest a balaclava or hat while not active to retain as much heat as you can. In temperatures below 20 you could add some down/synthetic insulating bottoms. But when it's that cold you might consider retiring for the night in your buttoned up tent and appropriately rated down sleeping bag.

Jeff Powell
(powellua) - F
Re. on 09/27/2010 23:12:52 MDT Print View

Expected hiking conditions will be on the AT (Northern Virginia) for 3-4 days. No skiing, snowshoeing, or climbing. Latest thoughts are to stay away from down mid layers while active. Having a merino base layer, R1 (or R2?) fleece mid layer, soft shell pants, two layer gloves (worked fine last time), and have a wind shirt and the down coat for backup. Fleece beanie and neck gaiter for my head.

Mainly expect to get wet from sweat and maybe from light snow showers. Hoping to be a little better at venting and layering this next time. At camp, Im thinking down insulating pants over the base layers, heavy wool socks, the down coat (cannot decide on one still), and the R1 or R2 underneath if need be.

Of course this setup will change if I see a different forecast as December gets closer.

Edited by powellua on 09/27/2010 23:26:35 MDT.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: WInter Clothing System on 09/28/2010 10:11:26 MDT Print View

It does definitely depend on individual metabolism, hydration, caloric intake, etc.

Most people I've met SIGNFICANTLY overdress for cold weather while on the move, and underdress for inactivity at camp.

On the move anywhere from 10-ish to 40-ish, a 150 g/m2 merino zip neck and a windbreaker or hard shell. If temps could be hovering around freezing, you definitely want to keep the hard shell! Wet at freezing is a bad combo. (Paramo-like garments can work then, too, but want to make sure you don't get too warm.)

If it's really hard for you to start out in just those layers, toss on a thin vest (like a powerstretch or wool/Ibex vest). You'll probably ditch the vest by the time you hit your first mile, assuming you're hiking and not dawdling. Lower half, a stretch-woven pant is pretty ideal, probably not leggings while on the move, but perhaps a thin merino layer if you're always cold.

A thin stocking hat is great, perhaps with a thin neck gaiter, or just a thin-ish balaclava. Even the thinnest wool ones seem to come off a little into a hike, but usually finds its way back on when the ears start feeling a bit too cool.

I do recommend a VBL sock, active or sedentary. Over the years I found that my boots/boot insulation and socks would get soaked while on the move... not a good way to keep your feet warm and toasty when the mercury drops at night.

Best way of minimizing sweat build up is to wear less. Far better to be a little cool when you're on the move.

My preferred midlayer is a 300-ish weight merino wool hoody. Icebreaker, Patagonia, & Ibex all make some version. It's frequently the single heaviest item in my 3-season pack, but also my favorite layering piece.

I would bring shell pants for camp duty. In camp, toss on down pants or (notice the trend here) heavier wool leggings and pull the shells over. Can be lots of sitting and kneeling in snow, want to keep that insulation dry.

Down jacket for camp, absolutely. But don't wear it while hiking! You'll sweat it right out. Really big poofy for night. The more down the better, IMO... I prefer jackets with ~8 oz or more of down for cold weather with some prolonged sedentary periods like that. Feathered Friends and Nunatak make some nice stuff.

Gloves, again people almost always overdo the gloves. You'll probably be a sweat factory while hiking; I can rarely wear gloves while on the trail. 30-ish and rain is a good time to bust out WPB shell mitts though. A light pair of wool gloves (the BPL possum downs are nice, too) close at hand for a bit of nip; big poofy liners for the shell mitts. I think I've been using OR Cornice mitts for that last couple seasons, though I honestly can't recall if that's what they are. Something thin is good for around camp, and I always bring more handwear than I should need. They'll get wet, and you'll want at least one spare pair to have drying in your jacket. I like thin wools (preferably not too fuzzy) for camp chores like cooking.

Down booties or something for camp far, far superior to just a thick pair of ragg wool socks. My favorite camp footwear lately has been a pair of GTX overboots stuffed w/wool felt-pacs. I think Steger makes some mukluks that could also work well, ideas such as those.

Jeff Powell
(powellua) - F
Down Insulation on 11/14/2010 06:12:20 MST Print View

Ive become a bit lost in my research on insulation choices. Looking at prices, Im trying to steer from a big puffy jacket based on my limited use for it. However, Im worried that a less fill jacket wont keep me warm while at base camp. For 5F+, would a system such as a downlight vest and a downlight hooded sweater be enough? The jacket would rarely be used while hiking. I saw one of the EB Peak IV jackets the other days and they are huge! A bigger jacket isnt out of the question, just trying to save money, space, and weight. I could get more use out of the vest and downlight combo. Im feeling good about my sleep combo, but more worried about warmth in and around camp.

Current planned system is:
During hiking: Cap 2 ls shirt and pants, R1 hoody for mid layer, puffy vest, wind jacket (montane lite speed maybe),
marmot scree pants or patagonia backcountry pants, two-layer glove system, two-layers socks, neck gaiter, and fleece hoody.

During camp: Switch to dry socks and base layer if needed, put down jacket over vest if needed, and switch out for down pants and extra thick socks, 0F down sleeping bag, Thermarest ridgerest and prolite 4 pad

Im still looking for a pair of down pants also if you have suggestions.

Edited by powellua on 11/14/2010 06:19:30 MST.