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Winter hiking around 0F and below - what do you wear?
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Derek B.
(derekb) - F

Locale: Ottawa, Ontario
Winter hiking around 0F and below - what do you wear? on 01/22/2011 20:02:54 MST Print View

This will be my first year of winter camping, and I've been doing various dayhikes to get things dialed in. I've done a lot of short snowshoe hikes, runs, and bike rides in very cold weather (~1-2 hours at temps down to -10F + windchill), and I know exactly what I need to wear at those temps when I'm working at very high exertion. However, hiking all day in very cold temps, with changing exertion levels, is a new thing for me, and I am curious what others wear when temps get to zero F or lower.

Today I was snowshoeing over rolling terrain (forested, so not much wind); lots of moderate hills, but no sustained climbing. Temps were not quite that extreme, but still cold - started around 0F, went up to 5 and then dipped again later. I was wearing the following:

Top: MEC merino SS, Icebreaker 260 LS zip-neck, R1 hoody, MEC 100-wt fleece vest, Patagonia Nine Trails wind jacket
Bottom: MEC power dry tights, Patagonia Traverse pants
Head: R1 hood, added Ninjaclava when cold (top only, do-rag style)
Hands: BD liners, sometimes added OR Endeavor shells
Feet: Icebreaker liners, bread bag VBs, Smartwool heavy socks, Keen Growlers, OR Cascadia gaiters, Northern Lites Elite snowshoes
Trail stops: MEC Reflex jacket (~15 oz down, probably more than needed for a dayhike but sure was nice!)
Not used: Marmot Aegis shell, MEC primaloft liner mitts

Most of my clothing was just fine, but my torso was cold until I added the vest. I was hiking with a partner who wasn't into hiking hard for long stretches, so we ended up stopping or slowing down a lot, and I found myself fiddling with layers more than I liked until I found a comfortable medium (I might not wear so much if I were hiking on my own and going harder at a more sustained pace). Still, I find that 5 layers while hiking seems more complicated than necessary, and am wondering whether/how I could simplify this set-up. Any thoughts or advice based on your own experience would be much appreciated!

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Winter hiking around 0F and below - what do you wear? on 01/22/2011 20:30:42 MST Print View

An RBH vapr-thrm NTS shirt with forearm and pit zips could probably replace 2-3 of your top layers.

Robert Cowman
(rcowman) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Re: Winter hiking around 0F and below - what do you wear? on 01/22/2011 20:42:22 MST Print View

This is Mine for aerobic activities(except snowshoe running and XC Skate skiing)

top: Arcteryx phase ar 1/4zip, R1 hoody, Dragon jacket
Bottom: Arc teryx Phase SV bottoms, Patagonia Traverse Pants(Awesome pants) or Gamma LT
Gloves: Arcteryx Sigma LT glove, Rho liners
FTW:Liner sock, ID VBL sock, Smartwool phd midweight, Salomon speedcross GTX and leva gaiters
Headwear: LT merino beanie

for colder wearther homemade VBL suit and Switch the pants out to windstopper ones(old MHW something or others).

NOTE: 0F isn't really that cold to me. (get to minus 30C consistanly here)

Derek B.
(derekb) - F

Locale: Ottawa, Ontario
Re: Re: Winter hiking around 0F and below - what do you wear? on 01/22/2011 21:15:33 MST Print View

Fair enough, Robert! Where I am, days with highs of -20C/-4F are not abnormal, but we only get a few -30C/-22F days a year (not counting wind chill). However, most of the gear lists and posts I've seen for winter on this site seem to assume temps of -10C and up, and many of them use the term "extreme" for those temps, which I would consider as relatively mild. Each person's definition will vary, I guess.

I suppose I should clarify that I have lots of experience being out all day in -20/-4 to -30/-22 weather, but in more "conventional" heavy gear (bulky ski jackets or Gore Tex, heavy fleece, lots of pit zips, etc.). I'm trying to develop a lighter and more breathable set up. Also realizing I will need slightly different clothing for higher exertion days (hiking solo, breaking trails, etc.) vs lower (hiking with partners who want to go at a slower pace, stop frequently, etc.).

Edited by derekb on 01/23/2011 04:59:02 MST.

Chad Miller

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
Hiking 0F and below on 01/23/2011 09:16:24 MST Print View

In the conditions that you're describing I'll wear:

Upper Body:
Silk weight polypro base layer
Mid weight polypro long sleeve with collar
Thin un-insulated soft shell with hood

I'll add a Montbell synthetic vest for when the wind really picks up or I get into the shade.

Lower Body:
Heavy weight merino wool long underwear
Soft shell pants

Mid weight balaclava
Thin runners hat
Ski goggles

heavy weight fleece glove liners
nylon over-mitts

I’ve worn this system with temps down in the -10 degree air temps. (-25 F wind chill) and been just fine. Whenever it gets this cold I find that I am constantly adjusting my clothing (unzipping, zipping up, adding a vest, removing over-mitts, ect.) in order to keep from getting overheated.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
My Bitter Weather Clothes on 01/27/2011 16:31:29 MST Print View

Over many years' experience here's my solution to staying out all day in bitter weather:

UNDERWEAR> Polarweight polyester longjohns (Cabela's Thermastat) & same top W/ zip turtle neck

SOCKS> 1 pr polypro thin liner sox, thin neoprene diver's sox VBL (seam sealed)

BOOTS> Sorrel feltpacs or Scarpa T3 XC boots or Mickey Mouse military arctic boots

MID LAYER - TOP> 100% Wool fisherman's knit heavy white sweater

INSULATION - TOP> Military style Thermolite Micro insulated jacket (200 or 300 weight fleece vest - if well below zero - worn under insulating jacket)

INSULATION - BOTTOM> Cabela's GTX/Thinsulate ski pants (or military-style Thermolite Micro liner pants and GTX camo hunting pants over.

SHELL> GTX mountain parka and above GTX pants choices

HAT/FACE> Everest Designs Peruvian-style wool hat W/built-in fleece liner. GTX parka hood when needed and Seirus face mask if necessary.**Ski goggles if very windy

HANDWEAR> O.R. GTX gauntlet glove shells W/ thick pile liners & thin poly liners
If well below 0 F. O.R. GTX gauntlet mitten shells and DOUBLE layer fleece mitten liners & thin poly glove liners (or Dachstein boiled wool mitten liners)

With these layers and with "zipper venting" I can regulate warmth according to my activity level in temps down to -40 F./C.

Edited by Danepacker on 01/27/2011 16:42:13 MST.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
My kit... on 01/31/2011 13:38:33 MST Print View

I went ski touring at/near Cameron Pass (outside of Ft. Collins, CO) over New Year's weekend; it was -15F out and very windy! Can only guess what the windchill became (I am guessing 'very freakin' cold' is not a scientific measurement? :D)

Wore my usual kit for CO skiing:

Minus 33 med wt wool top and bottoms
Wigwam liners and ragg wool socks
Surplus wool pants
Double Black Diamond (Costco) Softshell
Ragg wool surplus glove liners
OR SHell mitts
Wool ski hat

Because of the more extreme cold, I was wearing:
Montbell Therawrap (usually packed for breaks)
Polypro balaclava

ALWAYS PACKED (and seldom used)
Ragg wool mittens
Face mask
(The polypro liner is often packed)
Nylon shell jacket

Works for me, anyway...

EDIT: Definitely not light weight backpackers, but this Canadian site has some interesting reading!

Edited by PaulMags on 01/31/2011 13:44:49 MST.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
0 and below on 02/01/2011 20:40:10 MST Print View

I try not to be out too much in that weather :) but when it can't be helped

I use the same basic winter setup as I do for warmer temps w/ just a few minor tweaks

light merino base layers top/bottom
thick merino socks
R1 top
R1 bottom
Houdini windshirt
MB stretch wind pants
SW merino beanie, if too cold R1 balaclava replaces it
SW merino glove liners w/ OR Endeavor overmitts- if too cold PL400 fleece mitts are added
OR Flextex gaiters
insulated boots w/ 40 below overboots if needed
I have light syn vest that can be added to the torso if needed
sunglasses or goggles depending

when stopped MB Alpine Light parka

Gary Dowe
(Opishing) - F

Locale: Northern Ontario
Winter camping in the north on 02/02/2011 17:44:26 MST Print View

I second the recommendation to look at, some very good information there. I am pretty active in cold temps (northern ontario) snowshoeing, xcountry, and winter camping a couple times a year. I have yet to find a satisfactory shell layer while on the move, and have tried many ( montane windshirt,goretex, mh transition top, integral designs wind jacket, mammut soft shell, north face hyvent, mamrmot precip). None of them were able to transfer moisture fast enough. I will try event at some point, but first i will be looking at a cotton or cotton blend anorak for a cold dry weather shell. What I am currently relying on is merino base (weight is temp dependent), a mec merino wool (might be boiled wool) pullover with a high collar and neck zip, and over that a swandri wool pullover (lighter weight than the mec top) with a collar and neck zip. Same base for legs with mec or taiga polartec windpro pants or light softshell in milder temps. Neck gaiter, wool hat amd goretex insulated gloves, and balaclava if cold enough. I was out in below -30 c in that last weekend backcountry skiing and it was perfect. I still create moisture, but the wool breathes well, and the moisture collects like frost on the outside layer. On longer trips pulling sleds or backpack i find i am pretty much down to a base layer, maybe a wool top. In my experience you need to monitor your energy expenditure as much as your layers since i have yet to find the perfect system. Terrain changes, sun vs shade, wind exposure , quality of the snow, etc may require slower or faster pace or more or less breaks to maintain a balance between exertion, moisture management and stamina. I have real trouble with my feet as i froze them very badly as a kid, however they are fine when i am moving. When i stop to camp i throw on a pair of cheap overshoes i bought at a surplus place online and that does the trick.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Winter hiking around 0F and below - what do you wear? on 02/02/2011 19:50:33 MST Print View

+1 for

I have very limited experience at 0F and below, but here's my current clothing system:

polypro liner sock, oven bag vapor barrier, thick wool sock, possibly a second oversized sock, wool felt mukluk liner, 10 mm thick EVA foam insole, 10" Tingley rubber overboot. The last three items total 22.5 oz per foot. MYOG ripstop cotton gaiters. More detail on this in my blog.

Thick wool suspender-supported pants (24oz fabric weight) supplemented by mid or expedition weight polyester/merino wool or fleece long johns as needed

polyester short sleeve t-shirt, merino wool shirt or fleece shirt (can't decide which I like better), fleece jacket, fleece vest, maybe adding one of the shirts or a lambswool sweater if necessary. Add cotton canvas Swedish military anorak as windshell. (This comes down to just above knees, so there is very little unshelled wool pants exposed between anorak and gaiters. But the wool pants are fairly wind-resistant anyway.)

One of these, others are packed: wool liners, pigskin leather/cotton insulated gloves, and either buckskin mitts with synthetic sheepskin liners or leather/canvas surplus mitts

thin fleece beanie or acrylic balaclava or both, insulated acrylic knit hat for more extreme cold or camp/sleepwear, fleece neck gaiter

Edited by AndyF on 02/02/2011 19:56:03 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
clothing below zero on 02/03/2011 14:58:38 MST Print View

Derek, that strikes me as a lot of clothing! If your partner was really so stop and go, the chances that you got a bit sweaty and thus cold seem fairly high. On the other hand, generating a constant amount of heat in the cold is crucial, and stop and go can be tough no matter what you do.

My latest quick overnight involved skiing along a mostly flat road for six miles as darkness set, then back out the same the next morning. No wind. Temps on the way in started at around zero, and fell to -10 or so. On the way out they started at -15 and maybe rose to -10. (F)


Cap 1 sleevless
R 1/2 hoody
Powerstretch vest

Light acrylic cap

OR Omni gloves
OR Endeavor mitts
200 wt fleece mitts

Thin smartwool ski socks
Plastic tele boots with thermo liners

As Gary noted, when it's but cold beathability is key. I had quite a bit of frost build up inside my Houdini on the way in (without the vest on), while my inner layers were quite dry. I should have brought my Patagonia Traverse Pullover, which breaths quite well even in very cold weather.

I also got some frost build up inside my Endeavor mitts. I need to make some breathable shell mitts for moving in extreme cold. The Endeavors are still nice for doing camp chores (like fishing water out of the mostly frozen lake.

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Re: clothing below zero on 02/03/2011 19:12:56 MST Print View


Where can I get an R 1/2 Hoodie? I have an R1 Hoodie, but it's a lot of warmth in one layer and I've found myself having to take it off and put it on too much.

For temps below 15F, I really like VB stuff. My current "Go To" Winter torso system is as follows:

Lightweight Poly Zip-T base layer (can be used as sole layer for sun protection if needed)

RBH NTS VB shirt w/ arm zips. This is the core piece of my system. It's thick enough to have minimal condensation inside (I'll explain more if anyone is interested...), tough enough to ski through trees with, and has enough vent options to work over a wide temp range. (I can even pull my arms out through the arm zips and use it like a vest.)

Paramo Quito Jacket. This goes over the RBH Jacket for additional warmth if needed and provides a hood that the RBH jacket lacks. If it warms up too much for the RBH Jacket, this can be used over the base layer in wet snow or rain.

If I expect to be moving while the temp is sub 0F, I'll bring one additional layer to use over the RBH Jacket like a thin synthetic vest or Cocoon pullover.

When stopped, I'll add a big fluffy down parka -- a RAB Neutrino, or an overstuffed Nunatak Skaha Plus.



David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
R 1/2 hoodie on 02/03/2011 19:53:38 MST Print View

Mike, they never made them for men. Mine is a women's XL I got on sale and modified. The closest available now is the Cap 4 hoodie, also only made for women.