November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
UL Shell and Winter Backpacking
Display Avatars Sort By:
Joslyn Bloodworth
(JoslynB) - F

Locale: Southwest
UL Shell and Winter Backpacking on 12/04/2011 08:49:33 MST Print View

I've spent the last couple of years trying different seasons out with day hikes to see what seasons suited me best before sinking a ton of money into a lot of gear. I have recently decided that after careful consideration, I am a three seasons hiker, as long as those seasons are Fall Winter and Spring. But I was raised in Arizona and have only come to the SE in the last 5 years. I have no experience camping in snow. I also am trying to buy just one set of gear for all seasons as much as is possible. So I would like my UL rain shell to work for going over down pants in the winter. I am thinking of going with either silnylon or cuben. I don't mind the non breathable part of either of these fabrics and I'm looking to go DIY.

With that in mind, I am asking, for my needs, what are my options and the pros and cons of those options?

Andy F
(AndyF) - F

Locale: Ohio
RE: UL Shell and Winter Backpacking on 12/04/2011 12:46:40 MST Print View

For winters in the Southeast, I think waterproof breathable shells are the best. eVent is ideal, but expensive. I'm currently using a DriDucks jacket and fairly heavy GoreTex pants for that temperature range, but I plan to switch to an eVent top.

A non-breathable waterproof shell over down wouldn't be something I would do. I don't need insulated pants until the temps are at or below the dry-cold range close to 15-20F. That depends on camp activity and fire vs. no fire. At those temps, snow can just be brushed off, and a non-waterproof shell works better.

Putting non-breathable shells over down insulation could cause down to lose significant loft due to moisture already in base layers and insensible perspiration. If you wear vapor barrier *under* the down, this would work well. Because it's less affected by moisture, synthetic insulation might work better as long as you only wear the non-breathable waterproof shell while in camp.

Edit: If you want to try the vapor barrier option, you could just make two each of silnylon or cuben jacket and pants. If possible, size one of each just right for fitting over a thin base layer, and use that as the vapor barrier. VB's are not for everyone, and probably best reserved for temperatures less than 20F.

Edited by AndyF on 12/04/2011 12:51:36 MST.

Joslyn Bloodworth
(JoslynB) - F

Locale: Southwest
Re: RE: UL Shell and Winter Backpacking on 12/04/2011 13:18:41 MST Print View

Andy you made a very good point that reminded me of something I forgot to mention, I'm only planning on using my down in camp and never while hiking, I have fleece and a synthetic layer for hiking. My biggest issue is I've never had a WPB shell that didn't fail to actually keep me dry, but I've never had the eVent stuff either. Is it worth the extra weight?

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
UL shell and winter backpacking on 12/04/2011 13:31:15 MST Print View

REI sells a 2.5 layer event pant shell for $70.00. They're a tad heavy but I think that this is a good price for a very good waterproof/highly wind resistant rain pant.

Andy F
(AndyF) - F

Locale: Ohio
Re: Re: RE: UL Shell and Winter Backpacking on 12/04/2011 22:24:02 MST Print View

You should be fine just sitting around camp then.

From what I read, eVent is the most breathable raingear which is also durable. DriDucks are very breathable, and I've read a few comments about people who have tried both eVent and DriDucks say that eVent seems noticeably less breathable than DriDucks. For me, the combined durability and breathability of eVent is worth it for a jacket. I'm ok with less breathable pants. DriDucks are just too fragile for winter when I'm often going over or around blowdowns.

Joslyn Bloodworth
(JoslynB) - F

Locale: Southwest
Re: Re: Re: RE: UL Shell and Winter Backpacking on 12/05/2011 09:35:46 MST Print View

Ok see that is what I was worried about with something like Dri Ducks but like I said, not a whole lot of experience with winter hiking.

Ben W

Locale: NW Center for Volcano-Aided Flight
Re: UL shell and winter backpacking on 12/05/2011 10:24:18 MST Print View

What is this $70 REI eVent pant of which you speak? I would be quite interested in looking at those, but I can't find such an item on their website, just various weights of their Elements coating and the $240 heavy eVent Shuksan pant. (Sorry if I'm drifting a bit here.)

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: UL Shell and Winter Backpacking on 12/05/2011 12:44:42 MST Print View


I do some winter/snow trips every year, but am not as experienced or expert as many people who live in cold climates.

I have found that almost nothing I use in 3 season hiking works in winter, except my Houdini Wind Shirt, and occasionally a pair of running shorts and a very light down mid layer. In winter it is critical to stay dry and warm. Also I have found that conditions really vary from trip to trip, and longer trips require me to be prepared for changes in weather. So the first order of business would be to determine expected weather, which IMO will affect what gear you need.

- Temperature range (expected highs and lows)
- Precipitation during the day (rain, sleet, snow, none)
- Terrain (snowshoes, crampons, heavy exertion, easy exertion, other)

The big thing for me is getting the right layering so I don't sweat (or sweat very little) while hiking. And I add/remove clothing more often than during 3 seasons, especially if the wind comes and goes during the day.

Typical clothing items are:
- Capilene 2 or heavier (sometimes hike only in the top)
- R1 Hoodie (not always worn)
- Houdini Windshirt (not always worn)
- Schoeller Fabric Pants (light or heavy versions-these are water repellent)
- Running shorts (sometimes hike only in bottom base layer - these are a modesty item)
- High GoreTex Gaiters
- Thicker wool socks
- Silk sock liner
- Rocky GoreTex Socks
- Breathable Trail Runners (one size larger than normal))
- 2 or 3 pair glove liners (they will get wet)
- eVent Mitts (GoreTex gloves always seem to leak)
- Puffy down Jacket
- Down pants
- UL down jacket (sometimes)
- Waterproof shell for upper
- Waterproof bottom (rarely used)
- Down booties

What drives me nuts is the precipitation. Wind blown rain and/or sleet is miserable, wet snow around freezing point gets clothes wet, snow in the low 20s is best as rain gear is not needed.

For an upper shell I often use a poncho. Works better than a lot of folks would think. But not always ideal. For 3 seasons sometimes I use a Marmot Essence Jacket, but most often a poncho. The Essence is too small with additional layers, so I ended up buying a Marmot Ageis, which has the same membrane as the Essence. A little heavy, but it works for me and I did not want to buy an expensive eVent shell for limited use, nor do I want a 3 season shell that is way too big.

I almost never wear any down garments when hiking. But at rest stops I have to put on a down jacket, which is usually a NB Fugu. Sometimes when I know I will be traveling in very cold weather, with low exertion and a lot of navigating I will wear a Montbell Ex UL jacket and this winter may take my new Montbell Ex UL vest. Some trips I end up with two down upper garments; a light mid layer when hiking and a big puffy for stops and camp. I live in a desert, so I do poorly in cold weather.

I only use the down pants in camp. Sometimes I will sit outside and cook, so I sit on my foam pad. I also always bring an insulated air mattress, which is another non-3 season item.

Now for the upper shell. With gaiters and a poncho no rain pants are needed. Sometimes with a rain jacket I will use some sort of rain skirt if the precipitation is wet. Again this varies by trip. If I am using a poncho and snowshoes will be strapped to my pack part of the time, it is going to be an inexpensive silNylon poncho, because the snow claws on the snowshoes can damage the poncho. This year I have been doing a lot of poor weather 3 season hiking with a zPacks poncho/ground sheet. This is smaller than a typical poncho and has done well in cross country travel. But I am not sure if it is big enough to cover my larger winter pack, and I am not going to risk it covering snow shoes.

Since most of my backpacking is 3 season, I don't want to use heavier dual-purpose winter stuff that is much heavier. So I am willing to buy heavier gear for winter only trips.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Previous post on eVent... on 12/05/2011 13:05:09 MST Print View

Read my earlier post "eVent parka for 4 seasons camping".

I have an REI Kimtah eVent lightweight (not UL at 16 oz.) parka that I'll be using for winter camping and backcountry skiing. Formerly I used my PacLite parka and pants but the eVent shell breathes much better than even PacLite GTX.

There are a few "safety" items for winter (and all seasons in mountains above 5,000 ft.) and a GOOD quality WPB hard shell is one of them. Here I am most definitly not talking about the old Marmot Precip "semi-WPB", and "semi-durable" hardshell.

Also, Gore-Tex has the new Pro Shell that is "supposably" as breathable as eVent, according to many. Good reviews for Pro Shell have come out.

So, yes, take a good WPB parka and pants. It could end up saving your life if you also have a good synthetic insulating jacket beneath it. I teach winter survival and this garment is tops on the must-have list of clothing for winter.

Robert Cowman
(rcowman) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
WPB on 12/05/2011 13:22:42 MST Print View

from November to May theres no waterproof stuff in my pack. Gore windstopper, and other softshell(polartec powerstretch) materials is all I use. even if i get wetness or moister windstopper is more than waterproof enough it would take a swim to make it wet out. everything stays drier without water proof stuff.

I do live in a cold dry climate (temps range in the 0 to -40 range) Wind proof and breathablity are the most important factors. on my next alpine climbing trip my shell layers will be OR Alibi jacket and pants and my insulating layers are OR neoplume pants and ArcTeryx Atom SV jacket. nothing is waterproof only DWR and wind proof.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Re: WPB on 12/05/2011 14:52:07 MST Print View

"from November to May theres no waterproof stuff in my pack. Gore windstopper, and other softshell(polartec powerstretch) materials is all I use. even if i get wetness or moister windstopper is more than waterproof enough it would take a swim to make it wet out. everything stays drier without water proof stuff.

I do live in a cold dry climate (temps range in the 0 to -40 range) Wind proof and breathablity are the most important factors. on my next alpine climbing trip my shell layers will be OR Alibi jacket and pants and my insulating layers are OR neoplume pants and ArcTeryx Atom SV jacket. nothing is waterproof only DWR and wind proof."

You might be interested to know that Gore Windstopper is the same as Goretex but
without the PU coating to resist oils. Generation 1 Goretex in effect.

Hence your clothing is indeed waterproof and just as breathable as eVent. It may over time
loose some of it's water resistance.

ul shell and winter backpacking on 12/05/2011 20:21:38 MST Print View

Ben W: my very bad, I'm afraid that I was referencing REI's Elements pants, not
Event pants. Sorry. Too good to be true: as usual, yes.

Joslyn Bloodworth
(JoslynB) - F

Locale: Southwest
Re: Re: UL Shell and Winter Backpacking on 12/05/2011 22:06:54 MST Print View

Nick as always, you are just a wealth of information going above and beyond my question in the most helpful and perfect way. My current Winter Gear List doesn't look too different from yours and that relieves some worry that I had, but now I have an idea of what else I really need to add in.

I had wanted the Marmot Crystalline Jacket and I can still get it online sort of but they don't seem to be continuing it for the upcoming year. This is really what prompted my question since I can't find anything of similar durability, weight, and price in a WPB jacket and this was my wish list jacket for Winter. Especially since I was planning on going with a poncho or nothing at all for warm trips, but maybe I can get the poncho to do some double duty. Like you said it all depends on the trip.

@ Eric - Yeah, That's what I was thinking, which is why I asked. I know I love going UL but you're right, when dealing with winter there are some things you just don't chance.

@ Robert and David - Interesting... I'll have to look into that idea.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
depends on 12/06/2011 00:29:58 MST Print View


it depends how yr winters look like ... for something with more rain than snow or a mix of in winter ... you may want a WPB shell with a bit more venting and "durability" as youll be wearing it more

for cooler and dryer temps, or shorter trips ... a UL WPB shell works fine ..

as anything else, there is no one single gear scenario to fit all "winter"s

i do recommend something breathable however even for camp ... ever wear one of those non breathable sweatsuits even when yr not totally sweating ... you end up with some dampness inside ... and remember in winter than some snow fluff thats on yr clothes will likely melt, and there may be some dampness in yr clothes ... a non breathable layer even in camp may not be the best over down clothes

Chad Miller

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
Re: UL Shell and Winter Backpacking on 12/06/2011 08:48:51 MST Print View

Please keep in mind that my winter backpacking is done in places like northern MN, Glacier, and Yellowstone so . . . .

I've found that to keep my lower body warm and dry when in camp I like to use two pieces of gear.

1. Breathable rain pants or a good pair of softshell pants.

2. A closed cell foam sit pad. I simply take a chuck of ccf pad, cut it to a 20" x 20" chunk and use that to sit in the snow. I've found that not only dose this keep my pants from getting wet but it keeps my butt and feet warmer (I stand on it when cooking). In addition I use the ccf chunk to augment my sleeping system but placing it under my feet or hips for really those cold nights.